League Championship

Championship – teamtalk.com 21 Nov 00:15

Monday Verdict: Ozil plays for himself; Ronaldo gone at the game

We question the motivation behind Mesut Ozil’s outstanding display against Tottenham, discuss Cristiano Ronaldo’s continued struggles and Zlatan’s unbelievable arrogance – all in this week’s Monday Verdict….


Mesut Ozil was simply outstanding in the north London derby win over Tottenham on Saturday but the question has to be asked – just who was that performance for?

To say the German has been poor this season would be a massive understatement so where did a display like that come from and if he really is that good then why can he not turn it on more often?

That’s three questions, so here’s answer.

Sorry Gunners fans but he was not displaying his footballing genius or an ability to close down that he has hidden for the past four years for you, it was almost certainly for Jose Mourinho at Man Utd or Ernesto Valverde at Barcelona.

Ozil’s contract situation is common knowledge to all, along with the admiration that Mourinho has for the gifted playmaker, but just how can a player be so bad one week and so good the next – it just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

The 29-year-old was literally everywhere at The Emirates in a high-profile game that Arsenal’s bitter rivals were being heavily backed to win. What better occasion for Ozil to remind everyone that he is still an amazing footballer – when he can be bothered that is.

Ozil’s next contract will more than likely be his last big pay day, unless he fancies a trip to China in his mid-30s, so at some point he had to make people sit up and take notice and an injury-hit Spurs were his perfect fodder.

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It does make you wonder just how Arsenal fans who savoured every minute of their first league win over Tottenham in three years were actually lulled into actually believing Ozil’s Lazarus-type performance.

He probably did enough in one game to be able to take a breather until the festive programme, so watch out Crystal Palace on December 28 you may just find yourselves up against the real Mesut Ozil again.




Cristiano Ronaldo endured another frustrating evening as Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid shared a rare goalless draw in the first derby at the Wanda Metropolitano.

The match represented the seventh time in eight La Liga games this season that Ronaldo has failed to score as Real’s early season struggles continue.

Ronaldo made headlines in the week when defender Sergio Ramos defended the strength of Real’s squad as his team-mate had appeared to suggest after the Champions League defeat to Tottenham that it had been weakened by the summer departures of Alvaro Morata, Danilo, Fabio Coentrao, Pepe and James Rodriguez.

Manager Zinedine Zidane had played down talk of a rift between his two senior players, and apart from venting his frustration when a Toni Kroos cross went straight out of play, there was no sign of animosity between Ronaldo and his team-mates.

But just how well did Ronaldo play on Saturday night, let’s take a look…

Talk of the former Manchester United star waning has largely centred on whether he has lost a yard of pace. In his only footrace of the evening, Ronaldo was comfortably beaten to the ball by Atletico defender Juanfran when played through in the first half.

Having only scored once this season in LaLiga, it proved to be another frustrating evening in front of goal for the 32-year-old.

He did force two routine saves from Atletico goalkeeper Jan Oblak from free-kicks, but dragged a second-half effort wide of the target and spurned the best chance of the match late on.

Having hesitated eight yards out, Hernandez Lucas was able to block Ronaldo’s effort when a first-time shot would have taken the defender out of the equation.

A performance that will do little to end talk about Ronaldo’s lack of form – the Ballon D’or winner cut a peripheral figure for much of the contest against a well-drilled Atletico defence.

The fact that both his pace and killer instinct in front of goal let him down will have done little for the Portugal star’s confidence.


This probably applies to millions but sometimes, just sometimes you really should think before you tweet, but guess what some people just don’t care that what they may say might cause some offence.

Take Zlatan Ibrahimovic for example. A phenomenal talent who has had a remarkable career, while his comeback from a serious knee injury at 36 years of age has to be thoroughly applauded. But why is he so bloody arrogant?

Not long after his Swedish countrymen booked their place at a first World Cup finals in 12 years with an incredible play-off win over Italy, Zlatan appeared to take some of the glory for himself – despite retiring from international duty after Euro 2016.

He posted the following tweet replacing the S in Sweden for a Z, which immediately sparked rumours that he was looking to come out of retirement for one last swansong in Russia and automatically took some of the gloss off what the Swedish national team had achieved.

We are Zweden pic.twitter.com/rDXzRImev4

— Zlatan Ibrahimović (@Ibra_official) November 13, 2017

There is absolutely no doubt that he was out of order – you only have to look at what Sweden coach Janne Andersson said when he was asked about a potential return for Zlatan in the aftermath of an history victory. Let’s remember they had just denied Italy a place at a World Cup finals for the first time since 1958!

Andersson said: “We have a team that has [accomplished a triumph] during these qualifications. For crying out loud, talk about the players who did this.”

You really can’t blame him from being angry.


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Of course there is probably no doubt that Sweden will be a better team with Zlatan leading the line – he did score 62 goals in 116 appearances after all – but try telling that to the forward players who replaced him during qualifying, while he was earning a fortune strutting his admittedly brilliant stuff at Old Trafford or recuperating from that nasty injury.

Zlatan has since been quoted that he has no intention of boarding a plan to Moscow – unless he has a media job lined up – but the damage was done but a selfish act that was ill-considered and arrogant beyond belief, but hey that’s Zlatan!



If David Moyes hadn’t done “due diligence” when he took the Sunderland job, it would be interesting to know his thoughts after witnessing those first 90 minutes as West Ham manager.

The Hammers travelled to Watford with the circumstances looking fairly favourable for them to at least secure a positive result; the cliched ‘new manager syndrome’ coupled with Watford’s poor run of form made it an interesting litmus test for the side rooted in the bottom three.

With just two wins all season, Moyes has clearly inherited a squad low on confidence. That was plain to see in the first half as Watford started on the front foot, constantly being allowed to find overlapping runners and wreak havoc down the flanks. When Will Hughes sweetly struck the hosts in front inside 10 minutes, few could begrudge them a lead.


Cheikou Kouyate had two really good chances to draw the visitors level; but when your lucks out, it’s out. If Moyes’ face was grimacing at those misses, goodness knows what his expression was when Richarlison was found in yards of space before being allowed a free run at the full-back before slotting one past Joe Hart.

Chants of “You’re not fit to wear the shirt” could be heard from the away end at one point during the match, and this is a fanbase which appears to be turning very quickly on the men at the top.

While Moyes racked up his 500th game as a Premier League manager, Marco Silva amassed his 251st game as a manager in any game. One must be impressed at how Silva set his side up to take advantage of a side that is looking for a way to a) score goals and b) keep them out.

Silva once again failed to rule out a move to Everton in his post-match comments, but you have to question why he would even consider it. A bigger club yes, but he is putting his stamp upon the Hertfordshire side, and his stock is constantly rising. His counterpart however is struggling to keep his reputation afloat.

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Championship – teamtalk.com 20 Nov 20:38

Leeds face possible FA action for objects thrown in Boro game

Leeds face possible disciplinary action from the Football Association after objects were thrown from the terraces during Sunday’s home win against Middlesbrough.

Missiles were thrown in the direction of a linesman by Leeds fans after referee Keith Stroud’s controversial decision to award Boro a second-half penalty and the FA have launched an investigation.

The FA confirmed to Press Association Sport that it will be asking the West Yorkshire club for their observations.

Middlesbrough striker Britt Assombalonga converted the 76th-minute spot kick – Leeds defender Luke Ayling was deemed to have fouled Daniel Ayala – after Stroud’s assistant had flagged for his attention.

A section of Leeds fans were incensed that Ayala had not been penalised for hauling down Ayling, who retaliated by grabbing the Boro defender’s leg.

Leeds held on to secure a 2-1 win for their first Sky Bet Championship success in four matches, while the first return to Elland Road of Boro boss Garry Monk made for a feverish atmosphere.

Monk quit Leeds at the end of May following owner Andrea Radrizzani’s takeover and was appointed as Boro manager just over two weeks later.

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Championship – teamtalk.com 20 Nov 16:11

Sheffield United?s Paul Coutts avoids surgery despite horror break

Sheffield United midfielder Paul Coutts did not need surgery after breaking a leg in the weekend win at Burton, manager Chris Wilder has said.

Coutts sustained a season-ending injury when he fractured a tibia in a challenge with Burton forward Marvin Sordell and was carried off in the 51st minute.

“We had some relatively good news, obviously in a poor situation for the boy, and he didn’t need one,” Wilder told the club’s official website.

“He’s out of hospital and back home, but it’s a season-ending injury for us, which is very disappointing.

“He’s in a full cast from thigh to toe and it’s just a healing process now of the tibia, which he fractured and it’s just time.”

Coutts had been instrumental in the Blades’ promotion challenge this season, featuring in all bar one of their Sky Bet Championship matches.

“It’s very disappointing, but we talked about it after the game – it’s a contact sport and players have to put their bodies on the line,” Wilder added.

“Paul was fully committed to taking that shot on, I wouldn’t expect anything less, and unfortunately he’s suffered off the back of it.”


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Championship – teamtalk.com 20 Nov 11:11

Chris Coleman explains how he hopes to get Sunderland rocking

Chris Coleman felt the chance to try to turn around Sunderland’s fortunes was an opportunity he could not turn down.

The 47-year-old surprised many in football by ending a hugely successful stint as Wales manager to join the Championship’s bottom side on a two-and-a-half-year contract.

Coleman is Sunderland’s ninth manager in the last six seasons and takes over after they set an unwanted record on Saturday by failing to win for the 20th home game in succession.

Coleman admitted the task in front of him is daunting, but said in an interview with Sunderland’s website: “Someone’s going to turn this club around.

“Whether it’s me or whether it’s the next one, sooner or later this club will start climbing again, start playing in front of a full house again, get the city rocking and rolling. I want that to be me, of course.

”You can go through your career as a manager and never manage a big club. I always wanted to have that experience of managing a big club, and here I am.

”All right, we’re bottom of the league. Deal with it, get on with it. It is going to be a big challenge and I haven’t got a magic idea that’s going to turn it around like (clicking your fingers).

”I’m going to need all the supporters, all the staff, the players, everybody to come with me. It’s such a big club that, when we gather momentum, it’s pretty hard to slow it down, but the start’s always the toughest part.

”I’ll find out pretty quickly I think who’s really in and who’s not, and whoever’s not needs to go and play football somewhere else. It’s a little bit daunting, but that keeps you on your toes.”

Coleman led his first training session on Sunday morning and will be in charge of the side for the first time for Tuesday’s trip to Aston Villa.

After guiding Wales to the semi-finals of the European Championship last summer, he stepped down from the post earlier this week after missing out on qualification for the World Cup.

He revealed a disagreement with the Welsh hierarchy led to his departure, saying: “Having achieved what we’d achieved, I thought to take it on to the next level I needed to work slightly differently.

“And the powers that be in Wales saw it differently to me. In my experience it was the right time for me to say, ‘OK, that’s as far as I’m going to take it’. Pretty quickly really the opportunity came about with Sunderland.”

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Championship – teamtalk.com 19 Nov 16:14

Unhappy return for Monk as Leeds hang on against Middlesbrough

Leeds United put an end to their bad run of results with a 2-1 win over Garry Monk’s Middlesbrough at Elland Road.

Pablo Hernandez opened the scoring for the Whites in the first half before Ezgjan Alioski doubled the advantage in the second period.

Britt Assombalonga tucked away a controversial penalty to make it a nervous last 15 minutes for the hosts, but they hung on to climb level on points with Boro.

Monk, who quit as Leeds boss in May, was given a hostile reception and must have felt more aggrieved in the eighth minute when Assombalonga’s tumble in the box under Samuel Saiz’s challenge was waved away by referee Keith Stroud.

Boro were first to threaten when Stewart Downing’s dipping 20-yard shot was met by Leeds goalkeeper Andy Lonergan’s flying save in the 20th minute.

Leeds were showing no signs of frailty after a rotten run of form had seen them slip from top to 11th in the table and Hernandez marked his return to the side with the game’s opening goal in the 25th minute.

Alioski’s curling cross was headed on by Kalvin Phillips and Hernandez stole in at the far post to turn the ball home.

Leeds dominated the rest of the first half. Saiz lofted a shot just over the crossbar and skipper Liam Cooper went close with a header from Hernandez’s cross.

Luke Ayling’s rising shot cleared the target at the start of the second half as Leeds picked up where they had left off and they doubled their lead in the 55th minute.

Kemar Roofe skipped past three Boro defenders and squeezed the ball out to Hernandez on the right edge of the area and the Spaniard’s excellent first-time cross was forced home at the far post by Alioski.

Boro went close to pulling one back soon after when Martin Braithwaite’s shot was deflected on to a post by Ayling and as the game opened up, Cooper headed Hernandez’s cross just wide.

Assombalonga curled an effort narrowly off-target from the left edge of the area as Boro looked to force their way back into the contest.

They were then handed a chance in controversial fashion by one of the assistant referees, who flagged after spotting Ayling and Daniel Ayala grappling in the area before a corner.

Ayling appeared to have been pulled down by Ayala and responded by grabbing the Boro defender’s leg, but after a prolonged consultation, Stroud awarded the visitors a penalty, which was converted by Assombalonga.

Boro goalkeeper Darren Randolph was quickly off his line to thwart Leeds substitute Caleb Ekuban, while Boro went closest to snatching a point in a frantic finale, which included seven minutes of time added on, through Ayala’s late header.

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BBC Sport | Football | Championship | World Edition 10 Aug 13:09

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