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.

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.

Manchester United Fans Say Midfielder ‘Needs To Play Every Game’ After Great Performance vs. Reading

It was a comfortable afternoon for Manchester United as they made light work of Championship high-flyers Reading by winning 4-0 at Old Trafford in Saturday’s early kick-off.

There were several standout performers for Manchester United on the day, but one player who received lots of praise from the fans post-match was Anthony Martial, a player who has been used sparingly under Jose Mourinho.

A fans favourite since he signed, many have been bemused as to why he has not played more often, but this performance will have surely done his chances no harm. Originally a striker, Martial has been pushed out to the left wing at United and it looks as if that will be his long term position. He will be competing with Marcus Rashford, a player with similar attributes, strengths and weaknesses and also a player who can play in both his positions.

The only personal issue perhaps for Martial is that even though he scored and played very well, his teammate and competitor for his position, Rashford, scored a brace and continued to impress his manager. Mourinho publicly praised Rashford’s contributions post-match.

Martial took 4 shots, 3 of which hit the target. He was also creative, making 3 key passes. The other aspect to Martial’s game is his physicality, he managed to win 3 aerial duels.

He got on the scoresheet, but that was not Martial’s only contribution. The Frenchman was a menace for the Reading defence all afternoon and certainly will have made Jose Mourinho consider playing him more frequently.

Here’s some of the fans reaction to Martial’s performance. 

Manchester United spent an awful lot of money on Martial, and they cannot forget that. Mourinho needs to ensure he maximises the potential of a player with a huge amount of it. A run out in the FA Cup is nice, but Martial deserves more than that. He has surely earned a regular place in the team, perhaps not from what he’s done under Mourinho (has he had a chance?) but what he did in his first season at the club. What worries me is whether he is going to be given that game time that he deserves at a club that continues to look for external improvements. Henrikh Mkhitaryan was signed in the summer and Antoine Griezmann is reportedly being lined up. If they’ve got the money, you can’t criticise the club for spending it, however when they have young talent like Martial and Rashford, surely developing that duo would be a better idea that continuing to invest?

That’s the view of me, not a United fan. I’d love to hear what United fans think about this, should both Rashford and Martial be featuring more regularly?

Robbie Savage Names These 2 Manchester United Players In His Team Of The Season So Far

Writing for The Mirror, former footballer Robbie Savage had his say on the team of the season so far. Despite their mediocre performances to date, Jose Mourinho’s men were fairly well represented. 

He seemed to be rather generous to Manchester United, naming two of their players in his eleven. Controversially, he decided that no Liverpool player had made the grade, and that infuriated their fanbase.

Michael Carrick was given the nod in midfield, ahead of the likes of N’Golo Kante and Adam Lallana. The English midfielder has really helped change United’s fortunes in recent weeks, but he has only played around half of his teams games this season – leading many to believe that he hasn’t warranted a space in the team.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic was also selected in the team, which was given a 433 formation, the Swede was placed alongside Alexis Sanchez and Diego Costa in the line up. Liverpool fans felt that Sadio Mane may have been a better fit in the side, especially as Savage had previously suggested that Mane may be the signing of the summer (ahead of Zlatan).

Carrick has no doubt been influential, as has Zlatan, but whilst they have been good, it is understandable that many disagree with them being placed in the team of the season so far. The bemusement of many fans is that Savage only included 1 Arsenal, 0 Liverpool, 0 Tottenham and 2 Manchester City players – all clubs which sit ahead of United in the league currently.

If Carrick and Zlatan continue their good form and help United get closer to the summit of the Premier League then their inclusions will be a bit more understandable, but for now it does seem a little biased to include both.

Kante, Lallana and Mane have all been incredible this season and influential in helping their teams to the top of the Premier League. For me, all three of those players deserve to be in the team ahead of Carrick at this moment in time. Kante has continued his form from his Leicester City days and continues to be an integral part of his team, whilst Lallana has improved tremendously under Jurgen Klopp – he already has 6 Premier League goals and 6 Premier League assists this season, proving that he can be an incredibly productive midfielder.

The team represented with the most players was Chelsea, with Costa, Azpilicueta, Luiz and Hazard all in Savage’s 11 – so even without Kante, Conte’s men have 4 players in the team.

5 Changes, Holding Starts: Arsenal’s Predicted XI vs. West Brom On Boxing Day

Arsenal host West Brom on boxing day in what is already surely a must win if they wish to remain in the hunt for the title. The Gunners have had a catastrophic last week, losing two away games whilst all their title rivals picked up maximum points. 

Now Arsenal need to pick themselves up and respond. There’s no use feeling sorry for yourself, you need to go and prove everyone wrong. The team selection is critical, with many of the current first eleven proving to let the team down in recent games, surely Wenger will be looking to change it up a bit.

Goalkeeper: Petr Cech

I think Cech is certain to keep his place, however he needs to be careful. Letting that shot in at his near post from Sterling may have made Wenger think twice. Ospina has been brilliant when he’s played this season and Cech has looked far from his best. Wenger may be forced to drop Cech should he continue to have an error-prone season.

Defence: Hector Bellerin, Rob Holding, Laurent Koscielny, Kieran Gibbs

The defence NEEDS changing. Arsenal’s haven’t managed to keep a clean sheet in months and that is simply not good enough for a team with ambitions to win the title. Gabriel and Koscielny as a duo just doesn’t work – they are too similar in style. Summer signing Rob Holding deserves a chance to play alongside Koscielny – it worked in Basel and the Englishman has looked very composed and much more a Mustafi replacement when he has played. On the left-hand side I will be very disappointed should Gibbs not be given a start in this game. Monreal has looked fatigued and poor all season, whilst whenever Gibbs has had the chance to impress, he normally has. He needs more game time and the team needs some fresh legs, so that is the change that makes the most sense of all to me.

Midfield: Granit Xhaka, Mohammed Elneny; Lucas Perez, Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez

Midfield is another area that needs tweaking, in my opinion. Coquelin and Xhaka hasn’t worked too well and at home, I think we need to go for it a bit more. Dropping Coquelin for Elneny makes sense for me. The Egyptian has a bit more going forward, he’s full of energy and his passing is very reliable. That makes him a good partner for Xhaka who prefers to sit deeper, dictate and use his physicality. When Coquelin plays alongside Xhaka he is often pushed forward and it doesn’t really work due to the Frenchman’s limitations. Elneny would be more comfortable and effective in those more advanced areas. Elneny deserves a chance with his teammates struggling in the last couple of games and the team equally needs some fresh legs. On the right, Lucas Perez really deserves a start. The Spaniard has impressed when he’s been given a chance this season, but his game time has been really limited. With the likes of Chamberlain and Walcott struggling lately, now is the time for Lucas to come in and prove his worth. I’d shift Alexis back to the left for this one and keep Ozil in the hole.

Striker: Olivier Giroud

I think Giroud will get the nod in this game to help counteract the physical threat posed by West Brom. The Gunners do play better when Alexis Sanchez starts through the middle, but the last couple of performances have been poor and it is only fair to give Giroud, who has done well when he’s played, a chance.

Iwobi for Ox & 2 More Changes Arsenal Should Make For Manchester City Clash

Arsenal suffered their first defeat since the opening day of the season on Tuesday night as they let a 1-0 lead slip at Goodison Park and lost 2-1. The Gunners were very poor in truth and started to look a little fatigued. With Mustafi out injured,  the Gunners seriously struggled to dominate defensively and therefore invited pressure and in the end let two headers in. Things need to change for the game against Manchester City – here’s three changes Arsene Wenger should make. 

1. Alex Iwobi for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

Iwobi has not been in the best of form recently, but after Oxlade-Chamberlain poor performance against Everton, I feel the Nigerian would benefit from coming back into the line up. Iwobi has a lot of talent and can play well in central areas as well as wide, and that’s why I’d opt for him ahead of Chamberlain on the left. He gives us a bit more control of the midfield in attacking areas, and the Gunners really struggled to get that at Goodison Park this week. With all these games over this busy winter period, it is also very important to keep things fresh and rotate – especially in midfield.

He Made The Difference: Manchester United Fans Druel Over ‘Immense’ Midfielder’s Performance vs. Crystal Palace

Manchester United continued their mini-resurgence with a hard-fought 2-1 win away at Crystal Palace on Wednesday night. Whilst Jose Mourinho’s men were not at their best, there was one player that really helped them get the 3 points. 

Paul Pogba was absolutely immense for Manchester United on the night, scoring the first and assisting the second goal, but those were not his only contributions in what was a near faultless performance. Pogba won 100% of his tackles, 6 aerial duels, 4 take ons and managed 4 shots, with one crucially giving United the lead.

Pogba is effective both offensively and defensively and he showed that against Palace, making 4 key passes, 6 clearances, 2 interceptions and 2 tackles.

Pogba was involved heavily in the build-up for United, completing a huge 93 passes with a fairly impressive 82.8% accuracy rate. The Frenchman has never been the neatest in possession and he wasn’t again on Wednesday, but he is a different and unique breed of midfielder. Combining defensive & technical ability with athleticism, he completed 4 of his 5 attempted long balls and 1/1 through ball. Despite playing centrally, Pogba still managed to attempt 2 crosses – highlighting how he was involved all over the pitch and central to everything United did.

To be honest it is about time that Pogba produced such a dominating, match-winning performance. Costing the club £90million, his influence this season has been limited to date and the club certainly need him to make the difference in games like these more regularly. Mourinho will also surely want to see the club’s record signing produce performances like these in the big matches against their title rivals.

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

I must admit, Pogba’s performance on Wednesday night was excellent. He finally produced a performance that justifies the price that United have paid for him. Whilst I think he has been good for United since signing, he has been great, enough of the time. Like any player that moves from a foreign league, there is a settling in period and Pogba is not immune to that. It may be the case now that he has fully settled and is ready to step up and produce more World Class performances like he did on Wednesday night.

That’s the key thing: when you pay so much for a player you need them to win you points, making the difference in games where you don’t play brilliantly. Mourinho may say otherwise, but United were far from brilliant against Crystal Palace and without Pogba on the pitch I severely doubt that they would’ve picked up all three points.

Arsenal Fans Label This Midfielder ‘A Disgrace’ After Terrible Everton Performance

Arsenal’s long Premier League unbeaten run came to an end on Tuesday night as they fell to a 2-1 defeat at Goodison Park, and there were some very poor performances from a number of Arsenal players on the night. 

One player in particular to pick up criticism was Theo Walcott. The Englishman has been in improved form this season but he still lacks consistency and that was particularly evident in this fixture where he literally failed to turn up.

Playing on the right wing, Walcott just couldn’t get into the game and was removed with around 20 minutes to go.

Walcott had an extremely quiet night, completing just 14 passes with a 71.4% accuracy rate. He was also at fault for allowing Baines to cross the ball for Coleman’s first half equaliser. Although he raced to close down Baines, Theo was weak in the tackle and that allowed Baines the space to swing in a delightful cross and spark Everton’s resurgence into the game.

Unfortunately for Walcott, the bad statistics do not end there… Offensively he completed 0 dribbles, 0 through balls, 0 key passes and 0 shots on target. It truly was like he wasn’t even there.

Here’s some of the reaction to Theo’s performance on Twitter. 

Personally I have never been Theo’s biggest fan. His form this season was very good at the start, but it has faded and when he goes missing like he did on Tuesday night, it makes it extremely difficult for Arsenal to win games, it’s like playing with one less player. Don’t get me wrong, he wasn’t the only one. Mesut Ozil was very poor, as was Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, but after more than 10 years at the club, you would expect better from Walcott and he is running out of lifelines. The likes of Iwobi, Lucas Perez and Danny Welbeck (when fit again) will surely be pushing to take his place if he is to put in more performances like he did against Everton.

It continues to be a problem for Arsenal that very few players are consistent. There also seems to be an overwhelming effect on the team when one player is missing – in today’s case it was Skhodran Mustafi. The German helps dictate the way Arsenal play from the back, therefore having a big influence at both ends of the field. Arsenal certainly missed his authority in defensive areas for the two goals they conceded. Sadly, the Gunners have at least 3 more games before their summer signing will return to fitness. Wenger needs to find a solution and by Sunday.

He Made The Difference: Everton Fans Label This Man ‘Incredible’ In 2-1 Win Over Arsenal

Everton managed an important 2-1 win at home to Arsenal on Tuesday night, and there were much-improved performances from a host of Everton players.

With 1 win in the last 8 games before this fixture, it looked like it was going to be another grim evening for Everton when Alexis Sanchez saw his free-kick deflected to give the Gunners an early lead in the game.

But Everton responded extremely well and one players performance that particularly caught the eye was that of the much maligned Ross Barkley. Barkley has come under a lot of criticism this season, with Ronald Koeman himself even publicly shaming the midfielder for his lack of effort.

But he was trusted from the start for this fixture and he did not disappoint. Up against the defensive figures of Granit Xhaka and Francis Coquelin, Barkley produced a dominating performance on the night to respond to his managers criticism.

He was influential throughout, helping his side create sustained pressure in the Arsenal half and picking up Lukaku knock-downs regularly. He also bagged the assist for the Ashley Williams winner.

Barkley made 73 touches in the 90 minutes, which is a lot for any player against Arsenal. This stat shows how he was involved more than usual – he was made 3 key passes, highlighting his ability to be creative.

More impressive statistics from his performance include 3 dribbles completed, 5/9 long balls and 77.1% pass accuracy. Defensively he made 2 tackles and 1 clearance to highlight how he can be effective at both ends of the pitch. If he can perform like this against Arsenal, a team with great midfielders, then there is certainly hope that he can continue to improve and realise his huge potential at Everton.


Here’s how people reacted on Twitter to the Englishman’s performance.

In my opinion, aged 23 now is the time for Barkley to really stand up and prove himself. He needs to become more than just potential and to do that he needs to be producing these kind of performances on a consistent basis, proving both his fitness and his quality.

Karius or Mignolet? The Liverpool Predicted Lineup To Face Middlesbrough Tomorrow

Liverpool return to action on Wednesday evening, hoping to bounce back following their 2-2 stalemate with West Ham on Sunday. The previous two games against Bournemouth and the Hammers add increased importance to the Middlesbrough match in mid-week, as Jurgen Klopp looks to get his side back to their best.

With Loris Karius finding himself at the heart of heavy criticism from fans and pundits alike, the young German keeper could find himself out of the side in place of Simon Mignolet. The decision seems to be one of the lesser of two evils, rather than of the better quality offered by either player.

Neither goalkeeper exudes confidence to their defenders and at present, the questions being asked by Karius are not being answered. Nonetheless, Jurgen Klopp has made it clear that he has faith in his summer acquisition, and it seems there is no way back for Mignolet.

Dejan Lovren came off at half time against West Ham following a hamstring issue, meaning he is likely to miss out on Wednesday. Ragnar Klavan seems the most appropriate replacement for the Croatian, with Lucas Leiva another player who could come in to do a job at the back. Mamadou Sakho’s Liverpool career seems to be over and I can’t see any involvement for the Frenchman, despite calls from some fans for him to be reinstated.

Liverpool will also be without Daniel Sturridge, who has missed the last few games due to a calf knock. The England international has registered just 28 minutes in the month of December since moving to Anfield four years ago, emphasising his injury woes. With Philippe Coutinho also on the recovery table, Klopp’s attacking options are running pretty thin at the moment, and thus the responsibility will fall on the trio of Adam Lallana, Roberto Firmino and Divock Origi.

Predicted Lineup

Loris Karius

Nathaniel Clyne, Ragnar Klavan, Joel Matip, James Milner

Jordan Henderson, Georginio Wijnaldum, Adam Lallana

Sadio Mane, Divock Origi, Roberto Firmino

Emre Can missed out at the weekend due to a small knock and with rumours suggesting he will be out once again, a midfield trio of Henderson, Wijnaldum and Lallana seems likely. I can’t see much variation in the side from the weekend with the current injury constraints to the side, so it will be up to the same eleven to get the three points for Liverpool.

If they can shut out the current individual errors within the side, and display the attacking spark that they have so many times this season, Liverpool will be hard to stop on Wednesday night against Middlesbrough.  However, Jurgen Klopp’s side have been rather poor of late and a fixture against a newly promoted side who have already taken points from Manchester City and Arsenal, shouldn’t be underestimated.

Gibbs Starts, Mustafi Out: The 4-2-3-1 Arsenal Line-Up That Can Beat Everton

Arsenal will travel to Everton on Tuesday night and they will face a Ronald Koeman team that is not in good form. 

Traditionally an away trip to Everton is a tough game, but Arsenal would surely be very disappointed should they not pick up another 3 points on Tuesday as they chase the title.

Here’s the eleven I expect Arsenal to field and I think that should Wenger opt to do so, the Gunners can take all three points from the game.

Goalkeeper: Petr Cech

Big Pete still can’t save penalties BUT, he is a good goalkeeper, a very good one actually and his selection between the sticks is all but certain. The pressure from Ospina for his place will hopefully see Cech play at his best.

Defence: Hector Bellerin, Gabriel Paulista, Laurent Koscielny, Kieran Gibbs

Bellerin is back fit again and that is great news, however Mustafi’s injury prevents Arsenal from being full strength at the back. Gabriel is likely to move into the centre of defence, just as he did against Stoke. The Brazilian is a little erratic defensively at times and his defensive positioning does worry me a little. But his stable performances at right back has seen him earn a chance to impress in Mustafi’s absence. He needs to play well with Holding and soon Mustafi and Mertesacker will return so Gabriel needs to impress if he wishes to feature regularly in the future.

Defensive Midfield: Granit Xhaka, Francis Coquelin

Both players are reasonably fresh with Coquelin never going away on international duty and Xhaka only used sparingly in the season’s opening stages. This means they are more than capable of playing against Everton and again against Manchester City. Keeping these two in the middle will also allow for a build in consistency as the team recover from the long-term loss of Santi Cazorla.

Attacking Midfield: Theo Walcott, Mesut Ozil, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

I see no real need to change the attacking set up. It was a really good performance from Oxlade-Chamberlain and Walcott at the weekend, with the former getting a great assist and the latter another goal, his 10th of the season. Ozil also scored and is showing that he is a much bigger goal threat this season. Alex Iwobi will be pushing to win back his first-team place after scoring in consecutive games. He also scored in his last visit to Goodison Park so Wenger will surely be tempted to select him, but Oxlade-Chamberlain deserves to retain his place too. The competition for places is good and it will be good to have either of them as an effective substitute.

Striker: Alexis Sanchez

He was rested for the final stages of the home game against Stoke and that is because Wenger knows that Arsenal need a fit and firing Alexis in order to have a real chance of winning the Premier League. He is the star man for Arsenal and with Chelsea setting the pace so highly, Alexis needs to continue his quality performances to keep the team at the top.

Manchester United’s Reported Summer Transfer Target Available For Just £5million In January

Jose Fonte could be on the verge of leaving Southampton after the club refused to offer him a long-term contract in addition to a pay rise, but the club refused to extend his deal beyond 2018. 

The centre-back’s current deal runs until 2018, and the 32-year-old now looks like he wants to leave St. Mary’s after a contract dispute, leaving Manchester United on red alert, who are reportedly interested in his services. The defender is also upset by the fact he does not feature in the Europa League for the Saints – a competition they are not out of.

MaisFutbol, a Portuguese publication claim that Southampton will be willing to sell up if they receive a bid upwards of £5m, which is more than within Manchester United’s capabilities.

Manchester United were widely linked with Fonte in the summer, so, of course this news is likely to have alerted Mourinho.

Would Fonte be an upgrade on what United currently have at centre-back?

Due to injuries, Jose Mourinho has had to revert to a centre-back partnership of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo. This has worked well recently, but when all fit, Chris Smalling and Eric Bailly are likely to be Mourinho’s first choice centre-backs. So, how do they compare to Jose Fonte, and would the Southampton man be an upgrade on what United already have?

In terms of tackles won, Fonte wins on average 1.23 tackles per game, and that sits right in between Smalling and Bailly. The Englishman wins just 0.43 tackles per game, Bailly winning the most 1.78. However, Smalling loses the least tackles, also 0.43 per game, Fonte and Bailly both lose 1.44 and 1.46 tackles per game respectively.

Eric Bailly is the best at bringing the ball out confidently from the back, successfully completing 85.71% of take-ons. Fonte completes 50%, whereas Smalling has failed to complete any take-ons this season in the seven Premier League games he has played in this season.

However, Smalling wins the most aerial duels out of the lot. He wins 78.26% of his aerial duels, Fonte wins 58.49% whereas Bailly wins the least with 53.33%. In terms of total duels, Smalling also wins the most with 70.59% of his total duels, Fonte wins 51.30%, again Bailly wins the least with 50% of total duels.

Looking at the stats, it looks like Fonte would bring the best of both worlds. He wins for duels than Bailly, but more tackles than Smalling. With United struggling to see out games, they could really do with another defender at the club. At the price of just above £5m, I think that Jose Fonte would be an excellent signing for Mourinho and Manchester United.

‘By Far The Worst In The League’ Liverpool Fans Have Had Enough Of This Summer Signing Already

Liverpool’s goalkeeper has once again come under severe criticism for a below-par display against West Ham United on Sunday night. 

Liverpool took an early lead through Adam Lallana and it looked as if it would be another straightforward win for the home side, especially considering they were playing against a Hammers side that has been severely lacking confidence and results of late.

But despite Liverpool’s good start to the season, one player who is severely lacking in confidence for them is Loris Karius. The summer signing was viewed as a solution to the problematic Simon Mignolet. But so far, the 23-year-old has offered no real improvement to the Belgian – with errors aplenty in recent weeks.

Last weekend Liverpool played Bournemouth and lost late on with Karius blamed for at least two of the 4 goals. Against West Ham, he was again arguably at fault for both of the Hammers 1st half goals. Playing as a goalkeeper, it is unforgiving when you make a mistake, but Liverpool cannot afford to have a goalkeeper in place that is costing them points each week.

Origi’s goal early in the second half saw Liverpool equalise but they could not find a 3rd goal and ultimately, Karius’ mistakes have cost Liverpool the three points on the day. Jurgen Klopp may need to consider given Mignolet his place back in the eleven, but he is just as much of a problem player it seems. Perhaps Klopp will have to again look to the transfer market to find a more experienced keeper that will at least solve this huge problem in the short term, because at this moment in time, Karius is not performing at a high enough level to be a goalkeeper of a team that wants to win the league.

As you might expect, the reaction to Karius’ performance has caused a lot of frustration on social media, especially from Liverpool fans. It seems some have already given up on their summer signing, despite his young age and the fact he has played very few games in England. Here’s a sample of the reaction on Twitter to the summer signings performance.

Is it time to give up on Karius? No, not in my opinion. He’s a young keeper with ability and he proved that in the Bundesliga, where he was comfortable. He’s only 23 and adapting to a new league and the new amount of pressure and expectation makes it very hard. Unlike players playing in other positions, goalkeepers cannot afford to have a settling in period, if they make a mistake it can cost their team 3 points per mistake, and that is disastrous for the team, especially with Liverpool chasing the title.

‘The Team Evolves Around Him’ Arsenal Midfielder Praised On Twitter After Stoke Performance

Arsenal moved to the top of the league on Saturday night after beating Stoke, and there was one player that the fans were talking about a lot after the game…

Arsenal’s £30million summer signing Granit Xhaka was selected alongside Francis Coquelin in the heart of the Gunners midfield as they looked to combat the physical threat offered by Stoke City. The defensive base

Although Xhaka gave away a controversial penalty, the Swiss international put in a brilliant all-round performance to help Arsenal to what was in the end, a comfortable 3-1 home win against an on form Stoke City side.

Xhaka’s statistics on the day were incredibly impressive. He completed 100% of his take ons and highlighted his ability to dictate the game from deep, completing 77 passes with an 88% accuracy rate. He also showed his physical and defensive ability, winning 4 aerial duels, 3 tackles and making 2 clearances.

What was impressive about Xhaka’s performance on the day was that he did not only make short passes to keep things ticking along, but he also showed good ability to create chances from deep, switching up his passing play with longer passes that created 2 clear chances. He attempted a huge 10 long balls with 6 of them being accurate.

The ability to be such an all-round midfielder has made Xhaka the hub of the Arsenal team. He seems to be the man to dictate possession and lead by example. With Santi Cazorla out injured for a few months, it was extremely important for Arsenal to find someone that was capable of this – Xhaka being able to do so will ensure that the Spaniard is not missed as much as many may have thought originally.

Here’s some reaction on Twitter to the Swiss international’s performance. 

… and some reaction from Xhaka himself…

Personally, I am over the moon with the signing of Xhaka. He has settled very quickly and looks better with every game. I think he has curbed his aggression somewhat and filtered it into the right kind of aggression that’s needed on the pitch. Arsenal needed a midfielder that could both dictate the game through good on the ball ability and also physically dominate. In Coquelin Arsenal have a physical but not technical midfielder and Cazorla is technical not physical, but Xhaka beautifully combines both. He’s a man with a tonne of experience already, but it is easy to forget that he is only 24 and his leadership skills and overall ability will continue to grow in the next 5 years. Arsenal have made a top class signing.

Arsenal Linked With January Move For West Ham Ace: Why He’d Be A Great Signing

Arsenal’s squad looks stronger than ever and considering their performance to date, the Gunners fans must surely be happy with the team’s performance and their summer activity in the transfer market.

But with the title race so close this season – Arsenal could always benefit from additional talent. But signing a player in January is always a risk, especially if it is a player that will have to adapt to a new league and possibly a new language – so winter signings can often have an adverse effect on momentum. But the possible signing I want to talk about is Dimitri Payet, who has been linked with a move to the club in recent weeks. The experienced West Ham midfielder rose to prominence last season and excelled in England and on the international stage at Euro 2016. But this season he has seriously struggled in a very poor West Ham team, he looks disinterested and appears to be pushing for a move away from the club. Aged 29 it would be understandable if Payet was eyeing a move to one of Europe’s bigger clubs before the sun sets on his career. West Ham are seriously struggling this season – after their European adventure was cut short, they are now languishing around the relegation zone and it does not look like they will be able to match the player’s ambitions moving forward – he wants to be playing Champions League football and his quality deserves it.

Should he become available I’m sure there would be a long list of admirers. The likes of Real Madrid and Paris-Saint Germain were linked in the summer, but if Arsene Wenger were to offer him an option to stay in England and London then I think he would certainly be interested.

Do Arsenal need Payet? Should he join the club I think he would have to settle for a role on the wing, but I think he can still play very well in that position. Whilst Arsenal do have plenty of wide options, they are all still very inexperienced and inconsistent, I think a player of Payet’s quality would certainly aid the squad in their title quest and in Europe moving forward. The likes of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Alex Iwobi and Jeff Reine-Adelaide would not see their development damaged too much with the arrival of Payet. Iwobi is still only 20 and has proven that this season he cannot perform at a high level consistently, he still has a lot to learn and players like Payet are brilliant to learn from. Jeff, aged 18, is not yet ready for the limelight – a loan spell would do him good. Whilst Arsenal are looking to give the Ox a new contract, the 23-year-old is also one who struggles for consistency. Welbeck (26),  Lucas (28) and Walcott (27) are the other wide options with Alexis Sanchez now finding his best form through the middle. Walcott and Welbeck can both be considered injury prone after their records in the recent past and Lucas is still settling in to English football, with his best form coming in the Champions League.

A player of Payet’s quality is always welcome in my opinion. He’s proven his quality in the Premier League and for France – and Wenger will not have missed that.

Yes Arsenal’s options would be crowded should Payet join, but Arsenal so often suffer from injury problems in the latter stages of the season and that derails their title challenge. They also struggle when trying to contend in Europe, the league and the FA Cup, with the squad being stretched and tired legs seeing the team drop points. Not only would Payet be an option out wide, but he’d provide a great rotation or backup option for Ozil at number 10. Arsenal have no natural replacement for the German should he suffer an injury and trying to shoehorn Ramsey or promote Jeff too quickly would surely not be a good idea. Payet could provide that extra bit of quality that helps Arsenal go all the way in the title race, and perhaps to the next stage in Europe.

Arsenal fans, would you pay £30million for Dimitri Payet should he become available for that price in January? Let me know in the comment section below.  

Ratings: How Manchester United’s Players Rated In 1-1 Draw vs. Everton

Manchester United once again failed to pick up three points this weekend and it will be a cause of frustration for many United fans. We take a look at how their players performed in the 1-1 draw with Everton. 

David De Gea – 7.5

Made a few crucial saves to ensure the three points went back to Old Trafford in a good performance.

Antonio Valencia – 6

As always, was an outlet going forward and was excellent defensively too against a dangerous Kevin Mirallas.

Phil Jones – 6

Since his return, he has been solid in the United defence and was once again impressive today against Lukaku, was solid in tackles and in the air and is giving Mourinho a headache for when Bailly is deemed fit to play.

Marcos Rojo – 6

Firstly, he should not have lasted the whole game and should have been sent off for an appalling challenge on Gueye, but apart from his horror challenge was very strong at the back for United and has surprisingly improved in recent weeks.

Matteo Darmian – 3

Darmian, for me, is woeful and proved to be woeful again today. He struggled tremendously defensively and doesn’t offer anything going forward, it must be a matter of time before Blind and Shaw take his spot.

Michael Carrick – 6.5

Finally, Mourinho has integrated Carrick into the starting XI and he is yet to disappoint, his intelligence and passing in the middle of the park is superb. Perhaps in January, with Carrick’s age in mind, Mourinho may be looking for a player of his ilk to take over at some stage, or at least share the burden. Jon Obi Mikel has been linked

Ander Herrera – 6

Herrera, who slotted alongside Carrick, was impressive again today, apart from his short pass to Rojo (which could have cost his team to lose a man) he was very good in the midfield and as always was bursting forward.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan – 8

Well, who thought this Armenian was so special, well, everyone did bar Mourinho. But, finally he has seen sense, when Henrikh is on the ball anything can happen, he was at the heart of everything good for United again today and was a headache for Everton all afternoon after another immense showing.

Paul Pogba – 4

The Frenchman struggled to make an impact throughout the 90 minutes and was wasteful in possession, Mourinho has yet to get the best out of Pogba but will need their most expensive signing ever to pick up in these types of games, he was not quick enough on the ball and struggled to make an impact, a poor showing.

Anthony Martial – 6

Firstly, lets touch on his exquisite assist for Ibra, it was a superb pass with sublime technique. He had a brilliant battle against Coleman, a 50:50 duel which was very pleasing on the eye for viewers.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic – 6.5

Apart from his wonderful goal to open the scoring, Ibra found himself dropping far too deep (again) to collect the ball, he did not offer too much after he opened the scoring. It’s not the first time that has been the case and Mourinho may have to pluck up the courage to remove Zlatan from the attack to improve the overall performance of his team. 

Subs

Marcus Rashford – N/A

Had little impact in the closing stages of the game.

Marouane Fellaini – 0

Woeful, embarrassing, disgrace. A few words to describe his laughable cameo, gave away a penalty after being on for 3 minutes in his 100th appearance for the club, turning out to be a disastrous one.

Midfielder Shines As Resilient Newcastle Are Edged By Nottingham Forest

Nottingham Forest overcome 9-man Newcastle 2-1 at the City Ground, but that only tells half the story…

Both Nottingham Forest and Newcastle came into this fixture with contrasting form; Forest were looking for their 3rd successive victory whilst Newcastle were still reeling after back-to-back defeats against Blackburn last weekend and Hull City in the midweek EFL Cup Quarter Final.

The game started in a very subdued manner, with Forest sitting back and allowing Newcastle to dictate the game in the hope they could catch them on the counter-attack as they did so impressively last week against Barnsley where they won 5-2, however, what was to follow was simply astonishing.

The chaos began in the 33rd minute where an inconspicuous tangle in the Newcastle box from a Forest corner saw the linesman flag for an infringement on Henri Lansbury; the referee duly picked up on this and under instruction from his linesman awarded Forest a penalty and sent off Jonjo Shelvey for kicking out at the Forest man. The decision was correct despite protests from Toon fans and players alike, however, this set the tone for a dismal display by Steve Martin. Jonjo Shelvey could now face a 5 match suspension on top of this 3 match ban if he is found guilty of racially abusing Wolves’ Roman Saiss on December 19th; the date of the hearing.

Nicklas Bendtner was to take the resulting penalty however his tame effort to the left of the mightily impressive Karl Darlow – who alongside Jamaal Lascelles was returning to the City Ground for the first time since joining the Magpies, was saved. Newcastle seemed to spring into action after the red card and should have taken the lead on 37 minutes but Ciaran Clark’s header was chalked off by the linesman after a perceived infringement on Matt Mills. There was to be more controversy as Newcastle were adamant Pajtim Kasami handled the ball in the box on 39 minutes; the officials disagreed. Newcastle kept plugging away and took a deserved lead into the break after Matt Ritchie sumptuously diverted a deflected Isaac Hayden cross past the hapless Stojkovic in the Forest goal.

Newcastle would have been happy with the way they were playing with 10 men, with Isaac Hayden dominating the midfield and captain Jamaal Lascelles  ushering his defence with real confidence, however there was to be yet more controversy in an extraordinary first half. A ball floated over the Newcastle defence was controlled by Henri Lansbury who was bundled over by Paul Dummett inside the box, with the referee not only awarding Forest a 2nd penalty, but controversially sending off Dummett and  condemning Newcastle to 9 men in the process. Unbelievable. This time Henri Lansbury; who seemed to make the most of both challenges that resulted in the red cards, stepped up to face Darlow in the Newcastle goal, but failed just as Bendtner did before him this time to Darlow’s right. An extraordinary half that saw 1 goal, 2 saved penalties and 2 red cards was finally brought to a close to a chorus of Geordie boos and Forest bemusement.

The second half was a far less dramatic affair, with Newcastle sitting in a tight 4-3-1 formation in an attempt to defend their lead however on 52 minutes it seemed the flood gates would open. Nicklas Bendtner, who was having a very quiet game bundled in a scrappy equaliser after a mini-melee ensued in the Newcastle box after Assombalonga headed down a Lansbury diagonal.

This didn’t deter Newcastle from their improvised game plan however and continued to frustrate a toothless Forest who failed to produce any real moment of quality to break down the 9-man Newcastle rear guard. In fact, it was Newcastle who strangely had an opportunity to win the game in the 81st minute as a cleverly worked Ritchie free kick was played into Isaac Hayden who jinked his way into the box and curled an effort agonisingly wide of Stojkovic’s goal. Forest eventually found a 2nd goal however in the 86th minute, ironically through a Jamaal Lascelles own goal who was helpless to avoid bundling the ball past Darlow after a vicious corner was swung into the Newcastle box.

Forest were able to hold on to another 3 points; their 3rd win in a row, however, they seem to look rather impotent when having to dictate a game and look far more comfortable playing on the break. As for Newcastle, it has been a terrible week; losing 3 games in a row, exiting the EFL Cup and squandering a lead at the top of the Championship however they can be proud of how their 9 men played, and should remain confident of securing an immediate return to the Premier League.

MoM – Karl Darlow/Isaac Hayden