Opinion

Arsenal’s Summer Hangs In The Balance Ahead Of FA Cup Final

Arsenal enter tomorrow’s FA Cup final in a bit of a mess, as it’s not clear what Gunners side we’re set to witness at the start of next season.

Whilst it’s more than likely Arsene Wenger will extend his contract, the general consensus from the fans is that it’s not what they want and the wealth of uncertainty hovers above North London this summer- with Wenger, key players and the board potentially set for exits.

The Gunners endured a sub-par Premier League campaign, finishing outside of the top-four for the first time in over two decades, and were on the receiving end of a drubbing from Bayern Munich in the Champions League- losing 10-2 on aggregate.

Tomorrow’s FA Cup final won’t heal those wounds but winning the trophy is a crucial step for Arsenal’s rejuvenation, whereas defeat could make their difficult task this summer all the more daunting.

Should Arsenal win tomorrow, they can consider the campaign as partly successful and the fact they’re winning honours will help them keep the likes of Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil at the club, as well as helping lure big-names in from elsewhere.

If they were to lose, as many expect, then it could be the final straw for players like Alexis and Ozil, as well as giving the Gunners a battle in their quest to lure potential targets to the Emirates Stadium. Crucially though, it would set-up a poisonous atmosphere around North London.

Failure to win tomorrow would be the latest frustration for Arsenal fans with Arsene Wenger and it would be difficult to spin any sort of positive out of the campaign to justify handing the long-serving Frenchman a fresh deal- so Arsenal are drawing a huge target on their back.

Lift the FA Cup and Wenger maybe, just maybe, be able to save some grace and have some support from the fanbase or, equally, it may allow him to walk away with his head held high after securing yet more success to cap off his fantastic tenure in charge of the Gunners.

Without FA Cup victory and a top-four finish, it would be extremely difficult for Arsenal to justify handing Arsene Wenger a contract extension and the club would be a time bomb, which would be set off at any stage next season when the Gunners endure a blip in form.

Arsenal’s backs are against the walls as they face a huge test to compete with the financial might of the likes of Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City and, in truth, it’s going to take the Gunners a long time to ever be considered the favourites for Premier League glory once again.

The glory years of Arsenal are a long way gone and any chance of salvaging a decent future in the coming years hangs in the balance ahead of tomorrow’s clash, as the Gunners will find it extremely difficult to keep key players and attract big names without being able to boast a trophy in their locker.

Crucial Summer Ahead For Tottenham, They Need To Prove Themselves

Tottenham Hotspur have excelled in the past two years under the guidance of Mauricio Pochettino but many still accuse them of simply benefitting from a purple patch and question their ability to remain at the top.

After two seasons fighting for the Premier League title, but ultimately falling short, Tottenham face a stern test next season to remain competitive as the rest of their title rivals will spend heavily- whilst the Lilywhites also have to contend with playing their home matches at the Wembley Stadium.

Tottenham’s European adventure was torn apart in England’s national stadium this season and the Wembley factor is a big concern for the Lilywhites next season, as is the fact that big clubs could swoop for their prized players this summer.

For Tottenham to remain competitive, they need another solid summer and need to show consistency in the battle to secure another top four finish- which could end the argument as to whether Spurs are here to stay, as it would seal three consecutive seasons in the Champions League.

Failure to do that, however, could lead Spurs’ wonder-squad to be dismantled following the World Cup next summer- so we asked our team what Pochettino’s side need to do this summer to continue fighting at the top.

Josh Challies (@Challies11)

Tottenham’s squad is largely consistent of up-and-coming players who’ve made a name for themselves at White Hart Lane and have been poached from arguably smaller sides. To remain at the top, they could probably do with luring a big player from a big club.

Signing a player from a top-four rival is unlikely but Spurs should look abroad and try to lure in a player from the likes of Real Madrid or Barcelona, both of whom could be set to sell this summer as they compete major squad overhauls.

Alvaro Morata, Ivan Rakitic, Danilo and James Rodriguez are amongst the names that could be moving on- and each of those would be an excellent addition to Spurs’ squad, although Danilo and Morata would be the more likely options.

Shane Burns (@MediaShaneBurns)

Every year the same debate has resurfaced regarding Tottenham and the answer is who knows? Somehow the club manage to find gems in the transfer market and turn them into some of the league’s inform players.

Pace in wide areas is a must for Spurs however, and signing someone to rotate with Harry Kane must be considered. Other than that, realistically who can Tottenham attract that may improve their impressive form?

Tom Scholes (@TomScholes316)

It’s going to be an incredibly difficult 12 months for Tottenham, with Spurs looking forward to playing every home game at Wembley next season, but also have the task of keeping hold of their star players. It is vital for Spurs that they add depth to their squad, as that is almost what has held them back at times this season.

Players like Ross Barkley, Wilfried Zaha and perhaps Michael Keane would really bolster the squad, however the latter does seem incredibly unlikely. Signings like Moussa Sissoko and Georges Kevin N’Koudou haven’t quite worked out, so it’s time to really reinforce their squad and buy strong in the summer.

Sam Cox (@SamRCox_)

Replacing the apparently Manchester City bound Kyle Walker has to be top of the list. Kieran Trippier has enjoyed some great displays this season, but the importance of full-backs in Spurs’ play makes that addition key.

Then it comes to the final third. Georges Kevin-Nkoudou and Moussa Sissoko have suffered from being out of favour and poor form respectively. Heung-min Son, Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli have had superb seasons, but there are times where the lack of an option or two from the bench has cost Spurs.

Chelsea’s Italian Love Affair Destined To Continue At Wembley

Gianluca Vialli, Claudio Ranieri, Carlo Ancelotti, Roberto di Matteo and Antonio Conte. Chelsea adore Italians.

Roman Abramovich flitted with Barcelona imitation, but when that fell short, the Italian norm returned. Vialli was widely admired, Ranieri loved as the nicest man in the sport, Ancelotti brought dazzling football and a double, Di Matteo finally delivered that elusive Champions League and now Conte could produce a double of his own.

Chelsea have only won one double in their 112 year history. Ancelotti’s team in 2010 scored more goals than anyone has done in the Premier League era and entertained throughout as they teamed power with exceptional talent. Irrepressible at times, that team is one of the best in recent memory. It was a joy to watch as stalwarts Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard were accompanied by a magnificent Florent Malouda, graceful Nicolas Anelka and destructive Michael Ballack. They wrapped up their title with an 8-0 final day destruction of Wigan. Fitting.

Saturday evening brings Conte’s chance to emulate his journeyman compatriot in completing a debut season double. Conte’s would be all the more remarkable.

Chelsea finished 10th last season, they were abysmal despite being reigning champions and were a club in turmoil once again. Players were almost universally unrecognisable, controversy rumbled and they were once again being led by a caretaker manager. When Jose Mourinho joined Manchester United, Pep Guardiola joined Manchester City and Conte signed at Stamford Bridge, even a top four finish would have been deemed a stellar campaign.

Fans split over Mourinho’s departure, fans bickered over the role of the players in the sacking of their greatest ever manager. Everything looked bleak.

Then followed a summer transfer window dominated by the pursuit of Kalidou Koulibaly. Left-back was still an issue, and no one knew whether Eden Hazard and Diego Costa in particular would return to their dominant form of 2014/15. The window ended with Michy Batshuayi, Marcos Alonso, N’golo Kante and David Luiz arriving at Stamford Bridge.

Alonso suffered from the Premier League centric thinking that costs English football, Luiz’s harsh reputation went before him, Batshuayi’s price tag sat heavily on his shoulders and Kante’s brilliance at Leicester was yet to be truly accepted. Alonso, Luiz and Kante set about becoming crucial players in a Chelsea team that equalled the league’s consecutive wins record and notched 93 points. Batshuayi was a threat when called upon, but remained on the bench for the most part as Costa’s lack of injuries surprised us all.

Conte glued together a fractured squad, he showed tactical adaptability and reinvigorated careers. It should not be a surprise after a quick glance at his glorious CV, but the Italian picked up a club from the doldrums and charged to an emphatic title.

We may never know quite what happened at Chelsea in 2015/16. Conte, though, found a way to make sure it was a freak blip rather than a startling regression towards upper mid-table suffering. Chelsea could have gone the way of Liverpool and post-Ferguson Manchester United, it was down to Conte that they did not.

Their league dominance makes them clear favourites on Saturday. Fairly so, but it also takes the pressure off. Whatever happens under the arch, Chelsea have had a season far beyond the most optimistic of predictions.

Abramovich craved Chelsea recreating Guardiola’s Barcelona, but the Italian way has so often been the way for the Blues.

Chelsea continue to be linked to Premier League star, he might not be worth it

Chelsea seem set on improving their attacking lines this summer as Diego Costa continues to be linked with a move away from Stamford Bridge, whilst Michy Batshuayi has endured a difficult maiden campaign in the Premier League.

With Belgian youngster Batshuayi linked with a loan move away from the Blues, it’s not beyond the realm of possibility for Chelsea to enter next season without both strikers- and that increases the necessity for the Blues to spend in this area.

Of the names to be linked with a move to Chelsea, Everton’s Romelu Lukaku is a player who is consistently mentioned- but there are concerns as to whether the Belgian would be able to excel on his return to Stamford Bridge.

Lukaku seems keen on a move, as he feels he has unfinished business at Chelsea, but he may not be the ideal fit- despite boasting an impressive return of 52 goals in 109 Premier League appearances since moving to the Toffees.

It’s a fierce debate as to whether Lukaku would be the right fit at Chelsea, so we asked our team their views- and it’s fair to say the opinion was split.

Sam Cox (@SamRCox_)

If Chelsea had Romelu Lukaku instead of Diego Costa this season they would not have won the league. Costa’s spats with officials and defenders are the street-fighter side of his game, but the former Atleti man has led Chelsea’s line through timely goals, smart movement and constantly occupying opposition defenders.

Costa’s post-rumour form has been indifferent, yet signing Lukaku alone would leave Chelsea’s attacking options looking weaker. Lukaku’s streaky goal scoring would be an issue at Chelsea and the Belgian’s price tag must make Chelsea consider their other options this summer.

He could be a brilliant signing longer-term, but as a direct replacement for Costa for next season it is a risk.

Shane Burns (@MediaShaneBurns)

Lukaku’s form this season cannot be understated, however, question marks remain whether he can achieve a similar vein of form at a massive club. Ultimately his career at Stamford Bridge was a flop – the majority of which was through no fault of his own – however, replacing Diego Costa is another story.

The Spaniard has his faults, but it must be remembered he has guided Chelsea to two titles in three years – and one with Atletico Madrid before his move to West London. So to conclude, Lukaku isn’t ready just yet.

Josh Challies (@Challies11)

There’s no doubt Romelu Lukaku has excelled at Everton and deserves his chance at a bigger side. However, he does seem a bit short of taking the mantle as a leading player for a Premier League side as his consistency is an issue.

Whilst he usually finishes the season with a decent amount of goals, these usually come in quick flurries of form with two-to-four goals a match amidst large periods of finding the net- and many have accused him of simply performing against the smaller clubs.

There’s certainly some truth to that claim but if there’s anyone who can help Lukaku fill his true potential it’s Antonio Conte, as he’s got the best out of a Chelsea side this season that many considered to be quite weak.

Tom Scholes (@TomScholes316)

All signs are pointing towards a return to Stamford Bridge for Romelu Lukaku, and on paper it seems like the perfect move. With the Belgian coming off of a fantastic season on Merseyside with Everton, he would be the ideal replacement for Diego Costa. His power and finishing is what Conte likes in his team, and with Pedro and Hazard on either side of him, the service into Lukaku would be plentiful.

He has all the traits to make the Blues forget about Costa, who has been a good player for Chelsea, but has always flattered to deceive at times. Costa is a very patchy player and Lukaku would add a certain level of consistency to really take Chelsea to the highest level.  

Arsenal And Manchester United Stoppers Show Backup Goalkeepers Deserve Their Moments Of Fame

Being a backup goalkeeper is a strange life. Some players build an entire career on being happy to be second fiddle. Up and down the footballing world there are players who accept that they will never be first choice at their club. At the top level, they are usually treated to a few cup outings throughout the season so they remember how to stop the ball if they are ever needed on a regular basis.

Those outings extend if the club continues to succeed; at least they do most of the time. Some managers revert to their ‘number one’ once the latter rounds appear, but it seems increasingly common that managers continue to twist with their backup rather than the supposedly safer alternative.

David Ospina is in line to start for Arsenal in the FA Cup final in the same week Sergio Romero was preferred to David de Gea in the Europa League final. Both of the South American goalkeepers are exceptional backups, though neither have the slightest of chances of superseding de Gea or Petr Cech. Reputation holds for a long time as a goalkeeper.

Ospina will leave Arsenal this summer, while Romero remains firmly in de Gea’s shadow with Manchester United destined to sign another goalkeeper should the Spaniard finally return to Madrid. Their careers are unorthodox, and unlike any other position in football. Ospina has 77 caps for Chile, Romero has 87 caps for Argentina, yet they had a combined four Premier League appearances this season.

They each enjoyed their cup berths, with Romero collecting 12 matches in the Europa League and Ospina playing eight in the Champions League. The role as second choice is not as clear cut as it is at other clubs, but is this really what these two talented, experienced internationals envisaged their career to be?

They are superb assets for Arsene Wenger and Jose Mourinho. Both are unruffled by tense situations and have proven themselves to be up to more than an acceptable standard. Neither, though, can truly fill fulfilled by a campaign of being so obviously a secondary option as this, however much professionalism they show.

In a summer when Asmir Begovic is set to leave Chelsea and Willy Caballero has left Manchester City, goalkeepers may just be realising their own value. Caballero, Begovic, Romero and Ospina would walk into the majority of European teams, maybe contributing on the pitch will take priority over fledgling cup outings.

Stoke City’s Lack Of Identity Needs To Be Changed This Summer

After a turbulent campaign for the Potters, Stoke City have a big summer ahead of them if they are to get back-on-track with their potential.

Stoke City are a team lacking identity and Mark Hughes’ sweeping changes have begun to be reversed, the team are eking into the bottom half of the table for the first time in several seasons and the fan base is split in a way similar to the turmoil at Arsenal.

Hughes was met with scepticism by many upon his appointment after the mess he oversaw at Queen’s Park Rangers. Those who felt Tony Pulis was a club icon deserving of a longer tenure questioned the arrival of the former Manchester United striker, while others were appreciative of a club stuck in the mid-table mud pushing for greater things stylistically.

The Potters discarded players synonymous with the Pulis era in favour of glitzier names. Eventually they were the proud owners of multiple Champions League winners, while retaining the hardened core of the squad lead by Ryan Shawcross, Jon Walters and Glenn Whelan. While Whelan particularly needed replacing, the Potters were a team who could fight you in the car park and dazzle with charm in the form of Xherdan Shaqiri, Marko Arnatuovic, Bojan and others.

This came to a head during the first part of the 2015/16 campaign. Operating with a false nine – yes, that’s Stoke City with a false nine – the team was one of the best to watch around Europe. Bojan dropped into pockets of space, goals were easy to come by and the diagonal left footed pings from Shaqiri to Arnautovic were edging towards trademark status. Briefly, in fact, a European finish looked within range as Chelsea, Liverpool, Everton and Manchester United all vastly underachieved.

The January window saw the arrival of Giannelli Imbula for a club record transfer fee. Imbula was started 14 matches in the second half of the campaign and injected something new to the Potters’ midfield. A player once sought after by some European giants was doing it in the chilly early spring months at a windy Britannia.

The summer, however, saw another few months of bizarre transfer activity and the signing of Joe Allen. Allen and Imbula were unlikely to be able to function in a team with Bojan, Shaqiri and Arnatuovic. A problem was rife immediately and Imbula was the first to suffer. The Frenchman has started just nine Premier League games this season and is on course to leave the club, with a move to Roma being touted. He has played seven Premier League minutes since 2016.

A 4-3-3 may have worked had a defensive midfielder been signed to allow Allen and Imbula to play in box-to-box roles behind the magic triumvirate. The arrival of Wilfried Bony – and latterly Saido Berhaino – further muddied the waters and led to the departure of Bojan.

All of this was after the club’s style had regressed towards the making-do days of Pulis. Imbula was clearly deemed surplus despite seldom being given opportunity and a midfield of Allen, Geoff Cameron and Whelan became common. Imbula even vanished from the matchday squad after a while as his fate became clear. The club went from king killers of giants to a team incapable of upsetting the odds in 2016/17; winning when they should and losing when they should.

Imbula’s impending departure is a sign of a club accepting mediocrity at this juncture. The ambition and flair of Hughes’ appointment and 18 months ago are no longer felt amongst the fans or the club. The divide over the manager’s future is a debate for another time – as is their transfer shortcomings – but the Potters must be wary of their current status. This – unlike last season – has been a campaign of slumps outlasting hot streaks, which is a trend that will only edge towards unpleasantly warm waters.

If Man City Lose This Superstar, Is This Ace A Ready-Made Replacement?

Manchester City endured a transitional season under the guidance of Pep Guardiola this summer and the Catalan boss will complete a major squad overhaul this year.

The Citizens have already confirmed Pablo Zabaleta, Bacary Sagna, Willy Caballero, Jesus Navas and Gael Clichy are on their way out, whilst the likes of Joe Hart, Aaron Mooy and Fabian Delph could follow.

Of the names linked with an exit, the future of Sergio Aguero remains a pressing concern for the majority of Manchester City fans as it would be a bold move from the club and could come back to haunt them.

Gabriel Jesus’ explosive start at Manchester City has left Aguero’s first-team spot under threat and the Citizens look like they may cope without their starring Argentine. However, the second-half of the season has seen speculation that Aguero could leave reduce significantly.

Should a new striker arrive though, it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that Aguero is moved away from the Etihad Stadium and we asked our team whether they can see the South American leaving and whether Gabriel Jesus is ready to take the mantle as their leading forward.

Shane Burns (@MediaShaneBurns)

Aguero leaving was – and still is – a story which gathered momentum by the press because the out-of-form Argentine was dropped by his manager. The striker has been in devastating form since the arrival of Gabriel Jesus and his best years have certainly been rekindled, with the duo playing alongside each other more frequently, a partnership rather than a rivalry is developing between the two and being expertly guided by Pep Guardiola.

Jesus is earmarked as the long-term replacement for Aguero when he does decide to leave in 2019, but needing only 11 goals to become City’s all-time leading scorer, don’t expect Guardiola to call a halt on his six-year City career anytime soon.

Tom Scholes (@TomScholes316)

All signs are pointing towards Sergio Aguero leaving Manchester City in the summer, and with how Pep Guardiola sets his sides up, you can see why. Let’s admit it, Aguero isn’t the player he used to be due to his previous injuries, and Pep requires a high intensity press from his forwards for the majority of games. Maybe Aguero doesn’t have it in him anymore to work in a Pep style of play, but Gabriel Jesus certainly does and he’s being touted as the replacement to Aguero.

Jesus certainly has the potential to be as good as Aguero, but to heap so much pressure on someone so young could be very damaging. The Brazilian would need help from Kevin De Bruyne and Leroy Sane to really do some damage in the Premier League.

Sam Cox (@SamRCox_)

Sergio Aguero will stay. Should he not, however, Gabriel Jesus is a more than able deputy.

The fearsome thing for City’s rivals, though, is the prospect of this dazzling City attack having Aguero and Jesus fully fit for a full season along with Leroy Sane, Raheem Sterling, Kevin de Bruyne and David Silva.

Josh Challies (@Challies11)

Sergio Aguero will certainly see his playing time reduced next season but it’s difficult to envisage him leaving Manchester City this summer. If he does leave before his contract ends in 2019, expect the move to take place after next summer’s World Cup.

Gabriel Jesus is a top-quality player and should shine for many years to come with Manchester City. However, putting so much faith into a youngster just months after his arrival is a dangerous game and he could crack under the pressure if Aguero leaves.

With Jesus and Aguero, City boast two of the best strikers in the league and if Pep Guardiola can mould them into a dynamic partnership, then the rest of the division will be left quaking in their boots.

Liverpool Face Major Challenge To Keep Star-Man, He Could Leave

Liverpool made great progress under Jurgen Klopp this season and the Reds sealed their minimum objective of returning to the Champions League next term.

Klopp’s side narrowly sealed their spot in the top-four, finishing one point ahead of Arsenal, and it’s clear the Merseyside giants need significant summer activity if they are to compete for major honours next season- especially with both Manchester clubs set to spend heavily.

However, Liverpool’s lack of recent history in European football and their financial restrictions when compared to their rivals makes it difficult for the Reds to maintain a top-class side and keep hold of their key players, with question marks surrounding the future of Philippe Coutinho.

The Brazilian ace has attracted the interest of Barcelona in recent seasons and the Catalan side’s restructure this summer could see them launch a move- which Liverpool would find incredibly difficult to fend off.

With speculation surrounding Coutinho, we asked our team what they believed would happen with the Brazilian and what it would take to keep him at Anfield.

Sam Cox (@SamRCox)

Liverpool’s summer is more significant than their rivals’.

The club’s creaky 2017 is a concern and – while Champions League football will return to Anfield – they must finally address long-term recruitment issues. Additions like Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Joel Matip have been splendid, though they now need to replicate that sort of investment throughout the squad to add depth and build a squad capable of holding their own against the might of their top six companions.

Prove they can do remain genuine contenders and Philippe Coutinho will find it much harder to leave the adoring Kop. Equally, clubs are unlikely to move for him just yet as his talent is yet to produce consistently enough.

Josh Challies (@Challies11)

The next year is crucial for Liverpool as they need to cement themselves as top-four regulars and genuine contenders for the Premier League title, rather than being consider a side that will dip in-and-out of the top spots in English football.

Securing Champions League football this weekend was vital to keeping Philippe Coutinho and their chances of keeping the Brazilian long-term likely hinge on the next year, as I do believe he will remain at Anfield this summer- but a move after the World Cup in 2018 is a possibility.

To have any chance of keeping Coutinho, Liverpool need to make a statement of intent this summer by securing big names and showing they can compete with their rivals- which means eyeing players that don’t currently represent lower-ranked sides in the Premier League.

Tom Scholes (@TomScholes316)

Philippe Coutinho is the player that Jurgen Klopp should be looking to build his team around in the summer, and he must do everything in his power to keep him at Anfield. If Barcelona come in for the Brazilian, he will find it hard to turn it down because who doesn’t want to play for Barcelona?

That being said, I do think Coutinho will stick around for yet another season. I doubt he would jump ship just went Liverpool are set to return to the Champions League, and Klopp needs to give him the players around him to make it similar to Eden Hazard at Chelsea.

Shane Burns (@MediaShaneBurns)

Ultimately, whether Liverpool fans care to admit it or not, the Merseysiders are a selling club and are unable to either keep hold of world-class players, or attract them.

It’s impossible to see how Liverpool can keep Coutinho if Barcelona come calling. Their name/brand is the only thing big about Liverpool these days.

Assessing The Key Pieces Of Business Arsenal Need This Summer

Arsenal have endured a majorly disappointing campaign and, barring a miracle on Sunday, will spend next season away from Champions League endeavours- which could lead to a mass exodus.

The futures of key players like Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain remain shrouded in speculation and Arsenal may have to search the transfer market for replacements, as well as strengthening their current squad.

Arsenal are crying out for a top-class striker, improvements to their defensive line, additional midfielders and potentially a new goalkeeper to succeed Petr Cech; all of which leaves Arsene Wenger, or whoever is in charge at the Emirates Stadium, facing a daunting task.

Debate will continue throughout the summer around what sort of business Arsenal need to conduct to stand competitiveness next season and we’ve asked our team what they believe the Gunners need to do in the transfer market to avoid being left behind by their rivals.

Sam Cox (@SamRCox_)

Winning a title with Arsene Wenger in charge remains unlikely. Their best chance, though, obviously will come if they keep Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez.

Away from that, the cry for another striker is hauntingly familiar, but it remains as relevant as ever. A player in a similar mould to Aaron Ramsey to avoid potential dependence on the Welshman in the 3-4-3 is equally key, however. A new central defender to replace Gabriel and at least one left-back is a must, too.

Tom Scholes (@TomScholes316)

To be considered as serious title challengers, things really need to change in the red half of North London. The future of Arsene Wenger needs to be addressed, business needs to be done quickly and they can’t have another season like this one where everything seemed to go wrong.

Spending tons of cash of big name players won’t do the trick. Provided he stays, Wenger needs to pick a certain formation and build around that system. Another centre back is imperative, maybe some more orthodox wing backs despite Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain proving capable of playing out wide.

Another central midfielder to compliment Granit Xhaka and an out and out goal scorer is needed for Arsenal to be taken seriously.

Josh Challies (@Challies11)

Once again, Arsenal seem to be a couple short of a full deck and it’s been a case of one step forward, two steps back for the Gunners in recent years. Bizarrely though, the common trend remains of Arsenal being desperate for a top-class striker.

Arsenal’s need for a quality striker is obvious but it’s not just on the field where Arsenal need to make a statement of intent, as the Gunners need to show they’re prepared to battle the likes of both Manchester clubs and Chelsea in the transfer market.

Sead Kolasinac is a good start to Arsenal’s summer but they can’t stop there. As well as a striker, the Gunners need a successor to Santi Cazorla, Petr Cech and Laurent Koscielny- all of whom are in the twilight years of their careers.

Shane Burns (@MediaShaneBurns)

Truthfully the Gunners need more than a few players. They also need their rivals to slip up in the transfer market – and drastically.

Ideally Arsene Wenger will be targeting a centre-forward, a box-to-box midfielder, another centre-back and left-back for starters. With Saed Kolasinic arriving from Schalke, the progression is underway. Keeping hold of Sanchez is a necessity for Arsenal also.

Man United Continue To Be Linked To Superstar, He’s A Questionable Recruit

Manchester United’s debut season under Jose Mourinho has seen the Red Devils fall well short of expectations in the Premier League and money is sure to be spent this summer in an attempt to improve the club’s fortunes.

James Rodriguez continues to be the name on everybody’s lips ahead of the summer transfer window, with the Colombian seemingly set to leave Real Madrid after a disappointing few seasons at the Santiago Bernabeu where he’s failed to show the sort of form that set the 2014 World Cup alight.

Earlier this month, Spanish media outlet Sport stated James has verbally agreed to move to Manchester United this summer and fresh reports continue to appear on a daily basis, intensifying the South American’s links with a lucrative move to the Premier League.

However, James Rodriguez would be a questionable recruit for Manchester United due to their wealth of depth in attack and the Red Devils continue to be linked to further attacking additions this summer- so it’s difficult to see where exactly the Colombian fits in.

The debate is likely to rumble on throughout the summer, with James Rodriguez’ future shaping up to be the transfer saga of the 2017 summer window, and we asked our team for their thoughts on the 25-year-old’s potential move.

Josh Challies (@Challies11)

I’ve been left scratching my head ever since James Rodriguez was first linked to Manchester United as I can’t see where he’d fit in- added to the fact the Red Devils would have to pay an audacious sum to secure his services and it’s difficult to justify that amount.

The Colombian has failed to build on his exceptional form at the World Cup three years ago and he continues to be living off his reputation in that tournament, having failed to establish himself as a first-team regular for Real Madrid.

At Manchester United, there’s a real danger he’d be in exactly the same boat regardless of whether Mourinho viewed him as a winger or an attacking midfielder, so it really seems like United would be spending money for the sake of it.

Shane Burns (@MediaShaneBurns)

James Rodriguez signing for Manchester United could be a game-changer regarding their title aspirations. The Colombian is highly marketable in South America and he certainly has the talent to up his potential marketability.

Whether or not signing for United is a possibility, Rodriguez would add proven quality and depth to a frail United side. A Mourinho player? Probably not.

Sam Cox (@SamRCox_)

Players of James’ class are always welcome additions to the league.

When it comes to Manchester United, however, James’ arrival would rely on at least one of Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Juan Mata leaving. It’s been a tough year in Madrid for the Colombian and, while creativity has been lacking at Old Trafford, his presence would not fix the fundamental issues with the setup of the team.

It could work out, but right now it aches of a signing that will fizzle under Jose Mourinho’s management.

Tom Scholes (@TomScholes316)

A lot of people are raving about James Rodriguez to Manchester United, but I can’t help but feel that it isn’t the right move for the Colombian. United already have multiple play makers in their squad including Juan Mata, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and to a lesser extent Paul Pogba, and James would just become yet another big name signing with no purpose.

If United really want to get the best out of Paul Pogba, the last thing they should be doing is signing James Rodriguez. Adding another central attacking midfielder only pushes the Frenchman deeper in midfield, restricting him.

With the constant links seemingly every summer, is James to United the new Wesley Sneijder to United rumour?

FF Premier League Team Of The Season: 4 Chelsea, 2 Spurs, 2 Liverpool & 2 Burnley Players Feature

We’re at that stage of the season now when we recognise the achievements of those we see week in, week out, with the PFA’s nominations for PFA Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year kicking off the debates.

Along with it comes the often much-maligned Team of the Season that, in response, has streams of fans drafting up their own all-star XI. Many are flying about as we speak, which prompts us to give our two cents. Here’s Fresh Football’s Premier League Team of the Season:

Goalkeeper: Tom Heaton, Burnley

It’s on the basis of defensive solidity that Sean Dyche’s side has planned and, more or less, managed to crack their first season back in the Premier League. Tom Heaton’s heroics in between the sticks have certainly played a part in that.

The two-time England international, more fondly remembered for his displays against Liverpool at home and versus Manchester United at Old Trafford, comes 6th in the ongoing race for the Golden Glove, claiming nine clean sheets altogether.

That has seen him top the list of keepers in the bottom half of the table, which, unlike other lauded colleagues such as Sunderland’s Jordan Pickford, has contributed towards Burnley’s mid-table attainment and facilitated our choice for number one.

Right Back: Kyle Walker, Tottenham Hotspur

Among the tightest of choices throughout the XI, the right back slot sees the likes of Kyle Walker go head-to-head with Manchester United’s Antonio Valencia, who’s gone from strength-to-strength under José Mourinho this season.

But for all the improvement from the Ecuadorian, Walker has continued to be a pivotal figure in a side targeting a top two finish, as opposed to scrambling for top four.

The Spurs man pips Valencia on end product, claiming two more assists than Valencia’s modest three, and also averaging 1.15 key passes and 1.33 chances created per game, which is marginally better than his full back counterpart.

Centre Back: David Luiz, Chelsea

Many a critic scoffed at the £30 million spent by Chelsea on the club’s former cult hero, with displays up until early October suggesting they were right to do so. In came Antonio Conte’s characteristic shift to a formation with three central defenders, signalling a straight run for top spot and David Luiz’s rebirth, as a result.

Free to explore his refined technical ability with the comfort of two other centre backs either side of him, Luiz’s maturity has also shun through in a side that’s collected 13 clean sheets thus far and strung together 13 consecutive wins from October to January.

Centre Back: Michael Keane, Burnley

We’ve spoken briefly of the work put in by Burnley in this season’s Premier League and just as focal to the Clarets’ success has been Michael Keane, a mainstay alongside Ben Mee in Dyche’s XI.

The centre back pairing have been virtually inseparable statistically, but the man under the radar has appeared as Burnley’s go-to-guy for defensive interactions, conquering 120 of his aerial duels and winning 60% of all duels in total, which is a 5% increase on what Mee registered.

Such has been his form that the Man United academy graduate has seen his trade recognised by England with his debut cap, meanwhile the likes of Everton reportedly plot a move for the 24-year-old in the summer.

Left Back: Marcos Alonso, Chelsea

Costing the champions-elect a total of £20 million from Fiorentina this summer, Marcos Alonso has done a decent job in allaying fears of his perceived sub-par status in world football.

The Spaniard prides himself on the time he’s spent in Serie A, which bodes well with Conte’s familiarities, whereas the player’s core attributes have seen him become a straight fit into Chelsea’s 3-4-3 formation at wing back.

Five goals and two assists later for the Blues, few left backs in the league have come close to his level of consistency.

Centre Midfield: N’Golo Kanté, Chelsea

To make complete simplicity so hard to ignore takes some doing, yet N’Golo Kanté is already on his second consecutive season of leaving his critics in awe.

No sign of second season syndrome here, with the Frenchman providing a pivotal presence in Chelsea’s two-man midfield and eating up more ground than one could ever deem possible. An easy choice.

Centre Midfield: Adam Lallana, Liverpool

Under the core definition of a central midfielder, there’s a small number of options they may be more popular throughout the masses, but we’re striving to also conjure up a team that also makes some sort of footballing sense.

Adam Lallana is no scrub, however. The Englishman took his time to get going at Anfield, but he’s been among the players to have embraced Jürgen Klopp’s ethos the best in a mixed season for the Reds.

The England international has maintained a high level of performances throughout this season, contributing at both ends of the field, which sees us favour the ex-Southampton midfielder over the likes of Vincent Wanyama, David Silva and a more attacking iteration of Dele Alli, who’ve all hooked in their fair share of plaudits through central areas.

Left Midfielder: Eden Hazard, Chelsea

After a faint 2015/16 campaign, Eden Hazard has remerged as a top bracket Premier League star under Conte, making full use of the free role given to him in a 3-4-3 set-up. The Belgian is a hot favourite for the PFA Player of the Year award, which speaks volumes of our choice.

With seven games of the season to go, Hazard has already equalled his highest scoring seasons of 2013/14 and 2014/15 with 14 goals, three shy of the club’s regular goal-getter Diego Costa, after finding the back of the net against the likes of Man United, Manchester City and Arsenal this season.

Whispers of a switch to Real Madrid have followed suit, which is yet another testament to the qualities displayed by the re-energised Belgian.

Right Midfielder: Sadio Mané, Liverpool

Alongside Chelsea’s N’Golo Kanté, Sadio Mané leads the line for signing of the season since arriving for £34 million from Southampton.

Fully engaged with Klopp’s ‘Gegenpressing’, the Senegalese winger has hit the back of the net 13 times and turned in a further six assists, numbers that aren’t too dissimilar to that of Eden Hazard’s. It’s no wonder many were left arguing for the Liverpool man’s presence in the six-man shortlist for the PFA Player of the Year award.

Thus far, Liverpool’s dependency on Mané has been clear, winning just twice in eight games without their summer signing, which includes defeating League Two outfit Plymouth Argyle. Such is the importance he holds that the wide man is far too difficult to overlook, even with Alexis Sanchez and Nathan Redmond presenting stellar seasons of their own in the meantime.

Striker: Romelu Lukaku, Everton

He’s a striker that often divides opinion, but time and time again Romelu Lukaku finds himself among a hatful of goals.

The Belgian’s technical ability, although appearing more refined this season, is some way off your traditional top class striker, but his laudable ability to strike gold with frequency may well see the Everton forward claim this season’s Golden Boot.

It’s a feat that can’t be ignored, giving him the edge over Diego Costa, Sergio Aguero, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and many more favoured strikers.

Striker: Harry Kane, Tottenham Hotspur

If there’s one player who knows just how to time an appeal for all relevant gongs, that man is Harry Kane. The England international, rather characteristically, started the season slowly with just five non-penalty goals in the first half of the season.

Fast-forward four months and that figure has doubled in his favour, culminating in a late charge to defend his Golden Boot award with 19 goals at this stage of the season.

No period displayed Kane’s string of exemplary performances quite as well as February, scoring six in four games before crowning his work with the Player of the Month award. It’s because of this and many more performances since the turn of the year that Kane has battled his way into our Team of the Year.

 

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Premier League Team Of The Week: Ft. 3 Man City, 2 Man Utd, 1 Liverpool & 1 Chelsea Player

Here is our Premier League team of the week from the latest round of fixtures.

Jordan Pickford – Sunderland

Pickford was immense for Sunderland against Watford as he kept a clean sheet and ensured the Black Cats took all three points.

The 22-year-old has become a regular in the starting XI for David Moyes men and is growing with confidence each week, his displays have been so impressive it is only a matter of time before the big clubs come calling.

Aleksandar Kolarov – Manchester City

When the team-sheet was announced on Sunday afternoon, many football fans was surprised that Kolarov started over summer signing John Stones, but his performance warranted his starting spot and with a performance like that it will keep the Englishman out of the team for coming weeks.

The centre-half was solid at the back, keeping the likes of Alexis Sanchez and Theo Walcott very quiet throughout the game, as always the City man was excellent in possession and composed defensively.

Ragnar Klavan – Liverpool

Playing in his first Merseyside derby, Klavan had a truly phenomenal display dealing with Romelu Lukaku with ease and keeping Everton’s attacking players at bay.

The Liverpool man was physical, defensively sound and composed in possession finishing the game with 88% passing accuracy, as a defender winning your tackles is crucial and this man won 100% of his against Everton, to emphasise how impressive he was.

He was excellent in an all-round great display as the Red side of Merseyside came out on top.

Phil Jones – Manchester United

Phil Jones was once the forgotten man at Manchester United, but is slowly becoming the needed man.

The English International has been superb at the back for United in recent weeks and is giving Jose Mourinho a headache for when Chris Smalling and others return to full fitness.

Many doubted Jones’s ability but he dealt with Salomon Rondon very well, coming out on top of the physical battle and helping his side take all three points.

Patrick Van Aanholt – Sunderland

Firstly, Sunderland has a very good left-back on their hands in Van Aanholt, he has been consistently impressive all season thus far and his performance at the weekend again proved why he has become vital in this Sunderland team.

When your club is in a relegation battle, all you want is for your players to show desire and fight in their performances and that shone through when he ran from deep in his own half, into Watford’s area to set up the winning goal was fantastic, a run of true desire.

Jack Wilshere – Bournemouth

Jack Wilshere registered his first assist of the season this weekend against Southampton and was unfortunate to be on the losing side.

It’s brilliant to see Wilshere getting back to his best after years of devastating injuries, he was excellent against the Saints and is finally getting his burst of speed back. As Wilshere completed another 90 minutes, some of the stats behind his game are impressive, he managed 85% pass accuracy, made nine take ons and created one chance.

Kevin De Bruyne – Manchester City

The attacking midfielder’s display against Arsenal was simply sublime, magical and amazing.

He ran the show, from start to finish he was a complete nuisance for the Arsenal defence, he made arguably the pass of the season to assist Raheem Sterling for the winning goal after switching play magnificently.

The Belgian was immense, he created seven chances against Arsenal, having three shots and completing one take on. He deserved to score when he hit the post and was a stand out performer on Sunday afternoon.

Fernando – Manchester City

With Manchester City missing Fernandinho, it was crucial that Fernando stepped up in his absence and he has done so in style.

The Brazilian was a rock in the midfield against Arsenal and dominated the Gunners midfield winning the battle overall. The midfield rock maintained a 90% pass accuracy which is exquisite, whilst making two interceptions and four blocks.

The midfielder was good in both offensive and defensive situations and was always on top of the likes of Mesut Ozil, Granit Xhaka and Francis Coquelin.

Diego Costa – Chelsea

Diego Costa is the best number 9 in Europe, without a shadow of doubt, there is no better striker on this planet at this current moment and Costa is week in week out showing why.

The Spanish international is currently leading the race for the Golden Boot with 13 goals, and scored the winning goal (again) against Crystal Palace to ensure his side are comfortably top of the tree at Christmas.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic – Manchester United

Like the man himself said, he get’s better with age, just like wine.

The Manchester United man again proved why he was such a good signing for free in the summer as he has hit double figures for the season already

He was influential for United in their 2-0 win over West Brom and helped the Red Devils secure all three points with a brace.

Alvaro Negredo – Middlesbrough

The summer arrival of Negredo was massive for Boro, and he is really starting to find his feet again in England as he scored a brace in a brilliant win over relegation rivals Swansea.

Boro were superb at the weekend as they picked up a massive three points just before Christmas, climbing away from the relegation zone by four points.

Arsenal Fans Claim This Midfielder Put In No Effort In Shameful Performance vs. Everton

Arsenal travelled to Goodison Park on Tuesday evening in a bid to extend their unbeaten run in the Premier League since the opening day of the season.

The Gunners only defeat prior to the match was against Liverpool, the Toffees rivals, but they fell to a crushing defeat to Ronald Koeman’s men to make it 2-0 to Merseyside over the North Londoners.

It was a poor performance all round, but one player in particular who was on the receiving end of strong criticism was Arsenal’s German World Cup winner Mesut Ozil, who was lethargic, pathetic, and out-fought all game in a shambolic display.

Playing in his favourite number 10 role, Arsenal expect to be able to rely on their most creative player to carve out chances and take the game by the scruff of the neck, but when the going gets tough, Ozil seems to disappear, quite literally. Ozil, who can of course produce moments of artistic magic is still a wonderful player, but when he has the attitude of ‘can’t be bothered’ it really does rub off on others.

Unlike Alexis Sanchez, who has had better nights but still he ran his socks off up until the final whistle and still showed great character for the team, Ozil was Slowly walking about, not tracking back, letting the game run away from him and quite simply being a shadow of what he possesses in a very lazy performance.

The Arsenal man is not immune to criticism, however wonderful he may be, for Everton’s winning goal, Mesut Ozil found himself in the penalty box defending the corner (no, that is not a typo) and although he should not be there in the first place, he should still be man enough to challenge Williams for the ball. Instead, Ozil ducked and turned his back on the ball as he cowardly pulled himself out of any contact.

Honestly, that’s a total disgrace, for a club who want to put an end to their disastrous title drought, to have a player duck from the ball which turned out to be the winner is not good enough, what mentality is that giving off? He should want to throw every limb he has into that challenge, instead he let his man have all the time in the world before casually walking back to the halfway line.

Ozil is first name on the team sheet each week, without a doubt, he is crucial for Arsenal and is key for their title charge, but when the going gets tough, he must get tougher, he could have showed some sort of heart and character to try and win that ball in the box, but he did nothing which has cost his team the points.

To put the cherry on top of such a disappointing performance, Ozil had the opportunity to put the Gunners ahead when the ball was dragged back into his path, but unfortunately he blasted the ball over, he could have certainly scored.It is really frustrating to watch when someone of his

It is really frustrating to watch when someone of his qualitiy is playing with such attitude, all is not bad for Ozil though, he did still manage to create one chance against Everton and ended the game with 81% passing accuracy, which isn’t great for his standards but still far from woeful.

It is certainly a performance to forget for Ozil, it was dire. We look at how Twitter reacted to his performance, and as expected some fans are really not happy.

As you can see, Arsenal fans were less than impressed with the Germans performance yesterday and rightly so, they’re desperate to end their title drought and know losses like yesterday could play divalent in the title run. Yes, the criticism may be deemed unfair as he is a glorious player, but no player is immune to it, and he really must take a long hard look at himself after yesterday’s display.

To top of his performance, he didn’t even go over to thank the Arsenal faithful after the match and headed straight down the tunnel, maybe he felt embarrassed after the defeat but there is never any excuse not to thank the fans that look up to you.

Walcott has also come under strong criticism for his performance, if you can call it that, in the 2-1 defeat against Everton.

Arsenal are in an excellent position, they have only suffered two defeats this season which could have both been avoided, Arsenal need Mesut Ozil to step up and help them reach maximum heights this season.

Up next is Manchester City away for the Gunners, he could certainly put this performance behind him if he was to help his side take all three points and put a real marker down.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Predicted Lineup

Loris Karius

Nathaniel Clyne, Ragnar Klavan, Joel Matip, James Milner

Jordan Henderson, Georginio Wijnaldum, Adam Lallana

Sadio Mane, Divock Origi, Roberto Firmino

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

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

Premier League Team of the Week includes 3 Arsenal, 2 Chelsea & 2 Manchester United Players

Here’s our Premier League team of the week from the latest round of fixtures.

Thibaut Courtois – Chelsea

Courtois was again impressive as Chelsea recorded nine consecutive wins, with the Belgian keeping another clean sheet in the Premier League.

With managers wanting goalkeepers to be good with their feet, Courtois certainly impressed with 81% passing accuracy throughout whilst dominating his area and being a calm and collective presence in between the sticks as always.

Hector Bellerin – Arsenal

Arsenal fans will feel much more assured now their Spanish right-back has returned to action, and in some style too.

Continuously being an offensive threat, he helped change the game when he came on from the bench, registering an assist for Theo Walcott.

Bellerin, who is key to this Gunners side, managed 94% passing accuracy whilst creating another three chances too in a quality display.

Phil Jones – Manchester United

Since his return to the Manchester United squad, Phil Jones has been immense and has certainly cemented his place in the United XI for the immediate future.

In a must-win game against Spurs, Jones was excellent against the likes of Harry Kane and Dele Alli keeping them at bay.

The Englishman made five interceptions, six clearances whilst winning 100% aerial duels in a dominating display.

Laurent Koscielny – Arsenal

Laurent Koscielny, Arsenal’s finest defender since the likes of Sol Campbell and Martin Keown for sure.

He helps Arsenal pass out from the back and completed 88% passing accuracy against the Potters, whilst making four clearances and winning 50% of aerial duels as he helped his side extend their unbeaten run since the opening day of the season.

Christian Fuchs – Leicester City

Leicester City looked back to their best again against Manchester City as the Champions absolutely blitzed Pep Guardiola’s side.

Defensively the Foxes were solid, and Fuchs for me was a standout performer at the back against City as he kept the likes of Jesus Navas at bay, ensuring the Spanish star had little impact on the game.
Fuchs managed 10 clearances and two interceptions in a fine performance as he helped his side get back on track.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan– Manchester United

Who knew that Bundesliga player of the season, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, was so good. Well, everyone is the answer, that’s why everyone was so baffled by Jose Mourinho’s early season treatment of the Armenian.

Each game the United star has played, he has been above every other teammate and is simply in impeccable form.

He was magnificent against Spurs, he was causing Danny Rose so many problems and scored an immense goal whilst completing three take ons and creating one chance.

Unfortunately, he looks to be set for a spell on the sidelines for a few weeks after picking up an ankle injury, which is a shame for the whole league, as he is a true joy to watch.

Granit Xhaka – Arsenal

For so many years, Arsenal have been crying out for a physically strong, all round dictator from deep and have finally find the perfect player in Granit Xhaka, the Gunner’s Switzerland gem.

Against the Potters, Xhaka managed to maintain an 88% passing accuracy whilst creating two chances and three clearances in a solid performance.

Jeff Hendrick – Burnley

Burnley’s record signing finally lived up to his billing against Bournemouth on Saturday afternoon as he scored a beautiful volley from 25 yards, like Jamie Vardy’s goal against Liverpool last season.

He helped Burnley end their run of three straight defeats, helping his side take the crucial three points. Hendrick was solid in midfield and created one chance whilst making five interceptions helping his side defensively.

Stefano Okaka – Watford

Well, what a performance from Watford man Stefano Okaka. Against a very strong Everton back four, the Watford striker had a field day in a brilliant display.

His first goal was a touch of art, a sublime piece of skill which is rarely pulled off with such precision, whilst scoring his second goal with a powerful header then going on to run the Everton defence ragged all afternoon.

Diego Costa – Chelsea

Diego Costa, simply the best number 9 in Europe. Although Chelsea were not having it their own way against West Brom, Costa was still working hard, closing down from the front, helping out defensively and being a real nuisance for the Baggies back four.

His goal was a thing of beauty, he nicked it from the defence before driving it into the top corner exquisitely.

The Spanish international created three chances and three take ons in another fine performance, he was playing at left-back in the latter parts of the game to help his team out which just shows how hungry he is this season.

If Costa keeps on scoring and playing the way he is, Chelsea will be crowned champions come May.

Jamie Vardy – Leicester

Jamie Vardy was having a party against Manchester City on Saturday evening.

The Englishman looked back to himself against Guardiola’s men, he was making runs, rediscovering his relationship with Mahrez and closing down efficiently from the front.

Vardy scored his first ever hat-trick against City and showed glimpses of his old self, he completed three take ons too whilst maintaining high energy levels throughout.

He has come under strong scrutiny for his goal-scoring drought but has finally put that past him as he sets his eyes on helping Leicester get back into the top half of the table.

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

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

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

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

Goalkeeper: Petr Cech

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

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

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

Defensive Midfield: Granit Xhaka, Francis Coquelin

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

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

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

Striker: Alexis Sanchez

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No Mata, Bailly Starts! Manchester United Team News & Predicted Line-Up To Face Tottenham

Manchester United have been left frustrated in the last few weeks, failing to finish games off, drawing against Everton, West Ham and Arsenal in recent weeks. United will be looking to secure their first win since the beginning of November but will be coming up against a Spurs side that have lost just once in the Premier League this term. 

Chris Smalling and Luke Shaw will be unavailable through injury for the visit of Mauricio Pochettino’s Spurs. Here is our Manchester United predicted line-up to face Tottenham.

GK: David De Gea

Sergio Romero started in goal for the Red Devils on Thursday night in the Europa League, but I am fairly certain that David De Gea will return for United to face Spurs.

RB: Antonio Valencia

Valencia has not only proved that he can defend extremely well down the right-hand side, but the attacking threat he offers is also valuable to Mourinho and United. He will look to cause Danny Rose some problems down the right and look to put some dangerous crosses into Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

CB: Eric Bailly

Bailly has just recovered from a knee injury picked up at Stamford Bridge, and played in the Europa League on Thursday. Bailly has proved what a good signing he is for the Red Devils, and will probably make his first league start since October.

CB: Phil Jones

Jones has stepped in well for the injured Chris Smalling, who is not likely to make it back for the clash with Spurs. A few good performances from Jones may mean that he keeps his place for this match.

LB: Daley Blind

We have seen a few players play at left-back for Manchester United this season under Jose Mourinho, but with Luke Shaw injured, it is likely that we will see Daley Blind start at left-back.

CDM: Ander Herrera

Herrera has played very well for United this season and played again on Thursday night. He is an extremely important player for United, and will most likely start in midfield on Sunday.

CDM: Michael Carrick

He was brought on in the Europa League on Thursday, but Marouane Fellaini will not be in Mourinho’s good books after that stupid challenge last week at Goodison Park. Carrick will probably start in holding midfield here alongside Ander Herrera.

RAM: Henrikh Mkhitaryan

Jose Mourinho has recently praised the attitude of Mkhitaryan, and he has been in electric form since being placed in the team. A goal in the Europa League will boost the Armenian’s confidence, and he should start against Spurs at Old Trafford

CAM: Paul Pogba

The Frenchman needs to find his best form and has shown very little of why United decided to fork out £89m in the summer. He is one of those undroppable players considering how much he is worth, but he needs to start pulling his weight in team, with many fans starting to get extremely frustrated.

LAM: Anthony Martial

It will be an interesting battle to watch out for on Sunday afternoon. It is more than likely that Martial will be lining up against Kyle Walker at Old Trafford, and that will see two quick players against each other, but who has the most guile?

ST: Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Two goals this week for Ibrahimovic, one against Everton last Sunday, and another one in the Europa League, and he is almost guaranteed to start against Spurs with the threat he provides.

Bellerin Starts, Ramsey Out: Arsenal Team News And Predicted Line-Up To Face Stoke

Arsenal will be full of confidence after a successful couple of weeks both domestically and in Europe. Following a good run of form, Arsene Wenger’s man have seen themselves move up to second in the Premier League and secured top spot in the Champions League group stages after PSG’s slip-up on Wednesday night. 

Hector Bellerin could return from injury for this one while Santi Cazorla, Per Mertesacker and Danny Welbeck are all out for the Gunners. Here is the Arsenal predicted line-up to face Stoke.

GK: Petr Cech

Was dropped for the Champions League match in favour of Ospina, but should start once again here.

RB: Hector Bellerin

Gabriel hasn’t put in a bad shift yet at right-back since the injury to Hector Bellerin, but the return of the Spaniard will be a big boost for Arsene Wenger and Arsenal, and he should be reinstalled back into the starting line-up straight away.

CB: Shkodran Mustafi

Mustafi and Koscielny have built up a very good relationship and understanding at the back for Arsenal. The defender missed out in midweek in Basel, and should be placed back in the starting line-up here.

CB: Laurent Koscielny

Will be a little disappointed not to have kept a clean sheet in the Champions League, but it was enough to take Arsenal through in top spot. I have no doubts in that he will play from the start against Stoke.

LB: Kieran Gibbs

Had a good game in midweek in the Champions League, and picked up three assists in that 4-1 win over Basel to secure top spot. Should keep his place here.

CDM: Granit Xhaka

Nothing too special from Granit Xhaka in midweek, but he had a solid game. After settling in, he will be looking to hit top form and nail down a regular place in Arsene Wenger’s line-ups. A good performance here will go a long way to doing that.

CDM: Francis Coquelin

Is available for selection to Arsene Wenger once again, and I think he will return to the starting line-up after that rest in midweek.

RAM: Theo Walcott

Another one that wasn’t selected in Basel, but has been in decent form recently. He should start again at the Emirates for Arsenal here.

CAM: Mesut Ozil

Mesut Ozil has discovered some good form in the Champions League but has not been at his very best in the Premier League recently. However, he was back amongst the goals last week against West Ham in the 5-1 thrashing, scoring his first league goal since October and will look to build on that.

LAM: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

Also among the goals last week at the London Stadium, and has looked dangerous recently, scoring his second of the campaign last Saturday. Contract talks have reportedly started with the winger, and Arsenal will be hoping to tie him down with a new contract.

ST: Alexis Sanchez

Despite his hat-trick against Basel, I do not think that Lucas Perez will start on Saturday. I think that Alexis Sanchez will lead the line by himself against Stoke, with Lucas an attacking option on the wing and through the middle from the bench.

Premier League Team of the Week: Ft. 3 Chelsea, 2 Arsenal, 1 Liverpool & 1 Everton Player

Here’s our Premier League team of the week from the latest round of fixtures.

It was a weekend of bizarre results in places, whilst Arsenal and Chelsea showed their title credentials with impressive wins, it was a gamble from Manchester City to try and match Chelsea 3-4-3 and it backfired, get your Genting Casino promotion code to see if you can have more luck.

Lee Grant – Stoke City

Stoke City are back to winning ways and have kept consecutive clean sheets thanks to the in-form Lee Grant, who has been superb in between the sticks for the Potters in recent weeks.

Burnley certainly gave Stoke a good game at the weekend but without Grant standing strong and pulling off saves, things could have been ever so different.

But Grant excelled in a good performance and helped the Potters up to ninth place with a trip to the Emirates Stadium beckoning.

Eric Dier – Tottenham Hotspur

Eric Dier, who predominately plays in central midfield has found himself  playing in defence for Tottenham Hotspur a lot this season due to Toby Alderweireld’s injury.

The English international had a superb performance for Spurs in there 5-0 demolition over Swansea City with Dier winning 100% tackles, having 102 touches of the ball which is more than anyone else whilst maintaining 92% pass accuracy. Dier also got himself forward creating two chances in a truly immense display.

David Luiz – Chelsea

Honestly, I cannot remember a week in which David Luiz did not make our TOTW, this is not because I am a biased Chelsea fan, it is simply because he has been in impeccable form.

His arrival raised question marks which have been answered with supreme performances, he is enjoying himself in Antonio Conte’s new system and has been in majestic form since the start of the season.

A revelation, he has been arguably the best defender in Europe thus far this season, he was sublime at the Etihad Stadium managing six clearances, 34 passes and two interceptions.

The Brazilian is improving week in week out and his form will play a big part in Chelsea’s success this season.

Phil Jones – Manchester United

Since his return from injury, Phil Jones has been very impressive in the United team and is certainly giving Jose Mourinho selection headaches for when Eric Bailly returns to full fitness.

In their 1-1 draw at Goodison Park, Jones was tasked with keeping Romelu Lukaku at bay and did so in style, matching the Belgian striker’s strength and desire.

The English international maintained an immense 89% passing accuracy, whilst winning 100% aerial duels, which certainly catches the eye coming up against someone as powerful as Lukaku.

Ryan Fraser – Bournemouth

Many people woke up on Sunday morning and had not heard of Ryan Fraser before, or some may remember him from having a good spell ruined by injury at Ipswich Town, but one thing is for sure, you certainly know who he is now.

When Fraser was introduced to the game with 35 minutes remaining, nobody would have thought he would have the impact he did.

Firstly he won the penalty which was converted, he then scored a goal whilst grabbing an assist too in Bournemouth’s remarkable 4-3 win over Liverpool.

His direct approach and speed was too much for Jurgen Klopp’s men to handle, and he will certainly be looking to start for Eddie Howe’s men after a wonderful Man of the Match performance.

Emre Can – Liverpool

If anyone can, Emre can.

Although Can was on the receiving end of an embarrassment defeat, the German international still showcased an exquisite performance in the middle of the park.

He helped his side take the lead after setting up Sadio Mané for the opener before curling a beautiful strike into the back of the net from outside the box.

His performance certainly caught the eye with the midfield maestro also completing three take ons in a brilliant display.

Granit Xhaka – Arsenal

When Arsenal announced Santi Cazorla would miss up to three months of the season due to injury, many fans panicked, but honestly, there is no need to.

Granit Xhaka found himself in the starting XI again for the Gunners and on each occasion he has not disappointed in a wonderful performance against West Ham United.

The midfield rock, who formed a partnership with Francis Coquelin, managed 89% pass accuracy whilst being defensively switched on winning four tackles and three interceptions.

Idrissa Gueye – Everton

When Everton announced the signing of Idrissa Gueye in the summer, many football fans turned their heads, but he is quietly becoming a vital player for Everton and has been one of the best midfielders in the Premier League this season.

Coming up against the likes of Paul Pogba in the United midfield, he stood strong and won the battle which saw the Toffees man win five tackles and complete 37 passes.

Gueye was influential for Everton again on Sunday and won 75% of his duels, which showed how dominating he was against the Red Devils.

Eden Hazard – Chelsea

After a season to forget last season, this Belgian is thriving in Conte’s new formation and is rapidly getting back to his best which has him in the bracket with some of the worlds best.

Hazard was again at the heart of everything for the Blues as they cemented their title credentials with a win against Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City.

Alexis Sanchez -Arsenal

When Alexis Sanchez turns up, it is just beautiful to watch.

The Gunners annihilated West Ham United on Saturday evening in a 5-1 victory, but one man stole the headlines, that man being their Chilean magician Alexis Sanchez.

The Arsenal forward scored a truly glorious hat-trick with his third goal being utterly outrageous, whilst oozing brilliance throughout and assisting Mesut Ozil.

West Ham defenders are no doubt relieved they will not have to face Sanchez for a while after being torn apart by the 27-year-old, who was a menace all game.

Diego Costa – Chelsea

Once again, Diego Costa makes our TOTW after an immense afternoon at the Etihad Stadium as he helped his side take all three points.

The Spanish international scored an incredible goal, with controlling the ball out of the air beautifully before smashing past the helpless Bravo.

Costa is a different animal this season, he look’s even hungrier, and Saturday again proved why he is currently the best number 9 in Europe with the Chelsea man hitting superlative form.

3 Players Arsenal Should Sign In The January Transfer Window

Arsenal moved up to second in the Premier League table after a 5-1 win over London rivals West Ham on Saturday, and having already secured qualification into the knockout stages of the Champions League, Arsene Wenger will be looking to add to his squad depth over the January transfer window so that he can make a push for the Premier League title as well as progress in the Champions League. Here are three players that Arsenal should try to sign in the new year.

1) Cesc Fabregas

Arsene Wenger has always rejected the idea whenever put to him that he wants to bring Cesc Fabregas back to the Emirates Stadium, but if he was given the opportunity to work with the Spaniard once again, then I am sure he would.

The Gunners could have the chance to secure the services of Fabregas over the course of the January transfer window according to reports emerging on Sunday morning from the Sunday Express. The 29-year-old has not featured regularly under Antonio Conte this season, despite playing in the 3-1 win over Manchester City on Saturday.

Santi Cazorla has been sidelined for three months, and despite denying it, Arsene Wenger will be keen to find a replacement in the new year. The signing of Fabregas would also add to Arsenal’s squad depth as they look to make a charge for the Premier League title whilst progressing as far as they can in the Champions League.

If Arsenal were able to secure the services of Fabregas, it would be an excellent signing for the Gunners. The Spaniard still has a lot to offer in the Premier League, and you just have to look at the ball Fabregas played up to Diego Costa for the equaliser on Saturday to see the quality he can offer.

Coquelin Out, Giroud Starts: Arsenal Team News And Predicted 4-2-3-1 Line-Up To Face Basel

Confidence will be high in the Arsenal camp after they moved up to second in the Premier League table following a 5-1 win over West Ham, and now the Gunners travel to Basel with qualification in the Champions League already secured. 

Mathieu Debuchy and Hector Bellerin leave Wenger a selection headache at right-back again whilst he is still missing long-term absentees Santi Cazorla, Chuba Akpom, Per Mertesacker and Danny Welbeck are all out.

In order to finish top of the group, Arsenal must win and then rely on a PSG slip up against Ludogorets, and with this in mind Arsene Wenger might look to make a few rotations but still field a strong side to maintain the teams winning momentum. Here is the predicted 4-2-3-1 line-up to face Basel in the Champions League.

GK: David Ospina

The Arsenal goalkeeper has been subject to a little bit of criticism recently from Arsenal fans, but I do expect him to replace Petr Cech here as he usually does for the Champions League fixtures. On his day, he can be a very useful keeper.

RB: Gabriel Paulista

Carl Jenkinson was slammed for his performance in the EFL Cup last week in the 0-2 defeat at the hands of Southampton, and Paulista played alright against West Ham. He should keep his place again in Basel.

CB: Shkodran Mustafi

Mustafi has been a success ever since making the £35m switch from Valencia and has formed a very strong partnership with Koscielny at the heart of the defence. I expect Arsene Wenger to field a fairly strong team in Basel, and Mustafi should keep his place.

CB: Lauren Koscielny

As I have said, the partnership built up between Mustafi and Koscielny has been one that Arsenal fans love, and with Alexis Sanchez firing well up front it is a recipe for success. He should start once again here.

LB: Kieran Gibbs

Arsene Wenger should pick a strong side, but there are expected to be changes. Nacho Monreal has been in decent form of late, but Kieran Gibbs could take his place for the clash in Basel as the duo continue to contest for the left-back berth.

 

CDM: Granit Xhaka

The big money signing of the summer has not always featured under Wenger this season, but he played well on Saturday against West Ham, and he should keep his place in the starting line-up here, going to his former club.

CDM: Mohamed Elneny

Elneny recovered from illness to come on as a late substitute and will be pushing for a start here ahead of Francis Coquelin, and I think that he might get that starting place in the final group stage game, especially because, like Xhaka, this game will be a bit of a homecoming for him.

RAM: Theo Walcott

Walcott has been a much-improved player this season and netted against Bournemouth in the last Premier League match at the Emirates Stadium. He was replaced after 66 minutes by Aaron Ramsey on Saturday, and Arsene Wenger might have had this fixture in mind.

CAM: Mesut Ozil

Ozil got back amongst the goals in the Premier League on Saturday, and although it was just a tap-in, he was in the right place at the right time – something he has done much more frequently this season. Ozil has played well this season in the Champions League and will be a key figure for Arsenal here.

LAM: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

Oxlade-Chamberlain also started on Saturday against West Ham, and also bagged himself a goal in the 5-1 thrashing. He has been decent form, and will probably start on the left-wing against Basel.

ST: Olivier Giroud

Giroud has returned to training after not making the squad on Saturday. With qualification secured, and with Arsenal relying on a PSG slip up at home against Ludogorets to finish top, Arsene Wenger might see this as an opportunity to rest key man Alexis Sanchez and start fit-again Giroud.

This Manchester United Defender Excelled vs. Everton – But Time To Go For Fellaini?

Manchester United were held to a 1-1 draw at Goodison Park on Sunday as Marouane Fellaini gave away a late penalty. Two players caught the eye for United on the day, but both for very different reasons. 

Marcus Rojo supplied the first big talking point of the game after lunging into a 50/50 challenge with Idrissa Gueye, but was only shown a yellow card by referee Michael Oliver, much to the anger of the Everton players. The first half was dominated by controversial decisions as United players would argue Gareth Barry should have been sent off for two bookings.

After 42 minutes of sloppy play from both sides, the deadlock was finally broken. Anthony Martial supplied a perfect ball for Zlatan Ibrahimovic to chase and lob the ball over the stranded, Stekelenburg. The goal was given by goal line technology after the attempt hit the bar, post and then creeped over the line.

The first piece of action of the second half took place on the 53rd minute when Kevin Mirallas skipped past Rojo with ease and forced a good save from David De Gea, who would have been trying to forget his mid-week slip up against West Ham.

Ander Herrera hit the post with a great effort after some good work from Mkhitaryan on only his second league start for the club.

On the 85th minute, Marouane Fellaini was substituted on, and on the 87th minute, the same man gave away a penalty. The Belgian once again proving why he isn’t up to standards for a side like Manchester United. Leighton Baines kept his nerve and placed the penalty in the bottom corner, which proved to be the final goal in the game.

Phil Jones, hopefully back for good

When Phil Jones joined the club, Sir Alex Ferguson labelled the young man as a future captain of club and country, but the Englishman has been plagued with injury and hasn’t been able to live up to his potential. Back from injury, the centre-back has been extremely impressive and there was no change today. Jones kept Romelu Lukaku quiet for the whole game and made sure he didn’t win anything in the air, which is a tough task against such a physical player. The ex-Blackburn Rovers player was a brick wall and made sure David De Gea was protected. Jones had the confidence to play it out from the back to Michael Carrick instead of hitting it up the field and giving it away.

When managing Chelsea, Mourinho mentored John Terry into the player that he is today and if he can stay fit, I don’t think there is any doubt that he can reach the former England captain’s level.

How long can Fellaini hold onto his Utd Career?

Manchester United fans will not be wanting to see any more of Marouane Fellaini for a good few weeks, that’s if he can survive the January transfer window. The Belgian has never been in the good books of the fans ever since he joined the club and he simply isn’t helping himself. He doesn’t have the quality of the players around him and it sticks out like a sore thumb.

Mourinho put his belief in the midfielder to keep the ball for the final few minutes and add an extra man to the defensive duties, but another stupid mistake led to another draw. Surely it’s time up for Fellaini?

3 Reasons Why Chelsea’s 3-4-3 Is So Difficult To Play Against

A crushing 3-0 defeat at Arsenal prompted Antonio Conte to switch to a 3-4-3 formation, and to say it has worked in Chelsea’s favour is an understatement. The Blues sit top of the Premier League and have won every single league game since that Arsenal defeat. Here are three reasons why Chelsea’s 3-4-3 is so hard to play against.

1) They can defend extremely well

You only have to look at Chelsea’s defensive record since Antonio Conte’s switch to the 3-4-3 system to see just how well Chelsea can defend. Since the switch eight games ago, the Blues have conceded just two goals, one against Spurs a week ago, and one against Chelsea yesterday. They did go on a run of six games without conceding a goal.

The wing-backs are so important to the Chelsea system, and when needed they can drop back in to make a back five when Chelsea are under a lot of pressure. This can be used to frustrate teams, and catch them on the break, and it was a masterclass in counter-attacking football on Saturday from Conte’s side, with two of their three goals coming from quick breaks.

Admittedly, Chelsea were a little lucky to concede just the one goal. Sergio Aguero nearly capitalised on a poor back-pass, and Kevin De Bruyne somehow managed to miss a sitter. Nevertheless, Chelsea have let in just eleven goals this season, boasting the second best defensive record in the top flight.

Arsenal Are The Real Deal & Can Win The Premier League This Season

Arsenal picked up 3 points away from home on Saturday evening in what could’ve been a tricky away fixture for the title-chasing Gunners.

But in the end, it was a relatively straightforward win with the Gunners dominating in the first half but only managing to go into the break with a 1-goal lead. That goal came from Francis Coquelin making a key interception and that freed Alexis Sanchez who unselfishly gave the ball to Mesut Ozil, allowing the German to tap into an empty net.

The second half saw West Ham come into the game more than Arsenal fan will have liked, but they were still restricted to very few openings as the Gunners defence stood strong. It was then time for Alexis Sanchez to once again show his quality. Starting as the lone striker, the Chilean looked so confident and was quality with pretty much everything he did. He doubled Arsenal’s lead with a brilliant individual run, and most impressive was the finish. Striking from a tight angle, he found the bottom corner with aplomb, and it helped highlight the difference in quality between Alexis and most of the other players on the pitch.

It wasn’t long before the little Chilean made all the difference again, striking from the edge of the box and finding the bottom left corner with an unstoppable, accurate finish. There was a scare for Arsenal when Carroll headed in to make it 3-1, but Oxlade-Chamberlain responded immediately and restored the 3-goal lead for the Gunners. Then, a few minutes before full-time, Alexis completed an incredible performance, chipping the goalkeeper to get his hat-trick and make the score 5-1.

Crucially Alexis scored 3 goals and made 1 assist – but what was reassuring about Arsenal’s performance is that they always looked in control. Too many times in the past, Arsenal have crumbled in this kind of game, even when they take the lead. They now look so much more in control and are playing with a new found confidence. The additions of Mustafi and Xhaka to the spine of the team cannot be underestimated and the decision to move Alexis to play through the middle has been a revelation.

I loved the fact that Mustafi was barking orders throughout the game, keeping the defence in line and the midfielders in front of him in check.

With the Chilean’s contract having less than two years to run, many Arsenal fans have called for him to extend his contract, and for Arsenal to give the player the money he wants.

In my opinion, Alexis is up there with the best in the Premier League and tonight showed that. Arsenal really need to keep hold of him, he’s different class. The sooner we wrap up his contract the better, it’s time to loosen the purse strings.

Alexis was not the only star on the day, though – there were encouraging performances from the likes of Granit Xhaka and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain in midfield as it appeared Arsene Wenger finally found his midfield rhythm.

With this kind of performance and with the new signings settling in so well, Arsenal must truly be considered title challengers now.

They have quality players in every position and every title winning team has a main man, Arsenal’s is without a doubt Alexis and he proved that with a brilliant hat-trick.

The Gunners have passed several tests already this season that show they are a changed team. They dismantled Chelsea, and apart from the opening day of the season, where only half the team was there, they are undefeated in the league. You can rightly say that West Ham were very poor, but it is unusual and refreshing for Arsenal to still have not lost an away game when you consider the strength of all the teams in the Premier League.

Premier League Team of the Week: Including 3 Arsenal, 3 West Ham & 2 Man City Players

Here’s our Premier League team of the week from the latest round of fixtures. There were some standout performances with 3 players from West Ham and 3 more from Arsenal making the eleven. Scroll down to find out about the XI in full, and why they made it.

Darren Randolph – West Ham United

This is not the first goalkeeper to go to Old Trafford this season and have, arguably their best game of the season thus far. Randolph joined that list of keepers this weekend after an immense display against Manchester United on Sunday afternoon. He denied the likes of Marcus Rashford and Jese Lingard, saving a point for the Hammers as Slaven Bilic rightly favoured the Republic Of Ireland international over Adrian.

Nicolas Otamendi – Manchester City

When the Argentinian first arrived in England, he was heavily criticised for his performances which did not reach the billing City faithful where hoping.

But, since Guardiola’s arrival he has formed a fine partnership with England defender John Stones. On Saturday, Otamendi impressed at the back for City and made 18 clearances, created one chance and also finished the game with 88% passing, which will be a stat that pleases the boss.

Angelo Ogbonna – West Ham United

Much like teammate Randolph, Ogbonna was excellent in the Hammers away match to Jose Mourinho’s men and was at the heart of the defence that kept United at bay.

He made one key block to deny Ibrahimovic in the first half, which was destined to hit the back of the net and finished the game with 100% tackles and aerial duels won, whilst also impressing with a 75% passing accuracy in a truly great performance.

Laurent Koscielny – Arsenal

Arsenal man Laurent Koscielny has become vital to this Gunners team, and time and time again proves why he is one of Europe’s finest defenders. The Frenchman had another top class display on Sunday against a very strong Bournemouth attack including the likes of Wilson and King who both possess excellent speed. The Arsenal man finished the game winning 67% tackles, 75% aerial duels, making eight clearances and 87% passing. Mr consistent.

Nathan Ake – Bournemouth

Although he was on the losing side on Sunday, he was brilliant on the left hand side for the Cherries.

The on-loan Chelsea man surely caught the eye of Blues boss Antonio Conte after his quality display at the Emirates. He was both brilliant offensively and defensively whilst creating once chance, making 14 clearances and finishing the game wit 78% passing accuracy. The 21-year-old has been in fine form in recent weeks and if he keeps progressing will find himself knocking on the Chelsea starting XI door next season.

Michail Antonio – West Ham United

Antonio has been excellent consistently in the past two seasons and was once again impressive at Old Trafford. Although the Hammers man had a dip in form after Bilic opted to play the versatile midfielder at right-back where he struggled significantly. Since moving back to his favoured position he has been extremely dangerous for West Ham, and on Sunday he created once chance, completed four crosses, five take ons and helped out defensively with 100% tackles won.

Granit Xhaka – Arsenal

Arsene Wenger experimented another midfield pivot with Granit Xhaka starting alongside Mohamed Elneny, and it may be the most perfect partnership thus far, at least in Santi Cazorla’s absence.

Xhaka was phenomenal for the Gunners at the Emirates Stadium as he helped his side get back to winning ways. Fans have been left raging in recent weeks due to Wenger’s exclusion of their summer signing, but after his performance on Sunday he must be deemed un-droppable for the upcoming games.

The Switzerland midfielder was excellent in transitions, whilst his exquisite passing helped Arsenal attack quickly, finishing the game with 90% passing accuracy, the midfield rock also managed to be successful with 73% of his tackles – a truly wonderful display.

Josh Sims – Southampton

Well, what a way to introduce yourself to the Premier League. Within 42 seconds the young Saints player registered his first assist after setting up Charlie Austin for the winning goal, whilst running Everton ragged all afternoon with immense pace and ability. An afternoon to remember for the 19-year-old after a very good introduction.

Leroy Fer – Swansea

Now we have all calmed down from the game of the season at the Liberty Stadium, we can reflect on the brilliant Leroy Fer who scored a brace for the Swans. Bob Bradley was in desperate need for the three points for his struggling side, and two goals from Fer helped seal the 5-4 victory, he was too much to handle for Crystal Palace as he completed three take ons and 77% passing in an erratic game.

Sergio Aguero – Manchester City

When you have the quality of Sergio Aguero leading your line, you just know he will score. The Argentinian scored a brace for Pep Guardiola’s men after they went 1-0 down to Burnley at Turf Moor after a fine strike after Marney opened the scoring. Aguero secured three points for the away side with a 2nd and was once again the difference between City and the opposition.

Alexis Sanchez – Arsenal

When Arsenal need a saviour, up steps this magic Chilean. Alexis Sanchez once again got on the score sheet for the Gunners as they secured three points against a very resilient Bournemouth side. Aside from Alexis scoring a brace in Arsenal’s 3-1 victory, he maintained high intensity throughout and pressed high up the pitch to try win the ball back. Arsenal can rely on their new number 7, after he created four chances, three take ons and finished the game with 72% pass success, not bad for a striker.

Will Leicester City Manage to Steer Clear of Relegation?

Everybody remembers the quick ascent to glory that Leicester made last season. It literally took the football world by storm. This relatively small team just climbed out of anonymity right to the very top of the English Premier League, claiming a title that has often been an exclusive reserve for the big teams. Many expected the team to jealously guard the reputation that they worked so hard to build in just one season. But it turns out that Leicester is in the habit of doing the unthinkable time after time. This season, the team is on the very verge of relegation, and unless they do something about it and do it quickly, they might just have to leave the competition prematurely.

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Leicester Woes

This season has been anything but good for Leicester, and the future does not look any brighter. In five matches, the team has only managed to gain one point. To make matters worse, Leicester has already lost a solid six games in this season. Compared to the last season where they lost just three games, their present situation is more than worrying. Currently, the team stands at position 14 in the 20 team league, which is not expected of a team that won the title last season. In fact, the imminent threat of relegation that Leicester is facing has only ever happened to one other big team. The unfortunate team was Manchester City, which won the English Premier League in 1937 but was relegated the following year.

Many people are convinced that Leicester is performing so poorly in the EPL as it is giving the competition divided attention. The general notion is that Leicester’s participation in the Champions League has contributed to its dismal performance in the Premier league. The piteous performance of Leicester on Sunday, where they lost 3-1 to Watford, only goes to show just how badly the distraction has affected Leicester’s performance.

Ranieri’s Opinion

However, the team’s coach sees the whole situation in a completely different light. According to him, the participation of the team in both competitions is nothing short of enjoyable. However, he does acknowledge that the team’s performance in the EPL is wanting, but he feels that the team is up to the challenge. He says that he and everyone else on the team is willing to put in the hard work and the extra hours required for the team to perform well in both competitions. He is also quick to point out the fact that Leicester is doing well in the Champion’s League, although the same can hardly be said of the Premier League.

One has to admire Ranieri’s open defiance of failure, and his willingness to keep the team winning in spite of overwhelming challenges. He quips that Leicester outdid itself last season, and he is optimistic that it is going to write history yet again. Currently, the team is focused on winning the Champion’s league first and hopefully still have time to better its scores in the Premier League. It needs just one point on Tuesday to earn a place on the knock out stage, and steer clear of attention until February.

10 Changes, Jeff Starts: The Arsenal XI That Should Start vs. Southampton On Wednesday

Arsenal are back in Cup action on Wednesday night as they will host Southampton in the League Cup Quarter Final. Arsene Wenger has opted for a rotated squad in this competition in previous rounds, but with the final just two games away, and Southampton a tough opponent, will he be tempted to bring in some first team players for this clash?

I take a look at what I believe will be the likely Arsenal line-up and what I think it should be, when the two sides meet.

Goalkeeper: Damian Martinez

Arsene has three very good goalkeepers at the club and he’s playing them all in different competitions to spread out the game time. For the League Cup it is Martinez who is likely to take the place between the sticks. The young Argentinean has done very well in the two rounds previous and after signing a long-term contract at the club earlier this month, he’ll be keen to impress and keep the club in the competition.

Defence: Carl Jenkinson, Rob Holding, Gabriel Paulista, Kieran Gibbs

Jenkinson was apparently not happy at being left out of the squad against Bournemouth, but after Debuchy’s injury Arsenal need him. Holding and Gabriel have not been given much game time but both deserve to be given some game time in this competition. Gabriel looks like he needs more minutes to improve, and Holding has impressed at every opportunity. Gibbs has been at least on par with Monreal this season so once again, deserves to start.

Midfield: Francis Coquelin, Granit Xhaka; Lucas Perez, Jeff, Alex Iwobi

I’d like to see Xhaka retain his place in the middle of the park as Arsenal need to find some kind of consistency in midfield and with Cazorla out I think he is the best placed midfielder to do that. Alongside him we can afford to start the fresh Coquelin, who sat out against Bournemouth. I think Jeff will start at number 10 and he deserves to do so, it will be great to see the Frenchman in that position again. On the wings I would like to see the fit again Lucas Perez and Alex Iwobi. It’s a big game for both of those players as the wide spots are up for grabs in this Arsenal eleven. If either can put in a good performance, then I can see them breaking into the team.

Striker: Olivier Giroud

After being left out of the team against Bournemouth, Giroud will once again be hungry to prove himself in the team. Scoring goals doesn’t seem to be enough to get him into the eleven with Alexis thriving as an all-rounder through the middle, so it is up to Giroud to keep improving and prove his worth. The game on Wednesday presents a good chance for him to do just that.

Title Credentials Proven: Why Yesterday Was A Different Kind Of Win For Liverpool

Liverpool displayed a different kind of performance on Saturday against what can only be described as a double-decker Sunderland defence. While it wasn’t the most eye-catching display from the Reds, the grit and perseverance on display was aplenty as they marched to a 2-0 win.

A Clear Sign of Progression

Throughout Brendan Rodgers’ tenure at Liverpool, frustration proved to get the better of Liverpool. Throwing away leads and failing to make chances count was all too often a feature of their league campaign despite dominating the lion’s share of possession. Chances went begging, heads dropped and a solemn acceptance of a point arose.

“Sunderland always play a defensive style It is difficult to come through but we stayed concentrated, worked for the moment and found a way.” – Jurgen Klopp

There was no such acceptance on Saturday, with a strong display of patience marking a clear sign of progression. Nathaniel Clyne and Milner had chances rebuffed while Roberto Firmino and Gini Wijnaldum forced decent saves from Jamie Pickford, who did well to keep Liverpool out as long as he did. However, Liverpool’s heads didn’t drop and they continued to mount pressure on the young keeper, who eventually couldn’t keep them out any longer.

With their domination and pressure paying off, you can’t help but wonder just how crucial the result could prove to be for Liverpool come the end of the season. A draw at home against Sunderland would have been a big setback but at 2-0 the confidence remains high on Merseyside.

A Chance Well Taken

Having found his opportunities severely limited this season thanks to the rampant form of Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane, Divock Origi has found it hard to reach the heights of last season.

Yet, handed the chance due to Coutinho’s early injury, Origi made his mark on proceedings. Receiving the ball on the edge of the box, the 22 year old riggled away from Duncan Watmore before cutting back and curling his shot into the far corner. Relief for the Reds.

Rallying The Troops

You couldn’t blame the Liverpool supporters for being rather subdued after seeing Philippe Coutinho stretched off before the half time whistle. It seemed to be heading for one of those days but Jurgen Klopp’s role as conductor played a key role in the change in fortunes.

The German was the orchestrator, rallying the Anfield faithful to get behind the side and mount further pressure on David Moyes’ side. Noise levels rising and pressure rising, Liverpool turned the screw and got their just reward.

The free-flowing football usually displayed by Liverpool may make for a better watch, but points are the only thing that matters. If you want to compete at the top end of the Premier League, you need to be able to grind out results against teams who pack their defence and hope for the draw. Liverpool did just that.

4 Reasons Arsenal Will Finish Above Tottenham Again This Season

Arsenal and Tottenham have both started the season fairly well and with just one point separating the two teams after 12 games, it looks like they will closely matched once again this season. Of course both teams ambitions are greater than finishing above each other, both want to win the league. But finishing above their rival would ensure that they’d be at least close to the top as both teams look likely to push for the title. I think it’s going to be another season where Arsenal edge this local duel, and here’s 4 reasons why.

1 – Better attacking depth

Attacking depth hasn’t been a word associated with Arsenal in recent years but this season they certainly appear to have greater variety in attack than their North London rivals. Tottenham are so reliant on Harry Kane and that couldn’t be clearer. They’ve only got back into good goalscoring form since he returned to the team and the worry for Tottenham fans will be whether or not Kane is capable of staying fit and keeping consistent form throughout the entire season. Arsenal’s first choice striker appears to be Alexis Sanchez, but Olivier Giroud keeps scoring from the bench. It’s giving Arsene Wenger a fantastic problem and a one that may very well prove to be the difference between the clubs come the end of the season. There’s also the small matter of Danny Welbeck and Lucas Perez who look set to return in December.