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Brighton winger can deservedly make England squad

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Solly March has always had talent. Five Brighton managers over the past decade have acknowledged that by having him as a mainstay of their Albion sides, from Oscar Garcia who handed March his debut in 2013 through Sami Hyypia, Chris Hughton, and Graham Potter to Roberto De Zerbi in the present day.

What March has missed in the past is belief, sometimes to the frustration of Seagulls supporters. Yes, he is a great player. But he could be even better. This lack of self-confidence could be used to partly explain why March had scored only 14 times for Brighton from 157 starts and 95 substitute appearances prior to the break in Premier League action for the World Cup.

March himself has acknowledged that belief may have been a problem in the past. After scoring twice to lead the Seagulls to a 3-0 win over a shell-shocked Liverpool, he said: “I love playing for Roberto, he’s great. He puts his arm around you and tells you you’re a good player. Maybe that’s what I needed.”

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Roberto De Zerbi

De Zerbi talked about the improvement he wanted to make in March after taking the Brighton job / Warren Little/GettyImages

There can be no doubt how highly De Zerbi thinks of March. When the Italian arrived at the Amex in October, the two players he talked about in most glowing terms were Leandro Trossard and March.

Trossard began the De Zerbi era in a blaze of glory with a hat-trick at Anfield, part of a five-goal haul under the new head coach prior to the World Cup. The less said about what has happened since Trossard returned from Qatar the better, with player and agent trying every trick in the book to engineer a January move.

While Trossard faltered and was dropped after the winter break, March flourished. A six-week period on the training ground during the World Cup learning the intricacies of DeZerbiBall has done wonders for this Brighton squad as a whole – attested to by recent results – but especially March, whose form in the past month has been nothing short of sensational.

What makes this all the more remarkable is that March missed a pivotal penalty when the Seagulls were eliminated from the Carabao Cup at the hands of League One strugglers Charlton Athletic in their first game back from the winter break. With Jason Steele having saved two Addicks spot kicks, March had the chance to send Brighton through to the quarter finals of the competition for only the second ever time by converting the Albion’s fifth penalty.

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Solly March began his scoring form after missing a crucial penalty at Charlton / GLYN KIRK/GettyImages

Unfortunately, he produced an effort more suited to Twickenham on the other side of London than the Valley, sending the ball miles over the bar. Charlton scored their next two penalties, Brighton missed another and a golden opportunity to make a bit of history was gone. ‘What might such a miss do to the ultimate confidence player?’ disappointed Seagulls supporters wondered as they streamed away from Charlton that night.

The answer to that question arrived in emphatic style on Boxing Day, when March scored a stunner at Southampton good enough to be nominated for the Premier League November/December Goal of the Month award. It ended a barren run of 59 league appearances without a goal stretching back over two years to November 21 2020 and a 2-1 win at Aston Villa.

De Zerbi told the BBC after watching March break his duck: “I don’t know if I am helping him, but I have a big confidence. I trust him a lot and I want always more because I think he’s a good player. He can play better, he can improve. He can be more important for us. I want him to believe more in himself. I think he can score more.”

And score more he has. Everton were on the receiving end of another fierce March strike when hammered 4-1 by Brighton at Goodison Park before the Toffees’ rivals from the other side of Stanley Park were blown away by his double 11 days later – the first brace of March’s career, no less. He now has four goals in his past four league matches having managed three in 81 during Potter’s three-and-a-bit-season reign. Or to put it another way, 22% of March’s career goals have been scored in the last three weeks.

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Solly March, Kaoru Mitoma, Evan Ferguson

March’s two goals against Liverpool represented the first brace of his professional career / Bryn Lennon/GettyImages

Alongside this new sense of self-confidence, March is also benefitting from a settled position.

He was often a victim of his own versatility and reliability when Potter Roulette was at its height, fulfilling a different role every few weeks when it appeared as if De Zerbi’s predecessor was picking his team via a spin of a wheel or from a velvet bag. Left wing, right wing, left wing back, right wing back, left back, number ten…you name it, March played it. Such chopping, changing and uncertainty never really allowed March to get into a groove, something a confidence player very much needs.

De Zerbi in contrast has used March almost exclusively in his 4-2-3-1 as the right sided player in the three behind the striker. One of the most striking elements of De Zerbi’s managerial career so far is how players in those wide positions contribute high goal totals, from Domenico Berardi scoring 17 times in a season for Sassulo to Tetê notching ten at Shakhtar Donetsk. Four goals for Kaoru Mitoma to go with the improvement in March suggests the trend is going to continue at Brighton.

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Gareth Southgate has previously capped March at Under 21 level for England / ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT/GettyImages

And where might that lead March? If Gareth Southgate has any sense, then it should be towards international recognition. Southgate is no stranger to March, having awarded him his three England Under-21 caps.

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There were also rumours suggesting March was in line for a senior call-up in early 2021 when he was in good form down the Brighton left – coincidentally the one time Potter had him in a relatively settled position. An ACL injury which put March on the shelf for five months put paid to him offering a solution to the dearth of options available to Southgate on that side of the pitch.

Now March finds himself in the form of his life, playing with a belief and confidence he has never had before and, at 28 years old, entering the prime of his career. In helping March unlock an end product, De Zerbi has turned him into a player who is delivering performances to match his talent.

Free-scoring Brighton are reaping the benefits – and so too can England.



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Nottingham Forest announce signing of Andre Ayew

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Nottingham Forest have confirmed the signing of free agent Andre Ayew despite interest from Everton.

The forward has been heavily linked with a move to the Toffees in recent days, but Forest have swooped in to sign the Ghanian.

Speaking to the club’s official website after finalising the move, the forward said:  “It’s a great feeling to sign for Nottingham Forest.

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“I know how big the club is and I know how much the club means to the city and the fanbase. It’s always been difficult whenever I’ve played against Forest and at The City Ground and I love the stadium.

“Steve Cooper is someone who knows me very well and knows how to work with me both on and off the pitch. We have a strong relationship, he’s a special coach and a special human being and someone who I really look up to.”

“I know what I can bring to the team, I’m ready to give my all and make sure that we are able to stay in the Premier League.”



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Wolves vs Liverpool – Premier League: TV channel, team news, lineups & prediction

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Liverpool will be looking to make a statement with a Premier League trip to Wolves this weekend, having been dumped out of the FA Cup by Brighton last Sunday.

Jurgen Klopp’s side are without a league win in their last three attempts and have slipped as low as ninth in the table. Depending on what Chelsea do against Fulham on Friday night, the Reds could be 10th by the time they kick-off at Wolves.

Wolves are still yet to really find their groove under Julen Lopetegui, although at least remain out of the relegation zone on goal difference for the time being.

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Wolves team news

Wolves have no new injury concerns ahead of this one, with Pedro Neto, Boubacar Traore, Sasa Kalajdzic and Chiquinho all still sidelined.

Wolves predicted lineup (4-2-3-1): Sa; Semedo, Collins, Kilman, Bueno; Neves, Nunes; Traore, Sarabia, Hwang; Jimenez.

Liverpool team news

Centre-back Ibrahima Konate is the latest Liverpool player to join the injury list, ruled out until at least mid-February with a hamstring problem.

Virgil van Dijk is also still out, as are Roberto Firmino, Luis Diaz and Diogo Jota. Arthur Melo is making progress but is a couple of weeks away from resuming training.

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Liverpool predicted lineup (4-3-3): Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Gomez, Robertson; Henderson, Fabinho, Thiago; Salah, Nunez, Gakpo.

It’s certainly feasible that Wolves could continue to pile the misery on Liverpool.

The Reds had beaten Wolves in seven consecutive meetings until a recent FA Cup tie ended in 2-2 draw at Anfield. It was then only a single goal that decided the replay in the Merseysiders’ favour.

Prediction: Wolves 1-1 Liverpool

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Mason Greenwood releases statement after Greater Manchester Police drop all charges

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Mason Greenwood has released a short statement stating that he is ‘relieved’ after the Greater Manchester Police dropped all charges against the Man Utd forward.

Greenwood was charged with attempted rape, engaging in controlling and coercive behaviour and assault, allegations relating to the same woman last year and, following an investigation, GMP have confirmed that all charges have been dropped.

The GMP confirmed the news in a statement earlier on Thursday: “Given the significant media coverage of this case, it is only fair that we share the news that the 21-year-old man, who had been arrested and charged in connection with an investigation opened in January 2022, no longer faces criminal proceedings in relation to this.

“The investigation team has remained in regular contact with the legal team, providing any updates of note, and so understand the rationale for the discontinuation of proceedings at this stage, and that this decision has not been taken lightly.

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“Despite the media and public’s interest in this case, we have decided not to comment on it in any further detail.

“I would, however, like to use this opportunity to reiterate GMP’s commitment to investigating allegations of violence against women and girls and supporting those affected, regardless of their circumstances, throughout what can be a hard and upsetting time for them. An ever increasing number of officers are receiving specialist training and the force is more consistently utilising tools, available via the criminal justice system, to keep people safe and care for victims.”

Greenwood has now responded with a statement of his own, writing: “I am relieved that this matter is now over and I would like to thank my family, loved ones and friends for their support. There will be no further comment at this time.”

Manchester United are due to conducted their own internal investigation on the matter.

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