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.

5 Better Alternatives To Turan That Can Replace Mesut Ozil At Arsenal

Arsenal have been heavily linked with Arda Turan in recent weeks, but I think there are better options on the market. Here’s five…

1 – Isco

Could Arsenal go to Madrid again to find Ozil’s replacement? It’s very possible. Isco could reportedly be sold for as little as £10.3million because Madrid want to stop him from joining Barcelona. That would be an absolute bargain for a player that has bags of potential and is still young at 24. In my opinion he has the potential to at least match the ability of Ozil, he just needs to be playing regular football. The fact that Barcelona are serious about signing Isco tells you everything you need to know, Arsenal simply have to be interested in the Spaniard if he’s on the market this summer.

3 Tottenham Players That Should Be Considered For England Captaincy

With Wayne Rooney’s England career seemingly drawing to a close, Gareth Southgate has a big decision to make – who will be the next captain of the National team?

At first glance there appears to be very few suitable candidates, but there are three Tottenham players that should be considered.

1 – Dele Alli

He might be young, but with no obvious senior figure in the team, Southgate could show trust in young Alli to lead the team forward during his reign as manager. Arguably one of England’s most inform players at the moment, and there aren’t many to choose from, Alli is one player that is likely to spend a lot of time in the starting eleven over the next few years. He may have to curb his attitude problem a bit, though.

4 new signings: Potential Arsenal XI next season Including Turan & Mbappe

Arsenal look like they will overhaul their squad this summer and with Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez looking increasingly likely to leave the club, the Gunners will have a large budget to sign the players they want. Here’s their possible XI next season.

GK – Jack Butland

Petr Cech has been pretty underwhelming this season, and Arsene Wenger seems to be well aware of that poor form, with several goalkeepers being linked with a move to the Emirates. One keeper that would be a good fit is Jack Butland, the youngster’s stock has fallen somewhat because of his recent injury problems, so Arsenal could look to sign him in a cut-price deal.

Report: Liverpool in battle with Barcelona to sign exciting midfielder

Liverpool’s season has been average at best so far, and it seems that Jurgen Klopp is finally looking at making some signings to improve on his limited options. 

Riyad Mahrez is one transfer target for Liverpool this summer, but they may have to rival Barcelona for his signature, according to Sport – the report claims Barcelona are interested but that Liverpool have already made an approach.

Where would he fit in?

Though it may not have seemed like it this season, Mahrez has very good stamina, and under Klopp I think we could see him excel in pressing from the front. He’d give the team some versatility in attack and would take one of the wide berths in the team, most likely the right wing role. I could see him dovetailing well with Nathaniel Clyne on the right hand side, and offering good balance to the Liverpool team.

How likely is it to happen?

I would be shocked if Mahrez were to remain at Leicester City beyond this season. There are several top clubs interested in him and Leicester will not be playing any type of European football next season (unless they win the Champions League!). I’m not sure Mahrez would get enough regular game time at the likes Barcelona, but at Liverpool he could easily cement a place in the starting eleven. Liverpool would feel like a good next step for Mahrez, as he looks to establish himself at a top club. Moving to a club like Barcelona too early could have detrimental effects to his career. For all Klopp’s ability as a manager though, he has struggled in the transfer market, especially to bring recognised names to the club. This summer that needs to change and signing Mahrez would be a good starting point.

Would he be a good signing?

I think it goes without saying that based on last season’s form, Mahrez would be an excellent addition to the Liverpool squad, and help take them to a title challenging team. This season he has been poor for the most part, but I think he needs a manager like Klopp to consistently get the best out of him. At Liverpool you do not get away with half-hearted performances, but many times this season that is exactly what Mahrez has delivered.

Conte’s No.1 transfer target ‘ready’ to join Chelsea this summer

Chelsea are in with a chance of finally signing Antonio Conte’s number one transfer target. 

According to The Metro, if Massimo Allegri remains at Juventus, then star defender Leonardo Bonucci could be looking to leave because of their poor relationship. The duo recently fell out on the touchline during a match and reports suggest that they have failed to recover from this event.

Allegri’s future is up in the air himself, but he does have a contract beyond this season at Juventus currently and it is looking more likely that the Arsenal and Barcelona target will remain in charge of the Italian Champions next season.

According to Yahoo, Bonucci is prepared to leave Juventus for the Premier League with Chelsea and Manchester City heavily interested, but the former favourites for his signature. Bonucci would almost certainly break the world transfer record for a defender.

How would Bonucci fit in? 

Wonderfully. The Italian would thrive in Conte’s 3-4-3 system and probably replace Gary Cahill. Alongside Luiz and Azpilicueta, Chelsea would perhaps have the best central defence in the whole of Europe. A man with Bonucci’s experience would need very little time to settle in, despite moving to a new league. He’s worked under Conte before too, so the manager would be able to handle his implementation into the team with ease.

How likely is this? 

We know Conte is a big fan of Bonucci and he tried to sign him during his first window in charge. Instead, Conte got David Luiz, and that’s turned out pretty well, but I have no doubt that if Bonucci were to come on the market, then Conte would do everything in his power to add him to what is already an extremely resolute Chelsea rearguard.

I think if Allegri stays at Juventus and Chelsea are prepared to spend like they normally are, then there’s every chance of this deal happening in the summer.

How much would he cost?

As I say, it would certainly break the world transfer record for a defender, I think Juventus wouldn’t listen to anything less than £60million, which seems a lot for a 29-year-old, but remember how much they spent on Gonzalo Higuain and how much they managed to sell Paul Pogba for. Bonucci is more integral to Juventus than Pogba ever was. The club will be desperate for him to stay and as well as paying a lot of money, Chelsea will have to hope that Bonucci forces the move, otherwise Juve will keep him at the club.

5 Arsenal Players Severely Underperforming Because Of Wenger

Arsenal have been severely underperforming in recent months, and there’s several players that Arsene Wenger is failing to get the best out of. Here’s five that are particularly struggling under the Frenchman’s guidance.

1 – Mesut Ozil

Wenger built the formation around Mesut Ozil, giving him the number 10 role he knows and loves, but the Arsenal manager has not supplemented Ozil with the right teammates in order to get the best out of him. Ozil is often frozen out of games, and that is not due to the German playing poorly, it is often due to players like Coquelin being selected in central midfield, this stops Ozil from getting on the ball and restricts his influence.

Would This French Goalkeeper Solve Liverpool’s Problems Between the Sticks?

We teamed up with Timothy Bailey, an expert tipster over at FootballPredictions.com. According to his insights Liverpool have had a problem in goal since the days of Pepe Reina, and the summer arrival of Loris Karius has only complicated the situation further, rather than giving the club an established number one.

Simon Mignolet and Karius have shared the burden of the goalkeeping jersey but according to reports, Liverpool could again look to improve their options in this position with the addition of a new signing.

Ruffier is 30 years old and has been involved in the national team set up on numerous occasions, but has only 3 caps having been stuck behind the likes of Hugo Lloris and Steve Mandanda over the last decade. Ruffier has been a mainstay in the Saint-Etienne eleven over the last 6 years, notching up a stunning 190 appearances. Before that he racked up more than 100 appearances for Monaco.

Liverpool fans may be a bit hesitant about invest in another goalkeeper that is not quite of the highest calibre. I would suggest that Ruffier is very talented and a more reliable number 1 than both Mignolet and Karius – however like Karius, he would need a period of time to adapt to the Premier League. Karius was one of the best goalkeepers in Germany, a league that is arguably stronger than France. The Premier League is a completely different environment, and it has proven on many occasions to take a long time for players to adapt to the league, particularly goalkeepers.

You could say that if Liverpool are just going to go and buy another foreign keeper, they would be better sticking with Loris Karius and trusting his potential to come through at some stage. We saw at Manchester United, David De Gea seriously struggle in his first few months at the club. Despite excelling in Spain, he really struggled to adapt to English football and that led to many pundits and fans writing him off. Now, the Spaniard is widely considered as the best goalkeeper in the league and perhaps even the whole world.

Ruffier is 30 years old and unlikely to improve in the future. I feel Liverpool would need to be sure he will be a substantial improvement on Karius to invest in him – otherwise they would be better allowing Karius to improve, because unless he goes out on loan, his progression will stagnate playing on the bench every week.

The best option may be signing a Premier League proven goalkeeper. I’m surprised Liverpool aren’t interested in Asmir Begovic. The Bosnian international was a top quality goalkeeper at Stoke, and is said to be keen on finding first team football again, as he is now consistently stuck behind Thibaut Courtois in the pecking order.

Chelsea, Arsenal or Manchester United? A Look At Where Lukaku Will Be Next Season

Romelu Lukaku revealed he would not extend his contract and in an interview, appeared to question Everton’s lack of ambition. The Belgian forward would like to extend his career and move to a bigger European club. 
Manager Ronald Koeman was not happy on Thursday when discussing his star striker.

‘Of course I’m not happy about that interview because first, if Everton is not a club with a lot of ambition I wouldn’t be the manager,’ Koeman said.

‘The second – and I spoke with Rom this morning – is I know it’s difficult, if you’re a player, prepare yourself to play good and score goals. He is one of the best.

‘The rest needs to be done by the manager and board.

‘First you speak with the player, then the board and we’ll see what happens. We have time to decide what we need to do.

Will Lukaku score at the weekend when Everton welcome Hull City? Take a look at LBS.co.uk for the latest betting odds.

With Lukaku seemingly on the move in the summer, we look at 3 possible Premier League clubs that Lukaku could move to.

Arsenal

Arsenal have lacked a natural number 9 for some time now and Lukaku could be the answer. My worry with him is he is lacking a quality first touch and I think that could see him struggle in Arsenal’s system.

This is perhaps the destination where Lukaku is most likely to get first team football. Arsenal have Olivier Giroud and Alexis Sanchez as options through the middle, but Alexis could be on his way in the summer and Giroud will be 31 this year. Lukaku could easily make the number 9 spot his own at Arsenal, whilst there would be more competition at Chelsea and Manchester United. Remember he left Chelsea originally due to a lack of first team football.

Chelsea

Could a return to his old club be on the horizon? Lukaku would need first team assurances so that would force Conte to change to a 2-man attack, or perhaps part ways with Diego Costa. Costa almost left the club in January with interest from China and Atletico Madrid unsettling the forward, so he could possibly be on his way in the summer. That’d open the door for a Lukaku return.

Manchester United

United could be on the lookout for a striker in the summer, especially if Zlatan does’t extend his current contract. However I think a move is unlikely, as there is Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford also competing with Zlatan for a central role currently. Rashford and Martial are both already reportedly unsettled by their lack of game time, so adding another top striker to the mix would surely unsettle the talented youthful duo.

‘Shocking Performance’ Football Fans On Twitter Criticise Manchester United Midfielder

It was a miserable night for Manchester United as they crashed out of the FA Cup in the quarter-final of the competition.

Ander Herrera may have been the man to really let United down by picking up two silly bookings, but it was Paul Pogba who frustrated the fans most as the Frenchman once again failed to deliver in a big match.

Despite pretty much all fans saying Pogba was poor against Chelsea, Mourinho amazingly declared Pogba ‘the best player on the pitch’. There was one player that was certianly better, and that was N’Golo Kante.

The international compatriot of Pogba arrived at Chelsea for just a margin of Pogba’s fee, but Kante has been the more impressive player all season and the difference in form showed in this game. One area Pogba is perhaps regarded as being better than Kante is in attacking areas, but in this FA Cup game, Kante was even more effective than Pogba in the final third. Kante scored the only goal of the game with a long-range effort that crept past De Gea into the bottom corner.

There’s been criticism from United fans themselves, rival fans and pundits. Here’s a sample of the reaction…

Pogba is starting to have one too many poor performances and when you cost £89million, that is something you really cannot afford to do. The likes of Mesut Ozil do not get away with it and Ozil cost less than half of what Pogba did. He’s still young, but Pogba needs to start making the difference in the big games sooner rather than later.

I do have a bit of sympathy for Pogba on this occasion because Herrera let him down early in the game getting those two bookings. It is hard enough having to handle Kante with a fully stocked midfield, but when one gets sent off it makes it pretty much impossible. Pogba’s attacking influence was restricted and he was forced to chase the game and work hard defensively, not his forte’ to say the least.

All The Arsenal Players Rated Out Of 10 For Performance vs. Liverpool

All the Arsenal players rated for their performance vs. Liverpool below. 

Petr Cech – 4
Couldn’t do much about the goals, didn’t do anything positive to catch the eye, though.

Hector Bellerin – 6
A quick option down the Arsenal right and they utilised him more in the second half. His delivery could’ve been a bit better when in attacking situations.

Laurent Koscielny – 6
Not the best showing from Koscielny, who, like most of the team, was at sea in the first half.

Skhodran Mustafi – 7
Was part of Arsenal’s defensive shambles in the first half, but I think he had a good game overall. Made some important tackles and going forward he delivered some good passes, almost leading to goals. Some good interceptions to stop a fast Liverpool attacking force.

Nacho Monreal – 4
Really struggled to deal with Mane’s pace and trickery. For the 2nd goal he was completely out of position, leaving Mane unmarked to bury the second goal. That was unforgivable for a player with his experience.

Francis Coquelin – 2
When was his last good game? A horrific performance, losing the ball regularly and picking up a yellow card before being hauled off at half time.

Granit Xhaka – 4
Xhaka struggled to deal with the pace of Liverpool. He was better in possession than Coquelin but that wasn’t hard. Improved in the second half when Ox was his partner.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – 5
The Ox was put on the wing, weirdly considering his recent performances centrally. Was poor in the first half, moved central in the second half and improved.

Alex Iwobi – 2
Like Coquelin, was truly woeful. Two players who have been very poor in recent weeks, but two players who continue to be selected in the line up. It’s baffling, one of several baffling decisions Arsene Wenger continues to make.

Danny Welbeck – 7.5
A good performance from Welbeck. He offers power and pace and his 2nd half goal gave the Arsenal team hope and lifted everyone’s performance. He is perhaps our most in form player at the moment, which is quite worrying considering he has been out for a year.

Olivier Giroud – 4
Tested Mignolet once with a decent header, held the ball up a few times, but ultimately he was ineffective.

Subs

Alexis Sanchez – 7
Why was he on the bench? You’d have to guess something has happened behind the scenes because it just doesn’t make sense. He came on and completely changed the dynamic for Arsenal, and he notched an assist for Welbeck’s goal.

Lucas Perez – 5
Will have felt aggrieved not to have started the game, but was given 20 minutes at the end. Struggled to do anything of note.

Theo Walcott – 5
Like Lucas, came on for the last 20 minutes. Was ineffective aside from producing a run that should have resulted in Emre Can being sent off, but the ref bottled the decision.

‘He’s Out Of Position’ Liverpool Fans Beg For Jurgen Klopp To Make This Tactical Change

It was a dismal Liverpool performance against Leicester City, and some fans have had enough of one of Jurgen Klopp’s decisions.

Liverpool have needed a left back for some time but after moves for the likes of Jonas Hector broke down, James Milner has been shoehorned into the left back position. It worked for a while, but after another poor performance against Leicester City, it seems teams are targeting his lack of pace and it is leaving Jurgen Klopp’s side heavily exposed at the back.

The only natural left back in the Liverpool squad currently is Alberto Moreno, and he is very poor at defending, so much so that Milner replaced him in the first place. It speaks volumes that Milner has kept his place at left back after a series of underwhelming performances.

But Milner’s performance against Leicester was particularly poor. He could’ve done more to prevent two of the three goals scored by the home side – and he was ineffective offensively as well. Many Liverpool fans would like to see Milner moved into midfield. He is a good central midfielder and players like Emre Can are struggling to perform in that position. A central position plays to Milner’s strengths, on the face of it he is no way suited to a full back role. The only benefit of him being there is his stamina, which allows for him to get up and down the pitch –  surely this would be better utilised in central midfield though?

Here’s some reaction to Milner’s performance against Leicester City on Monday night.

I think Milner still has a part to play in the Liverpool squad, he’s decent cover at left back and also a senior presence that adds a calmness to the midfield when he plays there.

Liverpool certainly need to sign a new left back, but for now they need to find an internal solution. Milner is definitely not the best internal solution, at least not for certain games. Klopp must find the solution.

Against Arsenal it will be intriguing to see how Liverpool line up. Arsene Wenger isn’t one for lining his team up to exploit the weaknesses of others, but surely looking at Milner in recent weeks, Wenger would try and target that. Theo Walcott is the obvious pacey candidate to cause him problems and if Theo starts, surely Klopp will favour the quick Moreno. Putting Milner up against Walcott could have catastrophic consequences.

‘He Was Woeful’ Manchester United Fans Unhappy With Midfielder’s Performance vs. Southampton

Manchester United were victorious in the EFL Cup final on Sunday, but it didn’t stop some fans from feeling annoyed at some of the United players.

In all honesty, Southampton were probably the better team, or at least, their players performed better. A team of United’s calibre would wipe Southampton aside with relative ease if they performed to their potential, but they didn’t. One player who underperformed in particular was world record signing Paul Pogba. Southampton’s Oriol Romeu was the standout midfield performer.

There was no such criticism for Zlatan Ibrahimovic though. The match winner, who cost United nothing, helped them win another important game. He has definitely been a more important and more productive player in comparison to Pogba this season, although the Frenchman is obviously a lot younger and has a lot more time to try and repay his transfer fee.

United didn’t have the hardest run to the League Cup final to say the least, and although they were tested in the final, they were somewhat fortunate to win the game in 90 minutes. Mourinho will have ambitions to finish inside the top four and win the FA Cup and Europa League – to do that the team will need to play better than they did against Southampton and the fans will hope to see Pogba emerge as a more effective player in the big games like these. When you pay that much money for a player, I don’t think it is unreasonable to ask for them to make the difference in the games that matter.

Here’s some of the reaction to Pogba’s performance vs. Southampton

In my opinion, Pogba has played fairly well this season and has been one of the clubs better players. He hasn’t stood out as much as you would like or perhaps expect from a player that cost so much. You may expect Messi or Ronaldo effects on the team, but let’s remember he is a midfielder and he is a young midfielder, who will surely only improve season on season.

He does need to improve in the big games. People criticise the likes of Mesut Ozil for failing to make a difference in the big games, but Pogba cost more than twice as much and should be criticised and held accountable just as much as Ozil, if not more.

Luckily for Pogba, United got away with his poor performance but against a team of greater quality, I doubt they will be as lucky. Time to step up.

‘He Must Start Every Game’ Chelsea Fans Impressed With Midfielder vs. Swansea

Chelsea managed to get past a resilient Swansea City side on Saturday with a 3-1 win. The Welsh side grew into the game after scoring an eqauliser against the run of play and at 1-1, the game could have gone either way. But Chelsea again found a way to win and move comfortably 11 points clear at the top of the league. Cesc Fabregas came in for Nemanja Matic and he proved to be the player that made all the difference on the day.

Fabregas has had to sit on the bench for much of the season but his performances in recent weeks will have done his chances no harm whatsoever. Alongside Kante, Fabregas has more creative freedom to roam and make the difference in possession – the duo compliment each other extremely well and we are certainly seeing a more confident and better Fabregas next to Kante rather than Matic.

Cesc was the heartbeat of the Chelsea team, with 127 touches during the game – crucially he picked up a goal and an assist. The Spaniard is a much more creative option than Matic and that was shown not only with his goal and assist but also with his 5 key passes.

He completed a huge 108 passes with a 86% success rate – that’s more passes than anyone else on the pitch. Despite playing in a central position, he attempted 7 crosses, and 8 long balls with 5 of them accurate. Fabregas was not afraid to shoot either, he had more shots (5) than any other Chelsea player, with two of them finding the target.

Here’s how the Chelsea fans reacted to his performance on Twitter.

In my opinion Fabregas should be in the first team regularly, I think he has been better than Matic this season, although Matic of course has his benefits for when the game is more physical or Chelsea may be required to do more defending.

It’s great that Antonio Conte has options outside his first eleven though, as injuries could start to kick in in the latter stages of the season. Conte will also be keen to win the FA Cup and next up is Manchester United in the quarter final – he’ll certainly need his squad players to contribute then.

‘Our Best Player Is Out’ Manchester United Fans Fearful Ahead Of EFL Cup Final

Manchester United cruised through to the last 8 of the Europa League on Thursday night with a 1-0 away win against St. Etienne ensuring they won 4-0 on aggregate. However it wasn’t all good news for United. 

The gap in quality between the two sides was obvious and Henrikh Mkhitaryan was one player whose performance helped highlight the quality difference between the two sides. His goal was the only goal of the game and he scored it early to settle any nerves United may have had.

However the night ended early for Henrikh and on a sour note with Mkhitaryan going off injured in the 24th minute, the extent to his injury has not been revealed yet, but given his recent form the fans will be hoping it is nothing serious.

He only managed to make 11 touches during his time on the pitch and made 1 shot, which crucially hit the back of the net.

Aside from the goal, he didn’t look great before going off injured and that has led many to question whether he may have been carrying an injury before the game started. So is Mourinho to blame for his injury? Why did Jose potentially risk his fitness when the team had all but certainly advanced to the next round already thanks to their 3-0 first leg win. With the EFL Cup final coming up at the weekend, it makes the decision even more bemusing. Mourinho has also said that Carrick has no chance of playing in the EFL Cup final – so why did he feature vs. Saint-Etienne? It is obvious how important Carrick is to making United tick – so it is ridiculous to risk him just days before a final.

Here’s how some fans reacted to the midfielder’s performance and his injury. 

 

United have been drawn Rostov in the last 16 and Mourinho will surely be confident of advancing to the last 8 of the competition considering that draw.

Despite their terrible start to the Premier League under Mourinho, the team have a serious chance of winning 3 trophies this season under Mourinho – the EFL Cup, Europa League and the FA Cup. If Mourinho manages to land two of those trophies and finish in the top four then it would surely be a successful debut season for him at United.

With both Carrick and Mkhitaryan out of the final at the weekend, Manchester United’s chances of winning have surely fallen significantly. Should United’s midfield put in a lacklustre display in the final then there is only one man to blame…

Arsenal Reportedly Trying To Sign Chelsea Forward – Should Gunners Take The Risk?

Arsenal are monitoring Chelsea youngster Dominic Solanke’s contract stand-off in a bid to bring him to the Emirates Stadium this summer, according to Football.London.

The 19-year-old looks set to leave Stamford Bridge this summer after failing to agree terms on a new deal with his parent club, Chelsea. Solanke, who is reportedly on around £7,000 a week wanted his wage to be increased to £50,000 to commit to the club, an amount in which Chelsea are not willing to meet.

As the latter stages of the season kicks in and rumours start to pick up pace, a move could certainly be on the cards for the talented striker this summer with Antonio Conte admitting his destination will likely be away from the Blues this summer; “I think he will leave, I am not sure, but I think this is his will.”

Conte suggested he tried speaking to Solanke to understand his decision, but has concluded it is the norm in modern day football. “I have spoken with him to try to understand his decision. It is normal. We must have a great respect for every decision.”

In 2014 Solanke was named England Youth Player of the Year and has continued to blossom in his successful loan spell with Vitesse, scoring seven goals in 25 appearances.

Liverpool have been huge admirers of the England Under-21 international and with the track record in which Jürgen Klopp possesses with young players, would be an ideal signing for the reds this summer. But, according to Football.London, the possibility of switching to the Red side of London has become a real possibility with the Gunners being long-term admirers of the youth prospect.

Chelsea remain reluctant to bulk at the demands of Solanke and will likely sell him on in the summer and look at ready-made talent, with Alvaro Morata linked with a move to Stamford Bridge. But, the question marks arise around potential suitors also matching these needs of the player, especially with the Gunners not being known to splash the cash and not splashing flash on first team player’s contracts.

Solanke is demanding wages of a first team player but hasn’t made an impact since Conte’s arrival, failing to make a single appearance under the former Juventus boss.

Dealings between Arsenal/Chelsea will be a tough ask this summer, for a youth player or senior, rival clubs tend to block moves to one another however large the players are due to having that dominance on one another. But, Solanke may be keen to link up with Arsene Wenger (permitting he stays beyond this season) due to his morals in promoting youth players to the first team.

Football.London suggest Chelsea will be entitles to £8 million in compensation due to rules and regulations surrounding academy trained players. So for either Liverpool or Arsenal to cough up 8+ million pounds and 50,000 in salaries, I think this deal could be a very complicated one.

Solanke primarily plays as a #9 but can operate on either wing and in the #10 role, which highlights his versatile attacking approach which could be used in many ways for different set-ups and tactics. For someone who is just 19-years-old he has great physique and is very strong in possession, using this to have great ball retention too which highlights some of the youngsters qualities, and why he is gaining much attraction from top clubs.

Arsenal could be in the market for a new striker this summer with both Juventus and PSG sniffing around their star ma Alexis Sanchez, but Solanke will certainly not be a priority within the potential targets available. Instead, they must be looking elsewhere for a Edinson Cavani/Paulo Dybala type player to enhance the Gunners progress if they were to lose their Chilean.

The Chelsea youngster is far from the finished article, nor will he walk into the Arsenal starting XI but he would be a good investment if the Gunners pursued their interest. The North Londoners will be reluctant to pay his wage demands but will certainly give him opportunities in domestic cup competitions, something he is yet to experience under Conte.

Manchester United Transfer News: Forward Could Complete Big Money Move This Month

Manchester United have reportedly told Wayne Rooney he can choose if he wants to leave to go to China in the next week. 

The Chinese transfer deadline is on Tuesday and Rooney will have a chance to complete a big money move there before the deadline passes.

The news comes as an ‘exclusive’ from Yahoo, who are believed to be well connected.

With several reports linking United with a big money move for Antoine Griezmann in the summer, shifting Wayne Rooney off the wage bill would certainly help. Rooney is one of the highest earners at the club, believed to be earning around £300,000 per week.

It would be fair to say that his contribution on the field is not of such high value at this moment in time. United would be wise to move him on, but as the clubs highest goalscorer of all time, it is not that easy.

It’s hardly like Rooney is completely past it, he’s only 31, many professional footballers continue at the highest level well into their 30’s, you only have to look at Carrick, 35, who has made himself an important part of the United eleven this season.

That may make Rooney think twice before moving to China. If he waits til the summer to move, not only does he have a chance to win more trophies at the club, but he would be able to move to clubs of a higher caliber in the summer. If he doesn’t want to stay in England, I’m sure he wouldn’t be short of offers from the likes of Milan.

It’s understandable that United are making moving to China an option for Rooney. They will be aware that other European club would be unlikely to offer much money for him and also their wage offers are unlikely to tempt Rooney from his luxury lifestyle in Manchester. Chinese clubs would have no problems in matching his wage demands and United would probably receive a sizeable fee for him.

If the Griezmann stories are true, then United may have to break their own world record again to go and sign him. We are looking at around £100million, so if they can get £30million+ for a 31-year-old Rooney they will certainly be pleased.

Rooney must now decide if he wants to take one last payday and move to China, joining the others that have decided to cash in in Asia. He has a week to decide.

The latest reports from The Independent indicate that Rooney doesn’t want to move to China and is hoping an English club will match his wage demands in the summer. I can’t see that happening, personally.

What do you think he should do?

Player Ratings: Sutton 0-2 Arsenal

Arsenal were far from their best but they managed a professional 2-0 win against non-League Sutton United to move into the quarter-finals of the FA Cup. Here’s how their players rated.

David Ospina – 5

Didn’t make a save, but did look nervy when balls were lofted into the box, one particular flap attempt almost ended in disaster. Also passed the ball straight to a Sutton player.

Gabriel – 6

Nothing to do for much of the game, but got forward more than some may have expected, that was a positive and helped Arsenal retain the ball high up the pitch.

Skhodran Mustafi – 7

Thought it was a really strong performance from Mustafi, he was obviously up against much worse players than usual, but he needed to put in a commanding performance after the horror show in Bayern.

Rob Holding – 6.5

Holding was good for the most part, very composed on the ball. His one error was nearly punished, but other than that, another 90 minutes under his belt.

Nacho Monreal – 6

Dropped for Gibbs recently, Monreal had a quiet game – but did what he had to do and picked up an assist for Walcott’s goal.

Granit Xhaka – 7

A good controlling performance from Xhaka, one of the few to stand out for his passing, long and short, helped to keep Arsenal in control of the game. He also picked up an assist for the first goal.

Mohammed Elneny – 5

Off at half time, Elneny picked up an injury in the first half and had a very quiet game before that.

Jeff Rene-Adelaide – 3

Really poor from Jeff and one of the main negatives from the night. He tried too much and was rightly brought down to his level by some strong tackles from Sutton players.

Theo Walcott – 6

Very quiet performance, he managed to get his 100th goal for the club which will be a weight off his shoulders, but he needed to do more really against a lower league side.

Alex Iwobi – 4

Really poor from Iwobi, he has been extremely quiet in recent matches and his struggles continued tonight as he didn’t manage to get to grips with the quick, artificial pitch.

Lucas Perez – 7

Lucas was one of Arsenal’s brightest sparks, working hard offensively and defensively and getting his reward by scoring the opening goal. It may have been a cross, but it was whipped in with conviction and the Spaniard got his reward.

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.