Analysis

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

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

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

Goalkeeper: David Ospina

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

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

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

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

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

Attacker: Olivier Giroud

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

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

‘He Must Start From Now On’ Arsenal Fans Pleased With One Man vs. Bayern Munich

Arsenal left Germany last night having the same feeling they did last season, with groundhog day well upon the Gunners after falling to a 5-1 defeat at the Allianz Arena in a truly embarrassing display.

After going 1-0 down in the opening 15 minutes, there was a feeling around suggesting “oh no, not again” but after surviving a one-way onslaught for 30 minutes they somehow found themselves level going into half-time and were unfortunate not to be leading by one or two goals as chances were wasted by Granit Xhaka and Mesut Ozil. Despite conceding four goals in the second half after a disastrous horror show, there was one man who could leave the Allianz Arena with some dignity, that man being David Ospina.

The 28-year-old has been majestic for the Gunners in the Champions League this season and was the main reason why the North Londoners topped their group in the group stage. After consistent performances at a high level, there were question marks raised to why Ospina is not the Gunners number one goalkeeper in the Premier League too, especially with the out of form Petr Cech underperforming massively.

The Colombian was influential vs. Bayern despite conceding four goals against the Germans, and if it was not for the man between the sticks I am fairly certain Carlo Ancelotti’s men could have hit double figures. As he has been all season, he was brilliant, an immense shot stopper and was not putting Arsenal under pressure from his goal kicks, which Cech has been heavily criticised for in recent months.

Ospina does seem to have a mistake in him, though. He was caught out in the RB position where he then went on to injure himself, but thankfully recovered to carry on. That said, he should seriously consider why he is not ahead of Petr Cech. Is it because the former Chelsea man was the Gunners marquee signing in 2015? or because he has won big trophies? it is as if Wenger’s loyalty has got the better of him again, something that is slowly tarnishing his career with the Gunners.

Of course, the result means all the headlines will be about Arsene Wenger and his future, but the Arsenal goalkeeper has certainly given the manager a headache after yet another great performance. Great? really? Arsenal conceded four? yes, they did but without him, it would have been double figures and Arsenal would have no chance to progress… despite even the most positive Arsenal fans only holding on to their 1% chance.

The Gunners fans were also impressed with Ospina’s performance, so we take a look at how Twitter reacted to his performance, with some wanting him to be our number 1.

Arsenal’s season is all but over, they are now hoping for a top four finish to ensure they are in the Champions League next season and for me, they have to play David Ospina in the Premier League and make him their new number one. He is a superb shot stopper and is arguably going into his prime years, despite possessing the odd mistake, his performances have been miles ahead of Petr Cech this season and he deserves some time between the sticks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Goalkeeper: David Ospina

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

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

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

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

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

Attack: Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez, Danny Welbeck

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

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

 

‘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!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Goalkeeper: David Ospina

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

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

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

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

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

Striker: Danny Welbeck

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Pure Class” Fans Heap Praise On Manchester United Midfielder After Stellar Show Against Leicester

Manchester United capitalised on Arsenal and Liverpool dropping points on Saturday with a solid 3-0 win against Leicester City at the King Power Stadium. The result means the gap between the Red Devils and the top four is now down to just two points.

The game got off to a sluggish start, with neither side really testing the opposition in the opening stages. However, two quick-fire goals on the stroke of half-time from Henrik Mkhitaryan and Zlatan Ibrahimovic before a clincher from Juan Mata ensured that United ended their run of three consecutive draws in the Premier League.

After 41 minutes of frustration, Mourinho opted for a change of tactics, moving Mkhitaryan away from the left wing, where he was placed to accommodate Rashford and Ibrahimovic, and into a more central role. It worked a treat for the Red Devils, who quickly starting turning up the gears following the change.

Mkhitaryan provided the moment of quality to open up the game for Mourinho’s side, beating Robert Huth to the ball just inside the Leicester half before running through on goal and slotting past Kasper Schmeichel. The Armenian midfielder then turned creator for United’s third, playing a wonderful one-two with Juan Mata before the Spaniard steered in at the near post.

Here’s how twitter reacted to Mkhitaryan’s display. Do you agree?

It’s crazy to think that just two months ago, the midfielder was being cast aside, much like Anthony Martial at present. Following a poor performance in the Manchester derby in September, Mkhitaryan has responded exceptionally from his early-season exile and his performance against Leicester typified just how far he has come.

Since being given another chance by Mourinho,  Mkhitaryan has started 12 games, scoring five goals in the process. Moving into the number 10 spot has caused a significant rise in his performances and against Leicester he looked like United’s greatest threat – a stark contrast from his early season woes.

Scoring just 36 goals, the side are the lowest scorers of any of the big six – 10 goals behind Spurs, but Mourinho may have found a solution with Mkhitaryan providing the side with an extra edge and zip to their play from the middle of the park.

Despite getting off to a rocky start at Manchester United, Mkhitaryan has shown his quality in recent weeks, injecting a much greater attacking impetus into the side. Fans will be hoping to see more of the same from the 28-year-old as Mourinho’s side look to keep up the pressure on the top four and try and secure Champions League football for next season.

Fans Brand Liverpool Midfielder As The “Epitome Of Average” Following Another Poor Performance vs. Hull

Liverpool’s season suffered another setback after a 2-0 loss against Hull City on Saturday in which the side looked bereft of ideas and energy. The result leaves Jurgen Klopp’s side’s hopes of Champions League football for next season up in the air.

Hull perfectly executed the blue-print that so many have come to adopt against Liverpool. Sitting deep and defending in numbers, the Reds were gifted no space in between the lines and once again struggled to stretch the opposition. It was an all too familiar performance at the KC stadium, with the pedestrian and lacklustre performance raising serious questions about the future of several squad members.

After suffering similar defeats against Bournemouth, Swansea and Burnley earlier in the season, Jurgen Klopp’s side have failed to overcome a clear weakness in their game – something that has seen them crash out of the title race and put hopes of a top four finish in doubt.

Most worryingly is the way in which Liverpool yet again looked devoid of innovation going forward. The return of Sadio Mane to the side, along with Coutinho and Firmino was set to see Liverpool regain their early season form in which fast, fluid and attacking football was a huge feature. However, even the Senegalese international couldn’t prevent Liverpool from coming unstuck against a so-called ‘weaker’ Premier League team.

After securing a 1-1 draw with runaway leaders Chelsea, things seemed to be looking up for Jurgen Klopp’s side. Solid displays from both Emre Can and Gini Wijnaldum provided the German with a selection headache prior to kick off. Going with his national compatriot, Klopp’s decision to go with a more robust presence in midfield proved to be costly for Liverpool, who certainly missed the energy of Wijnaldum.

Emre Can completed just 84% of his passes, winning only one aerial battle and two tackles in the entirety of the match. His leisurely demeanor in the first half was indicative of Liverpool’s pedestrian football and marked the decline he has experienced this season.

Here’s some reaction to Emre Can’s performance from Twitter. Do you agree?

Emre Can was a key player for Liverpool last season and he clearly has all the right tools to be a good player for Jurgen Klopp’s side. However, his performance against Hull marked the regression he has experienced this season and with his future currently up in the air, questions will be raised over whether Can will be at Anfield for much longer. With Liverpool looking to play fast, free-flowing football, WIijnaldum’s energy in the middle makes for a much better fit.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Subs

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

Olivier Giroud – 6.5
Scored a late consolation

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

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

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

Goalkeeper: Petr Cech

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

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

Midfielder: Theo Walcott, Mesut Ozil, Lucas Perez

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

Striker: Alexis Sanchez

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

 

Transfers: Chelsea Tried And Failed To Sign This Serie A Star On Deadline Day

Inter Milan winger Jonathan Biabiany has turned down the chance to join Premier League Leaders Chelsea on loan, according to Sky in Italy.

The French-born Inter Milan winger has struggled to cement a place in the starting XI since his arrival in 2015 and has made just three appearances thus far this season, playing just 20 times in the 18 months he has been with the Italians.

Antonio Conte had reportedly identified the wide areas as a priority in the winter marker but had failed with an attempt to sign 28-year-old Biabiany as the Chelsea boss also held an interest in Michail Antonio, which also failed to materialize.

Chelsea target, Biabiany, has also been subject of interest from Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool but has decided to stay and fight for his place in Milan despite being sounded out of the first team.

We take a look at what Jonathan Biabiany could have potentially brought to Stamford Bridge.

Biabiany is known for his acceleration and pace with the ball which would have been perfect in Contes 3-4-3 system, using his speed to help him in transitions whether that was getting back in defensive situations or trying to spring a counter attack.

The 28-year-old is a player who likes to be in possession and has proven to be very composed/efficient with the ball, which any winger would be asked to do, including good ball retention in tight areas.

The Inter Milan man likes to drive at defences and get crosses into the box which would have been ideal for Chelsea hitman Diego Costa, as he would thrive off the deliveries into the box. The offensive side of his game seems very positive and direct but his lack of defensive work would have been a nightmare for Conte, who demands his players to help in all phases.

A key stat which stands out for Biabiany is his lack of goals in recent years. From 2011 – 2017 he has managed just 15 goals which would have concerned Conte, especially as the Chelsea XI currently contribute with goals from all areas of the pitch on a regular basis.

The Frenchman, who has one cap at u21 level, may regret his decision if the Blues go on to win the Premier League title this season. But, it may turn out to be the right decision, despite not playing for Inter this season, it is unlikely he would have pushed into the Chelsea starting XI with the likes of Pedro/Willian both thriving at any given opportunity.

The interest in Biabiany highlights the position in which Conte wants to work on, but missing out on the Inter man is not drastic as they will look to sign a younger/better player in the same position this summer.

Analysis: How Arsenal Can Beat Chelsea On Saturday Afternoon

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

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

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

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

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

(Fig. 1 – Arsenal on the attack)

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

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

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

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

(Fig. 2 – Arsenal’s defensive shape)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ratings: Liverpool 1-1 Chelsea – All The Players Rated Out Of 10

Liverpool

Simon Mignolet – 7

Was caught off guard for Luiz’s free kick and was not watching even though the whistle was blown. Made a good save from a Willian free-kick but had a relatively quiet first half. Saved Costa’s penalty in the 76th minute to keep the scores level.

Nathaniel Clyne – 6

Showed great drive in offensive situations but was very wasteful in possession, good defensively when called upon.

Joel Matip – 6

Looked shaky all evening and gave away a penalty in the second half after fouling Diego Costa but was saved his blushes after Mignolet made a fine save.

Dejan Lovren – 7

Was not overly worked in both halves as Liverpool were the more attacking team, but still managed to keep Diego Costa at bay.

James Milner – 7

Struggled in the first half but got in behind the Chelsea defence and grabbed an assist for Wijnaldum’s header and was much more efficient in the second half.

Emre Can – 5

Had a very quiet first half, struggled to help Liverpool break down Chelsea and failed to make an impact again in the second half in a rather poor showing.

Jordan Henderson – 6

Despite a bright opening 15 minutes, the Liverpool captain struggled to help control the midfield battle throughout the match.

Georginio Wijnaldum – 8

Had a great shot outside the box in the 11th minute and was one of the more promising players in the first half. Scored in the 57th minute to level the scoreline and had a very positive all-round game.

Adam Lallana – 6

Considering he has been so influential for Liverpool this season, he had a very quiet game and struggled somewhat to make anything happen.

Roberto Firmino – 6

Missed a golden chance in the 48th minute, should have scored and showed much more composure and much like most of Liverpool’s attacking trio, had a very quiet night for his standards.

Philippe Coutinho – 5

Much like Eden Hazard, Coutinho had a very quiet evening but did try and press the Chelsea backline in the second half. Was subbed off for Mane in the second half.

Chelsea

Thibault Courtois – 6

Made a good save early on to deny Wijnaldum but had next to nothing to do for the rest of the first half, Wijnaldum finally got the better of him with a header in the second half which helped the Reds get a point.

Cesar Azpilicueta – 6

Had a very quiet first half but was defensively sound when relied upon, much the same in the second half as he helped grind out a point.

David Luiz – 9 (MOTM)

Scored a wonder free-kick in the 24th minute and was excellent defensively and knew when to step into midfield to help build-up play from the back, much the same in the second half despite being under extreme pressure.

Gary Cahill – 7

Had a solid defensive performance throughout and kept the Liverpool attacking threat at bay despite being under pressure for most of the second half.

Victor Moses – 7

Was the more busier wing-back out of the two, both attacking and defensively. Moses did get himself into good positions in the final third but was very wasteful.

N’golo Kante – 8

As always, covered every single blade of grass, was everywhere on the pitch, broke up play, kept things ticking and his high level of energy showed for Chelsea, another good performance by the Frenchman.

Nemanja Matic – 6

Again, much like Alonso, he has a very quiet evening but done enough to help his side take a point. Was ok in possession and was always solid defensively.

Marcos Alonso – 6

Had a very quiet evening in both phases but did not play badly, just was not exceptional either. That said, done well in possession and was committed as always.

Willian – 6

In the 28th minute he nearly scored a free-kick which goes all the way through the box and was unlucky not to be tapped in by David Luiz. Had a somewhat quiet night after that.
Diego Costa – 6

Struggled to get into the game in the first half but was always making runs in behind the Liverpool defence. Missed a penalty in the 76 minute which could have won the game, an off night for the Chelsea hit man.

Eden Hazard – 5

Had a very quiet evening, to the extent where I forgot he was actually playing. Was subbed off after 70 minutes.

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.

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

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

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

Goalkeeper: Petr Cech

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

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

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

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

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

Striker: Olivier Giroud

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Player Ratings: 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…

‘He’s The Best In The League No Doubt’ Twitter Reacts As Chelsea Star Gives Them 3 More Points

Much has been made of Diego Costa in recent weeks, with the media fuelling speculation that the striker could be on his way out of the club amid a huge bid from China. The Spaniard was rumoured to have a fall out with Chelsea boss Antonio Conte, with the manager not happy with Costa’s supposed injury troubles that have seen him out of action for the Londoners.

However, Costa scored on his return to the side as Chelsea strengthened their grip on the Premier League title, moving eight points clear at the top. The Blues top goalscorer was applauded throughout the match by the home fans, as his side won against a struggling Hull City side.

He got the opening goal of the game, converting Victor Moses’ low cross from eight yards out  and his celebration of moving hands seemed to put an end to speculation of his departure – much to the delight of Chelsea fans, I’m sure.

Here’s how Twitter reacted to Diego Costa’s performance. Do you agree?

Costa has been at the heart of Chelsea’s title bid this season, proving a real handful for defences with his strength and finishing ability. The Spaniard was the only player to have more than one shot in the side (6) and his return to the side couldn’t have been better timed, with the Londoners set for a showdown at Anfield next weekend.

It could have been a very different game had Costa not found the net just before the half time interval, with Hull doing well to frustrate the home side. They looked at risk of not making the most of their rivals shortcomings over the weekend, but Costa, once again, delivered when it mattered.

The mood following kick-off was a stark contrast to last weekend when Chelsea’s run was halted by Spurs. Diego Costa’s future was up in the air and fans were understandably worried about what that could mean for their title hopes. His return, and goal, will have certainly lightened the mood at the club as they moved closer to another Premier League title. Any risk of instability or distraction has dissipated – Chelsea are back in control and continue to roll on.

Any risk of instability or distraction, after the defeat at White Hart Lane and Costa’s wantaway strop, has been seen off now. Chelsea are back to normal, back in control, and looking likelier than ever to stroll to this year’s title.

Costa’s record at the club speaks for itself, with the 28 year old’s quality clear for all to see. Coming up with important goals for Chelsea, he is the most important player to club have, thus Antonio Conte and co. will be delighted to have him back. It would take surely take something miraculous for Chelsea to not end up lifting the trophy at the end of the season.

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

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

Petr Cech – 7

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

Gabriel – 6.5

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

Skhodran Mustafi – 7.5

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

Laurent Koscielny – 7

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

Nacho Monreal – 6

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

Granit Xhaka – 6

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

Aaron Ramsey – 7

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

Alex Iwobi – 6

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

Mesut Ozil – 8

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

Alexis Sanchez – 7

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

Olivier Giroud – 5

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

Subs

Francis Coquelin – 5

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

Danny Welbeck – N/A

Hector Bellerin – N/A

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Time To Ditch Him’ Liverpool Fans Fume At Defender’s Performance vs. Swansea

Few would have envisaged Liverpool coming up short against Swansea on Saturday afternoon, with the Reds holding the record of highest scorers and the away side conceding the most goals thus far. However, the Swans took full advantage of Liverpool’s defensive errors to gain a vital three points as they look to beat relegation.

Defensively, Liverpool have always been questionable. Conceding sloppy goals and failing to do the real basics provided a thorn in their side. However, that was thought to have been somewhat put to bed this season, with victories against Chelsea, Arsenal and City suggesting the Reds could battle at the top of the Premier League. The phrase “old habits die hard” is rather fitting in this situation, with Jurgen Klopp’s side coming unstuck by their own sloppiness at the back.

Dejan Lovren gave away a needless corner for Swansea’s first goal, heading the ball out of play under no pressure. The resulting corner was put in by Fernando Llorente, after the Croatian in the air to compound his earlier error.

After a performance fuelled with mistakes, Liverpool fans have been left pondering the long term future of Lovren at the club. Joel Matip is clearly the first choice centre back for Jurgen Klopp, but with neither Lovren nor Klavan covering themselves in glory at Anfield, many have called for the German to invest – be it in January or in the summer.

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

Despite heavy suggestions that his time at the club is up, many have been calling for the return of Mamadou Sakho to partner Matip. The Frenchman has fallen out of favour with Jurgen Klopp, but the defensive frailties within the side highlight the need for change in the centre back positions. Liverpool fans certainly seem keen on the idea of a Sakho-Matip pairing.

Neither Klavan nor Lovren are consistent enough to provide the defensive pairing for a side wanting to challenge at the top of the Premier League. Klopp himself reflected on the quality of his back four following the defeat, and surely it is only a matter of time before he looks elsewhere for a quality defender.

Has Klopp’s trust in his players been thrown back in his face? Many suggested Liverpool needed external recruitment to address their defensive issues, but he said he believed in his squad and would rather educate them into becoming better players. But with the defence continuing to be the clubs Achilles heel, surely it is time to invest?

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

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

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

Goalkeeper: Petr Cech

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

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

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

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

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

Striker: Olivier Giroud

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