The careers of many legendary footballers have been effectively defined by World Cup years: Think Pele, Diego Maradona, Ronaldo or Zinedine Zidane.
Theo Walcott has not attained the status of the aforementioned quartet, but Everton's new signing is another whose career has worked in this manner. The exception is that the 28-year-old never actually played a minute at the World Cup, yet the key watersheds in his career have nevertheless been 2006, 2010, 2014 and, now, 2018.
We're 23 games into the 38-game Premier League season and Pep Guardiola's Manchester City have finally been defeated. Sunday's wild 4-3 defeat at Anfield was, in truth, a much tighter game than the scoreline suggests, the goals tally boosted by a couple of defensive errors and some excellent finishing.
Nevertheless, Liverpool's approach should be commended: they pressed in advanced positions to force those defensive errors at the start of the second half and City's upcoming opponents will consider...
Ahead of Raheem Sterling's return to his former club, Liverpool, there will be plenty of debate over the difference between Liverpool-era Sterling and City-era Sterling, along with questions about precisely how he's improved so much. But that's a slightly false debate -- or, at least, it's not the most interesting debate.
The key is precisely what has changed between last season and this. After all, Sterling was playing under Pep Guardiola last season, yet his performances were entirely unremarkable...
It is the dilemma that has confronted every Premier League manager: How do you stop the seemingly unstoppable?
Manchester City are unbeaten in 33 games over almost nine months against domestic opponents. They have dropped points against only two teams this season, and on one of those occasions, they played the majority of the match with 10 men. They have scored almost five times as many league goals as they have conceded and could be crowned champions in March.
It's hardly surprising to discover a former professional footballer suggesting that standards have slipped since his day, but there was plenty of truth in Rio Ferdinand's recent suggestion that centre-backs are no longer as defensively solid. It's a common refrain from both former defenders and former attackers: ex-defenders complain that skills simply aren't valued any more, while former forwards boast that they would score a colossal amount of goals in the modern era with such poor defending....
Swansea City's decision to dismiss Paul Clement felt entirely inevitable simply because sacking the manager has become the go-to solution when a club is struggling, regardless of whether he's actually done anything wrong. Yet they're in a relatively unusual situation because they have a fine defensive record and a very poor attacking record. In this situation, a quick fix is considerably more difficult than when a new manager inherits a leaky defence but a decent attack.