Who is Marvin Johnson?

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A number of big clubs have confirmed interest in signing Oxford United’s 26-year-old wing wizard Marvin Johnson.

Everton, Manchester City, Liverpool, Leicester and Celtic are all keen on securing his signature.

So who exactly is Johnson? Sam May gives you a rundown of all you need to know…

 

Factfile

Name: Marvin Johnson

Age: 26

Position: Winger

Club: Oxford United

 

Background

Johnson began his career with non-league side Solihull Motors after a loan spell at Coalshill Town. He was later handed a five-day trial by Burnley, who decided against signing the player.

He started to attract interest of clubs when playing for Northern Premier League First Division South side Romulus. It was from their where he joined Kidderminster Harriers in the Vanarama National League. Growing as a player, he flourished for Motherwell when moving north of the border.

Brighton, QPR and Burton were interested in the flying winger after he handed in a transfer request at Motherwell in August last year. The U’s secured the services of the Birmingham born player on deadline day for an undisclosed fee which is thought to be £650,00.

He is understood to be keen on a move to the Premier League this summer.

 

Style of play

Being a versatile player, Johnson can play in a number of positions. He can be used as a winger, high-flying full back or striker. Best suiting a 4-3-3, he can operate on both flanks. Like many wingers, he has pace and power and not afraid to take on defenders.

A goal threat, the number 28 has netted 10 times this season and made 15 assists. He was also a fans’ favorite due to his attacking prowess after producing a number of man-of-the-match performances.

There may be concerns on whether he can step up and make the grade at the higher level, but there is no doubt he is worth the gamble.

He scored four goals in five after signing for Motherwell, so his attitude and dedication to succeed, meant Oxford boss Michael Appleton splashed out a club-record fee to bring Johnson to the Kassam Stadium.

Despite scoring the goal to send Oxford United to the EFL Trophy final at Wembley, his team was defeated 2-1 by Coventry earlier this month.

 

What he said

“For people to be talking about you then you must be doing something right.

“It’s just rumours and you have to get on with your football.

“You just have to keep your head down and keep doing what you’re doing. The more you see it, the more it should push you on.”

 

What they said

His current manager Michael Appleton said: “I think eventually Marvin will end up being a top-class wide player.

“But he’s more than capable of playing at full back – he could play in the middle of the park, he’s just a very good player.

“He’s got fantastic athleticism and speed. Technically he’s good, he’s got a thunderbolt shot and can deliver.

“He’s a good footballer and the higher he goes up (the football pyramid) he will end up being a natural left-sided wide player or a striker.”

“He’s got pace that scares the life out of people but he doesn’t know how to use it properly yet.

“We can work on that.”

How could Liverpool’s defence look next season?

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Defensive fragilities have proved costly for Jürgen Klopps Reds this season and the recent home defeat to Crystal Palace, as highlighted the need for new recruits, writes Sam May.

Liverpool suffered a beggarly disappointing 2-1 defeat at the hands of Sam Allardyce’s Crystal Palace at Anfield on Sunday, a game they were expecting to win to help with Champions League qualification.

Dejan Lovren’s amateurish display, not just in the game, but throughout the season has proved he is not the required standard of a Liverpool centre-half and must be moved on in the summer.

But how could the Reds back four line up next season?

 

RB – Nathaniel Clyne

The 26-year-old has been a key player in the Reds backline and is expected to continue in his position next season. One of the first names on the team sheet, Clyne has made 37 appearances and contributed to three assists. Helping the Reds to two major finals previously, he is however expected to up his game, following Trent Alexander-Arnold’s rise to prominence, which has given Jürgen Klopp plenty of food for thought. A couple of mistakes against Arsenal and Burnley means his performances haven’t been up to scratch recently, so he will have to improve going forward.

Alternatives: Trent Alexander-Arnold, Lukas Klosterman (RB Leipzig) or Rick Karsdorp (Feyenoord).

 

CB – Jonathan Tah (Bayer Leverkusen)

The Reds should look no further than the colossus, Jonathan Tah. He is an outstanding defensive talent, who excels in all areas at the back; he’s a strong on the ground, dominant in the air and possesses an intelligent reading of the game. The 21-year-old is adept at one-on-one situations, and is able to utilise his strength to muscle attackers off the ball or shepherd them into less dangerous areas.

He has averaged 2.8 successful tackles per 90 minutes in the Bundesliga, with a success rate of 87.5 percent. He has also averaged 2.4 interceptions, 1.1 blocks and 2.1 headers won per 90, with his aerial success rate standing at 55.3 percent. He would be the perfect replacement for both Mamadou Sakho and Dejan Lovren.

Alternatives: Joe Gomez, Davison Sanchez (Ajax), Michael Keane (Burnley) Dayot Upamecano (RB Leipzig) or Ezri Konsa (Charlton).

 

CB – Joël Matip

The transfer of 2016-17 season, free transfer Matip has been a rock at the back for the Reds since his arrival from Schalke. The 25-year-old has been a consistent figure and already become a fan favourite. He is no doubt going to be at the forefront of Liverpool’s defence next season. His pace and mobility means he has been able to work well for Klopp. Oozing in class, he is only going to get better and is already proving a bargain for the Reds. No team in the top seven has conceded more than the 42 goals the Reds have shipped in the top flight and with Matip and an excellent buy in the summer, the Reds will be expected to significantly reduce this.

Alternatives: Niklas Süle (Hoffenheim), Ben Gibson (Middleborough)

 

LB – Kieran Tierney (Celtic)

The Celtic left-back has shone under the guidance of Brendan Rodgers and is a target for many top Premier League clubs. Arsenal are keen on his services, but a move to the Emirates would be highly unlikely should the Gunners sign Sead Kolašinac from Schalke on a free transfer this summer. The future Bhoys captain, would be the ideal solution to the Reds full back problems. He is consistent, aggressive, and tackles effectively. He has made 12 assists and scored one goal for the Scottish Champions this season. With Alberto Moreno expected to leave in the summer Klopp should make a swift move for the highly rated 19-year-old.

Alternatives: Andrew Robertson (Hull City), Ben Chilwell (Leicester City), Jonathan Hector (Cologne), Ryan Sessegnon (Fulham) or Sead Kolašinac (Schalke, although expected to join Arsenal).

Who is Lee Congerton? The super scout who spotted Philippe Coutinho and Neymar

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The 43-year-old joined Celtic in March as head of recruitment and is expected to scour the world for the latest prospects, writes Sam May.

He has been handed the tough task of Hoops talent spotter and is set to draw up a plan as he embarks on unearthing the up and coming starlets for the Parkhead club. It’s hard to imagine Samba stars like Coutinho and Neymar at Celtic, but Brendan Rodgers certainly can.

Congerton started his scouting career in 2005 with Chelsea in South America, identifying unheard-of youngsters. It’s there where he first crossed paths with Brendan Rodgers. The Bhoys boss claims he brings knowledge, experience and excellence, but will add value to the club.

The Bhoys boss, who signed former Milan star Coutinho for Liverpool in 2014, believes the expertise of Welshman Congerton, can help him to bring new talents to Celtic this summer. At the time, the former Chelsea scout tried to lure 14-year-old Philippe Coutinho who was playing for Vasco De Gama, only to find out a deal had already been done with Inter Milan.

One of the best in the business, he moved to Liverpool in 2002 where he worked in the Anfield club’s renowned academy. He left there for Chelsea in 2005 before joining Hamburg as technical director alongside former Stamford Bridge colleague Frank Arnesen in 2011. Congerton took on the same role at Sunderland in 2014 but that job lasted just 18 months, ending after the departure of Dick Advocaat and the arrival of Sam Allardyce.

His coaching career began at Wrexham after injury brought a premature end to his playing days and he featured for Weymouth, Colwyn Bay and Crewe Alexandra. The UEFA pro coaching licence coach, will head up the scouting operation and is determined to bring the very best to Celtic.

The great that rose from the ashes of the Borussia Dortmund attack

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Without question the attack aimed at the Borussia Dortmund team bus was a cowardly act aimed at a team, a sport and society in general. The physical results could have been a lot worse. What it has done though is amazing, writes Sam May.

Person or persons unknown at this point tried to kill people, sport and society values, but failed on all counts, thankfully. The immediate reaction from global society has been one of condemnation disbelief and anger. The footballing nation, especially the immediate fans affected with the games temporary suspension for 24 hours, rose like a phoenix from the attack ashes almost immediately.

In the Westfalenstadion once social media reported what had happened, Monaco supporters far from home started to chant their support with “Dortmund, Dortmund”, this showing everyone their support of an opponent in a difficult situation.

Dortmund supporters responded quickly setting up a Twitter account so as to offer Monaco fans a “bed for the night”, so that they could stay on – and support their team tonight. Monaco football club also responded with an offer of €80 per person to all travelling fans towards additional costs which their supporters would incur during an extended stay, due to the callous act of last night.

This is society at its best. Forget they are supporters of opposing teams, this is people first and foremost helping others. It is how society should be, and can all learn from the generosity offered, the respect of each other in a difficult situation, and the coming together in a united way to give the message to the troubled and misguided perpetrator(s), “you will never achieve your goals.” Thankfully the one player injured, Spain’s Marc Bartra should make a full recovery from his broken wrist.

Tonight hopefully the game will go ahead without further incident, and rather than be a “difficult game to play in “as some media experts are saying, it should be a celebration of healthy opposition in the greatest game of all – football.

Everyone in the footballing community globally will be watching. When the whistle goes it will be game on. May the best team win, but we already have a winner, the footballing society brought together last night. No to racism, total respect and absolute unity.

Alban Lafont: Meet the sensational shot stopper lighting up Ligue 1

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The young Toulouse goalkeeper is destined for the top, writes Sam May.

Becoming the youngest keeper ever to feature in Ligue 1 at 16 years and 310 days in 2015, he has become a key figure for Pascal Dupraz’s side.

But who is he?

 

Fact file

Name: Alban Lafont

Date of birth: January 23rd, 1999

Position: Goalkeeper

Nationality: French

Club: Toulouse

 

Born in Burkina Faso, he was always going to have a career in sport. His parents Roland and Laurence played Tennis and Handball, respectively. Moving to France at a young age, he quickly found his feet, featuring as an attacking midfielder for AS Lattoise, where he spent six years.

Following an injury to Lattoise’s goalkeeper, Lafont was given the gloves – a move which he hasn’t looked back on since. He has gone on to make over 50 appearances at Stadium Municipal. Many sides had been running the rule over him at the time such as AS Monaco, but it was Toulouse who won the race to sign him.

His potential was noted by the clubs hierarchy, who quickly fast tracked him through the academy age groups. He was given the number 40 shirt and became the clubs fifth goalkeeper. Dominique Arribage, the clubs manager at the time threw Lafont into the deep end when his side had failed to win any of their 13 league games and had the worst defensive record in the league.

Lafont later made his debut against Nice, keeping a clean sheet – the first one of the season, helping his side to a 2-0 win. His side beat Troyes a week later and he claimed another. He helped to keep his team in the top flight of French Football.

He is a relaxed goalkeeper, and calm under pressure. The fact he helped to keep his team in the league suggests he can handle pressure and is dominant force. His sweeper-keeper style means he is good with the ball at his feet, and his outfield role in the past has helped him with this.

Producing a man of the match display in his sides 2-0 victory over Paris St Germain this season, he is only going to get better over the years. France’s future number one? Toulouse are keen to extend his contract that runs until 2020.

He has represented France at U-16, U-17 and U-18 level, but still has the option to play for Burkina Faso., however he is likely to play for the France national team. Many teams have been interested such as Arsenal, Watford and Lazio, but expect Europe’s elite to be running the rule over him this summer.

Lucas the Reds linchpin helps to secure Merseyside derby win

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The defensive midfielder played a vital role in helping the Reds secure a 3-1 victory over Everton on Saturday, writes Sam May.

Lucas, 30, had been restricted to substitute appearances for the Reds in their last three league outings before the game, but stepped in for the injured Adam Lallana, who picked up an injury on international duty.

Having been brought in to the starting eleven, many fans on social media criticised Jürgen Klopp’s decision to start him before the game, claiming the Brazilian would be “dire” and “doesn’t have the legs” for a big game. He has been playing out of position at the back and has mixed reviews as a result. As a midfield anchor though, in physical encounters- he thrives.

Lucas who has entered his 10th year with Liverpool after joining from Gremio in the summer of 2007, proved fans wrong and put in a strong display throughout helping the Reds to continue their derby supremacy at Anfield.

During his time at the club he has featured 338 times for the Merseyside giants and of those appearances 24 have come in the current campaign. During yesterdays derby he produced more tackles than the entire blues midfield. His experience got him into the right positions to quell any threat and break up any attacking situations. Always the unsung hero and playing under the enormous shadow of Steven Gerrard in previous years, it is what he has in his locker now, which is vital for the flair players to express themselves, and Jürgen Klopp understands this.

He frustrated Ross Barkley throughout and prevented Romelu Lukaku from getting a foothold in the game, leaving him isolated. Lucas enabled Liverpool to play their natural free flowing passing game and was crucial in establishing the Reds attacking momentum.

He still has a vital part to play in helping secure champions league football next term for the Reds, and it may effect his personal future, as big names may be attracted to join the Klopp revolution. The quiet unsung hero will go about his role 100%. He really is Liverpool through and through.