THE NFF, NPFL AND THEIR VICIOUS CIRCLE

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The controversy among the NFF, NPFL, GIWA FC and their principals is indeed the stuff of dramas. The entire unending episode has not failed to keep followers of Nigerian football bemused and, unfortunately, saddened. The tussle for leadership of the helm of affairs of the National Football body threatens to leave in tatters, the remainder of the clothings of the beautiful round leather game. This crisis has spiralled down to the NPFL and the current 2015/2016 season is in serious jeopardy, needing salvaging at this point.

Nigerian football, specifically the NPFL, has been faced with an integrity and identity crisis in the past and under the supervision of the League Management Company (LMC) led by Shehu Dikko, the league has been getting rave reviews and receiving lots of positive attention of recent. Now fans troop to stadia across the country to watch their darling teams play and away wins are now a possibility, albeit rare. Generally, the local league has been on a high.

It was however shocking to fans and stakeholders when on August 17, Giwa FC was reinstated back into the league. Giwa FC had been duly suspended from the league in May after they missed 3 consecutive games (against Wikki Tourists, Akwa United and Enyimba FC) without any tenable reason.

This was a clear violation of the NPFL Rules and Framework. For the LMC this was an apparent double standard regardless of the reason behind the shift. The only other club to be suspended from the league was Ocean Boys in 2012. Such double standards appear not to be far-fetched.

Low measures were seen at the start of the current season when clubs which had failed to fulfill their financial responsibilities (sign-on fees & salaries) to their players were still permitted to partake in the league, even after the LMC had threatened to prevent such teams from participating in the current season.

Ironically, Giwa FC, the team at the centre of the current NPFL imbroglio was the first among a handful of teams to complete all their payments to their players.

When FIFA threatened to ban Nigeria from international football if the order of the Jos Federal High Court nullifying the election of former Delta State FA Chairman Amaju Pinnick as NFF Chairman was followed, we assumed there was respite in sight for Nigerian football since the controversial NFF elections on 30th September 2014 in Warri.

However the warring parties claiming rights to the throne of the Glass House, viz Amaju Pinnick and Chris Giwa have refused to put down their swords. Their fight has unarguably thrown Nigeria’s entire footballing arena into disarray.

A ban from the Amaju Pinnick-led NFF on Chris Giwa and his 4 cohorts for 5 years from all footballing activities in the country, a subsequent upholding of the same ban by CAF, and a counter-ban by Chris Giwa on Amaju Pinnick and 7 others for 7 years, makes the entire series too comical a show to be real.

But it’s actually real!

Discordant court rulings have not helped matters as both sparring factions have one legal document or the other giving them the impetus to act the way they are. The decision by the LMC to reinstate Giwa FC was in-fact in compliance with a court order mandating the LMC to draft the team back into the league. This singular act has thrown several spanners into the wheels of the slowly grinding NPFL machine and several questions arise, requiring answers.

Seeing that Giwa FC might be made to play the outstanding 12 matches which they missed after the ill-fated match against Rangers in Jos on April 17, when will the league now end? Previous seasons had been fraught with disturbances and stoppages that meant the league concluded months after they were scheduled to end.

The 2015/2016 season itself began in February and was billed to come to an end in October. But, with the Giwa FC matter yet to subside, the conclusion of the league doesn’t seem to be in sight yet.

The reason Giwa FC refused playing their home matches in Ilorin after they were banished from Jos was because the owner of the club refused the club from abiding by the measures adopted by the NFF Disciplinary Committee, an arm of the NFF under the leadership of his fierce rival Pinnick, a man who he considered an illegal occupant of the NFF’s No. 1 position.

Pinnick is still in charge of the NFF that supervises the NPFL. Will Chris Giwa now allow his boys rejoin the league? Won’t this be a double-standard too, considering that it was basically for this same reason that Giwa FC was suspended from the league? This is left to be seen in the coming weeks.

If Giwa FC continue in the league, why did Chris Giwa, in the first place, allow his truancy affect the fortunes of a club that barely missed out on a continental ticket last season but now lies at the bottom of the league log? It’s a pity that the Plateau chief cannot separate his personal ambition from his business.

Giwa FC have secured the services of a new coach in anticipation of their return to the league. Gbenga Ogunbote, their former coach, has since joined the Oluyole Warriors (3SC) who are in a fair 13th place position, after 31 games (although Shooting Stars are a mere 3 points above the drop zone).

The players of the club, who were left without a club, were sent on loan to other clubs in the NPFL pending the completion of the season after which they would return to Giwa FC. But, no thanks to recent developments, the clubs have been ordered not to feature such players for the remainder of the season.

Most of these players are already on a contract with their new clubs and their exclusion from the teams might mean they wouldn’t get their salaries. With the current unsavoury state of players being owed months of salaries and sign-on fees, this new development doesn’t do any good to the image of the local league.

Is the NPFL in trouble?

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Just when I thought the league was climbing up the ladder with those away wins that were recorded, some instances of violence still surfaced. The likes of Ifeanyi Uba FC, MFM & Kano Pillars had to be fined and banned heavily following crowd trouble.

Referees are still almost being intimidated by the shouting home fans, or the fear of a reprisal attack, into being favourable to the home teams. Away clubs are now more wary of securing wins for fear of irate home fans descending on them. Combined together, all these rob lovers of the game of the beauty of watching the game; live at the stadium or on television. Although security has improved in and around match venues in the country, the fact that such violence still occurs is a cause for concern.

For the NPFL adherents who desire the best for Nigerian football, all the shameful and disturbing appearances leave a bitter taste in their mouths. Compared to European leagues, our local league is still ages away from getting to the level of its international counterparts (regardless of the arguments in favour of Nigeria being a developing country, available for presentation).

With the LMC coming into an agreement with the Spanish La Liga on several developmental programmes for the NPFL, and the subsequent tour to Spain, it can only be hoped that this new strive portends great news for our football.

However the reinstatement of Giwa FC while the LMCNPFL was in Spain seems negatively ominous — perhaps we are taking 5 steps forward and 10 steps backward. The sooner Pinnick and Giwa end the tussle between them and come to a gentleman’s agreement, the better for our football, as it is the clash between these 2 juggernauts that threatens to sour our local football’s taste.

What we need is people with love and passion for the game and not selfish people playing politics with something as dear to Nigerians as football. Until we get the right pegs in the right holes, our football will keep going down the drain, moving around in circles, headed for no specific direction.

Photo Credits: Gossip Boyz

About Author
Tim Nwaobilo is a poet, writer, OAP, sports presenter and analyst on radio. He has an undying passion for Nigerian football. Tim has a degree in Mechanical Engineering.

Pep Guardiola vs Joe Hart: Personal Reasons or Tactical Reasons?

You gotta wonder what they’re discussing.

“English footballers plying their trade in the Almighty English Premier League are untouchable.” That’s what I used to think. Add to that the fact that, amongst all the rules and regulations binding upon the Premier League, there’s one that insists that clubs maintain a specific amount of Englishmen in their ranks, and you’ll understand the angle I used to see things from.

Well, all that changed when Josep Guardiola arrived at Manchester City and chose Caballero, instead of Hart as his first choice goalkeeper. There was an uproar amidst English media and long-term beliefs like mine were rubbished. Pep seemed to be castigated for leaving the “homeboy” out in the cold, and choosing an “outsider” (who wasn’t even as good as some said) in his stead. But the Philospher was saving his best move for the last.

I expected quite a number of changes in the Citizens’ set-up with Guardiola’s arrival. Pep is not a cpach afraid of breaking away from the norm. He will do things his own way, however crazy it may seem, and it has always worked for him (has it?). He’s that special (Move over Jose!) With all these in mind, the Pep-Hart still came as a shock. A surprise shock. The media, understandably, and as usual, came up with several theories to absorb the shock and make sense of the news. “Pep needs a goalkeeper whose ball distribution is solid.” “Guardiola always wants more from his goalkeepers.” “Pep is rebuilding the City.”

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What is Pep up to?

No one knew exactly why Pep made such move… until news of Claudio Bravo’s arrival started sounding serious. Stats, charts and numbers popped. Comparisons between the English goalie and the Chilean captain filled the air. The result? This newcomer was better, by far, in one aspect: pass accuracy. There was a staggering difference between Joe Hart’s 52.6% pass accuracy and Claudio Bravo’s 80% pass accuracy (although the numbers varied with different sources). With these figures, Bravo’ fitted perfectly into Pep’s “I-want-the-ball-for-90-minutes” plans. Some of the media’s guess had been proven right: Pep really needed a goalie who could pass the ball! And with building up play from behind gradually becoming Man. City’s style of play, Joe Hart was not good enough. Pep needed someone who will fit into his system. Claudio Bravo was a better choice for his system.

But, can there be other reasons, perhaps personal ones, behind the Philosopher’s move? It’s hard, almost impossible, to cite Guardiola’s personal reasons for dumping Hart. I’ll never really know why. And of course, he’ll never tell us, the media. Maybe his thirst for glory (personal reason) did not allow room for any let ups in any area of the squad (tactical reasons). Just maybe!

Too little too late?

But as things stand, Joe Hart is on his way out (I’m still skeptical about this one). Claudio Bravo will become Manchester City’s new No. 1 and Caballero will return to his usual cadre, being City’s second choice goalie. Unless something strange happens. But what could that strange thing be?

By the way, what do you think about Pep’s move? Is he being fair? Does Joe Hart deserve better? Is this one for the team? Leave me a comment and let me know what you think.

Also, don’t forget to share with your friends.

This Week’s Definition of the English Premier League’s Big Five (22nd Aug – 28th Aug)

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The 2016/17 English Premier League season has been tagged as one of the hardest so far. Nine teams have been touted to be in contention for the league title (I’m serious! You count…) and the battle for points has kicked off!

Although in a football league, it usually takes quite a while for things to take shape, the shaking-ups started in the first MatchDay of this season. This has giving me even more reasons to believe it’s gonna be a crazy season!

But can the big names cope this time? Or will another outsider leap over them and hurl (Hull) themselves to the league title?

Speaking of big names, I’ve taken the time to describe how the big clubs in England fared in Matchday 2 of the 16/17 Premier League season.

Arsenal: Winless In Two
I’m not an Arsenal fan. So I can’t exactly say what’s going on. But my not being a fan makes the obvious even clearer: Wenger needs reinforcements. That seems to be the ONLY problem Arsenal is having. The first 45 minutes of their match-up against Leicester City was a display of a side without bite.

Of course names like Sanchez and Chamberlain showed speed and potential, but that is not enough for this league. And Arsene knows this. It looked like the whole squad needs a revamp but Wenger is ignoring the obvious. With their draw against the Foxes, the Gunners are now winless in their first two games of the season. For a side hoping to win the league title, I’m unsure this is the best way to go about winning a trophy. But Wenger knows best. And the fans (as usual) understand (do they?).

Chelsea: Saved By Diego… Again!
I think Conte’s philosophy must be, *in a deep Italian accent* “No matter how far spent a game is, it can still be won.” For a second game in a row, the Blues have been saved by a late goal. Diego Costa left it late against West Ham and repeated the feat against Watford, thanks to a sublime pass from Senõr Fabre-pass.

Chelsea had quite a number of chances against Mazzarri’s side. The way Moses and Batshuayi (hitting the bar with his shot one time like that) threatened the Watford defense was interesting to watch. They could have been up by a fair margin early in the game but couldn’t convert until Costa came along. Antonio will be hoping the Chelsea CONTEnue to gather full points… even if it means scoring with the last kick of the game.

Liverpool: Brought Back Down To Earth
Football is funny. Like a rollercoaster, it can take you up one MatchDay and slam you hard on the ground the next. Liverpool, on Saturday, surprisingly lost to Sean Dyche’s Burnley, just days after beating the Gunners in a seven-goal thriller.

Their 26 attempts in total could not save them from a shock defeat. Burnley on the other hand, with only 3 attempts all game, scored two goals, and won the game. Liverpool tried to comeback but this one was meant for Burnley. A wake-up call for Klopp.

Manchester City: FOURmidable
Manchester City thrashed Stoke City 4 goals to 1. But it’s not about the goals they scored. It’s about HOW the Cityzens went about their business against Mark Hughes’ men. Yes their first goal was an Agüero penalty and their second was an Agüero header.

But this Man. City side displayed the genius of a certain philosopher: Pep Guardiola. The Spaniard who claimed to want the ball for 90 minutes, seemed to have instilled the “keep the ball” mentality into the boys . Every lost ball-possession was one that had to be chased down, until it was recovered. Sterling was stellar. Sublime Silva. Confident Kolarov. Some new things may take time to gel… but not this Man. City side. They look formidable already (except for their reluctancy to counter-attack).

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Manchester United: #ZlatanTime
Say what you want, but it’s hard to not notice the “Mourinho factor” that’s gradually working it’s way through the current Manchester United side (the Zlatan and the Pogba factor too!) The long-gone confidence is back! And on Friday, they put on a show, especially one man: Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

The 34-year old got himself a brace against Southampton and he was the topic of post-match discussions. “How has a 34-year old taken to the craziest league in the world so easily, scored 3 goals in two games and has started trying some real crazy goal attempts?” Well, Zlat‘s unexplainable. It’s #ZlatanTime, and Man. Utd is enjoying it.

What’s your own definition? Leave a comment and let me know or hit me up on twitter and let me know. Don’t forget to use the social media buttons below to share this article with your friends!

About Author
Rotimi Daramola is a freelance football writer, football analyst and football content creator that is in love with the beautiful game. You can keep up with all of his writing and also engage with him on Twitter @rotdav and on LinkedIn

This Week’s Definition Of the English Premier League’s Big Five

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The new Premier League season has started with a bang. It’s just a MatchDay old but there’s been a lot to talk about already.

Brazilian flair, Cruyff turns, lovely through balls, incredible free kicks, outrageous goals from distance and some breathtaking piece of footwork have been the order of the day.

Of course there’s also been some open-eyed rantings, back slapping, hugs, fists bumping and exciting celebrations.

But, after Matchday 1, how have the big names performed? How did they fare?

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Arsenal: Not Ready… Yet
Arsenal lost their opening day game against Liverpool. And it did not exactly come as a surprise (especially if you’re an Arsenal fan). What more can a team that almost did not function in the transfer window do? And although the mart is still open, it’s unsure if Wenger will splash the cash.

And that is what the Gunners need, now that the Arsenal infirmary is getting filled again. After Wenger’s men succeeded in conceding 3 goals in the first 16 minutes of the second half against Liverpool, it’s obvious that plenty of work still needs to be done. “Arsenal are not ready physically for the title,” Wenger said. And, so far so good, he’s

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Chelsea: CONTEgious
As witnessed against West Ham, Chelsea’s new manager showed all of the above. After his team’s 89th minute winner, he went bonkers! It’s said that a man’s true creation will carry a mark that identifies with his character. And Chelsea’s display yesterday, – their urgency and decisiveness – against one of the teams that performed very well last season, showed marks of Conte’s organisation and ruthlessness.

Certainly if you’re being coached by the man that threatened to kill his players during the Euros (it’s not just a game), you’d definitely play to instructions, whether you’re Hazard or Costa. We’ll definitely see more of his energy being replicated amongst the Chelsea squad or… just maybe he’ll kill someone after all.

Liverpool: Deadly… and Conceding.
Jurgen Klopp’s men scored 4 goals against Arsenal… in just 20 minutes. And that was only their first game of the season. You can see where I’m going with this one, right?

Liverpool started the season with a powerful statement: “We’re now a team!” The build-up to Lallana’s goal, the break-neck pace of Mané and the jubilation that followed, will make them a nightmare for any club this season. And although the three goals conceded was a dent on the side, Liverpool, so far, have proved that they can outscore their opponents. Watch out!

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Manchester City: A New City
When Manchester City starts their Premier League campaign with their new and expensive signings, it’s not much of a surprise. But when the Cityzens kick off a Premier League campaign without Yaya Toure and Joe Hart, then you know something’s up!

Pep Guardiola is what’s up! The Philosopher has transformed the Man. City side and has turned it into his own team. Players like Fernandinho played in defense against Sunderland, Caballero was the first choice goalie, there was the 3-man defense formation and the “keep the ball” play. They needed a McNair own goal to win but it’s obvious: Manchester City is a different team now.

And given that they scored four goals in an European competition, for the first time, under Pep, it’s sign enough that this City is a brand new one.

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Manchester United: A Winning Start
New Man. Utd coach, Jose Mourinho, kicked things off with a win against Bournemouth. It was one that was expected and the Red Devils did not disappoint. What’s more, their big names shone bright… except one.

Zlatan got his debut goal, maintaining his record of having scored a debut goal at any club he’s joined. Bailly performed well. But the expensive did not feature. #PogBanned was all over social media as Pogba was not eligible to play for United. He was to serve a one-match suspension for getting two yellow cards in the Coppa Italia final. José has started well. And he’ll want to keep it up!

2016/17 Premier League Season: 5 New Signings To Watch Out For

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1. Henrikh Mikhtaryan (Manchester United)
For a good number of clubs currently in the English Premier League, a signing like the Armenian winger, Henrikh Mikhtaryan, would likely be their biggest signing of the transfer window. For Manchester United however, world record signing Paul Pogba pips ‘Micki’ to this title.

However, considering the fact that Henrikh is the more experienced player of the two, and also the fact that he came about 60m cheaper, it is safe to assume that come the end of the season, he will be considered the more shrewd signing of the two.

Comparisons aside though, Henrikh’s last season at immediate former club, Borrusia Dortmund was definitely the best season of his career so far. Racking up over 20 goals and 20 assists and at the age of 27, he is now settling into what should be his best footballing years.

The winger is blessed with good dribbling skills, excellent ball control, a good eye for a pass and an excellent eye for a cross. Put all that in a mix with considerable pace and you have a world class winger in Henrikh Mikhtaryan. United have not had a dominant winger since the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo and Henrikh might be the closest they have gotten to a world class winger since that time.

He cost ‘just’ over £26m but looking at the current setup of the transfer market in England(City have just signed an unproven Brazilian teenager, Gabriel Jesus for roughly the same amount) Henrikh Mikhtaryan has all it takes to be the signing of the season.

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2. Sadio Mane (Liverpool)
Yet another signing from Southampton for Liverpool then. It looks like Brendan Rodgers is not the only one that fancies The Saints’ players as manager Jurgen Klopp made the decision to splash £36m on the Senegalese winger. However, we believe that when the season is over, the signing of Sadio Mane will be considered one of the best signing, if not the best, of the season.

Two seasons in England and Sadio has proven himself to be one of the most exciting attacking players in the league. Blessed with an electric pace, good dribbling skills and a sharp eye for goal, Sadio Mane is exactly the type of attacking player that Liverpool have been missing. He joins a team spoiled with attacking talent such as Phillipe Coutinho, Roberto  Firmino and Adam Lallana, even James Milner who racked up over 20assists for Liverpool last season.

However, Sadio Mane offers something different to all these players and the major difference that sticks out is his pace. When asked about his opinion of the new signing, Phillipe Coutinho said “He’s too fast” and this pace, when used to its full effect, can be the catalyst for that extra nudge of quality that Liverpool have been lacking in the final third since the departure of Englishman Raheem Sterling.

Too often last season, the Reds have threatened defences, but without a player who can stretch defences with his pace, their attacks faltered once they got to the 18-yard box. Jurgen Klopp seems  to have addressed the issue with this signing and still only 24years old, Sadio Mane could prove to be a revelation in Liverpool’s top four push this season.

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3. Nathan Redmond (Southampton)
This might seem a surprise inclusion in this list, especially considering the stature of the remaining players but, Southampton have gotten a very good player in Nathan Redmond. Signed as replacement for Sadio Mane, there has been a long standing argument about the fact that Redmond deserves a chance at a bigger club than Norwich and following the relegation of his old club to the championship and the sale of Sadio Mane to Liverpool, it seemed like the natural thing for Southampton to do; to sign the tricky winger.

Signed for a fee of about £12m, the deal already looks too good considering the fact that English players are usually sold at a premium within the league. Too often last season, Nathan Redmond seemed to be the only Norwich player making an effort as he tried to do everything on his own when his teammates failed to turn up laat season.

Another fast, skillful player, he is almost a like-for-like replacement for Sadio Mane. And given the fact that he’s been so consistently good for Norwich, a team low on quality, it should be expected that his performance level only increase now that he has better players to work with. He already has experience in the Premier League too and at the age of 23, he could be a star for Southampton in the years to come (or, till Liverpool come knocking).

4. Nampalys Mendy (Leicester)
Who? You’ll be forgiven if you say you’ve never heard the name before but Leicester have signed this 24 year-old defensive midfielder from Nice. And, as some people already believe, he’ll be PFA Player of the Year nominee, N’golo Kante’s replacement. However, though there are similarities in their game, and also their looks (they weirdly have similar statures and skin colour: deep black), Mendy and Kante are not exactly the same type of players.

Kate’s strength is in his defensive abilities (tackling, interceptions), placed in an internal engine that German car companies would be proud of. Mendy’s strength is in a similar engine, also decent defensive abilities but with a more technical combination of a good passing range and the occasional dribble. It seems manager Claudio Ranieri decided that an inexhaustible stamina is the most important attribute in that position and so he’s gone and gotten himself a player with top notch stamina that can also play the attackers in from deep.

Mendy is on this list mainly because of the burden on his shoulders to perform well and ensure Leicester do not miss Kante too much. And it should be interesting to see if and how he rises up to this challenge.

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5. John Stones (Manchester City)
The most expensive player on this list (and a good example to support the fact made earlier about English players coming in at a premium), John Stones, City’s £47.5m signing from Everton, is the league’s most expensive defender ever. Safe to say, he has a lot of pressure on to fulfil the potential that manager Pep Guardiola obviously sees in him.

John Stones is the perfect Pep-type defender. Composure on the ball and the ability to carry the ball out of defence is exactly what Pep wants from his centre backs and these are the areas where John Stones, on his day, excels. He lost his head in some matches last season, causing people to doubt if he is worth all the hype but mistakes are to be expected from any young player at this level. Now 22 years old, and in a City side that lacks genuine quality in central defence, this season is the perfect time for John Stones to come into his own and establish himself as one of the best young defenders in the game.

Luckily, there’s few better options for this sort of development than under Pep Guardiola, who has been responsible for the growth of a good number of young stars throughout his own glittering career as a manager. John Stones is expected to be a regular in City’s defence this season, even when captain Vincent Kompany comes back.

And it will be interesting to watch how he progresses throughout the course of the season. He could prove to be a solution in defence for City, both short and long term, but he could also turn out to be an expensive flop. Watch this space.

About Author
Olayiwola Ola is an avid football follower. A Liverpool fan since the first day he watched Steven Gerrard play, he loves talking about football and shares the occasional banter with rival fans.

“For The Goals is my first attempt at writing about football. Definitely something I see myself doing on a steady though.”

2016/2017 English Premier League Season: 51 Questions To Be Answered (The Ultimate Question)

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New Logo, New Rules, New Theme Song. Will this new English Premier League season produce a new champion?

The 2016/2017 English Premier League season is upon us. And after discussing 50 questions that will be asked this English Premier League season, we’re down to the last one; the big one!

Q1: Who Will Win the Title?
This one’s got to be the BIGGEST question this season. I mean: with nine teams possibly in contention, the size of this question cannot be overemphasized. And we’re not even talking about who tops the league in December or spends the most time at the top. Who will lift the trophy come May? Which team will be crowned champions and make their supporters merry at the end of it all? Will it be Arsenal or Chelsea or one of the two teams from Manchester? Will it be a back-to-back hit for Leicester? Will Tottenham spur themselves on to the title? What of Klopp’s Liverpool?

Honestly, it’s hard to tell. It’s never been harder than this. And we at ForTheGoals will keep our fingers crossed, and wait patiently as the biggest league in the world unfolds, game by game. We’ll be here throughout the season, talking about all (okay, maybe not all) the events as they happen. (One of us is secretly hoping that this season is more dramatic than the last, for the fans’ sake.)

From all of us here: Cheers to a fantastic 2016/2017 Premier League football season! 

Let the games begin!

About Author
Rotimi Daramola is a freelance football writer, football analyst and football content creator that is in love with the beautiful game. You can keep up with all of his writing and also engage with him on Twitter @rotdav and on LinkedIn

Mission Impossible X: Ride or Die (Enyimba and their CAF Champions League Qualification)

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Paul Aigbogun’s men find themselves in a precarious situation as they hope to seal a last-minute ticket to the 2016 CAF Champions League semi-finals. With zero points, the People’s Elephant are definitely walking on a tight rope.

They now seek to get maximum points against Zamalek of Egypt and Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa. Or at least 4 points from both encounters with a good goal difference. But it’s important to note that Enyimba lost their two opening matches, to this same sides.

Enyimba are currently on a -2 goal difference in their group, having conceded 2 goals away to Sundowns and 1 at home to  Zamalek in their first home game at the Adokiye Amiesimaka stadium in Port Harcourt. This leaves Enyimba in a difficult situation. Now, they can’t afford to concede goals, especially if they want to qualify for the semi finals.

Furthermore, Enyimba’s consistent inconsistency in the Nigerian Professional Football League is also a cause to worry about. They are currently placed 6th on the log with 42 points (with 2 games in hand against Ifeanyi Ubah and rock bottom side Ikorodu United aka Oga Boys). Their last win came against Kano Pillars in the Week 26 fixture.

The inconsistency of the People’s Elephant also has something to do with the lack of a permanent home ground this season. Three stadia have been home to Enyimba this season; the. “potatoes plantation” pitch in Umuahia (home ground to Kennedy Boboye’s Abia warriors), the Yakubu Gowon stadium, formerly known as the Liberation Stadium (home ground to Rivers united) and the Adokiye Amiesimaka stadium stadium in Port Harcourt which they use for their CAF Champions League engagement.

This major factor according to some enthusiast has not given room to the team’s geling, bonding and the mastering of tactics. In this part of the world, home ground advantage is key to home teams as they know specific areas where they can wreck havoc to the opposing team or opponents. But Enyimba, in this context, don’t have a fortress.

Lack of adequate home support and the absence fans at games has also, to some extent, led to poor results from the team in recent times. Motivation is also lacking. And according to reports, the players have not been paid for about 3 months.

Professionalism and Patriotism are two major strands in the life of every athelete. But most times, both can’t be nourished at the same level. Most times, one has to suffer in place of the other.

The recent partnership between the LMC (League Management Company) and the La Liga has put some players, especially from Enyimba, in a dilemma. The NPFL All Star team travel to Spain to take part in the La Liga World Challenge 6 players of Eyimba (Osadieye, Afelokai, Ifeanyi Matthew, Chima Akas) among others are in the 18-man squad.

Now, according to sources, the players were more interested in travelling to Spain to sell themselves, rather than playing in the CAF Champions League (I’m wondering how true this is. I hope my Enyimba friend can shed more light on this for me). Are the players giving up? Questions begging for answers.

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Enyimba take on Zamalek of Egypt in a must-win game in Egypt on the 14th of August and the absence of 6 major players, seems to spell D.E.F.E.A.T I.N A.D.V.A.N.C.E. The arrival of these players, barely 24 hours before the match, will not help their cause.

The usual fire brigade approach is obviously the only panacea in the wilderness of delusion in which Enyimba have found themselves in. Enyimba will love to contend with the vehement and vociferous Egyptian fans and some hostile conditions which their opponent will bring to the table. Enyimba must be prepared for all the antics that will be on display that day.

The People’s Elephant must win or at least get a draw; a barren draw preferably. And even though they choose to win, they must win before the game starts (psychologically before getting onto the pitch). Well it remain to be seen how this will turn out. Perhaps, the resignation of Zamalek’s coach (Mohammed Helmi)  might just be a morale booster?

Having said this, it will be more easier and convenient for a Carmel to pass through the needle’s eye than Enyimba getting a positive result in Egypt.

About Author
Ayomide Matthew Oluwapamilerin is a freelance but passionate sport writer, analyst and broadcaster who major in Basketball, Football and Tennis. A 400l of Obafemi Awolowo University. You can follow his updates @Mrmatthew_Esq on Twitter

2016/2017 English Premier League Season: 51 Questions To Be Answered (11-2)

Our countdown continues. So far, we’ve had three posts in this series. If you’ve missed any of them, you can catch up on the questions you’ve missed here, here and here.

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Q11: How Will the English Teams Fare in the Champions League?
Leicester, Tottenham, Arsenal and Manchester City aren’t exactly the strongest of names in Europe’s premier competition these days. Of all the teams, City is the only club with a coach that has won it. Will England get a beatinghis time around or will the teams show why the English Premier League is said to be the best in the world?

Q10: Is This Really the Hardest Season To Win the Premier League?
Arsene Wenger has been quoted as saying this year’s Premier League title can be won by at least nine clubs. Tough eh? With names like Mourinho, Pep, Conte, added to the mix, the reasons for Wenger’s prediction is not far-fetched. Will it be one of the regulars to lift the title or will it be hard for every team, making the fans wait until the final day?

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Q9: Who Will Be King of the Touchline Drama?
Last season’s champ in this category was of course Jurgen Klopp. His fiery-looking face and his demeanour was always a beauty to behold each time the Reds stepped out. But with names like Conte now in the mix, it’s hard to tell who will be this Premier League season’s best actor cum coach. Will there be a poking of the eyes? Coaches pushing each other? Or will the other British Klopp in the Palace win this category? (Hello Alan!).

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Q8: Is This Pep’s Toughest Challenge Yet?
This one has a general answer alreasy among the fans of the league: a resounding Yes! Strong teams, high spending power, world class coaches, ahem… no Messi, Iniesta or even Xavi. No Dortmund to buy from and systematically make weaker. Three competitions to play in. But is this really the toughest challenge of a coach who has been quoted as saying, “The big coaches help me reach another level… they’ve made me better.”? Will Pep fare well or will he be forced into another sabbatical, forced to say, “Farewell” early?

epa05011455 Arsenal's manager Arsene Wenger before the UEFA Champions League group F soccer match between Bayern Munich and FC Arsenal at Allianz Arena in Munich, Germany, 04 November 2015.  EPA/PETER KNEFFEL

epa05011455 Arsenal’s manager Arsene Wenger before the UEFA Champions League group F soccer match between Bayern Munich and FC Arsenal at Allianz Arena in Munich, Germany, 04 November 2015. EPA/PETER KNEFFEL

Q7: What If…?
What if Arsenal do not have injuries? What if Sturridge is fit? What if Conte’s 3-5-2 does not work? What if Leicester do the double? What if Pogba fails to shine? What if Pep finishes outside of the Top 4? What if…?

Q6: Can We Get Another Leicester?
The Foxes turned a foolish dream into reality. People said it was impossible. Ranieri proved them wrong. Now, can we find another team that can pull it off? That can stun the world? Burnley? Middlesborough? Stoke? I think the answer is no but you can never tell this things can we?

Q5: Is This Our Year?
This is one question that every fan will be asking. Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United and Manchester City fans will be asking this in connection with the Premier League title. Fans of Burnley will be wondering whether they can stay up this year? Everton and West Ham fans will be wonderinf if this is the Champions League year

Q4: Formations At the Ready?!
Tiki-taka? Le Professor’s way or Pep’s way? All-out attack or Park the Bus? Who will be the masters of passes this season? 4-4-2? 4-5-1? 3-5-2? 4-3-3? Or maybe an outrageous 2-3-5?

Q3: Who Will Be Relegated?
Predictions are rife already! Many pundits and analysts have churned out predicted standings. So who will stay up and who will be down and out? Names like Hull City, Burnley and Middlesborough are being touted to return to the Championship. But names like Watford and West Brom could go down too, right?

Q2: What Will Be Leicester’s Fate?
Blame us not for concentrating excessively on the Foxes. But the spotlight’s always on the champ. Will Ranieri get another Champions League qualification? Maybe it will be the Europa this time? Will he be able to master-mind another league title win? Or, will they finish in the bottom half? How will they cope without Kante? How will Ranieri’s men thrive?

2016/2017 English Premier League Season: 51 Questions To Be Answered (26-12)

We’re now down to our last 26 questions that will be asked and hopefully, answered this new English Premier League season.

Wondering where the other questions are, you can quickly read them up here and here.

Done reading them? Let’s continue…

Q26: Tottenham: Flash In the Pan Or…?
After the performance of Pochettino’s men last season, how they chased after Leicester, knocking down every opppsition in the process, this question will definitely be asked. Yes, Mauricio has proved himself a good coach. But it remains to be seen if he can do the same with the Spurs in the Champions League.

Q25: Who Will be the Pressing King?
Gen gen pressing or pressure play? Klopp’s version or Pochettino’s way? There is also Southampton (not sure about life under Puel though), and maybe Everton (say Koeman) in this mix to relentlessly pursue and hassle their opponents.

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Q24: Was Mourinho’s Bus Destroyed at Chelsea…
…or did he bring it along to the city of Manchester? You’ll remember how José knew how to “park the bus” back at the Blues, right? Is he going to deploy such tacts at the Theatre of Dreams? When the going gets tough, we will find out.

Q23: Crazy Bets: Are You In?
Last season, it was all about that Leicester fan who put his money on his team to win the league, journalists betting with the hair on their heads and fans promising to walk around naked if their team lose. Will there be more of the crazies? Who knows! Just in case you’re wondering, Burnley’s at 1000/1 to win this season’s English Premier League trophy.

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Q22: Best Dressed Coach?
Leaving Jurgen Klopp out of this one, the contestants will be names like Antonio Conte, Pochettino and Mourinho (if his outfit in the Community Shield game is anything to go by). Of course the race for the gold in this one will be between Senõr Pep and err… Alan Pardew. Who will come out tops?

Q21: Clash of the Titans?
When the big teams and big coaches square up against one another, will it feature excitement that will get us through the season or will it feature a bus and fury at referees? I’m almost certain there’ll be no talks of character… or maybe there will?

Q20: What Next For Swansea Now?
After Stones left for Manchester City, Everton quickly swooped on Ashely Williams. He was obviously the replacement they had in mind with the way they went about the move. That being said, how will the Swans cope with the absence of their captain? Add to that the absence of Andre Ayew, and it may not be hard to see the Swans swimming in relegation waters this season (pun intended). Or maybe not?

Q19: Flop of the Season?
Who will rival supporters laugh at? Which of the big money names will be scorned or become a punchline? Will it take players like Pogba, as long as his transfer took, to settle in?

Q18: How will the Champions Fare in the Champions League?
New additions yes.. but departures can upset the balance of a team. It will be interesting to see how the champions of England handle their self-esteem against Europe’s big boys. Will they play like all’s at stake? Or will they go out there to have fun?

Q17: Which Will Be the People’s Team?
The year of the enigma called Suarez, it was Liverpool(though they didn’t win). No matter how you hated the club, it was just fun to watch SAS play. Last year, it was Leicester and they went on to win. Which team will be the peoples team this season?

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Q16: What Now for Rashford?
Ibrahimovic and Martial are the big names. No one really knows Rooney’s position. Plus Mourinho’s record with youngsters is impeccable (like he’d like us to believe). Will there even be room enough for Rashford to prove to the world that last season wasn’t a fluke?

Q15: OLIVIER twist For Giroud: Will Arsene Regret It?
A certain Frenchman playing at the Emirates took a long vacation from his goal-scoring activities last season. He just would not score… no matter how important the game was. The fans obviously didn’t like it and some called for his head. But the coach seemed undisturbed. And with his transfer dealings this summer transfer window, he seems to trust (and want more of) his fellow countryman. Will this move come back to haunt him when January and February arrive? An Arsenal fan has described his beloved club as, “…not only standing still but we are in reverse.” Will Arsene Wenger prove him wrong?

Q14: The Pep Evangelism: Who Will Be Converted
One of Josep’s strong point is his conversion skills. No he’s not a striker. But he knows how to take a midfielder and make him into a world-class defender (hello Javier). And he knows how to reverse the above-named reaction: take a defender and convert him into a midfielder (sound the aLAHM for this great guy!). Now that he’s in the City, who will become what? Who will have to adapt to a new position? Fernando or Fernandinho in central defense? John Stones in midfield? Toure on the bench position or the “Straight Outta City” position? Speaking of Manchester…

Q13: Will Manchester be United or Will it Remain the Same Old City?
This is like asking: Pep Guardiola or Jose Mourinho? Red or Blue? Or, in simple terms: Who will dominate Manchester? Who will come out on top in the derbies? Who will finish above who?

Q12: Will We Crumble After December?
This one’s a yearly question that highlights the situation among the fans of the Gunners. They’re always hoping injuries and bad luck don’t reear their ugly heads and ruin their chances, again! Will this season be different?

2016/2017 English Premier League Season: 51 Questions To Be Answered (41-27

This is the second part of our series of quedtions that will need to be answered this EPL season.

Just in case you missed out on the first part, you can read it up here.

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Q41: The Serious One? The Motivated One?
What will Mourinho be this season? More like: Who will Jose be this time around? The Angry One? The Revengeful One? The Calm One? Considering his very talked-about split with Chelsea, everyone is intrigued to see how he bounces back. He’s definitely champing at the bit.

Q40: What will Karanka and Boro Bring Back After 7 Years?
After getting Victor Valdes and A. Negredo on board, it’s now the classic case of Middlesborough and the Squad of Champions. Karanka obviously wants to stay up this time around but could this team have more than that in mind?

Q39: What About Puel?
Claude Puel is the new man at the helms in Southampton. Names like Pelle and Mane have exited the club. Fonte is rumoured ro want a transfer out of the club. What will Puel do to maintain or surpass Koeman’s achievements?

Q38: Huge Stoke?
They’re not expected to be involved in relgation battles but just maybe the fans will be wanting more from the players. After getting Arnautovic to stick around, maybe Stoke can manage more than a tenth place finish predicted by Paul Merson.

Q37: Can Moyes Be Like Big Sam?
Allardyce was the kind of coach that was able to make names like Defoe tick. Now that he’s gone, which version of David Moyes will be on display? The Moyes of Everton? The Moyes of Man. Utd? Can Moyes help Sunderland survive like Allardyce did?

Q36: Ayew Serious?
The Swans succeeded in selling their best striker to West Ham. And even though they’ve secured the services of Llorente, what’s the assurance that he’ll adapt easily to the league? The devil you know, right? But the Swans have made their move. Where will they end up this season? Relegation?

Q35: Can They Handle The EPL and the Champions League?
Tottenham have been here before. But trying to cope with both competitions can be a tough task for any team. The Europa League seemed to do more harm than good last year, in their bid for the EPL title. Now that Leicester has shown all that nothing is impossible, Tottenham will want to win the title too but… can they cope?

Q34: Who Will Go First?
This one is for the relegation contenders or under-performing achievers: Who will get sacked first? Every season usually has its casualties and the coaches are always the first to go. But who will get the axe first?

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Q33: Who Will Be the Top Goalscorer?
There are lots of contenders for this: from a fit Aguero, to a charged Costa, to a fit Sturridge. There’s also Harry kane and maybe one Asano (sorry, I meant Giroud)

Q32: Will the Referees Turn Up?
Last season was at times marred with referee controversies. Will this season be different? Will the referees behave or will have more of the same?

Q31: Tactics?
With Pep, Conte, Klopp and Mou on the touchline, we might see a variety of crazy systems. Maybe Conte will finally get 3-5-2 right in the EPL. Or maybe we will see Pep’s 3-3-4?

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Q30: Breakout Star of the Season?
Last season it was Kante, Mahrez and Vardy. The year before it was Harry Kane. Whose fortunes will be on the up and up this year?

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Q29: Can Money Win the League?
Everyone is spending big, even newly relegated Newcastle have a Champions League winning coach! There’s crazy money in the EPL right now. So the question remains: who wins? Is it the team that spends the most?

Q28: The New Rules?
Will the new rules cause some controversy? Obviously! But with the EPL, the question is, how big will those controversies be? I mean, a red card issued to a player before the game begins will definitely spark heated press conferences and all right?

Q27: One Season Wonder or…?
One name comes to mind… Dele Alli. Will this young lion live up to the expectations that stems from his performance last season? There’s also a Jamie Vardy in the mix. Will he go on another scoring spree?