In his exclusive column for CaughtOffside, former Liverpool attacker Stan Collymore discusses some of football’s biggest talking points, including Eddie Howe’s time at Newcastle, Jack Grealish’s possible Aston Villa return and Erik Ten Hag’s risky January decision, plus much more.
Football is fickle and Newcastle will prove it…
I know I upset a lot of Newcastle United fans last year when I said that Eddie Howe could be sacked and replaced with a genuinely world-class manager. I may have got the timing wrong having predicted he’d be gone by now, but I stand by my original point. I do believe PIF will already be looking at candidates to come in and take over from Howe.
Don’t get me wrong. He has done a remarkable job since he took charge. He’s taken the Geordies to Wembley and got them back into the Champions League. But there is a huge gap between being a club that qualifies for Europe and reaches a Carabao Cup final and being a club that is virtually nailed on to win the Carabao Cup, such as Manchester City, and a team that routinely competes for the Champions League trophy, again, such as Manchester City — and Newcastle’s owners will know this.
Let’s not forget either – Manchester City, post-takeover, started with Mark Hughes and they’ve ended up with Pep Guardiola. The former has just been sacked from his role at Bradford City and the other has just lifted the treble.
PIF will show the same level of ruthlessness with Newcastle and Howe. They’re here to win and to win it all. Howe will not be able to do that. He’s a good manager but it’ll be one of football’s elite few that ends up in the St. James’ Park hot seat in the near future.
Everton to start their relegation-revival on Sunday against Man United…
I am fully expecting Sean Dyche to go into Sunday’s game against Manchester United promoting a ‘the world is against us’ mentality to his squad.
They’ve been deducted 10 Premier League points, and despite being unbeaten in their last four games, now find themselves back in the relegation zone. Dyche absolutely must do all he can to use this week’s events as a form of motivation for his players.
Everton don’t have the best record against United but I can see them pinching something from this weekend’s game at Goodison Park. Manchester United will not want to go there that is for sure — especially knowing the Toffees are a wounded animal and feeling sorry for themselves. I can see the home team pinching a point. I think United, although in decent form, are having big problems in the dressing room, which I will come onto a bit later on. But yes – I am backing Everton to pull off a bit of an upset. I am going to say it’ll be a draw and the points shared.
Also, for what it’s worth Everton fans — I don’t believe you’ll get relegated. I am expecting the team to come back from this week’s setback strong and wouldn’t be surprised to see them finish the season as high as 12th or 13th.
Jeremy Doku could decide where Trent Alexander-Arnold plays for the rest of his career…
The biggest game of the weekend comes in the early kick-off between Manchester City and Liverpool. Number one versus number two. Saturday’s game at the Etihad should be a great one – an attacking feast for every neutral.
I am really, really looking forward to seeing how Trent Alexander-Arnold deals with the likes of Jeremy Doku. In my opinion, Doku looks to be one of the most exciting wingers in the country. He’s explosive, very quick with his feet and can create as well as score himself — another truly great buy from City.
But can Alexander-Arnold deal with him? – I’m not so sure he can. Time will tell of course, but I think where the Reds could come undone is by Jurgen Klopp instructing Alexander-Arnold to manage Doku by himself because he’ll know he can’t risk pulling a midfielder out of position to help double up. If Liverpool do that, they run the risk of being overrun in the middle of the park, and against City with the likes of Bernardo Silva and Rodri, you may as well just forget it.
So it’s going to be really interesting to see how both sides approach those wide positions. Alexander-Arnold will either prove his critics wrong and keep the likes of Doku at bay, or he’ll effectively announce himself as a midfielder. Definitely one to watch this weekend.
Jack Grealish back to Aston Villa?
As I mentioned above, Doku is a serious talent and it looks to me like he’s going to be City’s main wide attacker for years to come. Phil Foden is one of the club’s own and a player who is still very young. He’s also super versatile in attack so he’s not going anywhere — so that does kind of beg the question as to what could happen with Jack Grealish. I do wonder if his time with City is coming to an end. He’s done well there and has the silverware to show for it but he continues to be linked with an exit and a return to Aston Villa in particular.
I really like Grealish – he’s a top player and an even nicer human being but as a Villa fan would I take him back? – No, I don’t think I would.
I don’t think Unai Emery would embrace Grealish coming back. He did exceptionally well during his time there and most fans will always be thankful, but the club has moved on since then. We’re in a different position with different goals and I just think digging up the past rarely proves beneficial.
And not only that, who’s to say Grealish even wants to come back to Villa? – He might want to challenge himself in one of Europe’s big leagues, or he might have eyes on a lucrative Saudi deal. Who knows. Either way, a move back to Villa? – No, not for me.
Selling Casemiro and Raphael Varane in January is either very brave or very stupid of Erik Ten Hag. I hope the former but fear the latter…
It absolutely blows my mind that Erik Ten Hag might be considering selling two of his most decorated and experienced players during the January window. That never happens. You don’t prepare for the second half of a season and say ‘Right, these two players aren’t continuing’ – not when they’re Casemiro and Raphael Varane.
If Ten Hag doesn’t see either of them as his first-choice defensive midfielder and centre-back, fine. But don’t sell them mid-season. That is career suicide because you just know that if Ten Hag signs off both player’s departures in January and United go on to finish the season in an underwhelming way, the headlines will all be asking the same thing — ‘Why did the manager get rid of two wise and experienced players? – You can just see it now, can’t you? – It makes no sense.
I think if anything this level of uncertainty and mind-changing, because let’s not forget, it was only a couple of months ago that Harry Maguire was more or less frozen out and now he’s one of Ten Hag’s most nailed-on starters, shows is a total lack of decisiveness. Ten Hag does not have a clue who or what his preferred 11 is.