Payet is “100% staying” – Just how much of a boost is that for West Ham?

After following up an incredible debut Premier League season, West Ham United’s Dimitri Payet put in some excellent performances at the European Championships, increasing speculation that he would leave the East London club. Lewis Addley explores how much of boost it is for The Irons that he has reportedly confirmed he will stay beyond the summer…

Dimitri Payet has arguably played the best football of his career since arriving at West Ham United in the summer transfer window of 2015. His performance levels at both Euro 2016 and during the 2015/16 season left many tipping the 29-year-old set-piece king to move to one of Europe’s elite clubs this summer.

However, the Frenchman has now reportedly committed his future to West Ham by saying he cannot wait to lineup in front of the fans in their new stadium.

“I’ve heard about all the interest and I’m flattered,” Payet told The Sun. “But I love West Ham. We had a fantastic season and I can’t wait to play in the Olympic Stadium. I’m 100 per cent staying at West Ham, I love the club. I can tell the Hammers fans that.”

His quotes will come as music to the ears of any West Ham fan as they’d have been worrying about losing their world-class midfielder. But just how much of a boost is it to the club?

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Win percentage:

West Ham won 16 of their 38 Premier League games last season. Payet made 30 appearances and in those games The Hammers won 15 times.

In their eight games without the Frenchman they managed to win just once. So their win percentage is substantially higher with Payet in the team at 50% than without, where they managed just 12.5%.

While West Ham won more games with Payet in the team it is worth mentioning they didn’t actually lose without him, winning once and drawing the other seven. With that in mind it would have been interesting to see just how many of those seven draws could have been wins with Payet’s influence in the final third.

Free-kick king: 

For West Ham and France, Payet has scored 17 goals since the start of the 15/16 Premier League season. Six of those goals have come directly from free-kicks. His ability from a dead-ball situation makes him one of the most deadly in European football and he seems to be able to find the top corner no matter how big the opposition wall is.

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Goals and assists:

In his 30 appearances in the league last season, Payet netted nine goals and racked up 12 assists. He ended the season as West Ham’s joint top goalscorer and their highest scoring midfielder.

Passing: 

Payet’s passing stats from the 15/16 Premier League season were impressive. He managed 1003 successful passes with a pass completion of 81%. He also created 116 chances for his teammates with 104 key passes. As we know, ball retention is so important and the Frenchman is one of the best with the ball in the final third of the pitch.

Attracting summer signings:

Potential signings will want to play alongside the best players in the world. Given how well Payet performed last season and in the Euro’s it would be fair to suggest he has been playing at the very top level.

With Payet committed to the squad, West Ham may have an increased chance of convincing summer transfer targets to join and play alongside one of the best players in Europe in an 80,000-capacity stadium.

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How much of a boost is Payet’s commitment for West Ham? 

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Arsenal legend says Pogba “can be one of best in history” – but is he worth £100m?

French midfield star Paul Pogba might be preparing for a huge semifinal clash with Germany tonight, but that hasn’t stopped him from being continuously linked with a world-record transfer away from Juventus this summer.

Former club Manchester United are said to be preparing a £100 million bid for his signature, with Jose Mourinho keen on bringing the 23-year-old star to Old Trafford before the summer transfer window shuts.

Real Madrid are also interested, with the player’s agent, Mino Raiola confirming last month that initial talks had taken place with the Spanish giants.

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Whichever way you look at it, Pogba is in demand. He is wanted by the top clubs around the world and they are seemingly prepared to smash the world-record transfer fee to get him. But is he worth that sort of investment?

Well according to Arsenal legend and fellow Frenchman Thierry Henry, the answer is yes. Henry told Sky Sports that he feels Pogba “can be one of the best midfielders in history”.

“He has the quality to do that, the pundit added. “He needs to make sure he concentrates on what he can do well.

“What I love about him at the moment is that he’s doing what the team’s asking him to do; maybe he’s sometimes a bit more fancy at Juventus but because Griezmann is playing behind Giroud for France, he has to defend a bit more.

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“That’s the sign of his intelligence. He’s playing within himself in a way, to make sure the team has the right balance.”

That balance that Henry mentions has seen France reach the semifinals of the tournament, without really looking like the dominant force many expected them to be this summer.

Yes, they blew away Iceland in that 5-2 quarterfinal demolition last week – with Pogba himself netting his first goal of the tournament in that rout – but aside from that, they’ve struggled to break teams down until very late in games.

Take nothing away from them for getting to where they are now. But as a team France haven’t set the tournament alight. And the same can be said for Pogba.

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The Juventus star ended last season with eight goals and 12 assists in 35 Serie A appearances. However, for France at Euro 2016, Pogba has registered just one goal and has picked up no assists as of yet.

He might be playing a slightly different role under Didier Deschamps, but Pogba has only won 36% of his tackles at the tournament and has committed a total of 11 fouls in five matches – the joint-fourth highest number at the competition.

Table: Pogba's Euro 2016 statistics ahead of semifinal - (Stats via Squawka).

Table: Pogba’s Euro 2016 statistics ahead of semifinal – (Stats via Squawka).

Dimitri Payet has overshadowed him as Les Bleus’ standout performer and while there is no doubting his ability, Pogba is not yet the player that many want him to be.

He is blessed with raw pace, impressive power and more flair than most central midfielders on the planet. However, his overall game as a central midfielder needs polishing still.

He may only be 23 years of age, but if clubs are willing to spend £100 million to secure your services, you need to be a complete package. And it’s unclear whether Pogba is that just yet…

Do you think Paul Pogba is worth £100 million? Will he be one of the best midfielders in history?

International Friendly Preview and Prediction: England vs France

Competition: International Friendly – England vs. France 

Venue: Wembley Stadium – Tuesday, November 17 – 20:00 GMT (15:00 ET)

Match Odds: England 6/4 – Draw 11/5 – France 15/8

Match Preview

England face Euro 2016 hosts France at Wembley on Tuesday night in a friendly game that will see the two nations stand together following Friday night’s tragic terror attacks in Paris.

Initially it seemed obvious that the game would be cancelled by the French Football Federation but they have decided to let the game go ahead. England and France will use the match to showcase the two nations’ solidarity following Friday’s events.

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England come into the game following their 2-0 defeat to Spain in Alicante on Friday evening. The result saw England lose for the first time since the 2014 World Cup, ending a run of 14 games unbeaten.

With Wayne Rooney and Jamie Vardy out through injury, Harry Kane is the only fit striker available to Roy Hodgson and there are worries the England squad looks too weak just months before the European Championships get underway.

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It will be interesting to see what the side will look like with Dele Alli and Eric Dier both awaiting their first start in an England shirt, and just how ‘experimental’ the starting XI will be on Tuesday evening.

France beat Germany 2-0 on Friday night in Paris as the tragic events in the French capital unfolded. The result of that game will mean little to French supporters but the game against England will go ahead.

However, Didier Deschamps’ side have now won five games in a row and will use the game with England to show solidarity. The European Championships in France are still set to go ahead and so the host nation will want to ensure they are in the best form possible.

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Key Points

England’s last five: W/W/W/W/L

France’s last five: W/W/W/W/W

Key Stat: England haven’t beaten France on home soil since 1992 and have failed to win in any of the last six meetings between the nations.

Key Player: Paul Pogba – Pogba is one of the world’s most complete midfielder and has been sensational since joining Juventus in 2012. It won’t be long until he’s one of, if not the best, players in world football. He’s a superb talent with unfathomable potential.

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Score Prediction

England 1-1 France – We’re hoping this game offers a chance for football to distract itself from the events in Paris on Friday night and hopefully both sides will be looking to get forward and score goals. We think a score draw is most likely.

Euro 2016 Qualifier Preview and Prediction: England vs Switzerland

Competition: European Championship Qualifying – England vs. Switzerland (Group E)

Venue: Wembley Stadium – Tuesday, September 8 – 19:45 BST (14:45 ET) 

Match Odds: England – Draw – Switzerland

Match Preview

England host Switzerland in their latest European Championship qualifier on Tuesday evening in a battle between the top two sides in Group E.

The Three Lions beat minnows San Marino 6-0 on Saturday to guarantee a Euro 16 slot at next summer’s finals in France and can now guarantee a top spot finish with a victory over Switzerland.

Roy Hodgson’s men have won all seven of their qualifying games so far, conceding just three times, and have not lost a match since the World Cup.

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England have netted 12 times in their last three qualifying games at Wembley and will hope to be in free scoring form once again here against their toughest opponents in Group E.

Switzerland sit second in the group and are unlikely to finish in any other position in qualifying. That will see them make Euro 2016 though, which was the primary objective heading into the campaign.

A 2-0 home loss to England in their opening qualifying game didn’t get things off to the best start but they have won their last five on the bounce in qualifying and recorded a 3-2 win at home to Slovenia on Saturday, coming from 2-0 down to seal three vital points.

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This will be the 24th meeting between the two nations and England will be much more confident based on history as they have won 15 of the previous 23 matches, losing just three – none of which came on home soil.

Team News

England are likely to make a few changes to the team that won in San Marino, with the likes of Raheem Sterling, Fabian Delph and Harry Kane all hoping to start. Theo Walcott bagged a brace from the bench and could replace Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in the starting lineup. Wayne Rooney will likely spearhead the attack as he looks to score his record setting 50th goal in an England shirt.

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Switzerland manager Vladimir Petkovic saw two of his substitutes score all three of the team’s goals on Saturday, so Josip Drmic and Valentin Stocker will both hope to start. Xherdan Shaqiri is the star player and will be a threat, while fellow Premier League players Valon Behrami and Gokhan Inler could start in midfield.

Key Points

England’s last five: W/D/D/W/W

Switzerland’s last five: W/D/W/W/W

Key Stat: England have not lost to Switzerland since May 1981 and have never lost to the Swiss on home soil.

Key Player: Wayne Rooney – A goal on Tuesday night would make Wayne Rooney the highest scoring Englishmen in history. He is tied on 49 with Sir Bobby Charlton after converting a penalty in San Marino on Saturday and could get number 50 here.

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Score Prediction

England 3-1 Switzerland – Switzerland travel to Wembley knowing a win gives them a slim chance of winning Group E, but that’s unlikely to happen. The Three Lions are playing with confidence and should dispatch their Swiss opponents with relative ease here.

Euro 2016 Qualifier Preview and Prediction: San Marino vs England

Competition: European Championship Qualifier – San Marino vs. England

Venue: Stadio Olimpico di Serrvavalle – San Marino – Saturday, September 5 – 17:00 GMT

Match Odds: San Marino 66/1 – Draw 25/1 – England 1/100

Match Preview

San Marino host England in Group E in the latest European Qualifier on Saturday afternoon, with the two sides at opposite ends of the table. San Marino are yet to win a game in the group and have just one point.

Pier-Angelo Manzaroli’s side haven’t scored in the qualifying rounds but will be looking to frustrate England and keep the score to a minimum here.

The host’s stadium will provide a hostile atmosphere with a capacity of 5115. It will be a different experience for Roy Hodgson’s side as the players are used to packed out Premier League crowds but they should face little difficulty in winning nonetheless.

San Marino lost their previous qualifying game 2-0 away at Estonia. Despite the negative result there are positives for Manzaroli to take, as his side managed to compete in the game rather than being thumped by a high scoreline.

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England have won all six of their games in Group E and sit six points clear of Switzerland in second place. Hodgson will have his players more than aware that anything but a convincing win here is not acceptable.

It is a chance for England to try out some different tactics and we can expect to see plenty of attacking play. Despite the fact that they will probably line-up with four at the back, Hodgson will expect his full-backs to provide plenty of width and service.

England’s last tie in the group was their 3-2 win over Slovenia, with Wayne Rooney scoring late on to take all three points. The England captain will see this as his chance to finally become leading scorer for the nation. He needs to net at least two to do so to overtake Sir Bobby Charlton’s record of 49.

Hodgson will have his players respect the opposition but this should be an easy win for England against a side ranked 193 in the world and anything but a win would be a shock.

Team News

We can expect the hosts to attempt to give England as little space as they can by playing their preferred 4-5-1 formation. San Marino will look to counter attack where possible but this will be a game where they attempt to keep the score as low as possible.

Roy Hodgson has the chance to rotate his 22 man squad in this one. The likes of Jonjo Shelvey and Jamie Vardy will be hoping for some game time. The England manager will no doubt be looking for his side to get the job done in a professional manner.

Key Points

San Marino’s last five in Euro Qualifiers: L/L/D/L/L

England’s last five in Euro Qualifiers: W/W/W/W/W

Key Stat: England have won all six of their games in Group E so far, scoring 18 and conceding just three.

Key Player: Raheem Sterling – The Manchester City forward has started the Premier League campaign well and has settled into his new squad excellently following his £49 million move from Liverpool. His attacking flare will see him look to drive at San Marino from the outset.

Score Prediction

San Marino 0-5 England – A routine win for England expected, which should see then dominate proceedings as they will continue their 100% record in Group E.

Euro 2016 Qualifier Preview and Prediction: Slovenia vs England

Competition: European Championship Qualifier – Slovenia vs. England

Venue: Stadion Stozice, Slovenia – Sunday, June 14 – 17:00 GMT

Match Odds: Slovenia 3/1 – Draw 5/2 – England 17/20

Match Preview

Slovenia welcome England to the Stadion Stozice as the top two sides in Group E go head-to-head on Sunday evening.

The hosts have won three of their five qualifying games so far and will feel they have a great chance of making it through to the knockout rounds.

Slovenia’s last outing in the qualifiers was a 6-0 thrashing of minnows San Marino. They have scored ten goals so far in the group, which is only five less than England, but they did lose in their friendly match against Qatar back in March.

A positive result here will give them a real chance of qualifying and will leave them in a good position going into their next qualifier against Switzerland, who are level on points with them at the moment.

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Srečko Katanec’s side are the only opposition to have netted against England in the qualifiers so far as the reverse fixture saw Roy Hodgson’s men win 3-1 at Wembley.

England come into this one off the back of their 0-0 friendly draw with the Republic of Ireland last weekend and will need to show more hunger and determination if they are to pick up the three points here.

The Three Lions have won all five of their qualifiers so far and will feel they have a great chance of getting through the group stages without losing.

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Hodgson’s side are unbeaten in their last ten games and they have only conceded three goals in those outings.

Team News

Slovenia will more than likely line-up in their preferred 4-1-3-2 formation. The England faithful will be familiar with Inter Milan’s Stefan Handanovic, the Slovenia number one. Veteran goalscorer, Milivoje Novakovic, will hope to spoil England’s 100% run.

England welcome back Fabian Delph after his injury, other than that, Hodgson has no other concerns to his squad. Charlie Austin will hope this will be his chance for his England debut.

Key Points

Slovenia’s last five: W/L/L/W/L

England’s last five: W/W/W/W/D

Key Stat: England have not lost a game since the World Cup last summer.

Key Player: Wayne Rooney – The England captain is still waiting to become the all time leading goalscorer in their history and will expect to inspire his side to victory.

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Score Prediction

Slovenia 1-2 England – A closer encounter than the reverse fixture in a hostile away tie for England.

Wayne Rooney says England are to be feared

Wayne Rooney has stated England have what it takes to be feared as a footballing nation as they maintain their 100 per cent record in Euro 2016 qualifiers.

Speaking to Sky Sports ahead of England’s friendly with Italy on Tuesday night, the Manchester United forward feels the players have what it takes to be feared.

“The players are so quick and when we lose the ball we want to be aggressive and win it back quickly.

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“I am sure you have heard the manager talk about those little ‘furies’ – that when we lose the ball we have to win it back as quickly as possible.

“With the players we have got, we have to play like that.”

England are unbeaten in their last eight games, winning the last seven, and have rapidly improved since their hugely disappointing World Cup performance in 2014.

And Rooney has highlighted the importance of teams not wanting to face England.

“You don’t want to go into games and teams enjoy playing against you.

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“You want teams to look at England and think, ‘we know we have a tough game, it is going to physically hard against them, we are going to have to defend and we are going to have to be good on the ball to keep the ball’.”

England face arguably their toughest task since the World Cup last year on Tuesday evening against Italy and can send out a message to other nations if they can defeat the four-time World Champions in Turin.

Are England a nation to fear in world football?

Arsenal forward Lukas Podolski set for Serie A switch in search for football

Despite Arsene Wenger’s admission that unsettled Germany international Lukas Podolski is not for sale, he continues to attract interest from abroad, and a loan move to Italy’s Serie A with Inter Milan is reportedly on the cards.

Having slipped down the pecking order at Arsenal behind the likes of Alexis Sanchez, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Mesut Ozil, Danny Welbeck and Santi Cazorla, Podolski is being forced to look elsewhere if he is to see regular action.

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As well as being linked to Italian clubs AS Roma and Inter Milan, the World Cup winner was also linked with a move back to his first club FC Koln in Germany, where he has excelled in the past.

He needs to play to ensure that he continued to be a part of the German National Team. And Joachim Low has reminded Podolski that he needs to play if he is to figure in his plans for Euro 2016 qualification.

Inter Milan are supposedly keen to add the Polish-born German winger to their attacking ranks on a loan deal with some Italian reports suggesting a deal is close to completion.

Roma are another club interested, with the Rome-based club looking for cover for former Arsenal winger Gervinho – who will be playing for Ivory Coast at the Africa Cup Of Nations for the first part of 2015.

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With 121 international caps so far and the hope for many more, Podolski may decide to move club to ensure he see’s regular first-team action in Joachim Low’s set-up for the Euro 2016 qualifiers with Germany.

Arsene Wenger may want to keep Podolski but he hasn’t started a Premier League game through the first half of the current campaign and with more players returning from injury at Arsenal, the German needs to look elsewhere if he is to play regularly.

Would Lukas Podolski be a loss for Arsenal if he leaves in January?