Wilfried Zaha: One of England’s most talented youngsters faces pivotal month

“It’s all happening so fast”, these were the words Wilfried Zaha took the modicum of Twitter to announce his reaction to an England call up back in November having just turned 20 years of age. The call came on the back of some scintillating performances for Crystal Palace of the Championship, raising high interest from the higher reaches of the Premier League to the kid who became on the second outfield player this century to represent his country.

Now, just two months later in the transfer month of January, Zaha has again pontificated with Twitter over a potential move up a division. “It looks like I’m on my way to the top of the Premier League” he wrote, before it was removed from the social network soon after.

Many construed his Tweet as a hint towards a move to Manchester United who have been continuously linked with an £11 million move for the winger, but Arsenal also remain in the hunt. “He’s just too good for you” as Crystal Palace fans serenade their majestic attacker, and that seems to be the case to all clubs apart from two of the country’s biggest.

Ian Holloway, Zaha’s manager at Crystal Palace, has backed down from his initial bullishness upon inheriting the majestic talent of the youngster to compromise with a possible January sale being supplemented with an immediate move back to the London club.

It is approaching just three years since Zaha made his debut for Palace against Cardiff aged 18, now 121 appearances later and he faces one massive decision that will have a major bearing on the rest of a career that promises to be extremely bright.

The attacker, born in Ivory Coast but persuaded to play for England by Roy Hodgson, is arguably the best player outside of the top division with consistent performances of pace, power and trickery that have been embraced by first Dougie Freedman and now Holloway as Palace lie on course for a surprise promotion back to the top.

Zaha has only managed five goals, but his game is based on so much more, his creative instinct and presence on the wing allows other to thrive, centre-forward Glenn Murray for example has helped himself to 22 goals.

It is credit the south London club for producing Zaha, the latest on a production line that fed the Premier League with Victor Moses, Nathaniel Clyne and John Bostock. Now of Swindon in League One, the latter should serve as a reminder how a move can easily go wrong if premature and ill-advised. It is vital for the player’s own progression, and as England’s shining beacon for the future, that he carefully presides over any impending decision with utmost caution.

Zaha has played 30 times so far this season and has been instrumental in guiding the Eagles to fourth in the Championship with some wonderful performances; he was influential in a 5-0 drubbing of Ipswich Town, virtually single handedly won a game 1-2 at Wolves whilst Darren Ferguson described him as “unplayable” after Peterborough were scourged by the winger in a 1-2 home defeat.

His father has more terrorising memories of the player however, after Sir Alex’s United were victim to his majestic ability in last season’s League Cup elimination to Palace. It was that display, they say, that has triggered Ferguson to monitor his progress ever since and now he seems convinced Zaha is worth the investment.

He faces reported competition from Arsene Wenger who seems to have targeted Zaha to add to the youthful homegrown revolution of his Arsenal squad that also houses Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jack Wilshere, Kieran Gibbs and Carl Jenkinson.

Few would be better placed than Wenger to help progress the 20 year old with the Frenchman having helped along, Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira, Cesc Fabregas and Nicolas Anelka, to name a few, the career’s of some of the league’s best exports. Yet it is Arsenal’s domestic struggles, they are looking at an eighth year without a trophy, and strict wage structure that may discourage Zaha from a move to the Emirates.

Manchester United meanwhile, remains arguably a more attractive proposition. While Arsenal will provide a regular first team place, any plan to sign Zaha then lease him back to Palace will fit perfectly with Old Trafford’s current left-wing incumbent Nani seemingly edging over a closer to the exit door.

His expected summer departure will free the space, and like at Arsenal, he will find himself alongside a strong English core of Wayne Rooney, Tom Cleverely, Danny Welbeck, Michael Carrick and Ashley Young. That is without mentioning Ferguson can offer the same background in guidance as Wenger, plus the added advantage of a constant stream of success, at Arsenal it remains to be seen if the club can even offer Champions League football next season.

Palace will hope that if any promotion to the top league is completed, Zaha would remain with them and carry on the journey, but the allure of money is all-powerful in the modern game and that is something Holloway has appreciated in his climb-down over the sale of his talisman.

A £15 million fee has also been reported and if Palace can draw that sort of money for their player and have him back to galvanise the remainder of the journey to the Premier League, it would be a satisfactory deal for Holloway who would be armed with the money to invest back into his squad for the trip back to the top.

Such a move would assist the course of Roy Hodsgon greatly too, as a season in the build up to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil being spent in the company of the very best would be the best tonic to aid the fledgling ability of such an exciting prospect. That is the future however and beyond, all hinging on this month and any decision Zaha should make on any possible move.

For somebody who could be the most exciting English talent since Paul Gascoigne or Wayne Rooney, everybody should hope he gets it right.

 

Written by Adam Gray

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Bayern Munich: Guardiola appointment massive for the Bavarian giants

Guardiola was as good as his word; and Roman Abramovich has found out that money doesn’t buy you everything.

Pep Guardiola’s return to club management was confirmed on twitter today. But not on Chelsea’s twitter; confirmed by Bayern Munich’s:

“Perfekt! PEP GUARDIOLA (41) ab Juli bis 2016 neuer Trainer des FC Bayern! / Heynckes beendet zum Saisonende seine Karriere.”

He will take the reigns at the end of the season having signed a contract until 2016. This resulted in jubilation from most quarters and surprise from others. Is it a surprise, though? Is it a surprise that Guardiola has chosen to go to one of the biggest clubs in the world and to one of the best – and still growing – leagues in the world, famous for it’s brilliant atmosphere and fanatical terrace support?

No, in a word. And Guardiola had already pretty much said he wouldn’t move to Abramovich’s forever-in-transition Chelsea team. Wary of working under capricious Abramovich, Pep had wanted stability and a chance to lay down his philosophy on his own terms, not someone else’s.

The narrow-minded Premier League fans will cite lack of ambition from Guardiola to come to “..best league in the world, mate. Best in the world. Messi ‘aint the best till he can do it up Stoke on a cold, wet night..” Ridiculous. The Bundesliga is an ever growing league which produces fantastic players and fantastic football.

Famed for its low ticket prices and it’s focus on the ‘fan culture’ it really is the utopia of football – how football should be played and watched. Bayern, like Borussia Dortmund and Schalke, topped their respective groups in the Champions League.

Indeed, Dortmund, who will most probably be Pep’s main rival in the Bundesliga, took the so called ‘group of death’ by storm. Likewise, all four teams in the Europa League have progressed to the next round.

Fact is, Bayern isn’t that different from Barcelona. Both are huge clubs which draw support from all over the world; both have fantastic stadiums and top-rated facilities, and both have brilliant youth team set-ups. Consequently, both like bringing their own players through their ranks, but Barcelona are famed for this which has been a continued process ever since Johann Cryuff was at Barcelona. Pep would bring along his own Barcelona-esque philosophy to the Bavarian side which would reap dividends for the future of Bayern.

Where does this leave poor, unfortunate, Roman Abramovich, though, and the die-hard Premier League fans? Firstly, the Premier League isn’t seen as the holy grail as a lot of English seem to think. And secondly, money doesn’t buy you everything….except maybe a misfiring Torres and a perennially in-transition football club where managers are sacked at the drop of the hat.

One, seems to think that this was Abramovich’s plan all along. Wait until Guardiola had become available and then pounce, asking him to name his salary and to realise Abramovich’s enternal search for the perfect football team – a powerhouse bankrolled by the Oligarch’s vast riches.

Fortunately, for the rest of football, this dream hasn’t been realised, and he must now be running out of managers to take the reigns at Chelsea. Don’t worry, Roman, there is always Felix Magath who will buy into your idea of buying players left, right and centre.

For Pep, though, this was a logical move. For Bayern Munich this was a logical move. Bayern are always, without fail, in the hunt for trophies both domestically and in Europe. It’s only been Borussia Dortmund that have stopped them domestically in the last two years, and in Europe, being beaten in the final of the Champions League in 2010, and that heart-breaking loss to Chelsea last season.

Pep’s appointment is massive for the Bavarian giants. It’s also massive for the ever-growing status of the Bundesliga.

Premiership the best in the world? Maybe take off those rose-tinted glasses.

 

Written by William Hold

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Manchester United vs West Ham: Match Preview

Manchester United fans have RVP to thank for sparing the club from yet another disastrous F.A Cup campaign when he popped up in the last minute of normal time to secure a REPLAY and another chance to qualify fro the 4th Round.

The Red Devils, fresh from adding another three points to their EPL total at the weekend v arch rivals, Liverpool, will want to take revenge on West Ham for knocking them out of the World’s Oldest Cup Competition in 2001 thanks to a Paolo Di Canio goal. Sir Alex Ferguson will have a relatively full squad to pick from for tonight’s crucial encounter. An essential decision because it’s been 9 years since MUFC last won the F.A Cup and the hunger to be victorious again is the added motivation this term.

They are the favorites with Betfair willing to pay out 1.31, while MyBet are offering a close 1.30 for a United win. For more great betting odds, see https://sports.bwin.com/en/sports/4/betting/football.

The likes of Wayne Rooney and Rio Ferdinand who have never won the F.A CUP-(Ashley Cole of CFC has won 7) will be fired up for this particular game. The former who is coming back from a short injury layoff will see this game as a chance to get back into reckoning for future games and regain form/fitness. Sir Alex will shuffle the pack as he has one eye on the very important meeting with Spurs at WHL on Sunday.

West Ham, on the other hand, will hope James Collins recovers from injury and rekindles the form that saw him power two unstoppable headers past David De Gea in the Manchester United goal. They were in fact on the verge of scoring an important rare victory over their more illustrious opponents until Giggs-RVP came to the rescue for Sir Alex’s charges.

Big Sam will even be more encouraged by the return of Momo Diame who has been the Hammers’ best player this season. He had a fine game in the League fixture earlier this season and will carry the hopes of Est London in a few hours. The return of Joe Cole will further bolster the attacking verve of the East London outfit. His 2 assists were the reason why West Ham led until the last minute 10 days ago. Marouane Chamakh, Wellington Paulista et al will also be raring to go tonight at the Theatre. If Collins loses his fitness battle, then New Zealand’s Winston Reid will play in his stead. If you’re going for a West Ham win, then Pinnacle are your best bet, who are willing to pay out 11.57. The odds are against the Hammers however, as bwin‘s 35/4 odds displays.

According to Sky Sports, Manchester United will most likely be without Captain Nemanja Vidic, Ashley Young and Jonny Evans who have minor injuries and have to be monitored closely. But the return of Nani, Anderson and Wazza might prove to be an added incentive for the red army. It is the centre of defence that might be of concern to SAF.

The goal concession rate has been a source of worry and it may continue tonight as Evans and Vidic, all towering CBs are out. Smalling must play out of his mind today to ensure MUFC book a date with Fulham in the 4th Round.

 

Probable Starting 11

MANCHESTER UNITED: DDG, Jones, Smalling, Rio, Buttner, Anderson, Carrick, Valencia/Kagawa, Nani, Rooney, Chicharito.

WEST HAM: Jussi, Demel, Collins, Tomkins, Potts, Diame/Diarra, Noble, Collison, J.Cole, Nolan, C.Cole

 

Written by Ohireime Eboreime

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