All

Report: Liverpool in battle with Barcelona to sign exciting midfielder

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

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

Where would he fit in?

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

How likely is it to happen?

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

Would he be a good signing?

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

Potential Manchester United XI next season including Griezmann & Verratti

Manchester United were the highest spenders in the Premier League last summer but Jose Mourinho’s side are still short of competing for the major honours, having spent the majority of the campaign in sixth position.

Arsenal’s decline has seen the Red Devils rise to fifth, four points behind Liverpool with two games in hand, but Manchester United will be aiming for bigger and better things next season; as they eye a push for league glory and look to mount a challenge in the Champions League.

To achieve those goals, Mourinho will have to spend heavily to improve the squad once again this summer and there’s likely to be a host of holes in the squad that need filling- as the likes of Wayne Rooney, Luke Shaw and Michael Carrick are all likely to leave Old Trafford.

United have cash in abundance though and spending cash won’t be an issue for the Red Devils though and this potential XI looks phenomenal.

Analysis: Would Verratti be better for Man United or Chelsea

Manchester United and Chelsea have received a boost via the recent comments from Marco Verratti’s agent, as The Daily Mirror suggests the Italian is unhappy at Paris Saint-Germain.

24-year-old Verratti is one of the finest young midfielders within world football and interest from top clubs, including that of Barcelona, is likely to be high. Now, Verratti’s agent Donato di Campli has handed any interested party a boost in the quest for his client’s services.

“The situation is very complicated – he has a very good contract until 2021. He wants to win and PSG, like it is, cannot win. He has been in Paris for five years now and he has to make a decision: earn a lot and not win or earn and become a champion.”

“It is not a problem of money. Whoever signs Verratti will pay him a lot of money. One thing is certain: if he leaves PSG, it will be for a top European club. There are some top Italian clubs but I have my doubts Italy will be his final destination. Spain, the Premier League or the Bundesliga? A top European club.”

Both Chelsea and Manchester United already have a wealth of talent in midfield but Verratti would be a significant addition, though it begs the question of where he’d be the best fit. Here, we’ve taken a look.

Which style works best?

Manchester United and Chelsea both have contrasting styles under Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte, with the latter adopting a three-man defence and utilising wing-backs; which means the midfield duo, which this season has largely consisted of N’Golo Kante and Nemanja Matic, needs to be solid defensively.

United, on the other hand, usually adopt a flat back-four but their shape doesn’t have too much space for another creative midfielder, with Paul Pogba playing further forward whilst Ander Herrera or Michael Carrick sweeps up the danger.

If Verratti were to arrive at either Premier League side, he’d need to be strong defensively to fit into the current set-up; although there is a chance that the tactics could be tweaked if his future does lie in England.

Is Verratti defensively strong?

Squawka statistics show Verratti can hold his own defensively but there is certainly work to be done, with the concerning aspect showing the Italian international has picked up five yellow cards this season and committed a hefty 26 fouls.

On a more positive note, 45 successful tackles and 15 interceptions make for good reading but winning three aerial duels show’s he’s not quite suited to a defensive role. Clearly, he’s better in attack than he is in a deeper role.

With that being the case, Chelsea seems to be an incredibly unlikely destination with Antonio Conte’s current tactics but the Italian link could work. Meanwhile, United would equally have to adjust their set-up.

Looking at it this way, Barcelona would probably be the best fit for Verratti and he’d certainly be a top-quality successor to Andres Iniesta in the Catalan side’s ranks.

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

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

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

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

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

How would Bonucci fit in? 

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

How likely is this? 

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

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

How much would he cost?

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

Analysis: Would Turan be a good replacement for Ozil at Arsenal

Arsenal are bracing themselves for the possibility of losing Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez this summer, as the pair enter the final 12 months of their current contracts, but The Times reports the Gunners have a plan in the form of Arda Turan.

30-year-old Turkish international Turan hasn’t quite had things go his way since switching Atletico Madrid for Barcelona two-years ago, in a deal worth £26m, and the restructure this summer that will follow Luis Enrique’s departure is likely to leave Turan edging towards an exit.

Arsenal are keen on his services, for a fee said to be around £25m, but replacing World Cup winner Mesut Ozil is certainly not an easy task- so we’ve crunched the numbers to assess whether he’d be an adequate recruit.

How do they compare?

Using statistics from Squawka, Mesut Ozil and Arda Turan are comparable on the passing front but the German ace has the edge in an attacking sense; creating 59 chances compared to Turan’s 27 and 55 key passes compared to Turan’s 24.

In the Champions League, Turan again falls behind Ozil in comparison- particularly in chances created and assists, where Ozil has 14 and three respectively compared to Turan’s 3 and 1. That said, Ozil has played 626 minutes of European football whereas Turan has just 175.

Both boast a pass completion percentage of 87% but Ozil again has the edge in terms of assists, securing four in the Premier League this season whilst Turan has three in La Liga. In the Champions League, Turan equals Ozil’s four goals but the Turkish ace’s have come from just seven shots- giving him a superior shot accuracy of 86%.

In front of goal, stats show Ozil once again has the edge over Turan with five Premier League goals, 33 shots and 50% shot accuracy- compared to the three goals, 12 shots and 44% accuracy that Arda Turan has.

Who are the alternatives?

If Arsenal look to promote from within to fill the void left by a potential exit for Ozil, then the likely candidates are Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere and Alex Iwobi. Statistically though, they’re again short of the German.

Squawka stats show Ozil has the advantage over Arsenal’s other trio in all areas bar two- with Aaron Ramsey boasting a slightly better 89% pass completion over Ozil’s 87%, whilst Alex Iwobi has one taken one more shot in the Premier League (44).

Therefore, it’s clear Arsenal should look to bring someone in to fill the void Ozil would leave but finding the right replacement will certainly not be easy and could prove to be expensive. Whilst Turan is an affordable option, they would lack the benefits that Ozil provides.

5 Arsenal Players Severely Underperforming Because Of Wenger

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

1 – Mesut Ozil

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘His Best Performance For Liverpool’ Huge Praise For Liverpool Midfielder In Man City Draw

Emre Can’s had his fair share of criticism this season, but another stellar display in the absence of captain Jordan Henderson saw the German gain a huge round of praise following Liverpool’s 1-1 draw with Manchester City on Sunday afternoon.

Ridiculed for a lack of consistency and class in the middle of the park, Can was one of the stand out performers at the Etihad, bringing steel and grit to Liverpool’s display. Having scored the winner against Burnley last weekend, Can is certainly proving he has much more to give to this side with contract talks still at a standoff.

Here’s how fans reacted to Emre Can’s performance at the weekend. Do you agree?

Credit has to go to Can for how he’s reacted after such a poor patch of form. The snide and cheek we have witnessed in recent weeks, most noticeably against Arsenal, has given this team something it’s lacked since the days of Javier Mascherano and co., causing some to suggest he should retain his spot even when Henderson returns from the sidelines – a stark contrast to previous comments on the young midfielder.

The 23-year-old is very much playing for his future, with contract talks at a standstill. Whether it be down to wage demands or playing time, Liverpool would be foolish to let the midfielder leave Anfield in the summer.

While football fans of the modern era will always pick little holes in players performances, the consensus is very much that Emre Can should be a Liverpool player for the foreseeable future. With performances like this weekend, there’s no wonder clubs like Juventus are keeping a watchful eye on Can’s future.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Arsenal

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

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

Chelsea

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

Manchester United

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All The 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

This Real Madrid Midfielder Could Replace Ozil Perfectly At Arsenal This Summer

Real Madrid star Isco could be on his way out of the Spanish capital this summer. He is in search of regular first team football again as he looks to release his colossal potential instead of having a stop-start career at Madrid. Could he do just that at Arsenal? Especially if Mesut Ozil were to leave. 

Isco turns 25-years-old in April and should be heading into the peak of his football career, playing regularly and improving frequently, but has instead found himself out of the side more than in Zizou’s starting XI which has left the Spaniard very frustrated as of late.

Isco remains calm on his future but reiterates that he wants to play more: “I am calm with my future. I am worried about having minutes, the career of a player is short. So from here to the end of the season, we will make a decision because it is my future”.

The Real Madrid man is often linked with moves abroad, with the likes of Juventus, Chelsea, Arsenal and both Manchester clubs being heavily linked since it has become clear he is not happy with life in Madrid, and we take a look at why he could be perfect for the red side of North London.

Arsenal, without a doubt, on their day, play some of the most beautiful football across Europe. But, this season especially they have missed that creative flair in midfield which so often Mesut Ozil/Santi Cazorla brought to the team. Ozil has struggled for consistency after such an immense season in the 2015-2016 season whilst the Spaniard has struggled with an Achilles injury all season.

Isco is a very talented midfielder and his versatility means he can play in several positions, including on the flanks and centrally, and has even been known to play the second striker role. He has often played in a 4-3-3 system behind the lethal BBC and has thrived in having the creative role, feeding the three in front of him and joining the attack from deep.

Arsenal usually deploy a 4-2-3-1 system which has seen this get the best out of the likes of Mesut Ozil, but with the German struggling in his usual #10 role, and possibly leaving in the summer, Arsenal could look to play a 4-3-3 which replicates Madrid’s system with Isco in the midfield three and Ozil on the right flank, akin to his position for Germany.

Isco is frustrated with the lack of minutes he is currently getting in La Liga, and it is understandable considering the Spaniard possesses so many skill sets. A quick, skilful, creative, dynamic midfielder who is well known for his natural ability to pick out an inch-perfect pass with his hawk-eye vision and dribble effortlessly through numerous challenges.

Santi Cazorla’s injury seems to have hampered his Arsenal career as he now heads into the latter stages of his career whilst both Mesut Ozil/Jack Wilshere has just 15 months left on his contract with their long term futures in doubt.

Real Madrid have a packed midfield with many options, they arguably have the best squad in Europe, and with the lack of guaranteed minutes which Isco is getting, the Spaniards may struggle to keep hold of their man this summer.

Arsenal could relish with a signing of Isco’s calibre, whether that be under the management of Arsene Wenger or another manager. He would certainly give the club a lift in an abysmal campaign and kickstart his career again, showing the whole of Europe why he is destined to be one of the best.

The 24-year-old has just one year remaining on his contract and is reluctant to sign a new deal under current circumstances, so Madrid could risk losing him on a free if they were to refuse the departure of him this summer, with the likes of Manchester City heavily interested in the player.

All The Arsenal Players Rated Out Of 10 In 5-1 Defeat vs. Bayern Munich

David Ospina – 7

Calm and collective, showing why he deserves more minutes in the Premier League. Despite conceding five goals in the second half, he was at mistake for none.

Hector Bellerin – 8

Had a very average first half, couple of poor passes/touches but was always looking to get into attacking positions. Much the same in the second half struggled when Arsenal down to 10 men.

Shkodran Mustafi – 7

Solid defensively and played an immense pass in the 33rd minute which led to a chance for Walcott. Was rather poor in the second half, miss placed many passes which led to goals and was a liability. A game of two halves for the German.

Laurent Koscielny – 6

Very mature and solid first half, as always by the Frenchman. A red card in the 50 minute and conceded a penalty, which has to be said was very harsh.

Nacho Monreal – 7

Was left isolated one-on-one with Arjen Robben and struggled at times, was always an outlet going forward. Struggled massively in the second half with Bayern’s fire power.

Aaron Ramsey – 8

Superb first half, pressing the Bayern midfield/defence and always driving the Gunners forward, a couple wayward passes/shots, though. Was one of the top performers for Arsenal and was subbed due to precaution on his calf injury, no doubt.

Granit Xhaka – 7.5

Great display in the first half, was playing some nice and tidy passes whilst staying defensively sound, needs to ensure he doesn’t press high up, though, he did get caught out. Second half he spent most of it at CB, was good and always looked to play football the correct way; which did lead to a few mistakes.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – 9

Was Arsenal’s best player on the pitch in the first half, a complete revolution in the CM position. Bayern was scared everytime he was in possession. Much the same in the second half, utterly breathtaking performance. Why oh why has he not been given a new contract thus far? his future is at CM and the Gunners need to ensure it is with them.

Theo Walcott – 8

Scored a great goal in the 20th minute and was absolutely fantastic going forward, he gave David Alaba a very tough opening 45 minutes with a supreme display. Could have arguably had a penalty after a challenge by Alonso too. Vice versa the second half, superb all round game. Was unfortunate not to score 2 or 3 goals.

Olivier Giroud – 5

Had a good chance in the opening 15 minutes and was a good option for Arsenal to go direct, another good performer in the first half. Very quiet before being subbed off in the second half.

Alexis Sanchez – 4

Despite some excellent passes, Sanchez was poor in the first half. He left Monreal isolated and just did not look himself. Second half he was poor, did not track back nor look interested. Yes, Alexis is Arsenal’s best player, but if he continues to laugh on the bench when his side are losing 5-1 then he can go. Oh, but thats passion isnt it? no. Poor performance and attitude.

‘A Machine’ Chelsea Fans Heap Praise Onto This Chelsea Man Following West Ham Win

Chelsea opened up the gap at the top of the table to ten points once again as the league leaders beat West Ham 2-1 on their first Premier League visit to the London Stadium.

West Ham started the match strongly as they looked for Andy Carroll up top, who aimed to cause the Chelsea defence problems all night. However, it was Chelsea who took the lead on 25 minutes. N’Golo Kante nicked the ball to spark a Chelsea counter-attack. Eden Hazard stayed onside before rounding Darren Randolph and slotting into an empty net to give the Blues a first half lead.

The home side failed to create any notable chances before the end of the first half as Chelsea went into the break one goal to the good. It was Chelsea who extended their lead just after the break. Diego Costa couldn’t believe his luck as he was left with a tap-in from a corner to hand Chelsea a two-goal lead.

Antonio Conte brought on Nemanja Matic and pushed Hazard up front alongside Costa to hold onto his lead. He was successful in doing so, but failed to keep a clean sheet as Manuel Lanzini pulled one back just a minute before the full-time whistle.

One player that impressed once again for Chelsea was Kante. The defensive midfielder has turned out to be one of the signings of the season, and put in yet another trademark performance in the Chelsea midfield on Monday night.

One of the areas where Kante has picked up criticism in the past is with his passing. But in this game he managed to impress with a 90% pass success rate. As usual, he was running around blunting the home attack throughout, and he managed 4 tackles and 1 interception in Chelsea’s 2-1 win against a West Ham side that has improved in quality recently.

Kante may have felt hard done by by not being awarded PFA Player of the Year last season, but after (almost certainly) winning back to back titles and being an integral part of both teams, surely Kante will be awarded the best player in the division for this campaign. He’s been phenominally consistent for Chelsea, and on the back of last season, he has shown that he, unlike some other Leicester City players, was not a one season wonder.

‘Best In The PL’ Liverpool Fans Hail Midfielder’s Performance In Win Over Arsenal

Liverpool moved up into the top four after bouncing back from defeat at the King Power Stadium against Leicester last Monday, beating Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal 3-1 at Anfield.

Wenger will face much criticism post-game for his decision to leave key man Alexis Sanchez on the bench. The Chilean was brought on at half-time, and provided an assist as the Gunners searched for something to take back to North London.

Liverpool started the quicker of the two, and they were rewarded with an early goal. Roberto Firmino was left free at the back post, and despite the best efforts of Hector Bellerin, managed to fire the ball into the back of the net to send Liverpool 1-0 up inside nine minutes.

It got better for the Reds as they went into half-time two goals to the good. Sadio Mane found some space in the box, and was picked out by Firmino before drilling the ball into the back of the Arsenal net.

Arsene Wenger had to do something at half-time, and he responded by sending on Sanchez. He had a positive effect on proceedings from an Arsenal point of view, as he always does, and was highly influential in Arsenal’s goal. He threaded the ball through to Danny Welbeck, who finished well to put the visitors back into the game.

Arsenal searched for an equaliser late on, and Liverpool pounced in added time when they got the chance. Adam Lallana picked out Divock Origi with a lovely pass, who squared the ball to Georginio Wijnaldum, who was able to come up with the finish to hand Liverpool at three points.

One player that stood out from a Liverpool point of view was Adam Lallana. The Englishman worked tirelessly in the midfield, and covered just about every blade of grass on the pitch in what was a stunning performance. Despite winning only 40% of his tackles, he was key to Liverpool’s success, creating one chance and completing two take-ons. Here is how Liverpool fans reacted to Lallana’s display.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Subs

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

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

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

Liverpool Midfielder Praised For Another “Oustanding Display” vs. Arsenal

Liverpool came away with a pivotal three points against Arsenal on Saturday evening, pushing them back into the top four and increasing hopes of sustaining Champions League football for next season.

Roberto Firmino put the home side ahead after just nine minutes after Sadio Mane’s perfectly drilled low cross was well put away by the Brazilian. The Senegalese forward then doubled the lead with an emphatic finish before half-time, to cement Liverpool’s superiority over Arsene Wenger’s side.

A second half goal from Danny Welbeck made it a nervy second half for Liverpool supporters, but Jurgen Klopp’s side showed good composure and grit to see out the result.

Many players put in tremendous shifts throughout the ninety minutes, but one man who gained the majority of the plaudits was Adam Lallana. The ex-Southampton midfielder was at the heart of Liverpool’s forward play, adding creativity and verve to the side while leading from the front with his energy and intense pressing style.

The 28-year-old played a crucial part in Georginio Wijnaldum’s goal that sealed the points for the Reds, holding the ball up until his teammates could join the counter attack, before slotting a perfectly timed pass into the feet of Divock Origi who squared to the Dutchman. It was a perfect counter attacking move, and Lallana’s integral role at the heart of it was indicative of just how good he performed against the Gunners.

Here’s some of the reaction to Lallana’s performance against Arsenal.

 

Lallana has had a serious upturn in form since the arrival of Jurgen Klopp, with previous critics positively stunned at his turn around. Now, he is one of the key cogs within Liverpool’s engine room and often a player to ignite the spark.

Having recently signed a new deal with the club, it’s clear Klopp considers Adam Lallana to be a vital member of the team for the foreseeable future and who can blame him when the midfielder turns in the type of display we saw this weekend.

While he has struggled with consistency at times this season to produce at the very top of his game, much of that can be put down to the inconsistencies of the whole team. His quality is there for all to see and the movement and guile he brings on the ball, coupled with his extreme work rate off it, makes him one of the best central midfielders in the Premier League at present.

With Liverpool desperately searching for Champions League football for next season, Adam Lallana will have a huge role to play for the remainder of the season. If he can produce as he did against Arsenal, you wouldn’t bet against Liverpool nipping their rivals and taking fourth spot.

 

 

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you think he should do?

Player Ratings: 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

Player Ratings: Sutton 0-2 Arsenal

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

David Ospina – 5

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

Gabriel – 6

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

Skhodran Mustafi – 7

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

Rob Holding – 6.5

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

Nacho Monreal – 6

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

Granit Xhaka – 7

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

Mohammed Elneny – 5

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

Jeff Rene-Adelaide – 3

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

Theo Walcott – 6

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

Alex Iwobi – 4

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

Lucas Perez – 7

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