Author Archives: Patrick Ribeiro

Manchester United Fans Tease Arsenal Supporters On Social Media

In an unofficial mission that’s taken four months and 19 days to complete, Manchester United has finally moved out of 6th place in the Premier League table with a 3-1 win away to Middlesbrough. It only took José Mourinho’s men an 18-game unbeaten run to do so, too!

The Red Devils travelled to the Riverside in knowledge that a win would be all that was required of them to surpass Arsenal in 5th place, after the Gunners succumbed to a 3-1 defeat away to West Bromwich Albion in Saturday’s early kick-off.

Mourinho rang the changes against the relegation-bound outfit, currently without a manager, and raced to a 2-0 lead in the second half after a routine headed goal by Marouane Fellaini in the first period and Jesse Lingard’s long-range arrow into the top corner following the interval.

Man United were made to sweat for their goods, as Rudy Gestede’s late strike offered hope of a Middlesbrough revival, but a late howler from Victor Valdes paved way for Antonio Valencia to walk his way into the goal and propel the visitors up the table.

After an uninspired start to the season that compiled results such as a 3-1 loss to Watford at Vicarage Road and the 4-0 demolition at Stamford Bridge at the hands of Chelsea, United have had to grind their way into a position of greater power.

Along the way, the club’s renewed relationship with 6th place, week after week, had become a gimmick within the footballing world, even in their best form.

Today’s triumph sees them move forward in the table at last, whereas United fans across the globe will be glad to finally brush the joke off from their shoulder.

To make the occasion even sweeter for them, it’s bitter rivals Arsenal, currently in torrid form before a timely international break, who will now have to bear the flak.

Social media, as always, was awash with armoury to throw at the situation.

Attentions at Old Trafford will now undoubtedly switch to breaking into the top four, with United sitting just three points behind Liverpool with a game in hand, prior to their clash against Manchester City.

United’s remaining games do still see them take on the likes of Arsenal, Man City, Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and Everton before the season’s conclusion, which could be the ideal way to move up the table, but one that’s evidently easier said than done.

3 Must Have Players In Your Fantasy Football Premier League Teams This Week

With the importance on every point fought for growing every week at both ends of the Premier League spectrum, so too are the ones currently being picked up in the world of Fantasy Football, as we drift ever closer to this season’s conclusion.

West Bromwich Albion introduce the fixture list with a home clash at home to morale-devoid Arsenal, this week, but the pick of the bunch is undoubtedly reserved for the City of Manchester, as Pep Guardiola’s men host like-minded top four hopefuls Liverpool.

Sunderland versus Burnley, Bournemouth at home to Swansea City and Crystal Palace’s London Derby against Watford stick out in between the aforementioned fixtures, and with them will come this weekend’s heroes. Here’s Fresh Football’s Fantasy Premier League shortlist:

1 – Chris Smalling
Position:
Defender
Club: Manchester United
Price: £5.8m

The big news coming out of Manchester United’s away fixture versus Middlesbrough is that the relegation-bound side will take José Mourinho’s men on without his protégé, Aitor Karanka, following the latter’s resignation as manager of the club.

As has so often been the case, and the Premier League has clear examples in Hull City, Swansea and, contrarily, Crystal Palace, such parting of ways can go one way or the other.

It’s difficult to predict Boro’s mental state, whether or not change will give them the kick they need, but in the absence of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Paul Pogba in the visitors’ end, the Riverside outfit might well be hoping for the desired result to spring an end-of-season relaunch.

Unfortunately for Karanka’s old flame, Middlesbrough have looked equally toothless in attack, even at full strength, as their regular source of goals sit on the bench, dipped in poor form.

So in the event that the 2004 League Cup winners fail to light up the Riverside with goals of their own, we’re backing United’s defensive sector to clock up a satisfactory display, complete with a clean sheet.

Mourinho’s men should be able to keep out a side that’s scored just 19 goals in the league all season, whereas without their key attacking components, the scene is set for a dreamy set-piece to be the decisive difference, one way or another. The likes of Chris Smalling could come up big, here.

2 – Sadio Mané
Position:
Midfielder
Club: Liverpool
Price: £9.7m

If there’s a player in Liverpool roster worthy of the Player of the Year title, that man is Mané and in Sunday’s trip to the Etihad Stadium the Senegalese winger has another big occasion to rise up to.

He’s not short of exemplary showings, putting Arsenal to the sword on two separate occasions this season, meanwhile also punishing their North London rivals, Tottenham Hotspur, in much the same way.

Man City’s domestic form may have picked up in recent games but their midweek defeat and subsequent elimination at the hands of AS Monaco in the UEFA Champions League has only accentuated their defensive shortcomings further.

We don’t expect Pep Guardiola to alter his constructive system in any particular way from what we’ve already become accustomed to, which could spell danger against a side that preys so heavily on one’s mistakes.

Much like Mané, Liverpool love a big-game performance – the Reds have practically relied upon them this season – so there’s every chance of it being their day come Sunday.

3 – Fernando Llorente
Position:
Striker
Club: Swansea City
Price: £6.5m

We’re at the stage now where clubs become desperate for a hero. Swansea have found three in Gylfi Sigurðsson, Fernando Llorente and manager Paul Clement, who’s responsible for pulling the foundations of this potential great escape together.

Saturday’s fixture brings forward another battle for the Swans, taking on a below-par Bournemouth side that sees three points separate the two teams in the league table, such is the latter’s poor form.

The pair are also the leaders for the most amount of goals conceded this season, so it’s one that’s set-up to be a bit of a goal-fest, statistically.

With or without a thriller, we suspect Llorente, who’s gone three in three for goals, will inflict some damage upon a Bournemouth defence that’s depleted by suspensions and mid-season departures.

All The Player Ratings: Chelsea 1-0 Manchester United

These are Fresh Football’s ratings for the FA Cup Quarter-Final tie between Chelsea and Manchester United at Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea

Thibaut Courtois – 7

The Belgian came up with a crucial stop in the second period, denying what would have been Manchester United’s equaliser through Marcus Rashford’s left-footed strike at goal.

César Azpilicueta – 6

Impressive at the back, less so going forward.

David Luiz – 7

Luiz was able to boss the circulation of possession, even throughout United’s sharpest spells.

Gary Cahill – 6

Noted as the weak link in Chelsea’s backline, exemplified by the rare surrender of possession in sight of United’s pressing traps, but such pressure was eventually eased on the ex-Bolton Wanderers man.

Victor Moses – 6.5

The former Crystal Palace and Wigan Athletic winger got up and down the flank well, despite it being crowded by a defensive-looking United line-up.

N’Golo Kanté – 8

The man of the match, N’Golo Kanté proved to be the decisive difference between the two FA Cup hopefuls with his goal from range.

Nemanja Matic – 6.5

Positive and tidy in possession, which boded well for Chelsea’s game plan in the second half.

Marcos Alonso – 6.5

Another to put in a decent performance, as his influence on proceedings grew in the second half.

Willian – 7

Sharp, direct and unlucky not to have earned himself a goal and assist along the way.

Eden Hazard – 8

Along with Kanté, Eden Hazard was as expressive as ever in the final third, escaping the aggressive press-traps from Man United and inflicting lasting damage.

Diego Costa – 5.5

This wasn’t the Diego Costa we’ve become accustomed to seeing in recent times, taking the bait when embroiling himself in physical battles with Marcos Rojo and missing a couple of dead-cert goals on another day.

Subs:

Cesc Fabregas – 6

Accentuated Chelsea’s dominance after coming on in the second half.

Kurt Zouma – N/A

Michy Batshuayi – N/A

 

Manchester United

David De Gea – 7.5

The Spaniard was the main reason why Manchester United kept Chelsea away from the lead in the first half, as the Blues dominated proceedings following Ander Herrera’s red card.

Antonio Valencia – 5

Plenty of fouls coming from a man who was visibly frustrated with his team’s performance. Antonio Valencia was a poorer player, as a result.

Phil Jones – 6

The Englishman was fairly sound at pressing higher up the pitch in the early stages, but Eden Hazard and co. soon had his number, as he succumbed to mistimed tackles.

Chris Smalling – 6

Few complaints hang over the centre back’s head as far as the result is concerned, but as a captain, and United boss José Mourinho also joins him in this equation, Chris Smalling perhaps could have done more to prevent his teammates from losing their cool in battle.

Marcos Rojo – 5

Rash and aggressive, Marcos Rojo was another to tread on a fine line with regards to his discipline.

Matteo Darmian – 5.5

Mirroring Phil Jones’ duties in pressing a little higher up the pitch, almost like a fourth centre back, Darmian also collected his fair share of failed attempts.

Ander Herrera – 5

Man United fans may bemoan Michael Oliver’s decision to red card the midfielder in the first half, especially after such a positive impact in the early exchanges, but the visitors should also be disappointed in Herrera’s foolish actions just seconds after the referee’s general warning.

Paul Pogba – 5

Little inspiration came from the French playmaker, in particular after being paired up with Marouane Fellaini.

Ashley Young – 4.5

Totally retracted, whereas Chelsea’s preference to attack down their own left-hand side saw Young come into the picture at a sporadic rate.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan – 5

Appeared fairly lively in and around the box, but the Armenian star was the one to be hooked early in response to Herrera’s red card.

Marcus Rashford – 5.5

Kept Chelsea on their toes, but the striker will be disappointed to have not finished a very good chance he managed to fashion for himself in the second period.

Subs:

Marouane Fellaini – 4.5

The Belgian never got into the game, much to United’s detriment.

Jesse Lingard – N/A

3 Players To Put In Your Premier League Fantasy Football Teams This Week

With each gameweek that beckons, the need for points heightens in just about every sector of the Premier League table. Us Fantasy Premier League players will be counting each and every point that comes our way too, as we head approach the final bend of a long season.

Here’s who Fresh Football’s tipping to be this weekend’s difference makers and give you the bragging rights over your mates.

1 – Gylfi Sigurðsson
Position:
Midfield
Club: Swansea City
Price: £7.6m

Carlo Ancelotti’s former partner in crime, Paul Clement, may well have set Swansea City on their way to climbing up the Premier League table, but if there’s one man to which the Swans also owe much of their recent success to, that man is Gylfi Sigurðsson.

In the Icelandic star Swansea have raked in 17 important goals (including assists) to their league tally and yet more success in front of goal could be on the over the coming weeks.

First up for the Welsh outfit are Burnley, a side who have been incredibly impressive on their own turf, but one that has also seen their form on the road fall way below of the precedent set at home.

Sean Dyche’s side have gone on to lose 10 out their 12 away games in the Premier League this season, and so the threat posed by Sigurðsson, both from open play and set-pieces, could prove to be what tips the balance should Swansea renew Burnley’s poor form.

Furthermore, the Swans will be pleased to know the likes of Hull City, Bournemouth and Middlesbrough, all within touching distance in the bottom half of the table, make up the composition of their next three fixtures, so there’s a facet of longevity to picking the ex-Tottenham Hotspur man ahead of this weekend.

EFL Cup Final Player Ratings: Manchester United 3-2 Southampton

These are Fresh Football’s ratings for the EFL Cup final between Manchester United and Southampton.

Manchester United

David De Gea – 6.5

Made a couple of decent saves throughout the encounter, with the Spaniard left with little chance in stopping the other two Southampton strikes in a 3-2 win.

Antonio Valencia – 6.5

Solid and active down the right flank, particularly towards the end of the game.

Eric Bailly – 5.5

Not the best showing in a United shirt, offering a few moments of unease when in possession and struggling to cope with Manolo Gabbiadini’s presence inside the box.

Chris Smalling – 6

Slightly better than his centre back duo, but, again, hardly the convincing performance José Mourinho will have been hoping for in a final.

Marcos Rojo – 5

Stranded and in real trouble out on the left-hand side of United’s defence, as Cedric and Dusan Tadic caused problems for periods of the game. Subsequently, the Argentine offered very little going forwards, too.

Ander Herrera – 5.5

Outfought for periods of the game, as the Saints swamped the midfield, but Herrera did eventually come up with the pass of the match when assisting Zlatan Ibrahimovic for the win.

Paul Pogba – 6.5

Struggled with the intensity of Southampton’s game for large periods, but once Claude Puel’s side waned, the Frenchman grew into the game to regain some control for United.

Juan Mata – 4.5

Ineffective throughout his 45-minute showing, which is why Mourinho saw him as the strongest candidate to make way for Michael Carrick at half-time.

Jesse Lingard – 6

Hit a big goal for United, but aside from that, there was little else to take note of, minus a lot of running.

Anthony Martial – 5

Lively and threatening when given space to attack, but the Frenchman was very rarely afforded the opportunities to do so.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic – 7.5

The match-winner for United, as he put the Red Devil’s ahead in the first half with a free-kick. Having lost many of his fair-share of battles against the Saints’ defensive duo, the Swede had the last laugh with the winning goal deep into the final stages of the game.

Subs

Michael Carrick – 6

Helped regain some sort of control and method to United’s play, as Southampton relinquished their dominance.

Marcus Rashford – N/A

Marouane Fellaini – N/A

Southampton

Fraser Forster – 5

Could have done better to stop Ibrahimovic’s goal from a free kick, although the wall also didn’t offer a great deal of help to the former Celtic man either.

Cedric Soares – 7.5

A quality performance from the Portugal international, who found Gabbiadini for the one-touch finish on two separate occasions, despite only one of them counting in accordance to the linesman’s flag.

Maya Yoshida – 7

The Southampton old-timer led by example up against Ibrahimovic at the heart of a depleted defensive sector.

Jack Stephens – 6.5

Bar a couple of costly mistakes in two of United’s three goals, Stephens but up a fight in front of Forster’s goal.

Ryan Bertrand – 6.5

A decent performance from the ex-Chelsea full back, both going forwards and backwards.

Oriol Romeu – 7.5

Took on the heavy duty of destroying United’s play and did so very well, despite being yellow carded early on.

Steven Davis – 7

A big effort from the Saints captain, who helped Romeu in his defensive duties to great success.

James Ward-Prowse – 6.5

One moment he was wide, the next closing down through the middle – a tricky role for the young midfielder, but he executed it quite well.

Dusan Tadic – 5

Despite a handful of decent deliveries from set-pieces, the Serbian playmaker can feel a little disappointed with himself in the final third.

Nathan Redmond – 8.5

A strong contender for Man of the Match, irrespective of being on the losing side, Redmond was at the heart of plenty of positive moves created by Puel’s side.

Manolo Gabbiadini – 8.5

Up there with Redmond, the ex-Napoli and Sampdoria man took his chances brilliantly when they came, as his hot streak with the South Coast club continues.

Subs

Sofiane Boufal – 5

In to refresh Southampton’s attacking sector, but Boufal ended up seeing very little of the ball.

Shane Long – N/A

Jay Rodriguez – N/A

3 Must Have Players In Your Fantasy Football Premier League Teams This Week

As Manchester United and Southampton prepare themselves for a special night out in Wembley for the EFL Cup final, subsequently taking Arsenal and Manchester City out of the firing line for a hot minute, life in the Premier League continues with important clashes in and around parts of the table.

But in the absence of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Alexis Sanchez, Sergio Agüero and others, the question of who to turn to as captain will be the one that looms large for many of us Fantasy Premier League players this weekend. That’s nothing that a little friendly advice from Fresh Football can’t fix, however.

1. Diego Costa

Club: Chelsea
Position: Striker
Price: £10m

It’s the week of the heavy hitters for us and fewer names have been as synonymous to the skipper’s armband as Diego Costa’s this season. The Chelsea forward has supplemented the Blues’ title charge with 15 league goals from 23 appearances, making him a top favourite for the Golden Boot this season.

We fully expect to see the Brazilian-born Spain international reinforce his bid for the hotly-contested end-of-season gong this weekend, as Chelsea welcome a few familiar faces back to Stamford Bridge.

Paul Clement, the former assistant manager of the London outfit under Carlo Ancelotti’s tenure, as well as his sidekick, Claude Makélélé, another to don the Chelsea blue, have turned fortunes around at what was once considered to be a relegation-bound Swansea City side.

The team from South Wales have made steady strides since Clement’s appointment to find themselves 15th in the Premier League table, but that does little to the fact that the West Londoners are overwhelming favourites in this clash, as they look to take another step towards the league title.

It may or may not be easy for Blues, but Costa has come up with his fair share of clutch moments up top for Antonio Conte’s side in the best and worst positions, so we expect the ex-Atlético Madrid striker to deliver.

Player Ratings: Manchester City 5-3 AS Monaco

These are Fresh Football’s player ratings for Manchester City’s 5-3 win in the UEFA Champions League at home to AS Monaco:

Manchester City

Willy Caballero – 7

A victim of Pep Guardiola’s expansive system, Willy Caballero constantly found himself in trouble with his short deliveries, but the Argentine was able to show his true qualities with a penalty save and a crucial stop in the final stages of the game versus Radamel Falcao.

Bacary Sagna – 5

Not quite as solid as he’s so often proven to be, which will stand as a disappointment for the Frenchman.

John Stones – 6.5

A mismatch for Falcao in Monaco’s third of the night, but the Englishman redeemed himself when placing City ahead at 4-3.

Nicolas Otamendi 4

Poor for both Mbappe’s goal and the foul that subsequently earned Monaco a penalty at 2-1, which was eventually missed by Falcao.

Fernandinho 4.5

He’ll have better games, perhaps a consequence of being, rather surprisingly, deployed at left back.

Yaya Toure – 6

Good in possession, but massively outnumbered in midfield.

David Silva – 7

Close to no contribution defensively, as expected, but Silva found all the right pockets and passes going forward.

Kevin De Bruyne – 7

Did his fair share of running and was typically good in the final third.

Raheem Sterling – 8

Sharp, direct and with a goal and assist to his name. Sterling’s fine form under Guardiola continues.

Leroy Sané – 8

Another who is beginning to thrive at City, bagging a terrific assist for Sterling’s opener and killing the game off eith the hosts’ fifth goal of the night.

Sergio Agüero – 9

A real menace with his runs in behind, as he brought City level on two separate occasions. A priceless performance.

Subs

Pablo Zabaleta – 6.5

A positive switch for City, cementing the defence somewhat and offering greater confidence for Guardiola’s man to charge after the desired result.

Jesus Navas – N/A

Fernando – N/A

AS Monaco

Danijel Subasic – 4

Disappointing stuff from the Croatian number one, who might have been lucky not to give away a penalty in the first half and offered City a way in with a clanger for Aguero’s goal.

Djibril Sidibe – 7

A little clumsy in places, but the right back’s anticipation and quality of passes shun through his imperfections.

Kamil Glik – 5

The better half of the two centre backs, but Glik won’t be looking forward to facing Agüero in a hurry.

Andrea Raggi – 4

Showed his age, as he struggled with that pass in behind to City’s forward line all night.

Benjamin Mendy – 6.5

Didn’t link up as nicely as he has done with Thomas Lemar during the current campaign, but his deliveries from wide areas were brilliant.

Bernardo Silva – 7

The diminutive playmaker put his dribbling traits on show, but tired towards the end.

Fabinho – 6.5

Decent, but another who lost influence as the game went on.

Tiemoué Bakayoko – 8

There are a handful of top Premier League clubs with their eyes on the box-to-box midfielder and it was easy to see why. A capable match against Yaya Toure’s imposing figure, Bakayoko read the game well and didn’t stop doing so until the final whistle.

Kylian Mbappé – 7

The next big thing out of Monaco’s ranks, the 18-year-old provided a threat in behind and even bagged a goal for himself to undoubtedly increase his stock.

Radamel Falcao – 8.5

In hot form domestically, the Colombian carried his good habits over to the European stage with two excellent goals, despite also missing a penalty.

Subs

Valerie Germain – N/A

João Moutinho – N/A

6 Potential Destinations Wenger May Find Himself In Next Season If He Leaves Arsenal

It was the elephant in the room. Having more or less consigned themselves to UEFA Champions League elimination after losing 5-1 to Bayern Munich this Wednesday, many expected Arsène Wenger to utilise his pre-match press conference ahead of their FA Cup tie with Sutton United to lay down the official word on his Arsenal future.

With his Gunners contract up at the end of the season, the under-fire manager prolonged the anticipation until “March or April,” but the Frenchman did allude to a differing scenario from what many had envisioned.

Common predictions pointed towards Wenger’s retirement after what’s so far been a 21-year-reign at Arsenal, potentially moving into the club’s hierarchy to carry out different functions in the same way Sir Alex Ferguson has done at Manchester United, but, staying true to his managerial abilities, the 67-year-old has stated he will continue to be a manager after this season, “with or without Arsenal.”

This had us thinking, just where will we find Mr. Wenger next season?

1. AS Monaco

The first muse of Arsène after joining from penniless Nancy, the Arsenal boss went on to win the Ligue 1 title and the Coupe de France during seven hotly-contested seasons up against Olympique Marseille and Paris Saint-Germain. His time in the principality came to a bitter end, however.

Allegations of bribery around the league tarnished its integrity, as Monaco suffered at the hands of the alleged cheats, and having been eliminated in the Champions League semi-finals to eventual winners AC Milan in 1994, Wenger was given the axe months later after leaving the Monégasque outfit 17th in the league table.

But times are different back in his homeland. Monaco have gone down and returned back to the upper echelons Ligue 1 football, this time led by Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev and his ever-impressive coach Leonardo Jardim, currently flying high in first place.

Such has been the success this season that the ex-Sporting and Olympiakos boss is sure to be one of the many names touted at other big clubs this summer, perhaps even at Arsenal as Wenger’s successor, which would open up the prospect for an intriguing switch.

Monaco’s project is unique, dedicated to developing young players with a means to be successful, which could be right up Wenger’s alley in territory he knows so well. Could a return be on the cards?

Well, it could be, except for the French club currently holds close ties with super-agent Jorge Mendes, famous for farming large quantities of his footballing clients (good or bad) to associated clubs, which probably won’t fly under Wenger, whereas it’s also reported that there’s bad blood between the two due to the move that saw Cristiano Ronaldo sign for Manchester United, as opposed to Arsenal, back in 2003.

2. Paris Saint-Germain

From one Ligue 1 title hopeful to another, the Paris Saint-Germain suggestion might sound alien to you given their recent 4-0 demolition of Barcelona on Tuesday, but it’s not impossible.

The Parisians turned to former Sevilla boss and three-time Europa League winner, Unai Emery, to take over Laurent Blanc and steer the PSG project to desired heights. Tuesday’s win takes an important step towards their goal, but the Spaniard’s start to life in France hasn’t quite been as smooth as intended, which won’t be forgotten in times of renewed pressure.

PSG have come unstuck against the likes of EA Guingamp, Toulouse and Montpellier this season, as they trail league leaders Monaco by three points in a title race they were overwhelmingly favourites for to start with.

The use of summer flops, such as Hatem Ben Arfa and Jesé Rodríguez, has been another stick to beat the Basque manager with, but the arrival of Julian Draxler has gone a long way into amending that.

PSG’s form has also improved over the past couple of months, setting them up for a potentially strong finish, but should they falter, let Blanc’s departure after a treble-winning-season serves as a warning to Emery.

In that case, would Wenger, so often associated with move to the French champions in an alternative life, finally make the jump to the capital?

3. Barcelona

There’s always been something about Luis Enrique and the quality of his Barcelona side that hasn’t quite sat right with many Culés.

An ex-player for the Catalans, as well as for bitter rivals Real Madrid, Enrique created waves with Barcelona B when earning promotion to the second tier of Spanish football in 2011, subsequently landing himself a gig with AS Roma the following season.

His time in Italy was far from spectacular, however, and before he knew it, Enrique was back on Spanish shores in command of Celta Vigo, who finished midtable under him in 2014.

It’s this that took him to the Barcelona job, but the 46-year-old silenced fears with a treble in his first season at the Camp Nou, followed by the league and cup double a year later.

All those critics have come flooding right back again, as Barcelona stare in the face of Champions League elimination and battle hard behind Real Madrid for this season’s La Liga title. Could it be that the magic of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez were the only driving force in Enrique’s reign after all?

Here, Wenger might well be a nice fit. The Frenchman has an eye for developing talent, of which Barcelona pride themselves on, whereas expansive football also coexists within both parties’ DNA. Although he’s not a favourite for the job, I wouldn’t overlook a man who’s elevated the careers of players who’ve gone on to fail to replicate such form when pinched by the Catalan giants.

Press the navigation below to view the rest of this article, and 4 more potential destinations for Arsene

‘Chelsea’s Best Player’ Defender Praised For Another Great Performance vs. Burnley

It’s a funny old game. Who remembers the reactions surrounding David Luiz’s Chelsea comeback in the summer? Some of you may choose to forget it all.

The Brazilian defender first joined the Blues from Benfica back in 2011 for £21.25 million, and despite conquering the hearts of those at Stamford Bridge, Luiz never quite convinced the doubters in comparison to John Terry and Gary Cahill.

José Mourinho’s second stint in west London saw him incline towards the same pairing, so it was with great disbelief that much of the football world saw Chelsea receive a record-high bid for the out-of-favour defender, as he joined Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain for an initial fee of £42 million in 2014.

Luiz’s flaws were then on full show, alongside many of his Brazilian teammates, as his national team were infamously thumped 7-1 on home turf against Germany, the eventual winners of 2014 World Cup, with the queries into his reliability as a central defender escalating further.

Football in Ligue 1 took the ex-Benfica man out of the limelight, somewhat, so it’s perhaps no surprise to see the amount of eyebrows raised when his eventual return had been announced.

Chelsea had formerly been interested in other big names to fill the void Antonio Conte believed needed to be plugged in, as they failed to land the likes of Leonardo Bonucci and Kalidou Koulibaly.

The opportunity to bring back Luiz arose on deadline day, adding a scent of panic buy to the deal, but the Brazilian has silenced those critics by coming on leaps and bounds since his latest transfer.

Chelsea’s latest bout versus Burnley accentuated the £30 million man’s growth in popularity, with social media quick to show their appreciation for the curly-haired character.

Such has been Luiz’s zero-to-hero rise that, even with a heavily strapped knee away to a physically imposing Burnley side, he’s kept club legend John Terry and hot prospect Nathan Aké parked on the bench, becoming Conte’s go-to-guy in the lauded 3-4-3 formation.

The Brazil international’s typically good construction of play shun through the pain barrier, a role maximised by the added cover of two more central defenders either side of him, whereas Luiz also racked up the most amount of interceptions (8) in a tight contest.

Luiz continues looks a shoe-in for the PFA’s Team of the Year, as Chelsea set their sights on the Premier League title. Not bad for a panic buy!

Pretty Average: All The Arsenal Players Rated Out Of 10 vs. Hull

These are Fresh Football’s ratings for Arsenal’s 2-0 victory at home to Hull City in the Premier League.

Petr Čech – 7

With pressure on the veteran shot-stopper after last week’s debacle at Stamford Bridge, Čech responded with two very good saves from Oumar Niasse attempts to keep the Gunners in control.

Héctor Bellerín – 6.5

A decent display from the young Spaniard, who found himself in goalscoring positions on a couple of occasions, meanwhile also managing Hull’s new boy Kamil Grosicki.

Shkodran Mustafi – 6

A relatively stress-free day for Mustafi, who instead saw Niasse look to initiate attacks from the right-hand side of Hull’s attack.

Laurent Koscielny – 6

Had a lively iteration of Niasse and, at times, Lazar Markovic to deal with too, which the Frenchman did with varied success, as well as being a key figure in Arsenal’s initial construction of play.

Kieran Gibbs – 6

The left back was very good in associative play, a differing threat he holds over current mainstay Nacho Monreal, but there were a few moments in which he struggled to take care of Markovic that will stand as a concern surrounding his bid to start more often for Arsenal.

Francis Coquelin – 6.5

Far better from one of Arsenal’s under-fire figures, picking out carefully plotted tackles to commence counter-attacks in ways few others know how to replicate.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – 7

‘The Ox’ demonstrated a real eye for the final ball on occasions, which is sure to strengthen the case made for his transition into the centre of midfield.

Alex Iwobi – 6

Typically pleasing in and around the box, as Arsenal looked to crack down an in-form Hull side.

Mesut Özil – 6

He’ll have seen better days, by his standards, as he appeared to constantly be on the receiving end of an imperfect pass, when it wasn’t him who was providing them himself. Lively, however, which always bodes well going forwards.

Theo Walcott – 5.5

The link-ups in Arsenal’s attack were actively present, but throughout the Gunners’ greatest periods going forwards, Walcott very rarely came into the equation.

Alexis Sanchez – 7

Undoubtedly Arsenal’s key figure throughout the game, Alexis wrapped up his decent showing with both of the North Londoners’ goals to his name.

Subs:

Mohamed Elneny – 6

Tightened the game up alongside Coquelin in the second period, with Wenger sure to be pleased to have the Egyptian back at his disposal.

Lucas Perez – N/A

Danny Welbeck – N/A

Hull City

Eldin Jakupović – 5

The Hull goalkeeper cut a sorry figure in the lead-up to Arsenal’s killer blow in the dying moments of the game, as he recklessly abandoned his goal and basically left San Clucas resigned to blocking Perez’s header with his arm, as Mark Clattenburg pointed to the spot.

Omar Elabdelloui – 4.5

The ex-Olympiakos man never got anywhere near the likes of Iwobi, Alexis and Gibbs.

Andrea Ranocchia – 4.5

Another to suffer at the hands of Arsenal’s mobile attack, with the Gunners unlucky not to convert a couple of chances a lot earlier than Alexis’ controversial opener.

Harry Maguire – 5

A key figure in Hull’s recent renaissance, the ball-playing defender was unable to be as effective as he has been in recent weeks, as the Tigers struggled to get out of their own half for prolonged periods of the game.

Andrew Robertson – 6

Kept Walcott quiet and offered an outlet at the other end.

Tom Huddlestone – 5

Often so crucial to Hull’s game, Huddlestone was unable to get a grip of things in the centre of the park, limiting the away side somewhat.

Sam Clucas – 5

Another who never managed to impact the game from the middle, as a late red card wrapped things up for the playmaker.

Alfred N’Diaye – 6.5

The towering figure of the ex-Villarreal and Sunderland man began to impose himself as the game went on, often providing well-timed passes to the flanks on the break. A good start to his Hull career.

Lazar Markovic – 6.5

Not the best going backwards, but given space, Markovic really did come to life on the counter.

Kamil Grosicki – 5.5

The Poland international promised a lot with his first few involvements, but his impact gradually faded at the expense of Markovic starring.

Oumar Niasse – 6

In good form, the striker might well have added to the hype had it not been for Čech on a couple of occasions.

Subs:

Ahmed Elmohamady – 5

Replacing Ebdellaoui, Elmohamady did at least provid a greater threat down the right flank, but in turn, plenty of gaps were also left behind him.

Evandro – N/A

Adama Diomandé – N/A

Did The Gunners Create Their Own Problems In 3-1 Defeat vs. Chelsea?

Everyone knew Chelsea’s reception of the Gunners would be a tricky one for Arsenal to come out victorious from at Stamford Bridge, a ground the north Londoners had tasted success just once since 2011.

Arsène Wenger’s conundrum began to find its form when Granit Xhaka was shown a red card in the hard-earned 2-1 victory at home to Burnley, a dismissal reciprocated by a then furious Arsenal boss en route to the pair grabbing themselves four-game bans.

That might not have meant a great deal with a cup-tie versus Southampton and a supposedly low-risk clash at home to an off-tune Watford side awaiting the title hopefuls, but it did leave Arsenal at a clear disadvantage against Chelsea in the following fixture.

The trip to the St. Mary’s Stadium proved to be a success, as the Saints also chopped and changed in the fourth round of the FA Cup, but the Gunners’ incompatibilities in midfield were clear versus Watford.

Xhaka-less, whereas Mohamed Elneny was representing his country in the Africa Cup of Nations, Wenger turned to an Aaron Ramsey and Francis Coquelin pairing against the Hornets, a duo that was bypassed with ease and dismembered within 20 minutes via the former’s injury, enough time to leave Arsenal 2-0 down already.

This all conditioned the Gunners’ hand at Stamford Bridge, without key components in midfield, now including Ramsey, and with the added woe of apparent knocks being carried by Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain and Coquelin, the pivot that would be backed against the West London outfit.

With a deep-seated crisis in the middle of the park, Arsenal were tasked with defeating the title favourites, of which the luck with injuries has seen the Blues necessitate to extend their starting XI to no more than 13 players – Quite the contrast.

But even under less than favourable circumstances, the Gunners might well have managed to worsen their chances of withholding success against Antonio Conte’s side.

Wenger opted for a relatively untried Chamberlain – Coquelin pivot, both, as mentioned, reportedly carrying knocks, to set up a two vs. two against Nemanja Matic and the ever-impressive N’Golo Kanté.

The results proved to be obvious, as the Chelsea pair, subsidised by the club’s wing backs, took control in the moments before Marcos Alonso’s opener and, later, took advantage of Arsenal’s middlemen’s physical limitations through counter-attacks.

All facts considered, domination by Kanté and co. was predictable, but the north Londoners might well have made their own bed when fielding just the two central midfielders.

With both Chamberlain and Coquelin failing to transport the ball to the likes of Mesut Özil, the midfield pair were contrarily left to fend for themselves defensively due to the German’s tendencies to not track back.

The same scenario has repeated from time-to-time with a tried and tested side, making Arsenal’s 4-2-3-1 look more like a 4-2-4 and highly-susceptible to counter-attacks – a dangerous set-up versus a team of Chelsea’s ilk.

A change many ‘Gooners’ have called for is a transition to a 4-3-3 set-up, pushing Özil into a forward role instead, and it’s a formation that could have been debuted against the Premier League leaders even with limited options.

On the bench sat Ainsley Maitland-Niles, a wide man by trade, but one that has excelled in a central role on more than one occasion. Could the energetic youngster not have added something this Saturday? With Chamberlain and Coquelin supposedly not in peak condition, how could you not turn to an extra body for help?

Today will go down as a missed opportunity for Wenger and his men to have closed the gap on their title rivals, and in Maitland-Niles’ addition they may have discarded their only hope of being disciplined enough to do so.

Ratings: Arsenal 1-2 Watford – All The Players Rated Out Of 10

These are Fresh Football’s ratings for Arsenal’s 2-1 defeat at home to Watford in the Premier League.

Arsenal

Petr Čech – 6

There was little the veteran could have done to have prevented Watford sinking two goals past him, whereas he stood up to be counted on a couple more occasions that the visitors threatened Arsenal’s goal.

Gabriel Paulista – 5.5

The Brazilian will take his slice of the blame for Watford’s second goal after a miscalculated throw-in to Aaron Ramsey, but the Brazilian did improve in the second period.

Shkodran Mustafi – 5.5

The German’s infamous invincibility record in an Arsenal shirt finally came to an end, with him cutting a sorry figure in the lead-up to Troy Deeney’s goal.

Laurent Koscielny – 6

Somewhat powerless in both Watford strikes, whereas he was often the man Arsenal were reduced to looking for when building from the back effectively.

Nacho Monreal – 6.5

Put on a decent tussle with Watford’s Daryl Janmaat on the flank, proving to be far from culpable in a night of disappointment for the Gunners.

Francis Coquelin – 4.5

Not a game the Frenchman will want to look back on in a hurry. He was dominated by Watford’s presence in the centre, meanwhile struggling in possession, so much so that Arsenal took the gamble midway through the second period to make do without him.

Aaron Ramsey – 4

Summing up Arsenal’s start to the game, Ramsey deflected Younes Kaboul’s free-kick into his own net prior to giving up possession in the lead-up to Deeney’s goal. Visibly incompatible next to Coquelin, Ramsey’s night was concluded with an injury. Royal Ascot 2017 is on its way, hopefully you’ll have more luck their than Arsenal do with injuries.

Alex Iwobi – 7

Starting on the right, before being switched out onto the left and ending up in a central pairing, it was Iwobi’s goal that offered Arsenal hope in the second half. The Nigerian gradually lost his handle on the game, however, in a makeshift coupling with Chamberlain.

Mesut Özil – 6

Involved in some eye-opening Arsenal moves, the German just didn’t see enough of the ball in habitual areas throughout particular periods of the game, largely down to the Gunners’ inability to play out from the back effectively.

Alexis Sanchez – 6.5

The Chilean forced Arsenal’s issue hard, of which Iwobi benefitted from when pulling the game back to 2-1, but it was a largely unsuccessful display by the forward.

Olivier Giroud – 5.5

If Özil didn’t see enough of the ball, you can imagine the count on Giroud’s imprint on the game. The Frenchman didn’t return for the second half, as the Gunners turned to Theo Walcott.

Subs:

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – 6.5

The Englishman, after a big performance against Southampton on Saturday, demonstrated Arséne Wenger may have been wrong to overlook him in a central role prior to replacing the injured Ramsey. Despite helping regain some form of control, ‘The Ox’ picked up a knock during the second half and saw his impact shrink.

Theo Walcott – 5.5

On for Giroud as the game resumed, Walcott stretched Watford’s defence and threatened to turn the tables in Arsenal’s favour, but spurned a few good opportunities to do so.

Lucas Perez – 6

The substitution itself, replacing Coquelin, may not have been timed to perfection, as Chamberlain’s knock shortly after saw Arsenal lose their grip on a chase to equalise, but the Spaniard came agonisingly close to doing so with a shot thundering off the bar.

Watford

Heurelho Gomes – 7

The Brazilian shot-stopper made a handful of good saves against the likes of Iwobi and Walcott, crucial on a night like tonight.

Craig Cathcart – 5.5

The defender had a fairly serene first period, but with Iwobi on his case in the second half, he almost crumbled.

Younes Kaboul – 6.5

With an important, yet fortuitous goal to his name, Kaboul completed his night with a reasonably solid performance at the other end.

Sebastian Prödl – 6.5

Assisted Kaboul in keeping Giroud under wraps, and meanwhile the defensive pair came close to unravelling in the second half, the Austrian kept composed in moments of intense pressure.

Miguel Britos – 5

Theo Walcott caused the Uruguayan all sorts of issues, whereas the ex-Napoli man caused his own problems on occasions with indecisiveness inside the box.

Daryl Janmaat – 6

Put in a shift on the right flank, backing up both attacking and defensive phases.

Valon Behrami – 6.5

Anchoring the midfield, Behrami aided the early midfield domination through habitual aggressiveness.

Tom Cleverley – 7

Typically good at going box-to-box en route to a solid first half performance.

Etienne Capoue – 7.5

Watford’s key man on the night, proving to be a big player in the middle and the chief creator of the visitors’ eventual killer blow in the game.

Mbaye Niang – 6.5

A decent debut that saw the ex-A.C. Milan forward tire heavily towards the end, but his potential partnership with Deeney looks promising.

Troy Deeney – 7.5

Another key performer in Watford’s night of success at the Emirates Stadium, scoring their second of the night and working tirelessly towards victory.

Subs:

Abdoulaye Doucoure – 6

A smart change by Watford, as the Frenchman re-energised their midfield and took the sting out of Arsenal’s suffocating resurrection.

Isaac Success – 5.5

On to freshen up the flanks and add bite to any potential Watford counter-attack, but that chance never came.

Transfers: Liverpool Could Agree Late Deal With Premier League Club For Defender

There was an awkward moment during Liverpool’s summer tour of the United States last year in which club boss, Jürgen Klopp, reciprocated Mamadou Sakho’s teasing, on-camera antics by outing the Frenchman’s poor time-keeping.

It didn’t take long for us all to realise the incident extended beyond the point of a joke between the two Liverpool fan favourites, with Sakho yet to appear for the first team this season and being reduced to Under-23s football since the start of the new campaign.

With the situation surviving the summer transfer window, it seems the Frenchman’s name will now be the most prominent cast member of deadline day in the red half of Merseyside, as the likes of Crystal Palace, Southampton and Galatasaray all reportedly make approaches before the closure of the window.

According to Sky Sports News, Liverpool have asked for a fee of £20 million for their want-away centre back, £4 million north of the fee that saw him arrive from Paris Saint-Germain in the summer of 2013, whereas the defender’s towering £105,000-a-week wages may prove to be a further stumbling block for potential suitors.

But as Sam Allardyce, among others, trawl the back of their sofas for spare change, are the Reds making the correct decision in finally shifting the 26-year-old?

Liverpool’s depth has come into question since the turn of the year, as 2017 welcomed just one win in seven outings for the Premier League title hopefuls.

Within those games, Klopp’s men have shipped in a total of 10 goals, including the combined figure of five conceded at home to lowly-placed Swansea City and Championship side Wolverhampton Wanderers, as concerns over their defence threaten the outcome of this season.

Joël Matip’s absence over eligibility issues and a malleolar injury has been alarming, as the 25-year-old was replaced by another Bundesliga import, Ragnar Klavan, who’s blown hot and cold (very cold) throughout this season.

Could Sakho have steadied the ship?

In comparison with Matip, widely regarded as Klopp’s main man in the defensive sector, Sakho actually challenges the Cameroonian quite closely.

The France international leads the way in tackles won (0.91 per game vs. 0.85), as well the percentage of aerial duels won (61.74% vs 57.14%).

The range of interceptions made per game are almost identical, but the amount of tackles lost by Sakho (0.95 per game) and the leading figure of 0.14 defensive errors made in the same time indicate, as many have often suspected, that the ex-PSG captain doesn’t exactly cut a calming figure when called for duty.

Beyond basic statistics, the argument that Sakho is the inferior defender wouldn’t sound alien to many, whereas the outcome of a match-up between himself and Lovren is a little more debatable. What’s certain is that the six clean sheets amassed by a Matip – Lovren combo has presented itself in good light.

Beyond the duo relied upon by Klopp, Sakho certainly has room to contest it, with Klavan appearing to be the weak link and the injury-ravaged Joe Gomez still returning to full fitness.

The Frenchman is good, but not irreplaceable, however, and meanwhile it would’ve been ideal to have had the 26-year-old shadow those predicted to be ahead of him in the pecking order, the defender’s prolonged isolation is one Liverpool could do without.

In hindsight, the great error is not that Sakho remains an outcast during a moment of instability, but rather that his position hasn’t already been dealt with and rectified with a replacement, be it earlier in the current window or back in the summer.

It’s about putting the story to bed, now, and at anything close to the reported £20 million fee, an overdue Sakho sale should be welcomed without regret.

Player Ratings: Southampton 0-5 Arsenal – Rotated Arsenal Midfield Excels

These are Fresh Football’s player ratings for Arsenal’s 5-0 victory away to Southampton in Saturday night’s fourth round tie of the FA Cup:

Southampton

Harry Lewis – 5

A little helpless up against Arsenal’s attacking force, but the young goalkeeper won’t be satisfied with himself after a portion of the goals he conceded.

Cuco Martina – 5.5

Produced a quality opportunity for Shane Long to pull a goal back for Southampton, but, moreover, struggled with the inspired Danny Welbeck on the night.

Florian Gardos – 5

Back after a lengthy spell on the sidelines, the defender had his work cut out against the pace and creativity of Welbeck, Lucas Perez and Theo Walcott.

Jack Stephens – 5

Much like Gardos, Stephens always looked second best against Arsenal’s on-song attack.

Sam McQueen – 5.5

Sam McQueen was another who struggled greatly with the pace of the Gunners’ attacking transitions, with Walcott and Hector Bellerin both marauding down his flank.

Pierre-Emile Højbjerg – 6

Perhaps Southampton’s best on the night, despite struggling to place his stamp on the game, but the former Bayern Munich hotshot did threaten Arsenal’s goal on occasions.

Harrison Reed – 5

The Southampton academy graduate was totally dominated and ineffectual versus his midfield counterparts.

Jordy Clasie – 5

Along with Reed, the ex-Feyenoord star looked dwarfed versus a newly-constructed Arsenal midfield, which will stand as a great disappointment to Claude Puel’s side given the vast first-team experience the 25-year-old has to his name.

Josh Sims – 6

The 19-year-old was in and around a handful of Southampton attacking phases, but lacked a bit of finesse when called upon.

Lloyd Isgrove – 5

The wide man looked lively in pressing and causing the Arsenal defence into decisions, but didn’t see enough of the ball to make a noteworthy impact.

Shane Long – 5.5

Feeding off scraps, Long was reduced to just one half-chance versus David Ospina, which was dealt with by the Colombia international.

Subs:

Dusan Tadic – 5

The Saints turned to one of their key performers to salvage something from the game in the 64th minute, but the tide was too much for the Serbian to overcome.

Nathan Redmond – 5

Another who Puel had hoped for inspiration, as his side sunk to a 5-0 defeat.

Arsenal

David Ospina – 5.5

The erratic goalkeeper offered a few scares and miscalculations, but with a clean sheet to his name, it’s one to brush off for the moment.

Hector Bellerin – 6

The Spaniard wasn’t short of opportunities to lay down the marker on the flanks, but lacked that final pass on the night.

Shkodran Mustafi – 7

The leader in the heart of defence, Mustafi dealt with much of the defensive confusion which, at times, threatened to blemish a standout performance by the collective.

Rob Holding – 6.5

Covering for Laurent Koscielny, Holding did well against Long and co. throughout the game.

Kieran Gibbs – 6

Solid, but unspectacular stuff from the Arsenal full back, considering the Gunners’ dominance.

Ainsley Maitland-Niles – 8.5

Often deployed on the flanks, Wenger trusted the young prospect in the defensive midfield position this time around and his versatility didn’t disappoint, eating up possession alongside Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – 9

A lot has been made of Chamberlain’s potential transition into the centre of midfield over the years, and versus his ex-club the Englishman was given the chance to showcase his capabilities. Arsenal fans will now be keen to see more of the explosive star after a man of the match performance.

Jeff Reine-Adelaide – 7.5

Another future prospect thrown into the XI by Wenger, excelling in and around the Southampton area with his playmaking prowess.

Theo Walcott – 8

In the correct place at the right time, as Walcott walked away from his old home with a hat-trick.

Danny Welbeck – 8.5

In his first start of the season, Welbeck took much of the plaudits with a breath-taking first-half performance, topped with two goals and an assist, before making way for Alexis Sanchez in the second period.

Lucas Perez – 7.5

The Spaniard looked typically impressive in combination with Arsenal’s attacking components, with only a goal for the striker evading his great showing.

Subs:

Alexis Sanchez – 7

Came into the game hungry and landed himself two assists in the process, after little more than 25 minutes on the pitch.

Alex Iwobi – N/A

Klopp Out? Liverpool Fans React To Consecutive Cup Exits On Twitter

Given the geopolitical spectrum, 2017 promises to be a difficult year for us all to stomach, even by 2016’s standards, but Liverpool fans will be the ones gazing at the skies questioning why they are among the first to be feeling the burn.

Jürgen Klopp’s men enchanted the Premier League world with the German’s infamous ‘Gegenpressing’, imported from his days at Borussia Dortmund, as big results over the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City saw the Merseyside club propel themselves into the hat of potential league winners this season.

Among the charge at the upper echelons of the league table, Liverpool were also fighting for multiple domestic honours too, but that scenario has now changed drastically.

Welcoming Wolverhampton Wanderers to Anfield for a fourth round tie of the FA Cup this Saturday, the visitors were on hand to stun the hosts with goals by Richard Stearman and Andi Weimann, whereas a late Divock Origi goal wasn’t enough to see Liverpool into a draw and subsequent cup replay.

The defeat not only concluded the Reds’ elimination from the FA Cup, but also sees them fall out of a consecutive cup competition, after Southampton’s 2-0 win on aggregate in the EFL Cup in midweek.

Liverpool’s 2017 woes go on, having lost once more versus Swansea City in the league, drawing a further three games and winning just once in seven matches since the turn of the year. That game was a 1-0 victory away to Plymouth Argyle in an FA Cup replay. Glamourous.

As a consequence, social media was awash with criticism for the Scouse outfit’s boss, Klopp, ranging from rival fans to former subscribers of the German’s managerial capabilities, whereas others stayed true to their man.

Other more popular figures within Britain’s footballing hub maligned Klopp’s squad selection for the clash versus Wolves, which saw the 2011 and 2012 Bundesliga champion make a total of nine changes to the team that faced Southampton in midweek.

Despite bearing the blame for chopping and changing too much on this occasion, Klopp has felt the force of complaints coming in the opposite direction in recent days, claiming he overworks his first team too much.

The frenetic, self-proclaimed “Heavy Metal football” has been pinned against the German’s management, suggesting he’s both one-dimensional and culpable for the physical mismanagement of his players’ fitness, meanwhile the likes of Daniel Sturridge and Mamadou Sakho aren’t placed into the same equation anywhere near as much as they should be by Klopp.

With first-placed Chelsea waiting in the wings for Tuesday’s main card in the Premier League, calling on rotation made sense, but Klopp has, nonetheless, claimed full responsibility for Saturday’s additional slip-up in Liverpool’s season.

“We put in a very bad performance, we started badly and could not improve,” Klopp told BT Sport following the 2-1 defeat at home to Wolves.

“We tried, but were not good enough in the first half. The second half was better, but not enough. I am responsible, not the young players. You learn a lot about players in games like this, but I am responsible.”

Onto Tuesday night…

3 Players To Put In Your Premier League Fantasy Football Teams This Week

As the scenario gets tighter both at the top and bottom of the Premier League, the margin for error for all 20 clubs hits an all-time low with each coming week, adding greater intrigue to every upcoming matchday.

This week sees Manchester City hope to bounce back from their disarmament at Goodison Park last week when hosting Tottenham Hotspur, whereas José Mourinho’s men roam to the Bet365 Stadium to take on Stoke City.

London duo Arsenal and Chelsea land more ‘favourable’ fixtures at home to Burnley and Hull City, respectively, in addition to Liverpool welcoming Swansea City to Anfield, which has the potential to alter the picture at both ends of the table. Here’s who we’re tipping for success in Fantasy Premier League this week.

  1. Héctor Bellerín
    Club:
    Arsenal
    Position: Defender
    Price: £6.5m

A home game versus Sean Dyche’s Burnley could prove to be a potential banana skin for the Gunners, as they try the utmost to leave the Emirates with at least a point.

Commonly, that could see the Clarets take to the field in a naturally rigid and organised manner, much like they did at Old Trafford and at home to Merseyside pair, Everton and Liverpool, subsequently earning themselves five points from a potential nine.

Burnley’s record away from home, however, isn’t so impressive, earning just one point altogether this season on their travels and scoring a mere three goals in the meantime.

A more conservative approach is sure to invite the likes of Héctor Bellerín further up the field, increasing the potential for defensive goal contributions, meanwhile also heightening the chance for clean sheet bonuses, given the visitors’ poor record on the road.

Player Ratings: Everton 4-0 Manchester City – Everton’s Midfield Runs Riot

These are Fresh Football’s player ratings for Everton’s home clash versus Manchester City this Sunday.

Everton:

Joel Robles – 6.5

The Spaniard had little more than three or four shots at goal to deal with, which he did, on top of making a couple more chances tougher to execute from the opponent’s perspective by making himself big on occasions, as well as keeping a clean sheet.

Seamus Coleman – 6.5

A reasonably solid performance from Coleman, considering the opposition he was up against today. The Irishman was typically good at supporting play down the flanks.

Mason Holgate – 6.5

A real prospect, who had to deal with the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Sterling and Aguero attacking him for much of the afternoon, but the young defender came out on top.

Ashley Williams – 6.5

A no nonsense performance, sweeping everything in his sight at the heart of Koeman’s back three (five).

Ramiro Funes Mori – 6.5

Much like Williams, Funes Mori kept things simple for the most part, even if his positioning wasn’t entirely up to scratch.

Leighton Baines – 7

As he enjoys an injury-free spell in Everton’s XI, Baines kept on top of things down a relatively quite left flank.

Tom Davies – 8.5

A real moment in Everton’s season, as 18-year-old Tom Davies emerges as the Man of the Match. Combative in midfield and purposeful in possession, the new Goodison Park hero fully deserved his goal. See more reaction to his performance here.

Gareth Barry – 7.5

A strong and simplistic performance from Barry, standing as the base for counter-attacks by anchoring Koeman’s midfield with success.

Ross Barkley – 7.5

A key outlet in Everton’s attack, Barkley offered a bold reminder of just how good he can be.

Kevin Mirallas – 7.5

The Belgian winger produced the goods alongside his compatriot, Lukaku, with an assist for his international teammate and a well-taken finish in the second half.

Romelu Lukaku – 7

Owner of the opener with a first-time finish, as he held his own against the majority of the City’s defence.

Subs:

Morgan Schneiderlin – 6

The new signing offered brief glimpses of his capabilities, as he strived to shut down the game.

James McCarthy – N/A

Ademola Lookman – N/A

Difficult to hand a rating based on six minutes, but a well-executed strike for a debut goal really was the cherry on top of the icing for all concerned.

Manchester City:

Claudio Bravo – 4.5

Not his finest hour and shipping four will do little settle the question marks around the Chilean goalkeeper.

Bacary Sagna – 5.5

The better half of City’s full backs, Sagna did go close to pulling a goal back for the visitors with a looping header at the back-post, but he might well have required more in support of attacks.

Nicolas Otamendi – 4.5

Often toyed with by Lukaku, proving to be no match for the Belgian forward on the day.

John Stones – 5.5

Not the comeback of dreams he would’ve hoped for. Wasn’t the worst by any means.

Gael Clichy – 4.5

Culpable in Everton’s first goal and left chasing shadows for the hosts’ third. One to forget.

Pablo Zabaleta – 4.5

Totally ineffective in build-up, as the Argentine was neither here or there positionally against an industrious Everton midfield.

Yaya Toure – 6.5

Among the best in a City shirt, connecting dots well from a deeper role than we’re accustomed to seeing him in – a nice throwback to his younger days.

Kevin De Bruyne – 6.5

Perhaps the most likely to create magic for City from the left, so there can be minimal, if any, complaints over the playmaker.

David Silva – 5

Had little-to-no effect on Everton’s defensive posture, despite a few warnings in the first half.

Raheem Sterling – 5.5

Found himself in good areas in the first half and might well feel he deserved a penalty for his troubles in the first 45 minutes too, but the Englishman ultimately cut a frustrated figure.

Sergio Aguero – 5

Looked to force his way into the game, subsequently without success.

Subs:

Kelechi Iheanacho – 4.5

Joining Aguero in attack, the forward almost went unnoticed upon entrance.

Fans On Twitter Praise ‘Magnificent’ Everton Midfielder In 4-0 Man City Victory

There was a strong sense of intrigue surrounding the auto-claimed ‘Super Sunday,’ as two of Liverpool’s and Manchester’s biggest names split to fight for their cities in a two-part special of Premier League football.

Liverpool’s trip to Old Trafford will have undoubtedly held the majority of the limelight this Sunday, but Everton’s welcoming of Manchester City, as two of Barcelona’s greats in Pep Guardiola and Ronald Koeman went head-to-head, promised to be equally as entertaining.

The narratives continued, as John Stones returned to Goodison Park for the first time since his £47 million summer move to Man City, meanwhile a big performance on his Everton debut from ex-Man United man Morgan Schneiderlin would’ve been a great way for fans of the Red Devils to kick off proceedings.

One name denied the Frenchman of that privilege, however, as Everton stormed to a shock 4-0 win over City, somewhat thanks to a certain Tom Davies at the tender age of 18.

As Belgian duo Romelu Lukaku and Kevin Mirallas powered the Toffees to a 2-0 lead, young Davies looked untouchable in the middle of the park and Koeman’s decision to keep the midfielder on ahead of the likes of Gareth Barry was further accentuated in the 79th minute.

Having turned Yaya Toure and Gael Clichy in a unique moment of individual brilliance, Davies was on hand to combine with Lukaku before dinking the ball past Claudio Bravo to score his first goal in only his third start for the Evertonians, leaving Goodison Park, as well as social media, in awe.

New signing Ademola Lookman will also take his fair share of plaudits for a well-taken finish in Everton’s first goal, immortalising his eagerly-anticipated debut following a £7.5 million transfer that saw him swap Charlton Athletic for life in the Premier League.

Lookman joins a strong nucleus of young stars at Koeman’s disposal, more prominently the likes of Mason Holgate and ex-Sheffield United man Dominic Calvert-Lewin, as well as the new man of the moment, Davies.

The latter will be news to many neutrals, but he is a player who the Merseysiders have kept tabs on for sometime after making his debut under Roberto Martinez in April 2016.

In his first start, with Martinez already confirmed as parting company with Everton, Davies collected somewhat low-key plaudits with an assist in his Man of the Match performance.

The midfielder had since seen his involvement limited to just seven appearances for the club in all competitions this season, but after a masterclass versus Guardiola’s men, complete with a goal, we might well begin to see a little more of Goodison Park’s new hero.

Arsenal Fans React On Twitter To ‘Stroppy’ Alexis Sanchez After Swansea Substitution

We’re all used to seeing Alexis Sanchez hitting the headlines in an Arsenal shirt, but the Chilean, as has become a habit of late, will be sure to find himself in the spotlight for reasons other than his goal-scoring traits.

As the Gunners stormed to a 4-0 lead versus Swansea City this Saturday at the Liberty Stadium, courtesy of another Olivier Giroud goal, two own goals and a strike from Sanchez himself, the ex-Barcelona man drew in the attention of a camera or two in the latter stages of the game.

In a clear attempt to tot up the minutes given to the recently-injured Danny Welbeck, Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger selected Sanchez as the star to make way for the English forward, much to the 28-year-old’s displeasure.

The winger, known for his admirable work ethic, was later spotted seated away from the rest of the substitutes’ bench, visibly upset, with his head facing down on numerous occasions.

Sanchez’s reaction, which added a bittersweet taste to what had otherwise been a generally successful venture to South Wales, didn’t go unnoticed amongst the Arsenal fan base on social media over the Chilean’s repeated offence.

Sanchez is, of course, no stranger to snubbing a rest, more recently playing through a concerning hamstring injury in the last international break with Chile in late November, before returning to North London to do the same.

The forward’s complaints seem to extend beyond being given time off, however, as previous episodes exemplify.

Sanchez was left speechless and deep in thought as Arsenal slumped to a 2-1 defeat away to Manchester City in December, whereas many other fans were on hand to spot his less than accommodating attitude towards teammates throughout the festive period.

He was again very vocal when Arsenal took on Bournemouth at the Vitality Stadium this month, demonstrating to be in no mood to settle for the Gunners’ 3-3 draw after going 3-0 down in the 58th minute, throwing away his gloves in rage at full time.

Although ultimately inconclusive, Sanchez’s recent behaviour is sure to worry some of the Arsenal faithful, as the much-adored star nears the final year of his contract with the London outfit.

With less than 18 months left on his current deal, reports of interest from Italy, like-minded Premier League clubs and, somewhat unsurprisingly, China has emerged, therefore the deep-lying hope will be that his head hasn’t been turned by the unavoidable details threatening a prolonged stay at the Emirates.

3 Players You Need In Your Premier League Fantasy Football Teams This Week

Following a backlog of festive fixtures and the iconic third round ties of the FA Cup, the Premier League returns to its routine ways with Matchday 21, this weekend.

With Manchester United hosting bitter rivals Liverpool before Marco Silva’s league bout as Hull City manager against Bournemouth, there’s plenty to look forward in the coming days. But who will the headlines belong to?

1 – Patrick van Aanholt
Position:
Defender
Club: Sunderland
Price: £5.0m

It seems there’s never a time when Sunderland aren’t in desperate need of points and Saturday’s reception of the Premier League’s typical middle-ground club, Stoke City, shall be no different.

Under adverse circumstances to what the table tells us, Sunderland are unbeaten in their last three home fixtures, whereas their opponents have lived dangerously on the road with 19 goals conceded in their 10 away fixtures so far this season.

Patrick van Aanholt has often been someone the Black Cats can rely upon for a goal contribution or two, claiming three for himself in this very campaign, so if David Moyes’ men are to build up a bit more momentum in their fight for survival this week against a Stoke side that aren’t ticking as well as they could be, the Dutch full-back might well have a hand in doing so.

Combined XI: Tottenham Hotspur vs. Chelsea

With yet more points dropped between the likes of Liverpool and Arsenal at the top end of the table, Tottenham Hotspur’s clash at home to Chelsea tonight sets itself up to be of the greatest importance for both sides.

For the Blues, a record 15th consecutive win opens up a nine-point-gap between them and 2nd place Liverpool, whereas a triumph for Spurs over their London rivals not only keeps Manchester United off their backs, but also sees them leapfrog 3rd and 4th placed Manchester City and Arsenal, as well as reducing the distance between themselves and top spot to seven points.

As both sides go toe-to-toe in tonight’s heavyweight encounter, Fresh Football has consulted its bubble of imagination to compile what we think an All-star Chelsea and Spurs combined XI would look like, relative to form. Here’s what we’ve conjured up:

Goalkeeper: Hugo LlorisTottenham Hotspur

There is, without a doubt, very little between Hugo Lloris and Thibaut Courtois, who stand as two of the greatest shot-stoppers in the league, if not, the world.

Both come into the game with envious defensive records; Courtois has 11 clean sheets in the league to Lloris’ seven, but the latter has conceded just one more goal than the Belgian.

Last year was a totally different experience for Courtois, however, under-performing alongside his teammates in a season to forget for Chelsea. At the same time, no Premier League side conceded less than Spurs (and Man United), which is why Lloris takes our number one jersey.

Right Back: Kyle WalkerTottenham Hotspur

As impressive as Victor Moses has been in his new-found right wing back role, there’s the argument that the Nigerian formerly considered “deadwood” would struggle defensively without the added back-up of a third centre back in Antonio Conte’s lauded 3-4-3 system.

Further north in London, there’s few who operate better at right back than Kyle Walker. Blistering pace, coupled with well-built physicality and technical ability sees the Englishman boss the entire right flank more often than not, making him vital to the way Spurs play.

Moreover, Walker already has four assists to his name this season from defence, one more than he managed last season, and so concludes one of the easier decisions we’ve had to make in this line-up.

Centre Back: Toby AlderweireldTottenham Hotspur

The Belgian’s transition to English football has been no less than impressive, joining the north London club from Atlético Madrid to steal some of the thunder surrounding his compatriot, Jan Vertonghen, in becoming the main man at the back.

Reliable, refined in possession and a notable aerial threat, Alderweireld combines traits that sees him stand as one of the league best centre halves, therefore taking this spot in our combined XI ahead of the likes of Gary Cahill and John Terry without question.

Centre Back: David LuizChelsea

Many a human welcomed Chelsea’s £30 million signing of David Luiz, a man often synonymous with erratic defending, with smiles and laughter.

In its kindest form, his signing was branded as a complete panic buy in response to Chelsea’s failure to land the likes of Leonardo Bonucci and Kalidou Koulibaly in the summer, but the Brazilian defender and Chelsea fans alike will be sure to be giving some stick back to the numerous critics.

Since the Blues’ tactical reinvention, Luiz has seen the defensive set-up form around himself at the at the heart of the defence, subsequently seeing the 29-year-old go from strength-to-strength in his return to Stamford Bridge.

So much so has been his success with Conte’s tactical shift that he’s now touted as one of the favourites to finish the campaign in the Premier League’s Team of the Season, so it’s only fair that he sits Vertonghen out of this one.

Left Back: César AzpilicuetaChelsea

Much like Kyle Walker, Rose plays a pivotal in Mauricio Pochettino’s high-pressing side, doing so well, but meanwhile the Spurs product excels going forwards, César Azpilicueta comes up trumps going in the opposite direction, hence why he’s played across Chelsea’s backline across the years. The Spaniard gets our vote.

Right Midfield: PedroChelsea

Pedro looked to be on somewhat of a downward spiral in the past couple of seasons, falling out of favour at Barcelona before failing to crack life at Chelsea last season.

Things just abruptly clicked, however, after the Blues’ heavy 3-0 defeat away to Arsenal back in September, with Pedro scoring four goals, including one versus Spurs, and assisting six since the debacle at the Emirates.

With Erik Lamela still out injured and Willian only just now beginning to find his feet in the west Londoners’ new look outfit, Pedro claims his spot.

Centre Midfield: N’Golo KantéChelsea

The first name on the team sheet. By now you will have already heard that N’Golo Kanté picked up more points alone than any other team in the Premier League since joining Leicester City in the summer of 2015. The man is just ridiculous.

Centre Midfield: Mousa DembéléTottenham Hotspur

In the same vein as Kanté, Dembélé is equally crucial to a side hoping to get their hands on the coveted Premier League trophy.

Following recovery from injury in October 2015, Spurs didn’t lose once in his presence. Contrarily, once the Belgian was suspended for his ill-tempered altercation with Diego Costa back in May 2016, Spurs picked up just 12 points from their next 11 league games.

He was, undoubtedly, the cerebral driving force among the high praise solely directed at Dele Alli, Harry Kane, among others, and the aforementioned stars proved to be a lot poorer without Dembélé in the side. An underrated entity.

Left Midfield: Eden HazardChelsea

A shining light in Chelsea’s side, Eden Hazard finally looks to be back to his best in a free role given to him by Conte.

Nine goals and two assists in the league sees the Belgian playmaker spearhead his way as one of the favourites to take the Player of the Year gong, so he’s got his place reserved in our squad.

Striker: Diego CostaChelsea

Rivalling his teammate, Hazard, to Player of the Year award has been Diego Costa, so, again, there was little chance of us leaving him out of this combined XI.

The Brazil-born Spain international has been taken to the next level by Conte, at least from a disciplinary perspective, as the 28-year-old leads the goal-scoring charts with 14 league goals so far.

Striker: Harry KaneTottenham Hotspur

For the second season running, after Euro disappointment, Harry Kane started the season rather tentatively, but alas the constant stream of goals appear to be following the Spurs number 10.

The striker’s brace versus Watford in Tottenham’s 4-1 win saw the Englishman hit double figures in the league for the season, his 59th overall after 100 Premier League games, making him hard to overlook.

Player Ratings: AFC Bournemouth 3-3 Arsenal

These are Fresh Football’s ratings for Arsenal’s away clash versus Bournemouth in the Premier League.

Bournemouth

Artur Boruc – 5.5

Rarely brought directly into action by Arsenal, the ex-Celtic stopper had little chance in stopping the efforts that did hit the target.

Simon Francis – 6.5

A solid performance that was later blemished by a red card for a late tackle on Aaron Ramsey.

Steve Cook – 6.5

Reliable for the most part, but his performance faltered as Lucas and Alexis Sanchez joined Giroud centrally.

Charlie Daniels – 8

An excellent first half, and game in general, coupled with a goal that could’ve sent Bournemouth on their way to a historic victory in the Premier League era.

Junior Stanislas – 7

Worked the channels well and threatened Čech’s goal on a few occasions. A real handful.

Dan Gosling – 7

Another lung-bursting performance from the box-to-box midfielder, although Gosling is sure to look back on his left footed effort in the latter stages of the game that could’ve regained Bournemouth’s lead.

Harry Arter – 7

The industrious midfielder didn’t disappoint, with his pressing proving priceless in rocking Arsenal to their core in the first half.

Ryan Fraser – 9

Direct and explosive, Fraser dug Bournemouth out from Arsenal’s spells of possession on the counter en route to scoring the Cherries’ third of the night. A constant threat out on the left flank that proved to be a huge bonus to the Gunners’ once he limped off.

Joshua King – 6

Plenty of industry provided from the man partnering Callum Wilson in attack, supporting counter-attacks and back-tracking at every given opportunity to help out his team.

Callum Wilson – 6.5

Claimed good ground in behind Arsenal’s defence with regularity. Overall, it was a good performance, more noteworthy for his work rate than anything else.

Subs:

Andrew Surman – 5.5

Came on to regain some control in the second half, which worked initially prior to Bournemouth amplifying the score line to 3-0, but the deep-lying midfielder and his team were caught retreated in their own half for far too long after Fraser’s goal.

Adam Smith – N/A

Brad Smith – N/A

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Arsenal

Petr Čech – 4.5

Question marks have begun rounding the veteran goalkeeper in recent weeks, and the former Chelsea man was again partially culpable in a game that saw Fraser score with a cheeky finish through his legs at the near-post.

Héctor Bellerín – 4

Among his worst performances in an Arsenal shirt, as all three of Bournemouth’s goals originated from Bellerín’s right flank.

Shkodran Mustafi – 4.5

There was a real lack of synergy in the backline awaiting Mustafi in his return to the first team. Often naïve in possession and made to look silly by the in-form Fraser, the German can at least polish up his invincibility record following Olivier Giroud’s late equaliser.

Laurent Koscielny – 4.5

Left chasing shadows for the best part of the game, with it being unclear whether his early substitution was related to any knock picked up in battle.

Nacho Monreal – 4.5

The 30-year-old has made steady progress on his form in recent weeks, but the likes of Stanislas looked adamant to bring Monreal back to square one, with varied success.

Francis Coquelin – 3.5

Struggled to impose himself early on versus Bournemouth’s pressing game and an injury midway through the first half robbed him the time to rectify that order.

Granit Xhaka – 5.5

His general play was decent, and Xhaka can even claim the assist from Giroud’s equaliser, but the penalty given away in the 20th minute does little to clear up his erratic image, meanwhile proving to be costly to his team.

Aaron Ramsey – 5

Fashioned a few half-chances for himself going forwards, but, clearly, he’s no Mesut Özil.

Alex Iwobi – 4

Nothing in this one from Iwobi, who might well be feeling the effects of two games in three days. Offered the rare hope for an Arsenal goal in the first half, but struck the ball wide.

Alexis Sanchez – 6

A very fiery version of Alexis Sanchez was on show again, as the Chilean dug deep to follow-up Giroud’s flick-on and kick-start Arsenal’s comeback in the 70th minute.

Olivier Giroud – 6.5

Even underperforming, Giroud came up big when it mattered most, assisting Sanchez for Arsenal’s first of the night and grabbing the headlines for himself with a late equaliser. Yet another clutch moment for the Frenchman this season.

Subs:

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – 6

Not so inspirational going forwards, but Oxlade-Chamberlain did come up with a crucial 11th hour intervention on Fraser, as the Scot eyed up his second of the night one-on-one with Čech.

Lucas Perez – 6

Noteworthy in most build-ups late on and the proud owner of the goal of the night, driving in a left-footed volley from an acute angle.

Gabriel Paulista – 5.5

Steadied the ship a little at the back, though a deeper block from the home side made sweeping up possession a lot easier the Brazilian, but Gabriel was on hand to support the Gunners’ aerial threat that eventually earned them two goals.

Player Ratings: West Ham United 0-2 Manchester United

These are Fresh Football’s ratings for West Ham United’s home clash versus Manchester United in the Premier League:

West Ham United

Darren Randolph – 6.5

Came up with an important reflex save to deny Antonio Valencia a simple tap-in, with the Irish goalkeeper left with little to work with in denying the visitors’ two goals.

Håvard Nordtveit – 4.5

The weak link in West Ham’s defence, adapted at right back and fully exposed by Marcus Rashford’s entrance in the second half.

Winston Reid – 6

Kept the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic as quiet as possible throughout much of the game, eventually falling foul to an offside goal by the Swede.

Angelo Ogbonna – 6

Much like Reid, Ogbonna kept things tight as best as he could in what seemed to be an inclined pitch following Sofiane Feghouli’s early red card.

Aaron Cresswell – 5

Due to obvious circumstances, we didn’t see the ex-Ipswich Town full back bomb up and down the left flank as often as he would’ve hoped, taking away a key outlet in the Hammers’ attack.

Cheikhou Kouyaté – 5.5

Closed many avenues centrally but also tired substantially as the game went on, allowing for greater dominance by United.

Pedro Obiang – 6

Among the best in a West Ham shirt, evading the bodies situated in the middle of the park to set counters with the ball in his possession, but like his midfield counterpart, Kouyaté, Obiang appeared visibly fatigued in the latter stages of the game.

Sofiane Feghouli – N/A

In his first start for the London club, the former Valencia wide man was sent off rather controversially after just 15 minutes of football.

Manuel Lanzini – 6.5

The key threat going forward, somewhat muted following Feghouli’s red card.

Dimitri Payet – 5.5

Looked sharp in the early exchanges, but he also shrunk in size and effectiveness after Mike Dean’s controversial decision in the game’s infancy.

Michail Antonio – 4

The West Ham top scorer spurned a great chance one-on-one to give the hosts the lead and United weren’t so merciful soon after at the opposite end.

Subs:

Andy Carroll – 4.5

Came on in response to United taking the lead, but the man most likely to find him inside the box turned out to be the player he replaced – Payet. A missed opportunity from Slaven Bilić, rather than anyone else.

Edimilson Fernandes – N/A

Manchester United:

David De Gea – 7

As reliable as ever, De Gea came up with two big saves to deny Lanzini and Antonio a goal either side of the half time interval.

Antonio Valencia – 5.5

Arguably should’ve scored from close range, didn’t, but there’ll be few complaints from a defensive perspective, which is never a bad thing.

Phil Jones – 6

Another clean sheet for the file, strengthening the defender’s case to enter the defensive equation definitively in the José Mourinho era.

Marcos Rojo – 6

Started the game at centre back, ended it at left back. Solid, once again, in both positions, as his versatility begins to prove fruitful.

Matteo Darmian – 5

Victim of a tactical shift at half-time that saw Juan Mata replace him against 10-man West Ham. A solid, if insignificant, first-half performance by the Italian.

Michael Carrick – 6.5

Very sound in conducting United’s search for a goal, keeping them composed, as they eventually broke through the Hammers’ barricade.

Ander Herrera – 6.5

Typically kept play ticking, pressed high to retain possession and provided a threat late in the second half, as the game opened up. Good again from the Spaniard.

Paul Pogba – 6.5

In the same boat as Herrera, the multi-million pound man grew as the game went on, going close to goal himself a couple of times in the second period.

Jesse Lingard – 4

Hit the post from just yards out in United’s clearest goal-scoring opportunity in the first period, as the 24-year-old failed to inflict damage upon a compact West Ham side prior to be replaced by Marcus Rashford.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan – 5

Not his finest performance of late, with space to operate in proving to be limited.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic – 5

Starved of service for the best part, but Ibrahimovic still managed to add a goal to his name, despite being in an offside position.

Subs:

Juan Mata – 6.5

The goal scorer of yet another crucial goal for the Red Devils, as he tipped the balance once more in United’s favour.

Marcus Rashford – 7

The key to unlocking the game, Rashford was able to cause disruptions down the left flank and, crucially, assist Mata for the game’s opening goal.

Chris Smalling – N/A

An In-Depth Look At Whether Or Not Victor Lindelöf Is Worth The Investment For Manchester United

Much has been made of a potential move launched by Manchester United for Benfica centre back Victor Lindelöf, who could, eventually, be joined by defensive counterpart Nélson Semedo in a historic double swoop.

The latest murmurs surrounding the multi-million-pound operation, however, suggest any hope the Red Devils may have had of gaining the Sweden international’s signature may have been dampened.

At the heart of the deal’s supposed collapse is the public dispute between Benfica and Lindelöf’s former club, Västerås, over alleged fees owed in his initial transfer to Portugal, although José Mourinho may also have had a hand in United turning their backs on a £42 million transfer. Just how accurate might that decision be?

Beyond the media storm surrounding Renato Sanches in Lisbon last season, Lindelöf proved to be equally as impressive and pivotal to Benfica’s run en route to the Liga NOS title last season, as he capitalised on injuries to first-team centre-backs to forge a stellar partnership alongside Jardel for over half a season.

The 22-year-old tasted defeat just five times in 45 games since breaking into Benfica’s XI, three of those coming in the UEFA Champions’ League against Napoli (2x) and Bayern Munich, with FC Porto and Maritimo also claiming rare victories against the Swede.

With 22 clean sheets under his belt, Lindelöf picked up “The Iceman” nickname for his composure and calculated interventions that has seen the defender gain just five yellow cards in the last 12 months.

Additionally composed and exemplifying qualities that fall within the modern-day ball-playing defender template, his talents didn’t go unnoticed by his national team when earning the call-up for Euro 2016, and now it appears Man United have followed suit in attraction to his traits.

Up against his United counterparts, Chris Smalling, Marcos Rojo, Phil Jones and Eric Bailly, none of the aforementioned options to Mourinho have completed as many successful passes (51.71 per game), or indeed successful forward passes (47.21 per game) as Lindelöf in their respective league competition.

Only Bailly with 1.64 tackles won per game beats the rumoured United target, whereas it is Chris Smalling who is the only defender to lose out fewer times than the man lauded for his precision when defending. Although he’s some way off the top with a statistical register of 1.71 interceptions per game versus Bailly’s 2.82, the Swedish star does mix in well with Rojo’s 1.80 and Jones’ 1.75 score, both second and third ahead of Lindelöf.

Blocks made by the defenders paint a similar picture, with Bailly leading the way with 0.45 made per game to Lindelöf’s 0.36, but there’s one fact the core stats don’t highlight and that’s the degree to which the defenders in question are exposed to the threats of high-quality attacks.

Lindelöf has, undoubtedly, emerged as top performer for Benfica, but this has all come in a visibly inferior league. One shouldn’t have to remind many of the below-par figure that was ex-Liverpool and Sunderland centre-back Sebastian Coates, the same man who now, at the same time as Lindelöf, leads by example as one of the Portuguese league’s most consistent players at the back.

Likewise, Manchester City’s £32 million flop, Eliaquim Mangala, was totally imperious for much of his three-year-spell in Portugal when starring for the then champions FC Porto, meanwhile memories of the Frenchman in the blue half of Manchester weren’t as fond as his record deal promised.

A common attitude within the realms of Portuguese football sees most sides outside the traditional top four of Benfica, Sporting, Porto and Braga opt to “park the bus” and time-waste from the first minute as if it were the last when facing a big boy. In turn, that limits the pressure that key defenders like Lindelöf, Mangala etc. are subjected to, thus making it very tricky to truly judge the qualities that they possess.

It’s a decision Mourinho will undoubtedly continue to mull over, with the rumour mill still at its birth. In the meantime, the recent pairing of Jones and Rojo has stabilised the ship at Old Trafford, with Smalling still to return to the first-team, one would assume, following a lengthy foot injury.

The investment made in Bailly appears to have been a good one, and despite international duty making him unavailable for the best part of a month during the African Cup of Nations, United still have the versatile Daley Blind to fall back on.

And so for all the promise (and doubts) hanging over Lindelöf’s shoulders, just how necessary to Man United is the £38 million-rated man?

‘Incredible’ Twitter Heaps Praise On Manchester United Man After Performance vs. West Brom

All talk was reserved for one man in particular, as Manchester United continued to brush up their fortunes with a 2-0 victory away to Premier League high-flyers West Bromwich Albion at the Hawthorns this Saturday.

As Wayne Rooney continues to set his sights on Bobby Charlton’s historic 249-goal haul for the Red Devils, denied the feat on the night by the crossbar, it was Man United’s other veteran in attack, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, that hogged the plaudits with his renewed stream of goals.

The Swede gave José Mourinho’s reviving side the lead as early as the 5th minute with a well-taken header from Jesse Lingard’s cross, whereas Ibrahimovic was on hand to double the dosage in the second half and ease any lingering worries that existed concerning a potential banana skin that was the trip to 7th placed West Brom.

Of the two shots taken by Ibrahimovic, all ended up in the back of the net in what was a Man of the Match performance, whereas the brace bagged tonight sees the target man hit his 34th goal in 33 league games throughout 2016.

Just the one goal was enough, however, for the 35-year-old’s name to dominate the reactions emerging from United’s evening in the West Midlands.

Ibrahimovic was widely expected to struggle in the Premier League when arriving at Old Trafford, in particular due to his age, but the striker’s first goal of the night told a very different story, taking him to double figures in the Premier League and pushing his total for the season to 15.

In response, United fans and loyal ‘Ibra’ backers were on hand to outline the former Paris-Saint Germain star’s good work, without a doubt aimed at those branding him a flop.

Ibrahimovic, a champion in Italy, Spain, France and the Netherlands, has always had the question mark hanging over his head around these alleys of Europe over whether he could replicate his success in front of goal in the popular goldfish that is Premier League.

Now testing his capabilities at the ripe old age of 35, the odds weren’t as favourable as the man himself might like to think, but the striker has always strived to discard such claims that he’s “finished” at the highest level.

Even as recently as today, the well-preserved Ibrahimovic was keen to outline that he feels fresh in the prospect of being handed a rest in coming games.

“In football, sometimes you have to listen to everybody around you, but in my mind I’m a 20-year-old boy,” the Man United number 9 said. “I’m fresh and I’ll keep going, as long as the team needs me.”

A repeat of Ibrahimovic’s current goal scoring exploits in 2016 certainly wouldn’t go amiss in United’s bid to climb back up the Premier League.

3 Big Investments You Need To Make For Your Fantasy Football Teams This Week

There’s every chance that it could be another weekend filled with goals, given the sheer amount of relegation “six-pointers” and high-profile clashes coming our way in Gameweek 17 of the Premier League.

Arsenal’s trip to the Etihad Stadium and this season’s first instalment of the Merseyside derby stick out like a sore thumb, but pay special attention to West Ham United hosting Hull City, the clash down on the south coast between Bournemouth and Southampton, Sunderland versus Watford, and many more potentially goal-infested games.

With the festive period over the horizon, we appreciate Fantasy Premier League won’t be the first thing on your mind, which is why this week’s edition of Fresh Football’s tip-offs is dedicated to those players you should look to invest in while you take your eye of the ball. Here are our choices:

Michail Antonio
Club:
West Ham United
Position: Midfield
Price: £6.7m

After appearing totally downbeat a fortnight ago in response to West Ham’s 5-1 meltdown at home to Arsenal, Slaven Bilić and his men have managed to grab onto some form with a bounce-back 2-2 draw at Anfield to Liverpool and a 1-0 win over a resilient Burnley side in midweek.

The picture looks brighter ahead of Hull’s trip to east London, with the Irons taking on Swansea City and Leicester City following Saturday, all subsequently languishing alongside them in the bottom half of the table.

West Ham have the opportunity to kick-start a revival and in Michail Antonio, the goal scorer in their 2-2 draw against Liverpool and currently with seven league goals to his name, they have a potential hero guide them out of a precarious situation.

2 – Alexis Sanchez
Club:
Arsenal
Position: Midfield
Price: £11.7m

Sunday’s clash sees a reunion between Alexis Sanchez and his former Barcelona boss, Pep Guardiola, who’s had his fair share of success up against Arsenal in European competitions over the years. The Gunners will be without key man Shkodran Mustafi, sorely missed in their 2-1 defeat versus Everton on Tuesday, but list of absentees in the blue half of Manchester also goes a long way into opening up this clash.

Sergio Agüero headlines the list of players Guardiola can’t count on ahead of their next fixture, as he serves part of his four-game suspension, whereas midfield general Fernandinho and Nicolas Otamendi are joined by İlkay Gündoğan on the sidelines, likely to be out for up to eight months!

Guardiola will be tasked with averting Arsenal’s recent unbeaten run against City, currently without a loss in their last five league meetings, but if they continue to expose themselves as much as they have done with expansive football directly from the back-line, in particular with Sanchez and co. sniffing around, they could land themselves in deep trouble.

The Chilean leading the line for the Gunners has proved to be a revolutionary feature in north London this season, thus far leading the Premier League’s goal scoring charts with Chelsea’s Diego Costa on 12 goals, and with a double-header at home coming up against West Bromwich Albion and Crystal Palace into the New Year, there could well be more to come from Sanchez, starting Sunday.

Theo Walcott is a valid alternative, despite his poor show at Goodison Park this Tuesday, off the back of two goals in Arsenal’s last two home games, as well as occasionally popping up on the score sheet against City over the years.

3 – Diego Costa
Club: Chelsea
Position: Forward
Price: £10.2m

Winning ten out of their last ten games in the Premier League, leading the table by six points, Chelsea are without a doubt the in-form team in the division. A portion of that is owed to Diego Costa, goal scorer of the winning goal versus West Brom last weekend and owner of 11 more throughout this season, with the Spain international promising more from his startling performances.

Next up for Antonio Conte’s man is a date with Crystal Palace; an away trip that is sure to test the Blues’ endurance in what can be considered a gap year for the side relieved of its European duties in midweek, as opposed to many of their title rivals. Chelsea’s last outing on Wednesday saw them settle for a 1-0 win against relegation candidates Sunderland.

Crystal Palace are coming off a strenuous task themselves, however, as they were sunk by an 88th minute Zlatan Ibrahimovic winner in a 2-1 defeat at home to Manchester United, so the fitness worries are also there for the club that’s conceded 31 goals already this season.

Can Costa add to that count? We wouldn’t bet against it, whereas the all-action striker also has winnable home fixtures against Bournemouth and Stoke City to top up his goal scoring antics following Saturday’s early kick-off.

Player Ratings Out Of 10 For All The Everton and Arsenal Players

These are Fresh Football’s ratings for Everton’s Premier League clash at home to Arsenal on Tuesday night:

Everton

Maarten Stekelenburg – 6

Nothing spectacular from the Dutch goalkeeper in between the sticks, but he did provide a few successful ‘Cruyff turns’ on Arsenal’s stars that went down well with sections of the home crowd. His experience throughout periods of the game were also an invaluable feature in Everton riding spells of Gunners attacks, cutting the impetus.

Seamus Coleman – 7

A typical, tenacious Seamus Coleman performance, completed by the goal late into the first-half that brought the Toffees level.

Ashley Williams – 7

From zero to hero – the Welsh defender was at the centre of Arsenal’s first goal, deflecting Alexis Sanchez’s free-kick past Stekelenburg, but the ex-Swansea skipper more than made up for his less than fortunate moment with an 86th minute winner.

Phil Jagielka – 6.5

Solid alongside Williams and pivotal in the build-up that led to his defensive partner’s late heroics, but the former Sheffield United man will be ruing a late tackle that saw Mark Clattenburg brandish a red card upon him, subsequently ruling him out of the Merseyside derby next Monday.

Leighton Baines – 8.5

The English left back was on top form versus Theo Walcott, picked up an assist for Coleman’s equaliser and was on hand to salvage Everton with an 11th hour clearance off the line from Alex Iwobi’s shot in the dying seconds of the game.

James McCarthy – 6.5

Lifted the crowd with some borderline tackles which, ultimately, Everton benefited from over the course of both halves.

Idrissa Gana Gueye – 6.5

Alongside McCarthy at the base of midfield, Gueye’s energy was priceless in maintaining Everton’s often relentless tempo and making things uncomfortable for Arsenal through constant pressure.

Ross Barkley – 6

A better performance from the under-fire Englishman, who on another day might well have chipped in with a goal or two with the chances he had to either score or assist.

Aaron Lennon – 4.5

The ex-Tottenham Hotspur winger put a shift in when required to do so, but he was, ultimately, disappointing in the final third.

Enner Valencia – 7

Among his best performances for his new club, Valencia ran the channels well and ensured an uncomfortable night for Nacho Monreal with his pace.

Romelu Lukaku – 6.5

An incredibly sacrificial display from Lukaku, often hanging within Laurent Koscielny’s radius to occupy Arsenal’s star defender for the benefit of his teammates. The Belgian’s link-up play from direct balls proved to be sound, despite rarely threatening to beat Petr Cech himself.

Subs:

Kevin Mirallas – 5

The winger came on to refresh the left flank when replacing Aaron Lennon, but didn’t have much success up against Hector Bellerin.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin – N/A

Ramiro Funes Mori – N/A

Arsenal

Petr Cech – 6.5

There was little the Czech Republican could do for both headed goals scored by Everton, but Cech did come up with a big save to deny Jagielka just moments before Williams’ winner.

Hector Bellerin – 6.5

The Spaniard grew into the game from an offensive aspect, meanwhile keeping both Lennon and Mirallas at bay on the right flank.

Gabriel Paulista – 6

Filling in for the injured Shkodran Mustafi after spells at right back, Gabriel appeared to have made the smooth transition back into the heart of the defence, initially, but the likes of Valencia and Lukaku did get the better of the Brazilian on a few occasions as the game opened up.

Laurent Koscielny – 7.5

Busy with Lukaku in his peripheral view, the Frenchman dealt with much that came his way.

Nacho Monreal – 6

A game of phases for Monreal. At times he looked troubled, in particular when in foot races next to Valencia, but there were also moments when the experienced left back was on hand to trouble the Everton back line with associative play on the flank.

Granit Xhaka – 5.5

The Swiss midfielder failed to impose himself on a hectic, end-to-end game, and how Arsenal could have done with someone to set the tempo on a night filled with disappointment.

Francis Coquelin 6.5

Played his part in combating Everton’s tenacity, pressing with success himself and winning his fair of 50/50s that kept Arsenal somewhat competitive in the middle of the park.

Theo Walcott – 4.5

Unfortunately for Arsenal, Walcott was never in the game.

Mesut Özil – 4.5

The pace of the game blew past the German playmaker, who will also be kicking himself for missing a great opportunity to make it 2-1 to Arsenal midway through the second half.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – 4.5

Another who never managed to leave his imprint on the game, cutting a frustrated figure on Arsenal’s left flank and committing his fair share unnecessary fouls as a consequence.

Alexis Sanchez – 7

Looked to be the likeliest Arsenal player to tip the balance all night after scoring the first goal of the game, but too many of his teammates just weren’t on the same wavelength.

Subs:

Olivier Giroud – 4.5

The Frenchman’s introduction didn’t quite have the desired effect the Gunners imagined him to have, as Everton pushed up their defensive line and made it difficult for the target man to spearhead Arsenal’s counters through a natural lack of pace.

Alex Iwobi – 5

Promised more than both Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain from wide areas when coming on, but his general passing game was a little off in crucial moments.

Lucas Perez – N/A

Player Ratings For Both Teams: Manchester United 1-0 Tottenham Hotspur

These are Fresh Football’s player ratings for the game in between Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur in the Premier League.

Manchester United

David De Gea – 7

The Spaniard made some good, if uncomplicated saves to keep Man United’s register clean throughout the game.

Antonio Valencia – 6.5

Maintained a solid display from start to finish, entering in interesting disputes with Danny Rose out on United’s right flank.

Phil Jones – 7.5

The former Blackburn Rovers man continues to offer José Mourinho food for thought with yet another impressive performance, this time marking Harry Kane out of the game.

Marcos Rojo – 7

Solid once more, accommodating Jones from a technical aspect at the heart of defence. Rojo has been given lots of praise from the fans, see some reaction here.

Matteo Darmian – 6

The Italian had his hands full with both Kyle Walker, Son Heung-Min and later Moussa Sissoko bombarding his flank, but Darmian didn’t let his side down.

Michael Carrick – 6.5

At the base of United’s midfield, Carrick was on hand keep things compact, evade Spurs’ habitual high press and set purposeful counters.

Ander Herrera – 6

Combative in midfield, priceless in supporting Carrick up against the likes of Vincent Wanyama, Mousa Dembélé and Dele Alli.

Paul Pogba – 7

Among his best performances in a United shirt, the Frenchman took full advantage of the space beyond him in an open second half, threatening Spurs in a number of attacks and leaving his compatriot, Hugo Lloris, stunned when smashing the post from a dangerous free-kick. Better.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan – 8

Another man of the match performance from the Armenian, the man to break the deadlock with an emphatic finish in the first half. Mkhitaryan served as the main outlet in spearheading counter-attacks.

Anthony Martial – 5

Very passive and unsupportive of his full back partner, Darmian. The weak link in United’s side.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic – 6.5

Far from being the main threat, but the spaces occupied by Ibrahimovic proved to be incredibly beneficial in confusing a high defensive line from Spurs.

Subs

Marcus Rashford – 5

There was nothing of note in the final third from the young Englishman, but his mere presence and fresh legs was enough to dampen Kyle Walker’s appetite to roam forwards.

Eric Bailly – N/A

Marouane Fellaini – N/A

Tottenham Hotspur

Hugo Lloris – 6.5

Kept Spurs’ hopes of taking something from the game alive with a couple of good saves from Pogba and Ibrahimovic efforts.

Kyle Walker – 6

Often supportive high up on the right flank, but didn’t quite find the openings that have so often seen him inflict damage in Mauricio Pochettino’s set-up.

Toby Alderweireld – 6

A little rusty and limited further by United’s tactical approach to prevent him from playing the ball out from the back, but the Belgian was generally okay.

Jan Vertonghen – 5

Never quite managed to patch up the gap between him and Danny Rose, exposed fully by Mkhitaryan on his way smashing in the game’s only goal.

Danny Rose – 5.5

Lively as always, but second best up against Mkhitaryan and Valencia.

Victor Wanyama – 5

Missed a very good chance to equalise in the second half with a tame and inaccurate header, whereas the Kenyan, moreover, was an unnecessary quantity in midfield in Spurs’ search for an equaliser.

Mousa Dembélé – 5.5

Never quite got ahold of the game as he usually does, to Spurs’ detriment.

Son Heung-Min – 5.5

Appeared the most likely player in the first half to bring Spurs level, testing De Gea from range on a couple of occasions, but the South Korean was sacrificed for Pochettino’s tactical switch early in the second period.

Dele Alli – 4.5

Failed to link the midfield to a stranded Harry Kane in a toothless performance from the young Englishman. Tottenham fans aren’t happy with his performance, see some reaction here.

Christian Eriksen – 5

Always a threat from a set-piece, that’s almost a given, but Eriksen continued to be somewhat uninspired as one of Spurs’ chief creatives.

Harry Kane – 4.5

Buried in United bodies and culpable in Mkhitaryan’s goal, giving the ball away prior to the hosts’ quick counter.

Subs

Moussa Sissoko – 5

Came on to take full advantage of Martial’s flawed back-tracking, but the Frenchman lacked a little finesse in his thought process to ever hurt the Red Devils.

Harry Winks – N/A

Georges Nkoudou – N/A

3 Alternative Selections For Your Premier League Fantasy Football Team This Week

Premier League football could well be in for a triple dosage of goal-laden games this week, given the amount of must-win duels coming our way.

In hope of a response to Wednesday’s 5-0 drubbing at the hands of FC Porto in the UEFA Champions League, Leicester City will be praying for three points, something that has escaped them since late October.

The Foxes’ opponents this Saturday come in the form of favourable quantity Manchester City, also coming into this weekend’s clash off the back of European disappointment versus Celtic and with an underwhelming record of just three wins in their last six league games.

Old Trafford hosts the anticipated meeting between top four contenders, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur, neither being left with much margin for error, whereas at the other end of the table, the likes of Hull City, Crystal Palace, Swansea City and Sunderland all face “cup finals” of their own.

But with so many blows expected to be traded this weekend, it’s perhaps a surprise to see we’re backing just one striker to rake in a large sum of points this weekend in Fantasy Premier League. Here are our reasons:

1 – Gylfi Sigurðsson

Club: Swansea City
Position: Midfielder
Price: £7.4m

Currently sitting bottom of the pile in the Premier League, the need for points is urgent at the Liberty Stadium and they won’t have many better opportunities to do so than when Sunderland come to town.

The Black Cats are on the up, winning three of their last four league games, but they’re still very much within the realms of the lower end of the table, as two points separate the relegation candidates prior to Saturday’s fixture.

Swansea’s last victory saw the Swans topple Crystal Palace in a 5-4 thriller a fortnight ago, of which Gylfi Sigurðsson was on hand to chip in with a goal and assist en route to victory. Last weekend’s 5-0 loss away to Spurs was the first time in six appearances that the Icelandic star didn’t contribute directly to a Swansea goal, so if Bob Bradley’s side are to lift off the root of the league table come Saturday, we expect the 27-year-old to have a significant input.

Player Ratings: F.C. Zorya Luhansk 0-2 Manchester United

Manchester United qualified for the Europa League next stage with a fairly comfortable 2-0 away win against Zorya Luhansk. Although it was a fairly good performance from Jose Mourinho’s men, they will be disappointed as despite the 3 points, they finished 2nd in the group because Fenerbahce beat Feyenoord in the other match in the group. 

These are Fresh Football’s ratings for Manchester United’s Europa League clash away to Zorya Luhansk.

Manchester United

Sergio Romero – 5

A comfortable night for Man United’s number two between the sticks, with the Argentine pulling off a decent save when required in the 72nd minute to prevent a Zorya equaliser.

Ashley Young – 5

No fireworks, but Young was able to do a job without any flagrant complaints. Kept himself in Mourinho’s plans by again showing versatility, this time at right back.

Eric Bailly – 7

A big display from Bailly, steadily returning to full fitness. The ex-Villarreal man swept up much of what was played in and around of United’s defence, providing a fair share of crucial interceptions in the meantime.

Marcos Rojo – 6

Comfortable in possession and helpful in recycling possession. Had little to do with regards to defending, however.

Daley Blind – 5

A quiet one from Blind, but solid nonetheless.

Ander Herrera – 6.5

Alongside Bailly, Herrera proved to be pivotal in pressing higher up and ensuring that the Red Devils recouped possession as soon as possible.

Paul Pogba – 4.5

Pogba was one of the few to try and speed up proceedings within the visitors’ large spells of possession, but his general execution of passes/shots from range left a lot to be desired.

Juan Mata – 6

The Spaniard has been among the most impressive for United this season and today, albeit throughout lacklustre spells, the former Chelsea midfielder stood out again before being replaced by Jesse Lingard.

Wayne Rooney – 3

A no-show from the United captain on the night. Passes going astray, poor control…forgetful. Does he warrant a place in the starting eleven at the moment? Not based on this performance.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan – 6.5

The goalscorer of the well-taken first goal prior to dazzling the Zorya defence with individual some brilliance. Mkhitaryan continues to impress in a United shirt since he was finally selected by Jose.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic – 5

A bit hit and miss, but the Swede began to grow into the game once Rooney was taken off, freeing up his habitual radius of action. Ibrahimovic was on hand to kill the game off late on with United’s second goal.

Subs

Jesse Lingard – 4

The winger was able to quicken play up, but made his fair share of poor choices in the final third.

Marouane Fellaini – N/A

Timothy Fosu-Mensah – N/A