Author Archives: Oli Price-Bates

I am the founder of Fresh Football, but spend most of my time over on FreshArsenal.com. I'm a big Arsenal fan and freelance sports writer.

Holding & Welbeck Start: The Likely Arsenal XI To Face Sutton On Monday Night

After the tough midweek trip against Bayern Munich, you can expect Wenger to tweak his line up, at least a little. Wenger says he will line up with a strong team but he has said that in the past and then made 11 changes. Of course Arsenal can make 11 changes and still put out a strong team, especially in comparison to Sutton United.

Arsenal cannot afford to be complacent though, with the Gunners only realistic trophy hope this season now being the FA Cup.

Goalkeeper: David Ospina

Ospina put in a great performance against Bayern Munich and should keep his place for this game and in the Premier League. The Colombian deserves a little run in the team as the Gunners attempt to rediscover their rhythm.

Defence: Hector Bellerin, Per Mertesacker, Rob Holding, Kieran Gibbs

I can see Mertesacker returning in this fixture and the impressive young Holding alongside him. Considering Mustafi and Gabriel’s performances in Germany, this duo have every chance of breaking into the starting eleven in the coming weeks. It might only be Sutton, but the game won’t be easy and a solid showing from that duo will go a long way to helping Arsenal win the game. I think the attacking full backs of Gibbs and Bellerin should start this game, giving Arsenal enough attacking outlets to break down a Sutton team that is likely to sit very deep.

Midfield: Granit Xhaka, Mohammed Elneny; Danny Welbeck, Jeff Rene-Adelaide, Lucas Perez

Xhaka and Elneny are perhaps the freshest central midfielders in the squad and also maybe the best on form. Coquelin was shocking in midweek and Cazorla and Ramsey are still injured. Oxlade-Chamberlain has been good there but he deserves a little break from that role. On the wings I’d like to see Lucas and Welbeck start, both players should be in the Arsenal stating eleven for the foreseeable future based on the poor recent form of Walcott and Iwobi. Jeff should get the nod in the number 10 role, his first team opportunities have been limited but with senior players failing to impress he deserves a chance to show why he should be in the first team squad.

Attacker: Olivier Giroud

Giroud has been left out the team in recent weeks as Alexis has got the nod up front. Giroud is perfect for what is likely to be a physical encounter, and he would love to get a goal or two to get back on form. He started 2017 well but in his most recent games he has struggled to impress.

Swap Deal? Manchester United and Tottenham Could Do Trade Deal For Shaw

Tottenham Hotspur are considering making a move for Manchester united left-back Luke Shaw in the summer if the England International fails to force himself into Jose Mourinho’s plans, according to Yahoo Sports.

Former Southampton manager Mauricio Pochettino worked with the promising talent during his time at St Mary’s and would be keen to work with the 21-year-old again after remaining a huge admirer of the defender who moved to Old Trafford in the summer of 2014.

Jose Mourinho has questioned several of his United players this season and Shaw has been one of the star players to come under some strong/brutal scrutiny from the Portuguese manager after he was left less than impressed with Shaw after his performance in the 3-1 defeat at Watford in September and questioned his mentality/physical approach when he opted to pull out of the Swansea game due to an injury.

Since this public dispute, Shaw has found himself struggling for minutes within the first XI and has been put behind others in the pecking order, despite possessing so much promise.

Jose Mourinho was interested in Shaw during his time at Chelsea but lost out to him when the Red Devils came calling, now he is at the helm of the United side it was thought Shaw would blossom in the starting XI under Mourinho’s influence, but it has been nothing but a nightmare season for the former Saints player thus far.

He was firstly omitted from the United squad in the opening weeks of 2017 after this ‘injury’ spat despite being adamant he felt pain in his leg, he is yet to make a Premier League appearance for the Red Devils since October and looks unlikely to break through into the team due to United’s impressive unbeaten run.

Jonathan Barnett has stated that his client Luke Shaw is ready to fight for his place in the United squad, but without any luck thus far there is growing fears he might not be able to make his mark with United under Jose Mourinho.

Being left out of the United squad has left Shaw working considerably hard on his fitness levels internally/externally to ensure he is ready if recalled upon, with the growing hope wearing thin as we enter the latter stages of the season.

Mauricio Pochettino is a huge fan of the former Southampton academy graduate and a move could materialize in the summer with them both having a very good relationship with one another.

United would certainly look to add profit onto the £27 million they forked out for Shaw and could well ask about the availability of Danny Rose, whom they have admired for some time after the England star has established himself as one of Europe’s finest defenders.

Tottenham would certainly be a positive move for Shaw, they have come on heaps and bounds in recent years and are in the process of moving stadiums, possess a superb squad under one of Europe’s finest managers, but with Spurs already owning one of the finest left-back already, and at just 26-years-old, Shaw could find himself in a similar situation he is in at United.

Shaw is akin to Rose in some senses, both players possess excellent speed and desire in helping in all phases and support both defensive/attacking transitions. The United man also has great dribbling ability for a left-back which helps in attacking transitions as he intends to go on surging runs down the left-hand side channel. The 21-year-old is very technically gifted too, he’s very comfortable in possession and remains an outlet at all times which is crucial within build up play.

Shaw’s career is at crossroads, he must nail down a starting XI spot and despite Spurs being a very attractive offer if they were to pursue their interest, I just can’t see him getting into the starting XI over Danny Rose due to the latter becoming an expert in his position in Pochettino’s system. So, this leaves him in a similar situation to as what he is already in, he would play some cup games and cover Rose if an injury/fatigue occurred but for someone that promises so much his next step must be to start week-in-week-out to ensure he gets back to the colossal standard he was setting at Southampton.

Or perhaps, a swap deal for Rose and Shaw could be on? As Rose would surely be seen as an improvement to the starting eleven for United.

 

Xhaka Starts: The Arsenal Line-Up That Can Defeat Bayern Munich In The Champions League

A huge game for Arsenal on Wednesday. The Gunners once again travel to Munich in hope of upsetting the odds and reaching the quarter-final of the Champions League – something they haven’t managed to do for far too long.

Arsenal are an unpredictable team, but on their day, they are capable of taking on European giants like Munich. Playing the away leg away from home will be a big test for the club – the aim will be to score an away goal and still be in the tie. You get the feeling that pretty much everyone would take, say a 3-2 loss. That would mean a 2-1 home win would be enough to progress on away goals. But Wenger’s aim will be to score and not to lose, that’s the ideal scenario. So what eleven is best for such a tough fixture?

Goalkeeper: David Ospina

The Colombian stopper is set to come back into the side for the Champions League and with Cech in questionable form, it is up to him to prove his worth and prove why he should be number 1. He’s likely to face a big test in this fixture and the Gunners will certainly need him at his best if they are to progress.

Defence: Hector Bellerin, Shkodran Mustafi, Laurent Koscielny, Nacho Monreal

The back four pretty much picks itself up until left back, where I’d actually opt for Monreal whom has more experience and would be better for this kind of game. Mustafi and Koscielny need to be at their best for Arsenal to stand any chance in this fixure. On the flanks, Bellerin and Monreal must prioritise defence. Coming up against Ribery and Robben, they will be tested to their max – they cannot afford to fail.

Midfield: Mo Elneny, Granit Xhaka, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

Arsenal need defensive steel in Elneny, but they also need someone like Xhaka to not only add more defensive ability, but to give the team a platform to build attacks. Coquelin is a very poor distributor of the ball, and I think Arsenal need good players on the ball to stand any chance. Xhaka is brilliant at that, Elneny is also decent and can bring a lot of energy alongside Granit. Elneny’s best performance in an Arsenal shirt was probably against Barcelona at the Nou Camp. He’s just played in an ACON final too, he is capable of playing well in this game. Dubbed the new Xabi Alonso, Xhaka will have to be exactly that if Arsenal are to stand a chance against Bayern Munich in midfield. He will be the freshest person in the Arsenal squad after missing 4 domestic games due to a ban. He simply has to start this game. Chamberlain has impressed recently but he’s played a lot of football and I feel he would leave us too exposed in a game like this in a 2, so I’d play 3 in the middle.

Attack: Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez, Danny Welbeck

I think Arsenal need to go with Alexis up top, to play on the counter-attack and also put pressure on Bayern Munich from the front. This will enable the team to win the ball back high up the pitch. Alexis can drop deep and attempt to disrupt Bayern from the start of their build-up play. With Welbeck and Lucas out wide, Arsenal would have the perfect platform for a counter attack if Alexis wins the ball back in the middle.

I’d like to see Ozil’ and Welbeck on the wings. Both would set us up to be very dangerous on the counter attack, but both have a lot of energy to ensure they can track back well. I can see Walcott and Iwobi being selected by Arsene, though. Ozil cannot afford to have a free role in this game, but he can be very influential from the right. Arsenal desperately need him to turn up and put in a defensive shift, as well as linking the midfield together.

 

‘He Must Start vs. Bayern’ Arsenal Fans Rave Over Midfielders Performance vs. Hull City

Arsenal needed to win when they hosted Hull City on Saturday evening, and they did just that. 

The goals came via a handball and a penalty, but the Gunners were in control of the game most of the time, although some late pressure from Hull did cause some nerves inside the stadium.

For the most part, the Gunners played well. One player who really impressed though was Oxlade-Chamberlain. He has been (forcefully) moved into a central midfield position, but he has played better than we’ve seen him play all season.

The Ox and Coquelin are not players that help the team dominate possession and that was reflected in the match statistics. Hull had more possession than the home side, which is a rare sight, especially for a team so close to the bottom of the league. However the Ox was efficient in possession and that’s the most important thing.

One of his best attributes is his running between midfield and attack, he completed 5 dribbles against Hull. The Ox completed 86% of his passes, including 4 accurate long balls. Defensively he made 2 tackles and 1 interception, he also used his energy to get back and help the team defend on several occasions.

Here are some of the best tweets about Oxlade-Chamberlain’s performance. The performance was so good the fans are keen to see him play in Munich. 

In my opinion it is great to see The Ox developing in central midfield. He was showing little to no progression on the wing and it is now great to see him settling and improving in a position. Now, Wenger needs to give him the game time to continue that development and realise his colossal potential.

On the face of it, you wouldn’t expect him to be a central midfielder at all. But since moving to that position he has impressed with his passing range and immense amount of energy. He’s taken over Aaron Ramsey’s position and despite a lack of experience there, he has arguably outperformed the Welshman by far.

Lucas & Welbeck Start, The Likely Arsenal XI to Face Hull On Saturday

Wenger may have one eye on the trip to Bayern Munich in midweek, but the Gunners cannot afford any more hick-ups in the league and 3 points is nothing less than essential. I think both Lucas and Welbeck should have started against Chelsea and should now start against Hull City. I’d also like to see Welbeck play against Bayern Munich, so perhaps he should be limited to a 60-minute stint in this fixture.

Goalkeeper: David Ospina

It’s been a terrible week for him but I’m sure Wenger will keep him in for this fixture, with Ospina coming in for the Champions League game in midweek and probably staying in for the Sutton United game. But I’d like to see Ospina get a run in the team, starting on Saturday.

Defence: Hector Bellerin, Shkodran Mustafi, Laurent Koscielny, Kieran Gibbs

Gibbs needs to come into the line-up as Monreal has been poor, laboured and looked fatigued in recent weeks. Gibbs has been good whenever he has played this season and whilst I believe that the club need a new left back in the summer, I think that for now, Gibbs is the better option, especially for a home game against a lower league side like Hull. Mustafi and Koscielny must continue to play alongside each other to strengthen their bond, that will only improve with more minutes together.

Midfield: Francis Coquelin, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain; Lucas Perez, Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez

Coquelin and The Ox were a bit overwhelmed by Chelsea, but I think they have enough about them to deal with Hull City. Coquelin will need to improve his passing range if Arsenal are to create sustained pressure. The Ox will need to be the man to shuttle between midfield and attack, being the extra man in attacking areas, but also assisting defensively. He’s been very good since coming into the centre, so hopefully he can continue to impress. On the wings, I’d move Alexis back to the left to allow Welbeck a chance up front and I’d select Lucas Perez on the right. The Spaniard has really impressed whenever he has played for Arsenal and he deserves a start in this game. Arsenal cannot make the same mistakes that they did against Watford – to ensure this doesn’t happen Wenger must select a team with a dynamic attack, pace and directness, as well as energy and intelligence. I feel a front three consisting of Lucas, Welbeck and Alexis would be perfect for this fixture. Elneny should play against Bayern, and I’d give him 30 minutes in this game to prepare for that. If we need a goal, bring him on for Coquelin, if we are winning, bring him on for the Ox.

Striker: Danny Welbeck

He did so well in the League Cup as a striker and he has looked very dangerous whenever he has been called upon from the bench. Danny is a very talented player and after a few weeks of reintegration, he is now ready to start in the Premier League. Arsenal need him, and his unique style of play will be very welcome to the attack.

‘Pathetic’ Arsenal Fans Demand Key Player Is Dropped After Chelsea Performance

Arsenal succumbed to their 2nd defeat in a week when they traveled to Stamford Bridge on Saturday afternoon. The Arsenal team were very poor collectively, but one of the players that have been heavily criticised has been Petr Cech.

Playing against his former club, Cech was a calamity and made several errors during the game, the most noticeable and most damaging one being his pass straight to a Cesc Fabregas, who scored and thus ended any chance of an Arsenal revival. 

And these errors were not the first we have seen him make. Although often exempt from criticism from the media due to his glittering career to date, Cech has endured a pretty terrible season to date. This has led to many fans questioning his place in the team, especially with his deputy, David Ospina, performing so well in the cup competitions. 

Cech is close to reaching the end of his career and many feel that now would be a suitable time to call it a day.

Here’s some of the reaction to his performance from Twitter.

Personally I would agree with most of the criticism. He hasn’t been good for us this year at all, and whilst pundits predicted he would win us 10 points a season, it may well end of that he will lose us that amount. I don’t think that based on his form over his time at Arsenal, he can still be considered world class. His reactions have slowed to a quite worrying rate, so much so that I believe it is costing the club points. He’s also terrible at saving penalties, he hasn’t saved one during his time at Arsenal (and he’s faced a lot).

Perhaps his main issue though is his struggle to defend shots at his near post. This is a weakness to Cech’s game that has been spotted by the Arsenal fans, and it seems some strikers are well aware of it too. There’s too many areas of weakness creeping into his game and it’s certainly something that needs addressing at Arsenal in the summer. 

Fans Call For Midfielder To ‘Never Play For Arsenal Again’ After Awful Performance vs. Chelsea

Arsenal put in another limp performance at Stamford Bridge, losing 3-1 to see their title hopes all but ended at the hands of Antonio Conte’s men, who will surely go on to lift the trophy in May. 

Chelsea were not brilliant, but they were ruthless, and Arsenal were a lot worse. The Gunners started the game pretty brightly, but the second Chelsea went ahead through Marcos Alonso, Arsenal fell flat and never really looked like getting anything from the game from that point on. It was an all too familiar performance from Arsenal at the Bridge, and many fans have questioned the manager because of the result.

Whilst the manager certainly can be held accountable, several individuals were extremely poor on the day. The big boys, Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil did not turn up, whilst Petr Cech, another senior figure in the squad, was simply horrific. He doesn’t look comfortable passing out from the back and his reactions are worryingly slow.

But a lot of the blame will fall on the shoulders of midfielder Francis Coquelin. With Ramsey, Elneny, Cazorla and Xhaka unavailable, Wenger did have little choice but to select Coquelin, but his performance was truly worrying. Arsenal missed a midfielder that could dictate the play from deep, as Coquelin seriously struggled to get a grip on the game. His individual error saw him fail to stop Eden Hazard in the build-up to Chelsea’s second goal, which killed the game.

Coquelin completed just 82.8% of his passes, completing 0 of his attempted crosses, and 0 through balls. With just 58 passes in total, the Gunners needed someone to take more control of the game in Coquelin’s position. Xhaka would’ve been perfect, and the Gunners desperately need him back.

Defensively he made 0 interceptions – considering he offers pretty much nothing in an attacking sense, it is vital that he does more defensively, especially in big games like this.

Here’s some reaction to Coquelin’s performance from Twitter. 

Personally I think Coquelin is a good squad player, but honestly he is no more than that and deserves no more than that. A team like Arsenal, who try to control games, need a more efficient deep lying playmaker. Coquelin didn’t even do his defensive duties well today. It was a game to forget for him, and pretty much all of the Arsenal eleven. It will be interesting to see how Wenger selects his team for the crucial Champions League trip to Bayern Munich in 10 days time.

Arsenal need a fresh approach, players like Coquelin need to get out of the eleven and perhaps we need a new manager.

 

Ratings: All The Arsenal Players Rated Out Of 10 For Shambolic Performance vs. Chelsea

Here are the Arsenal player ratings for the match against Chelsea.

Petr Cech – 0
The pundits gave him no criticism but he was poor for Alonso’s opener, with a terrible reaction speed once the ball had hit the bar. He made no effort to get up to challenge Alonso and then watched the ball sail past him into the net. The second goal was brilliance from Hazard but Cech went down too early and the third goal was completely his fault. He’s past it.

Hector Bellerin – 5
Should’ve been stronger to challenge Alonso for the opening goal. Injured in the process and subbed off, didn’t have a chance to redeem himself, hence the 5.

Shkodran Mustafi – 6
Was a decent performance from Mustafi. Had a good chance to fire Arsenal back into the game with a header at 2-0, wasted it. Overall his handling of Costa was good.

Laurent Koscielny – 6
Like Mustafi, Koscielny helped nullify the threat of Costa throughout the game but it wasn’t really Costa that caused the problems for the Gunners.

Nacho Monreal – 4
Poor from him again. Arsenal need a new left back, but for now, Kieran Gibbs surely deserves a run in the team. He really cannot do much worse than the Spaniard has in recent weeks.

Francis Coquelin – 2
Shocking. Truly shocking. I’m not his biggest fan but today he reached new lows. Terrible on the ball, constantly caught in possesion and was at fault for both the first and second goal. Xhaka might have some weak points but he is certainly better than this guy.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – 6
To be fair to him, he was one of the better Arsenal players on the afternoon. He tried throughout, working hard to attack and defend, and it was good to see a bit of passion from one of the player. More like that are needed if Arsenal are to even finish in the top 4 this season.

Mesut Ozil – 4
So disappointed with him. The German barely showed up again. He was one of Arsenal’s brighter players at times, but that really is not saying much. In the second half he was really really poor.

Alex Iwobi – 4
A good young player, but out of his depth in this game. He’s extremely indecisive and got caught on the ball far too often for someone who was supposed to keep the Arsenal team ticking.

Theo Walcott – 2
Did he even play? A shocking anonymous performance from Walcott once again. It’s too often we are saying things like this about Walcott, his time is up.

Alexis Sanchez – 3
Ran around a lot, but tried too hard and did pretty much nothing offensively to help us. Although he was bright at the start, after Chelsea scored their 1st goal he was barely involved.

Subs

Gabriel – 4
Terrible. Defensively all over the place at right back when he came on and had a great chance to make it 1-1 in the first half, but directed his header right at Courtois.

Olivier Giroud – 6.5
Scored a late consolation

Danny Welbeck – 6.5
A bright spark for Arsenal. He needs to be starting future matches, a big and important player.

Lucas Starts: The Likely Arsenal Line-Up That Will Face Chelsea On Saturday

Arsenal go into Saturday needing all three points to remain in the title race after a disappointing result in midweek against Watford.

Goalkeeper: Petr Cech

Defence: Hector Bellerin, Shkodran Mustafi, Laurent Koscielny, Kieran Gibbs

Bellerin needs to come back into the defence at right back after Gabriel seriously struggled against Watford in midweek. His extra attacking quality will certainly help Arsenal in their quest to break down a resilient Chelsea setup. Mustafi and Koscielny must continue in the heart of the defence and I would select Gibbs at left back. Monreal has not been good this season and Gibbs has, whenever he has been played, performed very well. Wenger should reward the Englishman for this, especially with the Spaniard struggling for form.

Midfielder: Theo Walcott, Mesut Ozil, Lucas Perez

I’d like to see Danny Welbeck start this one but I think Wenger will continue to be cautious with him and just utilise him as an option from the bench. Walcott has a good record against Chelsea and Wenger is likely to put him on the right wing after he played just 45 minutes against Watford. Lucas Perez deserves to start based on his recent cameo performances and I really hope that Arsene rewards his fine form with a start in this big fixture. He’s fresh and plays with a lot of passion and desire, that kind of football was missing against Watford and putting him into the team will certainly help revitalise us. Ozil needs to improve on his recent showings in the number 10 role, against two central midfielders he may get more freedom than usual and he needs to capitalise on that and make the difference, rather than go missing.

Striker: Alexis Sanchez

Arsenal played their best football this season when Alexis was playing as a number 9 and with Giroud’s effectiveness fading, I think it is time to revert to having the Chilean through the middle again. He creates space for others and make the Arsenal attack much less predictable. Giroud is a top quality option to have from the bench but Alexis needs to start this game. Especially with attacking wingers in Walcott and Lucas, I think Alexis’ ability to drop deep at times will help Arsenal stretch the Chelsea defence. Ozil needs to make runs beyond Alexis like he was doing at the start of the season, it saw him get on the scoresheet on many occasions and one goal could make all the difference tomorrow.

 

Analysis: How Arsenal Can Beat Chelsea On Saturday Afternoon

Arsenal head to Stamford Bridge on Saturday afternoon knowing that they must win the game to stand any real chance of winning the title this season. After getting it all wrong against Watford, Wenger needs to be at his tactical best to overcome this Chelsea side.

Chelsea are top of the table for a reason and their 3-4-3 formation has seen them perform exceptionally well. To stand a chance in the title race, Arsenal need to take all three points from the table toppers – doing that would reduce the gap to 6 points.

I think a lot of their success comes from their ability to overload in wide areas and also their defensive structure and organisation. So how can Arsenal line up to counteract this?

Let’s start with Chelsea’s stern defensive shape. Conte has three central defenders, wing backs and in Kante and Matic, two more defensive minded central midfield players. To try and break this down Arsenal need to be at their fluent best, quick attacking football that can put a spanner in Conte’s well-oiled works. Arsene needs to select the right personnel, and whilst Giroud has been in a bit of a purple patch recently, I don’t think he should lead the line. The Gunners need to disrupt Chelsea with a mobile number 9 and attacking wingers. That’s why I’d like to see Alexis or Welbeck through the middle for this game, with the the likes of Walcott, Iwobi and Lucas considered for the wide berths.

Ozil could hold the key in this game. He was terrific in the reverse fixture but Chelsea are a much better side now. He needs to make the difference more often in these big games and if he can get between the lines of Chelsea’s midfield and defence, then I think he could hold the key. Arsenal’s two deepest midfielders are likely to be occupied defensively for much of the game, so Ozil needs to be the man to link the midfield with, what I hope will be a very fluid and dangerous attacking three.

(Fig. 1 – Arsenal on the attack)

See Fig.1 above. With Ozil and Alexis combing between Chelsea’s midfield and defence it will create good opportunities, especially with the two wide forwards making diagonal runs and stretching the Chelsea back three wide. Having such an attacking front three will help create space for Alexis and Ozil to make the difference. Chamberlain, the most defensive red dot in the picture, will need to occupy the two Chelsea central midfielders, with Coquelin further back (off pic) acting as protection from the counter attack. Of course Arsenal will have full backs also attacking (not in pic) to help ensure that Moses / Alonso are not able to simply mark our wide forwards out of the game. To be at their best, Arsenal need to build a team that gets the best out of their best players. Ozil and Alexis are the two best in the team, at least going forward, and I feel this kind of setup would see them both flourish.

My biggest fear is Wenger will opt with Giroud up top and attempt to control the midfield. This Chelsea side haven’t won so many games because they’ve been controlling the midfield, they’ve won games because they have a functioning and efficient lineup. This kind of team would make it much easier for Chelsea to defend against us. Wenger needs to stop this Chelsea side from functioning and not play to its strengths.

Let’s say Alexis leads the line with Lucas on the left and Welbeck / Walcott on the right. Such a positive front three could cause problems in handling the other strength of Chelsea’s, though – their ability to overload in wide areas. This is why Wenger may consider Alexis and Welbeck as the wide players as they both have good defensive work ethic. Walcott has improved this area of his game but I’m still not sure he comes close to Welbeck or Alexis in terms of defensive contribution when that duo are instructed to do so. Lucas has never really had to do this role at Arsenal but he always performs with great desire and stamina and I believe he is capable, and based on others performances, he deserves his chance.

The Arsenal full backs will need help. I expect Bellerin and Monreal to be the two selected (although I’d like to see Gibbs) and whilst both have good defensive qualities, they will need help when coming up against two quick and skillful (for the most part) wide men. For me, I’d have Welbeck on the right, providing he’s now feeling completely fit. On the left I think Iwobi tends to perform well in this type of games and he gives the midfield a bit of balance, so I could see Arsene perhaps opting for him on the left. Monreal is pretty strong defensively but Iwobi, with assistance from Coquelin can help shut out Chelsea’s threat from the right.

(Fig. 2 – Arsenal’s defensive shape)

See Figure 2, Mustafi and Koscielny must try and replicate what they did at the Emirates in the reverse fixture and completely shut Costa out of the game. But with two wide forwards having attacking freedom, their work will be cut out. This is why Arsenal’s defensive shape must be structured. Chamberlain will need to use his stamina to get back and help the full backs, as will Coquelin. Arsenal’s two wide players will also have to ensure that Chelsea’s wing backs do not get much joy. This will leave just Alexis and Ozil out of defensive duties, the perfect duo to lead a counter attack.

The best thing, as an Arsenal fan, is that I’m even having to write this article. Too many times lack of transfers and injury problems have meant that Wenger has gone into huge games like this and not even had a chance to pick players based on tactics, especially in attack. This has made Arsenal very predictable and other teams have been able to set up to counteract their main threats. At the weekend Conte will not be able to guess the Arsenal eleven, especially the front 3. Lucas, Welbeck, Giroud and Alexis are all very different, quality options through the middle. On the wings Wenger could opt for Ramsey (injury permitting), Iwobi, Walcott, Welbeck, Alexis, Chamberlain, Lucas etc.

Arsene knows what Chelsea team he will come up against. If he does his homework and approaches the game with the right mentality and tactics then Arsenal have every chance of taking what would be, a huge three points.

But a lot comes down to the players also. They let the fans down on Tuesday night with another mentally weak performance. The first half was shambolic and their mentality was all wrong. Whilst we perhaps deserved to pick up a point based on our second half showing, it is simply inexcusable to start a game how we did, and it’s not the first time that has happened this season – it needs to change.

Based on what I’ve said in the article above, this is the Arsenal eleven I would like to see up against Chelsea on Saturday afternoon. Obviously, I don’t know the condition of Welbeck and would opt for Walcott on the right if he is anything but 100% fit. You could also put Welbeck or Lucas through the middle and shuffle the others around, but the key for me is that Arsenal have direct wingers, with a mobile number 9.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on what team you would like to see against Chelsea. Tweet me at @OliPriceBates to join the discussion.

6 Changes, Ox In The Middle: The Likely Arsenal Line-Up To Face Watford

Arsene Wenger has some tough decisions to make for his team selection for the Premier League game against Watford on Tuesday night. 

The Gunners had heavily rotated the team against Southampton in the FA Cup but that team performed really well and Wenger may want to keep some of that team together to enable smoother momentum. With a big game against Chelsea coming up at the weekend, Wenger has to ensure he picks the perfect team for this fixture.

Goalkeeper: Petr Cech

Big Pete will be back between the sticks for this fixture.

Defence: Hector Bellerin, Shkodran Mustafi, Laurent Koscielny, Kieran Gibbs

Bellerin, Mustafi and Gibbs should keep their places in the team, with the rested Koscielny coming in for Holding, who had a solid game at Southampton. Gibbs, for me, is on better form than Monreal of late and deserves some more game time. If he is playing better than Monreal then surely, at his age, he deserves to be starting in the Premier League and not just cup competitions.

Midfield: Francis Coquelin, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain; Lucas Perez, Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez

Lucas deserves to stay in the line up after a top quality performance vs. Southampton. I think Aaron Ramsey, Theo Walcott and Alex Iwobi will be used on the wing in the ‘bigger’ games, so this would be a good chance for Lucas to get more minutes under his belt. The Ox was incredibly impressive in the centre against Southampton and he is unlikely to get a chance there against the likes of Chelsea, Bayern and Liverpool – so why not give him more game time to develop in this game. Alongside him I expect Francis Coquelin to come in, the Frenchman is the only midfield anchor available with Granit Xhaka suspended and Mohammed Elneny still away on international duty. Alexis and Ozil were both left out of the line up at St. Mary’s and should be fresh and ready to make the difference tomorrow.

Striker: Olivier Giroud

His last game was far from his finest, but the Frenchman was rested in the FA Cup and will come back into this game fresh and keen to prove a point. If he doesn’t perform well in this fixture then I can see him being dropped for the trip to Chelsea, where Alexis Sanchez could lead the line. Danny Welbeck is also an option, he proved his ability against Southampton but is unlikely to start two games in 4 days considering the amount of time he has spent on the sidelines.

Man Utd Fans Say Midfielder ‘Needs To Play More’ After Influential Performance vs. Wigan

Manchester United fans were extremely happy with one midfielder’s performance against Wigan on Sunday afternoon.

Mourinho’s men strolled into the last 16 of the FA Cup with a comfortable 4-0 home win.

The German international was famously sent to the reserves by Jose Mourinho who had concerns about his fitness and overall quality. But the midfielder has come back with a bang, scoring and assisting in the game against Wigan.

He boasted a 93% pass accuracy rate, with 111 passes and 131 touches overall, a lot more than any other player on the pitch. Playing in the holding midfield role, Bastian dictated the play, impressing in his short and long passing with 5 of his 6 attempted long balls finding the target.

Defensively he made a respectable 3 tackles and 3 interceptions. Going forward he didn’t offer much throughout, but crucially provided an assist and scored an acrobatic goal.

This type of display will have reassured fans who previously could see a dependence on Michael Carrick in midfield. But Schweinsteiger is of a similar ilk and if managed correctly, the 30+ duo could effectively share that role and be the platform for United’s more attack-minded midfielders to flourish.

It is this type of midfielder that Manchester United need to ensure they always have in the team. For all the quality that they have within the squad, balance plays a huge part in how a team performs and they need a midfield conductor, like Schweinsteiger to provide that balance. For all the skill and flash Pogba offers, he does not give you that authority and reliability on the ball in deep areas. Schweinsteiger or Carrick appear the perfect foil to enable Pogba to play his best football.

Here’s some of the reaction to his performance from Twitter.

My concern would be that whilst he performed very well in this fixture, is he capable of such quality performances against bigger and better teams? His drawbacks are his slowness and lack of mobility and these were never going to be exposed against a team like Wigan. The Germans performance has done enough to make Mourinho take notice though, and he could now expect a longer run in the first eleven.

He is though, of a different ilk to the other United midfielders and his presence is certainly beneficial in some scenarios, especially when Carrick is missing. My worry would be that with so many months out the team and squad, will he be physically ready to play in the Premier League? Time will tell, if Jose gives him a chance.

‘He Was Unreal’ Fans On Twitter Heap Praise On Arsenal Midfielder After Performance vs. Southampton

Arsenal cruised to a 5-0 victory in the FA Cup on Saturday, helping Wenger’s men again reach the final 16 of the competition. There were several brilliant performers on the night but one midfielder really stood out. 

With Mohammed Elneny at the African Cup of Nations and injury concerns with Santi Cazorla, Aaron Ramsey and Francis Coquelin, Arsene Wenger was stuck for options at the base of his midfield for Saturday’s FA Cup tie. He opted with the inexperienced Ainsley Maitland-Niles, who impressed, but alongside him Wenger selected the man of the match, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. The Ox has seriously struggled to impress for the Gunners on the wing since he arrived, and his progression has been terrible to say the least.

But his performance in the middle of the park on Saturday was enough to give encouragement for his future. Perhaps he should be developed in this position and with the Gunners lacking options currently, now could be a good time to let him progress in that position.

The Ox was dynamic in midfield, showing quality both offensively and defensively with his energy and passing range particular highlights from his performance. Although he didn’t score, the Ox was the best player on the pitch without a shadow of a doubt and Arsene must’ve been incredibly pleased watching on from the stands.

Here’s how some of the fans reacted to The Ox’s performance on Twitter.

Personally I had pretty much given up all hope of Chamberlain succeeding at Arsenal. With just over a year left on his contract, I couldn’t see him realising his potential at the club. I still have serious doubts but this performance is enough to bide him more time. He now deserves a run in the team in central midfield, his performance was certainly more impressive than someone like Aaron Ramsey’s has been of late. With Santi Cazorla out, Chamberlain could make that box-to-box role his own and finally show his ability.

Player Ratings: Arsenal 2-1 Burnley – Ozil MOTM As Arsenal Grab Win

These are the Fresh Football player ratings for the Arsenal players performances against Burnley.

Petr Cech – 7

Big Pete had a decent game in general. Although he didn’t have a lot to do, he was commanding and made the saves you would expect him to make. He didn’t save the penalty though, of course. 

Gabriel – 6.5

Keeping his place at right back Gabriel had to show more going forward than he will have been used too. Overall he put in a decent performance and his aerial prowess certainly helped us. 

Skhodran Mustafi – 7.5

First goal for Arsenal! The German will certainly be pleased to get off the mark on that front and he deserved it, putting in a quality defensive display to help nullify the minimal attacking threat from Burnley. Back to his best. 

Laurent Koscielny – 7

A good performance from Koscielny, though, like Mustafi, he was relatively untested. Was given the job of handling Gray’s pace on the break and did just that. 

Nacho Monreal – 6

Very quiet game from the Spaniard. I would’ve liked to have seen more of an attacking threat from him in a fixture like this, but he instead allowed Alexis more of a free roam going forward. 

Granit Xhaka – 6

If it wasn’t for that stupid lunge, Xhaka would certainly have a higher rating. Based on his first 60 minutes he was brilliant, dictating the midfield and starting nearly every Arsenal attack. Bizarrely he appeared composed today, right up until the incident that saw him get sent off. Two similar challenges have seen him receive red cards and he needs to eradicate that part of his game. 

Aaron Ramsey – 7

I thought Ramsey had a good game in the centre of midfield. As usual he wasn’t pretty in possession, or particularly neat or tidy, but he played the box to box role well. Certainly needs to work on his end product, though. 

Alex Iwobi – 6

Iwobi was given the start in this fixture after a brilliant performance vs. Swansea, but he was a lot less influential today. In the end he made way for Coquelin as Wenger looked to hold on to a 1-0 lead. He’ll need to do more in the future to keep him place, especially with Theo now back in the mix. 

Mesut Ozil – 8

Arsenal’s best player. Ozil was influential throughout and got an assist for Mustafi’s opener. He created many good chances, though he could’ve perhaps done better his a few shots of his own. Ozil has had a couple of good games in a row now and it looks as if he is back to his best. 

Alexis Sanchez – 7

He wasn’t at it today but still produced the goods with a cool as you paneka penalty right at the end. 

Olivier Giroud – 5

Probably his worst performance of the season. The Frenchman had all the right intentions but it just wasn’t happening for him today. Can be forgiven considering his recent form. 

Subs

Francis Coquelin – 5

Came on after Xhaka’s red to see the game out, instead he was just as stupid and game away a late penalty. Luckily Alexis got him out of jail.

Danny Welbeck – N/A

Hector Bellerin – N/A

‘Absolutely Terrible’ Manchester United Fans React To Forward’s Performance vs. Stoke

Manchester United continued their unbeaten run on Saturday afternoon, but only thanks to a very late Wayne Rooney goal. Still, 1 point will not have been want Jose Mourinho was looking for from this fixture. 

A lot of Manchester United players were not at their best in this fixture, but one player who caused serious frustration was summer signing Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Zlatan seriously struggled all afternoon. Stoke more than matched his physicality and then there wasn’t much more the Swede could give. He was slow on and off the ball and was wasteful in his finishing.

Let’s take a look at some statistics. Shocking in possession, the big Swede completed just 61.9% of his attempted passes. He only made 50 touches in the game, which will be far less than Mourinho would want and expect from his focal point in attack.

He was frustrating in attack, having just 1 shot which did not week the target and getting caught offside 3 times! He completed 0 dribbles successfully and had 3 unsuccessful touches, which was more than any other Manchester United player.

Here’s some of the reaction to Zlatan’s performance on Twitter. It’s safe to say the United fans were far from satisfied with what they saw.

Personally, I think that although Zlatan has been scoring a lot of goals lately, Manchester United perform better as a team when he is not in the lineup.

He obviously is a goal threat at all times due to his height, strength and experience. When United inevitably resort to a more long ball tactic, he is ideal. But it hasn’t worked too much this season. With young and talented forward like Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford on the bench, I can’t help but think that Jose should freshen things up in attack. It’s almost like United are attempting to build their team around a 35-year-old Zlatan Ibrahimovic, which is not wise. Rashford and Martial are the future of the clubs attack and they are nothing like Zlatan, completely different players that would form a completely different attack.

Lucas Starts: The Likely Arsenal XI To Face Burnley On Sunday

Arsenal will host Burnley on Sunday as they look to make up ground on the Premier League top two. The Gunners will welcome a Sean Dyche side that has the worst away record in the league, picking up just one point on their travels in the Premier League this season.

Arsene and the players should not be complacent though as we know what Burnley are capable of from their brilliant home form. Wenger can, however, rotate his side a little to give a few players who don’t normally start, a chance to impress. With big games set to come thick and fast after this one, Wenger needs to ensure he doesn’t ask too much of some players.

Goalkeeper: Petr Cech

Big Pete is almost certain to retain his spot between the sticks. He had a good game against Swansea and will be targetting another clean sheet this week ahead of some trickier

Defender: Gabriel, Shkodran Mustafi, Laurent Koscielny, Nacho Monreal

Bellerin is back in full training but I would like to see him eased back into action because he is so important to this team. Gabriel is doing a decent job deputising so he can continue for this fixture. Mustafi and Koscielny must continue to play alongside each other to strengthen their partnership. Gibbs, like Bellerin, is only just returning to full fitness so he should not be risked in this fixture.

Midfield: Granit Xhaka, Aaron Ramsey; Lucas Perez, Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez

Coquelin is back, but like Bellerin I’d keep him on the bench. There’s no need for him in this game as Arsenal are likely to be doing a lot of attacking, so Ramsey’s runs from deep will be useful, as will Xhaka’s quality passing range. It would be needless to play Coquelin in this fixture and he should instead return in the FA Cup next weekend. My big inclusion would be to play Lucas Perez on the right-hand side. The Spaniard is in great form but very rarely gets selected to start the game and I think he deserves it. Iwobi has been in good form over the last couple of games, but it won’t hurt to make this swap and keep the Nigerian midfielder fresh ahead of a long run of tough fixtures. In Lucas, Alexis and Giroud, Arsenal should have enough finishers on the pitch to take all three points.

Striker: Olivier Giroud

Arsenal will need Olivier’s physicality for this fixture as Burnley are likely to sit deep and attempt to frustrate the Gunners. Arsenal may have to resort to sending crosses into the box to the big man in an attempt to break through what has been a resilient Burnley defence this season. He will be hoping to continue his fine goalscoring form and make the difference again for Arsenal as they look to get back in the title race.

Premier League Team Of The Week: ft. 3 Everton, 3 Arsenal & 2 Chelsea Players

Here is the Fresh Football Team of the Week for the most recent gameweek (21). We’ve opted for a 4-4-2 formation.
Simon Mignolet – Liverpool
It has not been a regular theme that Mignolet gets praised and included in TOTW after a tough few months for the Liverpool man, but after a sublime performance at Old Trafford he deserved all the plaudits.
 He is now the Reds No.1 and made numerous saves against Manchester United helping his side leave the Red Devil’s with one point.
Seamus Coleman – Everton
Coleman, as always, was fantastic against Manchester City and helped his side get all three points in an  afternoon to remember for Ronald Koeman’s men.
He was superb in all phases of play helping his side both attacking and defensively, the Toffees man managed two blocks, 67% tackles and showed why he is also an outlet going forward creating one chance.
Laurent Koscielny – Arsenal
The Frenchman signed a new contract with the Gunners last week and ended the week in style after an immense performance vs. Swansea.
The impressive Arsenal man managed  100% aerial duels, nine clearances, four interceptions and finished the game in true Arsenal style, with 94% passing.
 The 31-year-old has been one of Arsenals best players for a number of years, and is the true rock in the Arsenal side.
Shkodran Mustafi – Arsenal
Mustafi is yet to taste defeat in the Gunners shirt extending his impressive run to 20 games in total, which is an incredible record to hold.
The Arsenal man was yet again brilliant against Swansea and contributed with five interceptions, two clearances and finished the game with an impressive 88% passing.
Arsene Wenger will be relieved he is back from injury and will hope he stays fit as they look to close the gap at the top of the table.
Marcos Alonso – Chelsea
Well, it is not often a wing-back produces two goals, and is whiskers away from a hat-trick in one game, but that is exactly what Marcos Alonso managed in Chelsea’s win on Saturday.
The Blues star was superb offensively/defensively and was always an outlet going forward, turning out to produce the goods in front of goal in a perfect game for the Spaniard.
Pedro – Chelsea
The Chelsea man has been a revolution this season since a very disappointing opening campaign to life in England last year.
The former La Masia has thrived in Antonio Conte’s new system and was superb for the Blues against Leicester City.
He showcased some skill you will probably not see again this season in the build up to his goal and finished the game with 95% passing accuracy, which is superb.
The Spaniard is enjoying life at the Blues and has certainly played a massive part in the topping the table thus far.
Tom Davies – Everton
Well, what a star Everton have on their hands.
The 18-year-old was superior to most players on the pitch in a very disciplined, mature display against Manchester City.
He scored his first senior goal for the Toffees and completed two take on’s whilst playing the all round midfield role perfectly.
His goal was a thing of beauty, his run, timing, finish, everything was majestic and if Lionel Messi scored it, you’ll watch it for years to come.
Koeman has a thing for talented young players, doesn’t he? and the Dutchman has another gem on his hands.
Ross Barkley – Everton
Despite coming under strong scrutiny in recent months and being dropped by Ronald Koeman, Ross Barkley showed why he is so highly rated against Manchester City in a fine performance.
The English international was influential going forward and created four chances, whilst having that burst from midfield to attack completing four take on’s too.
After helping his side batter the depleted City, he will not be dropped anytime soon.
Alex Iwobi – Arsenal
Alex Iwobi was the most impressive star on show for Arsenal this weeking as they beat Swansea 4-0 away from home.
The 20-year-old was unfortunate not to score himself after his deflected effort was put down as an own goal, but the Nigerian went on to create two chances and finished the game with 89% passing.
Iwobi was running at players at will and was showcasing his fine talents. He is already starting most weeks for the Gunners and will become a future star if he continues to develop at his rapid pace.
Harry Kane – Tottenham
Tottenham Hotspur’s impressive run continued against West Brom after running riot in a 4-0 routine victory on Saturday afternoon.

England international Harry Kane was immense throughout and bagged himself a hat-trick, whilst creating once chance and completing four take on’s.
If Spurs are to push on for the title they’ll be reliant on their prolific goalscorer to keep firing in the goals, and of course staying fit. If he does, then maybe, just maybe Spurs could push for the title.
Andy Carroll – West Ham United
Since his return from injury, Andy Carroll has been a very positive sign in a glum few months for the Hammers, and his impressive form continued on Saturday.
The Hammers beat Crystal Palace 3-0 and Carroll was at the heart of it all, and scored one of the goals of the season in a very solid display.

Chelsea Make Shock Transfer Move For Premier League Midfielder

It seems Chelsea may be targeting a player from a Premier League club to strengthen their wide options, and it’s not someone you may have guessed. 

According to Sky Sources, Chelsea have made an approach to Middlesbrough to ask about the availability of their winger Adama Traore.

The 20-year-old began his career at Barcelona and was originally brought to England by Aston Villa. This summer, following Villa’s relegation, Traore moved to Premier League Middlesbrough and has been one of the clubs most influential attacking players. His pace causes lots of problems for opposition defences and that is certainly something that will have attracted Antonio Conte to him.

Conte plays with wing backs and wingers, and it is possible that Traore could be an option in both of those roles. Although he is a more attacking player, Traore could follow in the footsteps of Moses and adapt to a more defensive position.

Chelsea were said to be looking for a couple of new wide players to add to their squad this month, and we recently brought you the news that they were considering moves for Michail Antonio and Jonas Hector.

With the news that Dimitri Payet wants to leave the club this month, I think there is no chance Slaven Bilic will part with Antonio this month, and that may explain why Chelsea appear to be interested in Traore, a possible alternative.

Traore has made 15 appearances for Boro this season, with 6 of them coming from the bench. He is yet to register a goal or assist in a Boro team that lacks a cutting edge moving forward.

Joining on deadline day, Traore reportedly cost Boro £7million, so Chelsea would probably have to pay more than that to convince Karanka to part with Traore, especially considering we are in the middle of the season.

Traore is unlikely to make a big difference in Chelsea’s title charge this year, as he is far from the finished product at this stage. But aged 20, he has the raw attributes to develop into a top level player. His pace and dribbling ability are certainly his most attractive traits and Conte may want to sign him purely to add another dimension to his attacking force.

If you consider that he hasn’t scored or assisted a goal this season, Conte may have him in mind to play as a wing back. His pace will help with defensive security and also stretching opposition defences with overlapping runs. Training with a squad of Chelsea’s calibre and working alongside a manager of Conte’s calibre, Traore’s technical ability would surely only improve.

Looking deeper into Traore’s statistics, there is one that really stands out. That is his dribbles per game which averages at a huge 5.2. His pace means he plays with a very direct style and that may suit Conte’s structured and efficient system. He is only dispossessed 1.6 times per game on average. His technical ability and reliability on the ball is a bit of a worry though, completing just 68.8% of his passes..

It’s an interesting move if it does happen. I would think that being in such a strong position to go and win the title, Conte’s focus should be on strengthening his squad in the short term. An extra injection of senior quality at this stage would make his team strong favourites for the title.

Someone like Antonio would be a better addition, but Traore is perhaps a more realistic one and he would certainly be cheaper.  I’m interested to hear Chelsea fans thoughts on this one. Be sure to comment below or tweet us your thoughts @FreshFootball.

Could This Bayern Munich Man Be On The Way To Chelsea?

Chelsea could be lining up a Diego Costa replacement from Bayern Munich, according to reports. Chelsea fans, would you be happy with this?

The Express claim an ‘Exclusive’ that Chelsea are targeting an unsettled Thomas Muller to replace Diego Costa should the Spaniard leave the club. Conte stressed that Costa missed the game at the weekend due to a back injury, but widespread reports suggest that this is not, in fact true. Costa appears to have fallen out with the hierarchy at the club and could move on. Chelsea won’t sell him cheap though, with a £80million price tag touted by several sources.

If he was to go, Chelsea would have a large fund to try and find a replacement. But there is a lack of top number 9’s on the market right now. This might mean the club will have to opt for an alternative option. It seems Muller could be just that and perhaps he could be amongst a very small group of top players that could transfer in January.

Muller is reportedly unhappy at the German Champions after failing to hold down a regular spot in the Bayern Munich team under Carlo Ancelotti. He has started just 10 Bundesliga games this season.

“The last game against Leipzig was not optimal for me personally, since I did not play,” Muller told German newspaper Bild.

“There was more space than in the games before. It was a game I could have enjoyed. Of course, I’m not sitting there with a grin on the bench.”

That’s a very public statement of frustration. The reports suggest that Muller would be allowed to leave for a fee in the region of £75million. A huge amount of money, and something similar to what Costa would probably move for.

I can believe that Bayern would be open to selling him for such an amount, especially because he has not been an important player for them this season. They have recently signed the young attacking duo of Renato Sanches and Kingsley Coman, as well as handing a contract extension to Arjen Robben. Muller is no longer an integral part to this Bayern Munich team under Carlo Ancelotti.

But would swapping Costa for Muller improve Chelsea? Personally, I think Costa is perhaps the best number 9 in world football right now, and even with Muller at the club, I think Chelsea would be better off with Costa. He’s more of a natural 9 that is incredibly well suited to the style of play under Conte and I think that at least initially, Muller would struggle to make such a profound impact and difference.

Both players are in the prime of their careers, with Muller one year younger than Costa. They are both natural goalscorers but I feel Costa has that aggression and clinical attitude that makes him a slightly better player than the German, or at least, more suited to the Premier League.

I’m interested to hear about what Chelsea fans would think about swapping Costa for Muller. Although he is not a natural striker, Conte showed that Chelsea worked well with Hazard in the number 9 role at the weekend. Does the 3-4-3 formation require a traditional number 9, or could Muller work there?

‘Superb Performance’ Liverpool Fans Heap Praise On Defender After His Performance vs. Manchester United

The news that Nathaniel Clyne was ruled out against Manchester United due to a rib injury sustained against Southampton in midweek definitely shook several Liverpool fans. Clyne has been one of the most consistent figures for Klopp’s side so far this season, and his absence was thought to be a real blow for the Reds in such an important fixture.

As a result, Trent Alexander Arnold was handed his first Premier League appearance for Liverpool, thrown in at the deep end by his manager. Many thought he’d sink and struggle against the pace and trickery of United’s Anthony Martial, but the 18-year-old stood firm throughout the match to do himself, and his manager proud.

Alexander Arnold made three key tackles in the match, and showed a calm and collected presence despite the magnitude of the fixture. It was never going to be an easy task for the youngster but apart from a few wayward passes, he handled the occasion superbly and showed just what a bright future he has at Liverpool.

A look at his defensive statistics help highlight how well he did. Up against Anthony Martial, many thought the youngster would struggle and be easily beaten but he managed 8 clearances, 3 tackles and 2 interceptions – he also committed 0 fouls. That’s very impressive considering who he was up against and the occasion itself would have gotten to many other young players.

Liverpool fans have been quick to praise the defender, who could see more chances at first team action in the coming games if Clyne is sidelined for an extended period of time. He certainly didn’t harm his case today.

Here’s how Twitter reacted to Alexander-Arnold’s performance. Do you agree with these thoughts?

When you consider it was his first Premier League appearance for the club, and the fact that he is only 18 years of age, Arnold’s performance was exemplary. He took a while to settle into the match, initially struggling with the pace of Martial, but he produced what was needed of him.

He wasn’t shying away from tackles, and he didn’t show the fear or nerves of a player making his Premier League bow – that in itself says a lot about his quality.

Few players can come into a side on such a big occasion and do a job, especially an 18 year old. Hats off to Trent Alexander Arnold for putting in a stellar performance for Liverpool. The future looks bright.

Manchester United Fans Criticise ‘Woeful’ Midfielder For Poor Display vs. Liverpool

Manchester United snatched a late draw against Liverpool in a game which truly lacked quality throughout. 

Despite the millions of pounds of talent on display, both teams failed to conjure up much inspiration in the final third and it was a scrappy game. Manchester United had a £90million midfielder in their team, but he failed to make any sort of difference and in fact was perhaps one of the worst players on the field on the day.

The hugely poor moment for him was when he handballed inside the area to gift Liverpool a 1st half advantage. After that he did very little to redeem himself with passes going astray frequently.

Pogba completed just 72% of his passes and was dispossessed 3 times. He received a 5.6 match rating on WhoScored, less than any other player on the pitch. Offensively he offered nothing, completing just 1 dribble, 0 key passes and making 0 shots. Defensively he failed to make an interception and completed just 1 tackle. The Frenchman normally prides himself on being effective at both ends of the pitch, but he was shockingly bad defensively and offensively today – certainly an afternoon to forget for the world record transfer signing.

Here’s some reaction to the players performance against Liverpool.

In my opinion, Pogba once again proved that he is in no way worth the £90million Manchester United paid for him. He’s a very good midfielder, don’t get me wrong, but his valuation was ludicrous and considering the amount of bad press the likes of Mesut Ozil have received for bad performances, Pogba deserves every bit of criticism he will get for this lacklustre showing.

Many have suggested Pogba should focus on his football rather than his off the field promotion, and I certainly agree there. The Frenchman spends a lot of time with Adidas and on social media to create more revenue for him and his brand, fair play to him, but the fans just want him to be the best he can on the football pitch, and with all that other activity it cannot be helping him perform his best on the pitch.

To be honest I think Pogba is a good player, maybe even a great player. But after moving for such a large amount of money, he will always be compared to that £90million price tag, and for that amount of money you need to be making the difference in nearly every game, especially big games like today against Liverpool.

‘He Can’t Defend’ Fans On Twitter Criticise Manchester City Defender After Everton Horror Show

Manchester City put in perhaps their worse performance of the season as they fell to a heavy 4-0 defeat against Tottenham on Sunday afternoon. 

It was another shambolic defensive display from City and Pep Guardiola, and that’s something we have said far too much this season. The club have now conceded 26 goals in 21 league games, no other team in the top 7 of the league have conceded as many, in fact, 16th placed Middlesborough have conceded less.

So who is at fault? One player to be heavily criticised today is John Stones. The man who left Everton for Manchester City in the summer returned to the lineup and put in a pretty dreadful performance.

City, as usual, played out from the back and whilst they started the game looking relatively comfortable with that style of play, they were punished for their expansive style by a lethal Everton team that took pretty much every chance they had. There was far too much space between central defenders Nicolas Otamendi and Stones and it was made all too easy for the hosts.

Another worrying performance from Stones has left many questioning his large price tag and it puts Pep in a real dilemma. The club clearly need to improve defensively, but having spent around £90million on Otamendi and Stones, they cannot afford to just dispose of their current options.

There’s no obvious statistics to highlight Stones’ poor performance, but if you were watching the game it was clear for all to see that he seriously struggled. This will be a worry not just for Manchester City and Pep, but for England and the national team, who seemed to be preparing to build their future defence around young Stones.

Here’s how Twitter reacted to the player’s performance.

To be honest, I’ve never been the biggest fan of John Stones. I think the £50million Manchester City paid for him is absolutely horrific. He’s really not worth anything close to that amount of money.

Let’s not pretend that Stones was the only bad performer in that Manchester City team today. Pep’s men were second best all over the pitch and the defending across the back 5 was simply shambolic.

It’s hard to simply suggest that Stones should not play out from the back etc. but that is the style of play of Guardiola and of Stones. It’s why the player cost so much money and it’s why the club were so insistent on bringing in Pep. City must now focus on trying to perfect their unique style of play, but Pep, for the first time in his career, may actually need to adapt his approach slightly, or the English game will simply swallow him up.

‘He Was Unplayable’ Arsenal Midfielder Praised After Mesmerising Performance vs. Swansea

Arsenal put in an impressive 2nd half display to make light work of Swansea on Saturday afternoon. The Gunners attacking play was scintillating in the second period, and they have Alex Iwobi to thank for much of that.

Although he will not be attributed with a goal, both own goals came from his shots, the first of which was on target so it seems harsh to take the goal away from him. Here’s some of the best reaction to the Nigerian international’s performance on Twitter.

Iwobi has been hot and cold this season but against Swansea we saw him with one of his best displays in an Arsenal shirt to date. He moved around the pitch with confidence and often looked a level above the players around him. His majestic display has seen many fans refer to his performance as ‘unplayable’.

Iwobi is also comfortable playing in the number 10 role and you can see his creative attributes. Making 2 key passes, and 36 passes overall with an 89% accuracy. An area he is often criticised for is his defensive contribution, but with 2 tackles and 1 interception, we saw an improved defensive performance from him on Saturday.

Here’s some of the best reaction to the Nigerian international’s performance on Twitter.

My thoughts on Iwobi are what I said at the start of the season. Don’t get carried away with him, he’s still 20 and very raw, but what a talent he is. It’s great that he has come through the ranks and is playing as well as he is. He still lacks consistency and because he sets the bar so high, I feel he gets too much criticism when he struggles in matches. This is unfair on such a young player, especially when there are usually other, more senior players like Walcott or even Oxlade-Chamberlain, who have also performed poorly.

Hopefully Alex has a long and successful career at Arsenal ahead of him. If he can produce performances like he did yesterday more regularly then he will cement his place in the starting eleven.

Nobody would have anticipated him being as important to this team as he now is. With no obvious natural back up to Ozil, Iwobi is the most likely to replace the German there when he is unavailable. He could also be regarded as the clubs first choice left winger, especially when Alexis Sanchez is occupying the centre forward position.

‘He Was On Fire Today’ Chelsea Fans Rave Over Midfielder’s Performance vs. Leicester

Chelsea returned to winning ways and in convincing fashion on Saturday evening with a comfortable 3-1 win over Leicester City. 

Last season’s Champions continued to struggle and put in a very poor performance as Claudio Ranieri attempted to match the league leaders 3 at the back formation. But it didn’t work at all, and Chelsea took control of the game with left-back Marcos Alonso with two of the goals.

Alonso has not had too much praise since he joined Chelsea in the summer, with many suggesting that he was one of the weak links in the team, a team that has been incredibly strong, to be fair.

Playing on the left-hand side of the midfield 4, Alonso showed that he has plenty to offer in attack against Leicester, scoring two goals and putting in a very accomplished all-round performance.

Alonso won 4 aerial duels, 3 interceptions, 2 tackles and made 2 clearances, showing that he also put in a near flawless defensive display. Playing as a left wing back, you could forgive Alonso for not being too involved in the game, but he was completely the opposite, wanting to play his part in every phase of the play, making a huge 104 touches, only Matic (112) made more on the pitch. No Leicester player made more than 62.

Here’s how some fans reacted to Alonso’s performance on Twitter.

Ake was recalled from his loan spell at Bournemouth and he was reportedly going to be an alternative to Alonso – as well as being an option at central defence. Alonso’s best performance in a Chelsea came a few days after Ake was recalled, perhaps showing that competition for places really does bring out the best in players!

It was, of course a brilliant performance from Alonso on the night, but he will need to deliver these kind of performances more regularly if he is to justify his hefty price tag and keep the ever-improving Nathan Ake out of the side.

Iwobi Out, Lucas Starts: Arsenal’s Likely 4-2-3-1 Line Up To Face Swansea

Arsenal return to Premier League action on Saturday with an away fixture against the struggling Swansea up next. The Gunners need nothing less than 3 points as they look to make up ground on the Premier League leaders, Chelsea.

Petr Cech

As much as he has struggled, I don’t think Wenger should drop Cech, yet. It would cause too many waves. We can’t underestimate the importance of his leadership on the pitch and in the dressing room.

Hector Bellerin, Shkodran Mustafi, Laurent Koscielny, Nacho Monreal

Gibbs is unlikely to be fit in time, but both Bellerin and Koscielny should be fully fit for the trip to Wales. Hector looked off the pace against Bournemouth, but Wenger confirmed he had a knock. He was rested against Preston and now should be fresh and available for this match. Mustafi hasn’t looked the same since returning from injury, but he needs to settle again alongside Koscielny to form a strong defensive partnership, like the one they had at the start of the season.

Aaron Ramsey, Granit Xhaka

At the base of midfield Arsenal have very little choice. They need to pray that both Xhaka and Ramsey come through the next few games unscathed and also build a strong partnership in the middle of the park, because with Elneny on international duty and Coquelin and Cazorla still injured, Arsene Wenger has pretty much no alternative here. Should an emergency arise then we might see the likes of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain or Ainsley Maitland-Niles shoehorned into a central midfield role, but Wenger will want to avoid this scenario. Could he be looking at dipping into the transfer market? Long-term target N’Zonzi has again been linked recently.

Lucas Perez, Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez

It may seem harsh to drop Iwobi out of the line-up after perhaps one of his best performances this season against Preston, but another good performer in that team was Lucas Perez. The Spaniard’s first team opportunities have been few and far between since he joined the London club in the summer and he has performed very well when called upon. He needs a run in the starting line up to prove his worth and I feel combining with the likes of a fit-again Ozil and Alexis Sanchez, we will see a truly quality player emerge. If this is the line-up then both Lucas and Alexis need to ensure they work hard defensively, as they are both naturally attacking players.

Olivier Giroud

The big man Olivier is in the form of his life at the moment and he’s loving every second of it. The Frenchman is capable of scoring any kind of goal right now and he simply has to start again. With Ozil, Lucas and Alexis behind him, I think Arsenal will have a very talented front four on show in Wales. If these four can click, then I believe they can build a good relationship and help reignite Arsenal’s attack.

Player Ratings For Liverpool’s XI Against Plymouth

Here are the Fresh Football player ratings for Liverpool’s starting eleven vs. Plymouth Argyle from their 0-0 draw on Sunday. 

Loris Karius 6

Karius was asked very few through the match, giving him little chance to impress and stake a claim to replace Simon Mignolet in the starting lineup.

Trent Alexander Arnold 7

Bright in the first fourty five minutes, Alexander Arnold’s overlaps down the right hand side were a resourceful outlet for Liverpool. In the second half he was less involved going forward, but he did his job well defensively and put in a solid display.

Alberto Moreno 6

Moreno defended well in the rare moments he was called upon. Most of the match was spent in the opposition half and despite advancing down the left flank, he failed to produce a quality final ball.

Joe Gomez 6

It was a pretty easy re-introduction to match football for Joe Gomez, with the 19 year old not really tested by Plymouth’s attack. He showed his quality in possession to ensure Liverpool kept probing away in the second half. He has received lots of praise for his performance from Liverpool fans. 

Lucas Leiva 6

Due to the absence of a Plymouth attack, Lucas was able to venture forward into midfield and provide the extra man for the Reds, allowing them to enjoy comfortable possession throughout the match. He produced a rare shot on goal in the second half that was saved by McCormick, and didn’t put a foot wrong.

Kevin Stewart 6

Made a key interception to stifle Plymouth’s counter attack in the second half, with Tanner threatening to race clear on goal in the final ten minutes of the match. However, he showed his inexperience with some poor long range shots towards the end of the match and he will need to improve that decision making if he’s going to break into the side.

Emre Can 7

Kept Liverpool ticking over in midfield, sweeping the ball out wide whenever possible to try and get Divock Origi some service. Can set up Woodburn’s first half chance and was replaced mid-way through the second with Klopp eager to prevent a replay.

Ovie Ejaria 6

Ejaria had minimal impact on the game, especially in the second half. The youngster wasn’t able to make a telling contribution in the final third despite being the furthest forward of the midfield three.

Ben Woodburn 7

Woodburn had the best chance of the first half for Liverpool after being set up by Emre Can but the Plymouth goalkeeper did well to block his shot. He showed little bursts of his ability before being replaced by Roberto Firmino.

Sheyi Ojo 6

Ojo take on his man enough in the game and was often a rather subdued figure within the game. The lack of space in behind the Plymouth back line made it a frustrating afternoon for the youngster.

Divock Origi 5

Origi was largely anonymous for Liverpool as the away side shut off all space, preventing him from running in behind and using his pace. Dropping deeper and deeper in the second half to get involved, he had little chance to really test the Plymouth keeper.

Liverpool Fans Claim This Player Was ‘The Only Positive’ From The Plymouth Game

Whilst a goalless draw against Plymouth was far from what Liverpool will have wanted, there were some positives to be taken, with some youngsters performing particularly well on the afternoon.

Jurgen Klopp made a lot of changes to his side, allowing his youngsters a chance to impress against the visitors, a League 2 side. One youngster was also a player returning from a long-term injury.

Making his first appearance for Liverpool in over 400 days, Joe Gomez put in a solid display for the Reds in their stalemate against Plymouth Argyle.

Since joining the club, Gomez has proven to be one of several exciting young talents. Before sustaining a nasty ACL injury that ruled him out for over a year, the ex-Charlton defender caught the eye of Brendan Rodgers and several fans with his solid, no nonsense style of defending.

The youngster’s ability to play with the ball makes him an ideal fit for Jurgen Klopp’ side and the German seems to have some faith in him with Lucas Leiva rumoured to be heading for the exit door in January. With Liverpool lacking an array of defensive cover, Gomez could see himself gain more chances in the second half of the season.

While not being tested often against Plymouth, Gomez proved to be a calming figure at the back, showing confidence to roam forward with the ball and help the Reds continue to tick over. Clearly it wasn’t the hardest game he will ever play, but given his time on the side-lines, it was a pleasing performance and perhaps a sign of what is to come.

With Lucas looking increasingly likely to move on in January and Mamadou Sakho out of favour at the club, the path is certainly clear for Joe Gomez to establish himself at Liverpool and force his way into Klopp’s first team plans.

The manager has faith in Gomez and if he can regain the form he showed before his injury nightmare, there’s little reason to suggest the defender can’t be a success at Anfield.

Although Gomez didn’t have a lot to do, he won more aerial duels than any other Liverpool player (4) and made a huge 76 touches. He also made 2 interceptions and blocked 1 shot. Gomez tried his best to help Liverpool attack well, completing 83.3% of his passes and being accurate with 3 of his 6 attempted long balls.

The good thing for Gomez is that despite his long injury, he is still just 19. Under Klopp he has a great chance of developing into a top level defender. Today was just the first step in a long journey for him in fulfilling his potential, I’m confident that under Klopp and in this system, he can do just that.

Here’s some more reaction to how Gomez performed on Sunday afternoon.

 

Defender Left Out Of Squad, Fuels Speculation Of A Transfer To Manchester United or West Ham

It looks as if a former Manchester United fans favourite is on the move, and he might well be going back to his old stomping ground. 

Evra is now 35 and his contract at Juventus is due to expire at the end of the current season, thus allowing foreign clubs to begin negotiations over his signing.

West Ham and Manchester United have been linked with the experienced full-back and with the player now left out of Juventus’ squad, it seems more likely that a move back to England may be on the horizon.

Evra has only made 6 Serie A appearances this season, with the younger Alex Sandro now seemingly the clubs favoured left back option. It is not clear whether Juventus intend to extend Evra’s contract beyond the conclusion of this season and that would allow either West Ham or Manchester United to sign him for free, or pay a small fee in January and get him now.

However, his agent Federico Pastorello played down the chances of the France international departing the Italian champions midseason.

“It’s not certain he will leave Juventus,” Pastorello told Juvenews. “We’ll see what happens over the next few days.”

It’s probably silly to bother looking at Evra’s statistics from this season considering how little he has played, so let’s go back to last season, where he was still a fairly regular presence in the starting eleven.

Making 26 appearances in Serie A, Evra proved that despite his age, he is still a very reliable defender, averaging 1.49 interceptions and 1.53 aerial duels won per 90 last season. He was also influential going forward, as always, completing on average 23.92 forward passes and on 1.01 key passes per 90, a good amount for a full back.

His attacking influence may fade as he continues to age, but the experience and defensive know-how that Evra has is mental and will only get stronger with age. As West Ham’s ship continues to shake, you can see why they would like a player of his ilk and experience in their defence.

For Manchester United, they do not have an established left back at the moment, with Luke Shaw struggling to return to form since his long term injury and Darmian seriously struggling to impress. Marcos Rojo is another option in that position but he is playing a lot better in central defence and I’m sure that Mourinho will be keen to try and keep him in that favoured central role.

If Evra has an offer from both clubs it’ll be interesting to see what decision he makes. At West Ham, he is more likely to play regular football, but his history at Manchester United will surely have a huge impact on his decision. I think if United’s interest is genuine, then Mourinho will be keen to add Evra for his off the pitch contribution as much as anything else.

Fans On Twitter Label Arsenal Man ‘So Underrated’ After Preston Performance

Not all heroes wear capes, but perhaps Arsenal’s Olivier Giroud ought to look into that the next time he’s feeling inventive with his celebrations.

The Gunners came from a goal down versus Preston North End to win 2-1, courtesy of Giroud’s 89th minute finish, and thus secure their spot in the fourth round of the FA Cup.

Arsenal’s victory sees them top up on Arsène Wenger’s proud record of never losing in the third round of the FA Cup, going 21 for 21, as the north Londoners boast an equally respectable feat of losing just once versus lower league opposition (Blackburn Rovers, 2013).

It could all have been so different for the Premier League outfit, however, as ex-Aston Villa trainee Callum Robinson put Preston 1-0 up within the first 10 minutes of the game.

The Lilywhites continued their search for a second and came close to doing so too on various occasions, more notably through Jordan Hugill and Paul Gallagher throughout the first half, as the Gunners edged closer to following Bournemouth, Stoke City and West Bromwich Albion out of the tournament.

After a half largely dominated by the Championship side, Aaron Ramsey prepared to make Simon Grayson’s side pay for all the missed opportunities, as the Welshman returned to the scoresheet for the first time since his back-heeled goal against Tottenham Hotspur in March of last season with a well struck shot in the 46th minute.

But the headlines were reserved for one man and one man only, as Giroud pounced on a subtle heel flick from Lucas Perez to give Arsenal an 11th hour lead and clock up his fair share of attention on social media.

The marmite-esque striker has developed a healthy habit of coming up with clutch moments in recent weeks, with his strike versus Preston increasing his overall tally for the season to nine goals in 18 appearances.

After scoring for a fourth consecutive game, four out of six of Giroud’s goals have all come no earlier than the 86th minute of the game, subsequently earning Arsenal an additional five points in the league and propelling their name into the hat for the draw of the fourth round of the FA Cup.

Prior to that, Arsenal’s number 12 also came up with the goods against Sunderland back in October, scoring a brace within minutes of hopping off the bench to take the Gunners from a 1-1 draw to a 3-1 lead at the Stadium of Light.

The Frenchman’s red-hot form is now sure to continue giving Wenger a selection headache, with Alexis Sanchez also excelling as a centre forward role prior to the festive period.

Manager Confirms Premier League Defender Will Be Moving To Chelsea This Month

Chelsea look set to welcome another defender to their squad this month, with the club keen to add to their defensive options.

It appears that Antonio Conte will continue to favour playing young players over external recruitment with the Italian manager seemingly set to recall Nathan Ake from his loan at Bournemouth.

Ake has been brilliant during his loan spell at Bournemouth so far, and with Conte now deploying a 3 at the back formation, Chelsea would really benefit from having another central defender in the squad. Despite the clubs overall good defensive displays, Gary Cahill has come under a fair amount of criticism and Ake may have his eyes on displacing the Englishman.

Another option would be to shift Cesar Azpilicueta to the right or left wing-back role and then bring Ake into central defence. Crucially Ake’s recall will give the club more options and more depth.

Bournemouth boss Howe said Ake’s exit was “not 100% finalised yet”. But in saying that, all but confirmed that he would be heading back to the capital.

He told BBC Radio Solent: “It would be a huge blow to us as he’s done so well. It is easier said than to done to say we are going to go and recruit a player of a similar stature to Nathan.”

Chelsea will now be negotiating with Bournemouth for a cancellation fee, as it is likely they will have to pay one due to cutting the season-long-loan deal short.

Howe added: “I am not sure there are too many out there, hence why Chelsea would recall him. With Simon Francis’s suspension and Marc Pugh’s injury and now Nathan going back, our defensive resources are certainly stretched.”

Ake turns 22 next month and will hope to continue his progression this season at Chelsea. The player is also capable of playing in midfield and at left back, so his versatility will certainly come in handy for the club.

In 10 Premier League appearances Ake has netted 3 goals, highlighting his ability to attack well and make the most of opportunities in the other box. For his height, he’s very good in the air, winning on average 2.07 per 90 minutes in the Premier League this season. He’s also won an impressive 1.82 tackles per 90.

An energetic defender, Ake has also made 1.22 interceptions per 90. He’s a defender that is more than capable of playing out from the back and his pass completion of 88% highlights that.

Summer signing David Luiz has really excelled in the defence since re-joining the club, but with Cahill now 31, could Ake be the England international’s long-term replacement? He’ll certainly hope so.

What is refreshing to see is a manager that is willing to give young players a chance, and Conte seems to be doing just that.