Oct 212014

The summer transfer window has barely ended when rumours and links about players who could move and clubs who could buy and reinforce their teams have filled the media.

Transfer speculations have become part of the day-to-day activities of clubs and football world in general.

Chelsea have done a great business in the summer bringing in quality players like Diego Costa (from Atletico), Fabregas(from Barcelona) and Loic Remy (from QPR) but this players have barely settled down when a host of others are being linked to the club.

The man in charge of calling the transfer shot at the club- Jose Mourinho has however come out to highlight what Chelsea can expect in the January Window. Speaking about the January transfer window during his presser ahead of Tuesday’s Champions league clash against NK Maribor, this is what Mourinho has to say;

“We do not think about that (the

window), that is a long time to go with November and December.

“Hopefully we don’t need it and don’t have problems. The window is there for people in trouble, for whatever reason, to cope with a difficult moment. Hopefully we do not need it.” Mourinho said

And Jose Mourinho was right on point on both statements. Absolutely this is not the best time to discuss the January transfer window least when the club have crucial Champions league game and an Old Trafford trip to make.

On what to expect in January, Jose was also spot on. The January transfer window is for teams who are in trouble and need to reinforce. Chelsea at present is not in that category. The team is one seen by many as the most complete team in the Epl this season with the acquisition of Fabregas, Costa and Remy in the summer.

At the moment the team looks a balanced team with every position having an able cover. Even Loic Remy has looked an able cover for injured Diego Costa and the January transfer window wouldn’t be one that Chelsea overtly need.

According to Mourinho, the club activity or inactivity in the January transfer window will depend on immediate and pressing need which at the moment looks like Chelsea does not have any pressing need in any position.

Diego Costa has struggled with hamstring injuries over his first few months at the club, but it is expected the player will recover well enough to play a major role in Chelsea campaign this season. He has come good for the club in the matches he has played so far, scoring nine times in seven league appearances.

Chelsea have kicked off the season in a flying start as well, winning seven out of the eight league matches played so far- a feat which have seen them top the league table five points above the closest rival Manchester City. The team also is in the quarter final of the Capital one cup, currently topping its Champions league group and is yet to lose a single match this season.

Chelsea current situation is not one which should generate a panic buy in the January transfer window. And just as Mourinho said the winter transfer window is not one that Chelsea overtly need. Chelsea is ably set to compete in all fronts with the current squad without much trouble.

Written by Kc Emmanuels

Oct 212014

Chelsea are set to line up an alternative target for Sami Khedira should the deal for the German world cup winner falls through and have identified long term target Giannelli Imbula as the man they could turn to.

The blues have been a long term admirer of the Olympique Marseille defensive midfielder and could well re-ignite their interest in the player when thee transfer window re-opens.

The former Guinngamp man was linked to the club back in 2013 with the player himself confirming Chelsea have made contact with him but a deal failed to materialise with the player deciding it’s not time to leave France.

The player however, signed for Olympic Marseille in July of the same year and after a brilliant first season for the current Ligue 1 table toppers, Chelsea are back to price away the youngster to West London.

It is believe that Chelsea sent scouts to watch the player in the Marseille vs Toulouse game over the weekend and the player was impressive to watch in the game which Marseille won 2-0.

Giannelli Imbula has impressed for Marseille since his £6m move from Guingamp in 2013 and has made 43 appearances for the club scoring 3goals in the process. The 22-year-old is said to be highly rated by Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho and could make a bid in the region of £25m for the youngster.

Chelsea have been linked with a host of DM with Real Madrid’s Sami Khedira topping the list. Chelsea currently have Nemanja Matic, John Obi Mikel and to a lesser extent Ramires as the defensive midfielders in the club though Marko Van Ginkel(on loan at AC Milan) and Oriol Romeu(on loan at VFB Stuttgart) are also defensive midfielders.

Nemanja Matic seems to be Mourinho preferred DM as he has used the Serbian virtually in every of Chelsea’s game this season. Mikel and Ramires have mostly played as substitute, an indication they are way below Matic in the pecking order. Mourinho’s intent on adding another DM to the squad could well mean that one of Mikel or Ramires will need to be sold.

Ramires has been linked to Real Madrid to Unite with former boss Carlo Ancelotti- the man who brought him to Chelsea while Mikel was thought to be joining Turkish giant Galatasaray.

Imbula joining Chelsea could spell an end to any of Ramires and Mikel as just like Matic he will pin down a regular shirt in the central midfield allowing Mourinho to use Fabregas in his preferred more-attacking role.

Inbula can also play as a central defender if need be- a characteristic Mourinho demands of his players. He can ably stand in for any of Terry and Cahill before Kurt Zouma and Kenneth Omeruo is able to take over as the club’s long term central defensive pair.

Inbula though holding a Democratic Republic of Congo citizenship has represented France at the U-20 and U-21 levels. He will be a good addition to the club as his dribbling and physical style of play will suit the premier league.

Written by Kc Emmanuels

Oct 212014

Competition looms for Arsenal from West Ham in their quest to sign Celtic and Netherland’s Virgil van Dijk, according to talkSPORT.  The £7m rated centre back has been reported as a January target for Sam Alladyce’s West Ham United making it a two horse race for the Dutchman’s signature. It has now become a case of the club that desires the defender more and the player’s desired destination. Van Dijk, who joined Celtic from Groningen in 2013 in a deal worth about £2.6m for a 4-year duration, is being scouted by West Ham and Arsenal though he still has about 3 years to run on his contract. He was part of the Celtic defence that went 1,215 minutes without conceding a goal, breaking the 43-year-old record in Scotland set by Aberdeen’s keeper, Bobby Clark and he has won the Celtic’s Player of the Year once since joining the Scottish giants in 2013.

Arsene Wenger’s failure to bring in a central defender to replace Thomas Vermaelen sent some panic among the teeming Arsenal supporters who were well aware of the fact that only 6 senior team defenders are available for selection for the Gunners before January when the manager would have another window of opportunity to strengthen his side. Arsenal became short numerically defensively after the departures of Thomas Vermaelen to Barcelona and the permanent move to Hamburg by Johan Djourou, who had spent last season on loan at the Bundesliga club. Carl Jenkinson also, was loaned to Sam Alladyce’s West Ham United and these departures got Arsenal linked to a number of defenders. Now, of the 6 available defenders this season, only 5 are fit as Mathieu Debuchy has been ruled out till January, while Laurent Koscielny has been playing with and Achilles problem and Kieran Gibbs is injury susceptible.

In competition with West Ham United, many would easily think that the lure of UEFA Champions League football would make Arsenal edge the Hammers, but the prospect of first team football could make a move to West Ham more likely. Arsenal would look to bring in the player as a quality back-up to Laurent Koscielny or Per Mertesacker and he would only get opportunities to play during Cup games and whenever any of the central defensive pair is injured. However, the 23-year-old would walk straight into the Sam Alladyce’s West Ham and would enjoy a regular time as a first team player in the English Premier League and domestic games in England. Arsenal by all means is a bigger club by virtue of Champions’ League status and financial status but if the nonchalant and sometimes lack of desire demonstrated by Arsenal in the past regarding player’s transfers is anything to go by, then even the smaller clubs can beat Arsenal to any player available.

The hope for many Arsenal fans is that the current injury problems in the defence would force Arsene Wenger to sign a centre back in January and Virgil van Dijk is no doubt, a very cheap and quality option to buy in January.

’Tayo Amosu.

Oct 212014

Fellaini Does Not Have A Future With Manchester United

An important player in Everton under David Moyes became a fringe part of United’s team last season under the same manager who he flourished with at Everton. Marouane Fellaini generally regarded to as a big figure struggled to perform under David Moyes but has scored twice under Louis van Gaal despite not starting any match in his last three appearances. The Belgian scored a non-competitive goal against Valencia in August and his performance yesterday against West Bromwich Albion shows the attacking midfielder still has what it takes to be a real force in the English Premier League. Fellaini came on at half time for under-performer Ander Herrera and scored the equaliser for the Red Devils in a matter of minutes after his substitution. His big frame helped him in getting the better off West Bromwich defender, Joleon Lescott before firing a powerful shot past Boaz Myhill. His contribution must be commended as he played a big part in the team’s forward play throughout and he could as well have added to his tally.

Some believe Marouane Fellaini who have recently struggled with confidence under Moyes may have returned to his best while others believe the midfielder just had one of those cameo performances yesterday. If Fellaini will become an integral part of United squad is left to be seen but another performance in the range of what was seen yester night will see him get more playing time under Louis van Gaal. Juan Mata for the second consecutive match struggled to place his authority on the game which showed how much Manchester United miss the team captain, Wayne Rooney. This may be the best chance for the Belgian to seal a place in United’s starting line-up. The match against Chelsea will prove Fellaini’s ability if he gets the chance to play. Juan Mata remains the possible victim and Maroune Fellaini will fancy an opportunity with Mata’s underperformance.

Fellaini was heavily linked with a move to Napoli in August with keen interest from Rafael Benitez but failure to agree a fixed value and late foot injury to the attacker stalled the deal. Fellaini’s future in Manchester United may be over as he has struggled in time past to play at his best but a convincing display in the next two months can change the manager’s decision. Former Everton man McGrath feels Fellaini is best suited for a striking role in his interview with Alan Brazil Sports Breakfast. If that’s what Fellaini needs in Old Trafford to get to his best, he will never get the chance to play so many matches. Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie, Radamel Falcao and James Wilson are all placed ahead of the Belgian and he may never play as United’s top man except in a rare case of injury. However, Fellaini did well yesterday at the Hawthorns playing behind both Falcao and van Persie and he will be expected to take any chance that comes his way to convince van Gaal and resurrect his future in Manchester United.

Oct 212014

With the trending injury crises plaguing Arsene Wenger’s side, the Arsenal boss must prepare to go all out against a similarly struggling Belgian side that has drawn five of their eleven league games this season.

Should Wenger aim to repeat the feat he achieved against Galatasary, the Frenchman must seek to put some things in place ahead of his crucial match against Anderlecht. Below are five things Wenger must put in place to beat Anderlecht.

Motivation: Wenger has been living in denial over the past two weeks following the clash with Jose Mourinho and Arsenal’s 2-2 draw with Hull City. The Arsenal boss understands his injury woes but has derived pleasure in delighting in statistics, rather than on seeing eventual results in a match go the way of Gunners. Just after Saturday’s 2-2 draw against a persistent Hull, BBC reporter Jacqui Oatley asked Wenger why his side didn’t win the game, bearing it in mind that they “dominated” all through. A rather frustrated Wenger told the reporter:

“You look at the number of shots on goal, how many times did they come into our half and you will see that they defended well and [we] made it difficult for ourselves by giving them a second goal and we were a bit unlucky as well and the usual football game where one team defends and one attacks and the team who takes the initiative doesn’t always win, especially when you are one goal behind it gives them morale to defend well and they did it well.”

It was obvious Wenger delighted more in after-match statistics when the result showed the result was tied.

The Frenchman knows that getting all three points in Belgium is as important as it can ever be, irrespective of what statistics read. He must provide the necessary motivation for a depleted side; ‘we can do this’ should be his words to a Gunners’ side that is struggling for fitness.

Off The Ball, On the Mark: One of the very many complaints about the Gunners over the last few years has been that they have players who push the ball around and not the ones who press them from opponents. Arsenal has been likened to Barcelona overtime but the difference in both teams is that the Gunners lack the will to torture their opponents mentally, as opposed to Barcelona. The Gunners succeeded in making Galatasary pay several times in the crunching 4-1 encounter over the Turkish giants as Alexis Sanchez tortured the Turkish side, alongside Chamberlain on the wings. Though injury may seem to have shattered the Frenchman’s ultimate plan, he must look to Sanchez and ask him to afflict the opposition defenders with his powerful run, capable of dragging the Anderlecht defence with him.

Admirable Goalkeeping Performance: With Wojciech Szczesny suspended and David Ospina injured, Arsene Wenger may stay moist all through 90 minutes, for entrusting 22-year old Emiliano Martinez with goalkeeping responsibility against a Belgium side. First choice goalkeeper Szczesny has been known to make costly mistakes despite his excellent goalkeeping abilities, but with the number one out, third choice goalkeeper has been saddled with the responsibility of keeping the Belgian giants at bay. With Andy Najar to star for the Belgium side, Wenger must look for a way to arouse confidence in Martinez [who had been on loan to Oxford United and Sheffield United] and become the hero they seek in Szczesny and Ospina on a night when they seek a crucial win.

Dogged Defence: Arsene Wenger’s may have conceded a handful of goals of late due to injuries eating into the team but with the influence of Mertesacker and Chambers and new rookie Hector Bellerin as probable starters, Arsenal must strive to concede lesser goals if they desire to leave Belgium with their heads up high. Bellerin displayed a stellar performance, winning 100 per cent of his tackles against Hull City at the weekend, and the Frenchman will hope that his sudden-star will once again put up a fine display at right-back against a tricky Belgian side. Despite Arsenal’s erratic performances, a chance at leaving Belgium as eventual winners is achievable – the directive should be simple and clear on a crucial night, ‘don’t let the ball get past you easily without a fight’.

Goal Scoring Exploits: Having thrashed Galatasary in a comfortable 4-1 win, Wenger’s expectation would be that his players replicate the goal scoring form they displayed in their last Champions League match, and with the return of Mikel Arteta , Aaron Ramsey and Lukas Podolski in the squad, and the likely inclusion of Jack Wilshere in the game, the Gunners have a chance if Alexis Sanchez is allowed to dazzle opposition defenders with his powerful pace while others stay close to carry out the task just like Welbeck did three weeks ago. If there is one thing Wenger and his boys understand, it is the fact that they must make every moment count.

Oct 212014

Arsenal’s UEFA Champions’ League fixture against Belgian Champions, Anderlecht is gradually getting more attention by the news of the availability of Aaron Ramsey and Captain Mikel Arteta. The two Arsenal midfielders suffered injuries and were substituted in the 1-1 draw against North London rivals, Tottenham Hotspurs last month. It was a big blow for Arsenal then as the players missed the 2-0 loss to Chelsea and the 4-1 UEFA Champions League victory against Galatasaray while on the sidelines. Now, it’s a major injury boost for Arsenal as the papers now report that Arsene Wenger believes the midfield duo will be available for the crucial match in Belgium.

Following the 1-1 draw in the North London derby involving Arsenal and bitter rivals, Tottenham Hotspurs, Mikel Arteta was reported to be out due to the calf/shin injury and was an unused substitute in the 2-2 draw against Hull City over the weekend while Ramsey, though played some minutes in the Hull City match, would be available for a full match against Anderlecht. Ramsey suffered a hamstring injury in the North London derby and was expected back in the main Arsenal squad on the 1st of November, 2014, but recovered faster than expected to have a cameo appearance against Hull. On Aaron Ramsey, Wenger recently said: ‘‘Saturday’s (18th October, against Hull City) game is too soon for Aaron. He will be back in full training on Monday and certainly in the squad for Wednesday against Anderlecht.’’

Therefore, the presence of Aaron Ramsey and Mikel Arteta would expand manager, Arsene Wenger’s options in the midfield. Mikel Arteta being the number one candidate for the defensive midfield role and Captain should be thrown into the first team to hand a deserved rest to Mathieu Flamini while Aaron Ramsey too should feature at some point in the game. Aaron Ramsey on the other hand may start the Anderlecht game alongside Santi Cazorla as the box-to-box midfielder, in place of Jack Wilshere, who has been kicked here and there n the past few matches and deserves some rest as he may have gotten too much knocks. However Arsene Wenger decides to play, with Arteta and Ramsey available, Arsenal would expectedly give a good showing in Belgium this midweek.

Arsenal has recently been freed from all charges over flares thrown on the pitch in the 4-1 Galatasaray win, would look to grab their second win in the group stage of the UEFA Champions league to brighten their chances of qualification in a group where Borussia Dortmund are leading with maximum 6 points from 2 matches. Arsenal sits on the second spot of the UEFA Champions’ League Group D with 3 points after winning Galatasaray and losing to league leaders, Borussia Dortmund. This week’s opponent, Anderlecht must try to win Arsenal to enhance the possibility of qualifying as they are tied on the same lone points with the same -3 goal difference with Galatasaray and are only 3rd on the table by alphabetical arrangement.

With a fixture against Sunderland next weekend, the news of injury free and match fit Mikel Arteta and Aaron Ramsey is an exciting one for the Gunners, who just recently lost Mesut Ozil and Laurent Koscielny to the claws of injury.

’Tayo Amosu.

Oct 212014

With the Manchester United’s defense still looking vulnerable, it is only logical to assume that the manager, Louis Van Gaal will be looking to re-enforce the defence in the January transfer window. Reports coming from England are beginning to show that the Dutch tactician seems to have set his sights on Barcelona’s Gerard Pique. Although, Pique has continually committed his future to the Catalan club, there are speculations that Manchester United might just decide to lure the 27-year-old back to Old Trafford.

Gerard Pique signed for Manchester United in 2004 at a time when he was not yet old enough to sign a professional contract due to Spanish regulations. His move from Barcelona’s youth team to Old Trafford came at a time when the club had quite a good set of defensive personnel. There was Ferdinand, Silvestre, Wes Brown, O’shea and Vidic to mention a few. Thus the Spaniard was definitely going to have a hard time breaking into the first team. With just 12 premier league appearances in two seasons, he was sent on loan to Real Zaragoza in 2006. his return back to the Red Devils’ squad at the end of the loan deal did little to advance his career with the Spaniard struggling to break into the first team. He was finally sold back to Barcelona in 2008 for GBP5 million.

His time with the Catalan club has seen him helping the club to four la Liga titles and two UEFA Champions League trophies. But with the arrival of Luis Enrique, Pique has found himself dropping way down below the pecking order as the Barcelona boss seems to fancy playing Jeremy Mathieu and Javier Mascherano ahead of the Spaniard. This sudden turn of events have left Pique with just five La Liga appearances so far this season. It definitely would not be a thing of joy for the Spanish international who for the past four seasons had been a regular starter for the Catalan club.

A move for Manchester United is definitely going to guarantee the Spanish International a place in the first team as Louis Van Gaal is hell-bent on rebuilding a Manchester United team that often looked like a team past his best. The major stumbling block to a deal for Pique will likely is the preference of his girlfriend, Shakira. The Colombian singer is believed not to fancy loving in Manchester. Therefore, it will take Manchester United coming up with a bumper deal that would be mouthwatering enough to convince the Spaniard and his heartthrob. Pique admitted recently in an interview that he loves the city of Barcelona as well as the people but that he doesn’t really know what may happen in future.

Louis Van Gaal as it is cannot afford to put all his hopes on the trio of Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Jonny Evans. The three have all through this season displayed at a level that does not seem to be up to the standard the Dutch manager wants his players to be playing. And in an effort to strengthen his squad, the manager knows that he will need to sign tested players with Pique fitting the bill. Manchester United is still in contention to sign Borussia Dortmund’s Matt Hummels but a capture of Pique would all but put paid to any possibility of Van Gaal signing the German international.

Oct 212014

Chelsea and Arsenal in recent days have been battling it out with each other both on and off the pitch.

From the 2-0 loss at Stamford Bridge to the battle of who is going to sign German Midfielder Sami Khedira; and now the battle is set to continue on a different front, this time for FC Porto teenage sensation Andre Silva.

Jose Mourinho has registered interest in the 19-year-old Porto striker who is also a major target of Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger and the two managers are set to go into another war that could well surpass the touch-line push and shove that was characteristic of the encounter at Stamford Bridge early October.

Mourinho is already in search of a goal machine that will take the place of veteran Didier Drogba when the powerful Ivorian retires at the end of the season and a lot of top talents have been linked to the club.

Chelsea have been known with paying astronomical fees for already-established players and strikers in particular with the case of Shevshenko and Torres readily coming to mind but the club looks to be departing from that norm with the recent acquisition of young talents around the globe.

It is believed that Chelsea have the highest number of young talents on loan at various clubs and the club is set to add more. Chelsea already have a plethora of players out on loan in different clubs and may start to bring in some of this players when needed.

Again, signing young players with minimal fee and developing them could yet be the way to go for most clubs even as the Financial Fair Play rule begins to bear it cruel effects on clubs. Clubs like Manchester City and PSG are already feeling the brunt of the FFP rule.

It’s on this premise that signing of Andre Silva makes a lot of economic sense for Chelsea. At just 19-years of age, he won’t cost Chelsea a fortune to sign him.

Silva, a product of the Porto youth academy has made some progress within the years. He has graduated into the senior team though he is yet to make appearance for the side in the Liga Don Zagres. He has however made 25 appearance for the Porto team B since 2012. Silva has also represented Portugal at the U-16, U-17, U-18, and U-19 levels.

With the player’s contract expiring in the summer and the player’s intent on moving to England, Chelsea could sign him up with a view of loaning him to other English teams where he can gain enough experience. Chelsea will however face a strong competition from Arsene Wenger who is seen as a developer of young talents.

Silva is young and one who will still need to develop if he moves to Chelsea in January or during the summer but acquiring him now will be the best for the club as his fee is bound to rise in the next few years if he continues at the rate at which he is developing at Porto. With the FFP rule starting to come hard on teams, signing them young will be the only way to remain FFP compliant.

Written by Kc Emmanuels

Oct 212014

Despite Gareth Bale, Sergio Ramos and Karim Benzema’s absence in Saturday’s encounter, Real Madrid fired harsh warnings to Liverpool and Barcelona ahead of their up-coming features. Real tore apart a Valencia based side Levante in a 5-0 encounter which saw the in-form Ronaldo score a brace.

With a humiliating historic 5-0 defeat hanging over Real Madrid, the Spanish capital will look to return the favour to a Liverpool side that saw an all expensive ‘Galaticos’ Madrid fall both at home and away to a Steven Gerard side in 2008/09 round of 16 match-up.

With both clubs winning their respective domestic league matches at the weekend, and 5 goals each in both matches, a Cristiano Ronaldo inspired side may cause the havoc for The Reds.

Here are five reasons why Real Madrid will likely beat Liverpool in the Wednesday UEFA Champions’ League Group Stage encounter.

Liverpool Injury Crises: Liverpool face series of injury woes as they go into the game on Wednesday, and that could spell problem as QPR exploited a short-staffed Liverpool side. With several players reportedly injured and their main threat Daniel Sturridge out of action, Madrid will look to take advantage of Brendan Rodgers’  predicament by sending his players all out at Anfield.

Though Real Madrid face similar a challenge as The Reds, but the Los Blancos squad is of more quality when compared. Bale, Sergio Ramos and Karim Benzema might miss the clash after picking up niggling injuries; one which saw them watch the Levante demolition from the sides.

Despite the injury crisis, Ancelotti announced that the trio are fit but he may risk using them or have them watch from the bench as they prepare for Saturday el-clasico against arch rivals, Barcelona.

Rodgers side will endure a 90 minute match against an attacking and well-motivated squad on Wednesday.

Mignolet indecisive performances: The Liverpool goalkeeper is anything but a force to be reckoned with this season. Despite QPR scoring two own goals to put The Reds at an advantage, the goalkeeper fumbled severally to see the Rangers get two goals from him. While it would be right to say Madrid and Liverpool share the same goalkeeping problems, a defensive, though sometimes sloppy Madrid defence would keep the Reds’ attacking force at bay, but the same cannot be said for Rodgers’ side that have lost several of their players to injuries. And except the goalkeeper puts up a sensational performance against a fearsome attacking side as Madrid, Liverpool’s chance of proceeding to the next phase of the Champions League should be laid to rest, after suffering a shocking defeat to Switzerland Champions Basel.

Real Madrid Attacking Strength: Los Blancos currently boasts of the most attacking side in Europe.  The Spanish outfit has a 3.75 rate of goals per match, a feat no other club in Europe has matched so far.  Despite the Absence of Bale and Benzema in the 5-0 thriller against a helpless Levante, Los Blancos strolled comfortably out of the match having garnered all three points of the game. James Rodriguez, Isco and Javier Hernandez all found the back of the net alongside Ronaldo who scored two goals.

Madrid’s present attacking strength seems unstoppable, not with a Liverpool side who are currently riddled with challenges. Real Madrid have maintained 6 points in all Champions League match this term after thrashing Basel 5-0 and cutting a resolute Ludogorets which saw the Whites win in a 1-2 encounter.

Statistics: Statistics can be deceiving in most cases but the present statistics between both clubs tell a lot. Real Madrid sit at 3rd with 18 points in 8 games, having won six matches and losing to both City rivals Atletico Madrid and Real Sociedad. The whites have scored over 30 goals in all competition this season. Liverpool, on the other hand have scored 14 goals in all competition, averaging 1.4 goals per match, as opposed to Real’s 3.75 goals. Statistics, though have a way of denting the game but it does serve as a reminder to the respective teams and a factor in determining what the outcome of a match would be even before it is played.

The CR 7 Factor: If there is one player who would give Rodgers sleepless nights before Wednesday, it is Cristiano Ronaldo. The Portuguese ace has been in sublime form this season, scoring 19 goals in 12 games.  ‘Insane’ statistics have suggested that Ronaldo has more goals than the whole of Liverpool squad put together. With his current form and the defensive problem that has been responsible for Liverpool’s erratic performances over the past few weeks, the Ancelotti’s main man may prove to be too difficult for The Reds to handle.

The 29-year old attacker has been tipped to win the Ballon d’Or for the third after leading Real to a glorious Champions League victory last season. And while it seems that Ronaldo cannot be stopped by defenders, CR7 has taken the pain to score goals just for the fun of it. The unstoppable attacker looks set to exploit a helpless Liverpool defence in order to add to his tally.

A frustrated Jamie Carragher after weekend’s match between QPR and Liverpool said:

“Liverpool must be the worst side in the league at defending set pieces this season when you look at how many goals they have conceded. Liverpool have won, ok, but they are still weak defensively.

“With Real Madrid on Wednesday – I wonder what Carlo Ancelotti and Cristiano are thinking while watching!”

With the absence of Bale and Benzema to form the BBC triumvirate, it could be right to say Ronaldo can handle the situation at Anfield. While it would be wrong to describe Liverpool as an underdog, a revenge mission might not just happen on Wednesday night; the stage looks set for Ronaldo to show the world that he will score against another English club, just like he has done with Manchester United and Manchester City and with Chelsea at the last two pre-season encounter where he silenced Mourinho.

Oct 212014

Arsene Wenger is expected to call on his third choice goalkeeper Damian Martinez in the Champions League clash against Anderlecht on Wednesday. The 22 year old Argentine comes into the team following the injury to second choice goalkeeper David Ospina, and first choice, Wojciech Szczensy’s suspension for been sent off against Galatasaray in the last round of matches.

The 6ft 4in Damian Martinez was only promoted to the first team squad this season after spending the last few seasons on the fringes of the team, and his yet to make a competitive appearance for Arsenal, but that is expected to change in Belgium on Wednesday. He spent last season on loan at Sheffield Wednesday.

As he makes the step up to become the third goalkeeper that Arsenal would field in the season’s Champions League. The question now is what are his future prospects in the Arsenal team? Can he push both Wojciech Szczency and David Ospina for the first team shirt, and what are his chances of doing ‘an Manuel Almunia?’

For starters, the Argentine showed in his appearance during preseason that he is not fazed by what is in front on him, although preseason is a different proposition when compared to a competitive match, he no doubt has the wherewithal to seize this opportunity he would be afforded by his appearance on Wednesday to stake a claim to make more appearance for the first team.

However, Damian Martinez could well pull off all the saves that would pave the way for Arsenal to truimph against Anderlecht, but a moment of brilliance might not be enough to earn the trust of Arsene Wenger for a continuous flow in the team. For reasons that bother on injury and suspension, he would not have been involved, but all the same it is an opportunity for him to write his name into Arsenal folklore on Wednesday. Even though, Arsene Wenger has an antecedent for sticking to the hierarchy of his players.

At the height of the rivalry between Manuel Almunia and Jens Lehmann, it was only the duo that battled for the right to be first choice, as their was no third party in the picture, although Wojciech Szczency rose to usurp both Manual Almunia and Lukas Fabianski to become first choice when he made his first team debut against Manchester United at Old Trafford in December, 2010., it would take something extraordinary for Damian Martinez to make such a huge step up in rank at the club, but with the amount of injuries at the club, who is to say that he would not have more opportunities to feature as a first choice in the coming months, but whether sparingly or consistently only time would tell.

Oct 212014

As a teeth grinding clash between Liverpool and current European Champions, Real Madrid looks set to take place on Wednesday, Carlo Ancelotti’s men will likely judge Brendan Rodger’s irresolute side in front of their home fans.

Here is a probable line-up of Ancelotti’s men against a rather unstable Liverpool:

Ancelotti may look to maintain the regular 4-3-3 formation in order to achieve convenience in every position.

Iker Casillasremains the favourite to man the goal post despite the number one’s form. The goalkeeper who may likely join Liverpool in the January transfer window could entice Brendan Rodgers by standing up against a desperate Liverpool side.

Carvajal, Pepe, Fernandez and Marcelo is Ancelotti’s best guess at defence after admitting that Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane may sit out on Wednesday, and putting into consideration that Real Madrid faces a superb Barcelona side on Saturday, the Real boss would not want to risk some of his players ahead of the el-clasico clash.

Luka Modric and new signings James Rodriguez, Toni Krooswill likely hold the midfield on Wednesday. Sami Khedira is reportedly back from injury but the Italian may not be interested in fielding the just returned player after several months out of action.

Attacking, Isco looks set to start in place of Gareth Bale who is said to be doubtful in featuring for the Los Blancos on Wednesday. Manchester United loaned striker, Javier Hernandez is favoured to start in place of Karim Benzema whom the Blancos coach listed as a doubt. ‘Chicharito’ will look to impress against a terrible Liverpool defence, and will seek to earn Ancelotti’s trust as a better striker compared to injured Benzema. Cristiano Ronaldo’s position remains undisputed. The in-form striker will partner with the other two in attack.

Unfortunately, the BBC [Bale, Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo] will not be in place in the first leg encounter at Anfield but Rodgers must look for a way to tame Ronaldo whose goal-scoring feat knows no bound.

Although Sami Khedira is still listed as injured, Jese Rodriguez still remains out while Sergio Ramos, Karim Benzema, Gareth Bale and Raphael Varane will sit the first leg encounter out, ahead of Saturday el-clasico.

Oct 212014

Following the Premier League which saw Hull City hold Arsenal at the Emirates in a 2-2 encounter, Arsenal boss, Arsene Wenger vented his frustrations and sought to console his team, claiming Hull adopted the famous ‘park the bus’ system – a defensive style which sees over seven players defend the goalkeeper while the opposition is given series of tough time in finding the net.

According to the Arsenal boss, his team controlled the match from the start to finish but Hull managed to secure a draw because his players could not take the initiative. Wenger believes a morale-booster was handed to Hull after they scored their second goal; an act which made their players defend heroically.

However, the Arsenal boss consoled his team’s performance, stating that they were ‘unlucky’ to have conceded a second goal, despite being the better side in a clash that saw the Frenchman pinned to securing just a point in the encounter.

The draw at the Emirates implies that the Gunners have won just two of their opening eight Premier League fixtures, meaning they are eleven points behind league leaders Chelsea.

After the match, BBC reporter, Jacqui Oatley spoke to a frustrated Arsenal Manager about his side’s display. She questioned: “So just be clear why you felt you didn’t win the game bearing in mind you said you dominated it?”

“You look at the number of shots on goal, how many times did they come into our half and you will see that they defended well and [we] made it difficult for ourselves by giving them a second goal and we were a bit unlucky as well and the usual football game where one team defends and one attacks and the team who takes the initiative doesn’t always win, especially when you are one goal behind it gives them morale to defend well and they did it well.”

A struggling Wenger side was matched at the Emirates and while Wenger’s obsession for statistics of the game might be partially correct, the Frenchman must induce his team with new legs that could help turn around the present poor form of the Gunners in the Premier League.

While January seems to be close, the Arsenal boss must proffer alternatives in finding a balance that could see the team sustain fewer damages before the January transfer window in order to cling to at least a tiny hope of the Premier League dream.

Arsene Wenger’s frustrations may have gone the wrong way; statistics have little to tell about football, particularly when the players involved are actively around. The Frenchman’s negative energy should be on his ever-shrinking players who seem to be losing the optimism of fair challenge, considering the declining states of his players to injuries.

The Gunners boss must learn to stop glorying in statistics particularly when the scoreboards tell something contrary.

Encouraging one’s team is germane in the game but constructive criticism and objective look at the situation of things is best preferred to cheap consolations.

Match of the Day Presenter, Gary Lineker expressed is disasatisfacion with Wenger’s response to the questions asked by Oately as he tweeted: “Must say, I thought Arsene Wenger was arrogant, defensive and patronising to Jacqui Oatley in the face of excellent questioning.”

If there is anything or anybody Wenger must turn to, it is his players and the Board. The players, to charge them in giving positive results on the pitch and the Board, to release the necessary funds in signing the right players if the club still desire to be a contender or the elusive Premier League trophy.

Oct 212014

Manchester United have been known for their production of talented footballers in recent years. With many playing and making their names for the Reds, others have also joined different clubs in the English League first, second and third division. The ability of the team’s youth system to produce good footballers has recently been praised by former manager, Sir Alex Ferguson. Louis van Gaal, depite been criticised for disposing Tom Cleverley and Danny Welbeck has given many youth players opportunities toprove themselves with the players taking them which has been backed by their performances. Manchester United average squad age is relatively low which leaves the team in a good positiin to grow together into the future. Howver, there have been recent speculations about many United players joining other top clubsides  in Europe and with their level of performances, Manchester United will need to tie them down as soon as possible.

After a disastrous 2013/2014 where Manchester United finished 7th, United brought in six good players to make up for the exit of some important players. The club’s aim of making the top four this season have driven them in bringing in quality players which must be commended. Despite the signing of top players like Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao, Manchester United will have to hold on to some of their upcoming stars, after all a good team is made up of good players. The Red Devils will have to be careful in losing any of their current top performers to other European clubs in their bid to return back to where they use to be as a club in both England and Europe. Sir Alex Ferguson failed to seal Paul Pogba’s deal and the club would have regretted allowing the French midfielder to leave for Juventus especially now that he would have fit perfectly into Manchester United midfield and command so much respect and financial figure. While Paul Pogba remains the major young player lost by Manchester United, it’s important the club avoids the same scenario for the sake of the club’s progression.

Manchester United goalkeeper, David De Gea is arguably one of the best young goalkeepers around with Chelsea’s Thibaut Courtois and Barcelona Marc Ter Stegen probably major competitors. The Spaniard’s recent performances has linked him to been a replacement for Iker Casillas in Real Madrid which may be a backbone breaker for Manchester United if he is not offered a new and improved contract. Any player will jump at the opportunity of playing at the Bernabau and De Gea being from Spain makes it more likely. Manchester United defensive problems could easily be fixed with the signing of top rated central defenders but it would be a disaster if they lose De Gea in the nearest future.

Asides De Gea, Paddy McNair came in strongly for injured Jones and Smalling and was outstanding  in the two games he featured in, but the 19 year old willW also need to be given a new improved contract to make him stay settled in the club. Tyler Blackett and Perreira are other players that have shown lot of promise and this might as well be another group close to that of ‘class 92’.


Oct 212014

Arsenal continues it Champions League campaign when they face Belgian side Anderlecht in match day three of UEFA’s premier club competition. Arsene Wenger’s side have so far accumulated three points from a possible six after the 2-0 defeat in the opening match against Borussia Dortmund was followed up with a 4-1 win over Turkish side Galatasaray at the Emirates on October 1.

Ahead of the match on Wednesday, we take a look at Five reasons why Arsenal would win in Belgium.


  1. The Aaron Ramsey Factor

The Welsh midfielder has so far not lived up to the height of last season, but returned on Saturday against Hull City from a two weeks injury lay off to add impetus to Arsenal’s midfield. He gives energy and a work rate on both the defensive and attacking side of Arsenal’s play, and could be instrumental to a victory in Belgium. Being an away fixture, his presence should be key to a victory.


  1. The pace in Arsenal’s forward line

 The Beglian Champions would not have faced anything like the pace they would come up against on Wednesday. Besnlk Hasi’s side lost 3-0 in their last group match against Borussia Dortmund, and with Alexis Sanchez in a goal scoring form, as well as the added pace of Oxlade-Chamberlain, the Chilean and Danny Welbeck should pose problems to the Beligian side’s defence, and should make for a good goals outing.


  1. Anderlecht’s record in the group stages

 Anderlecht have not inspired much confidence in the group stages for a couple of seasons, and have only garnered a maximum of two points in the group stages, and their home record bothers on the abysmal, Arsene Wenger’s side should add to the misery of Constant Vanden Stock Stadium outfit in match day three of the Champions League by extending their winless run in the group stage proper.


  1. Righting the Wrong of the Hull City match

 The Arsene Wenger kept his players for an hour in the dressing room after the Hull City match, presumably to point out to them their laboured performance against Steve Bruce side which culminated in a surprise 2-2 draw. With the Anderlecht game just five days after that draw at the Emirates, the players should put up a match winning performance in Belgium in order to banish the memory of the almost near defeat on Saturday.


  1. An improved defensive display should be a platform for Victory

 Arsene Wenger was critical of the concentration of his defenders in the draw against Hull City. With Calum Chambers expected to come into the team after sitting out Saturday’s match against Hull City, a improved defensive display should be a platform for Arsenal to record a second straight win in the Champions League this season.

Oct 212014

Manchester United struggled against well motivated West Bromwich Albion side on Monday night after falling behind the host in a 2-1 encounter before the introduction of Marouane Fellaini who scored a breath-taking individual goal just few minutes after being introduced into the game.

United have been struggling to replicate the form that once saw them as one of the giants of England, despite the summer signings, situation has remain a bit unchanged at the Old Trafford.

Belgian international, Fellaini came on as a substitute for recovering Ander Herrera at half time, only to control the ball with his commanding height and slotted it past Boaz Myhill, just few minutes after coming on as a substitute.

The hulky Belgian might be Manchester United’s answer to set-pieces punishment, considering his physique, and with a more physical clash against Chelsea on Sunday; Louis van Gaal seems to have found the needle in his haystack.

Van Gaal could not hide his admiration for the Belgian. The Dutchman went ahead to praise his magical substitute: “Of course he made a very good substitution. But he’s always injured and we have to build him up,” he said.

“We could not use him in the past two weeks because he was away with Belgium so that was a pity, but now he has his first 45 minutes, so that is good, that’s a plus.”

Fellaini who inspired an indecisive Louis van Gaal side was predicted by Gary Neville to be United’s key to beating Chelsea while speaking after the match.

Neville asserts that his former club must find subsequent consistency if they are to match a Chelsea side that could target them from set-pieces at the Old Trafford. He further stressed Jose Mourinho’s men could cheat United’s players physically. He said:  “People say it’s not the Manchester United way, but I don’t get that. For 25 years Manchester United as an option, not as a rule, would lump it forward. There is no doubt.

“It’s not the way you start the game and it’s not the way you try to win the game, absolutely not, but during periods of the season you’re going to need that alternative. You’re going to need that second option, that plan B or plan C. Don’t be embarrassed, use it.

“I would say that on Sunday if Manchester United play with their starting team they will have big problems from set pieces. You’ve got Costa, Ivanovic, Matic, Cahill and John Terry – they are all six-foot-three and not just that, but they can head a ball and want to head a ball. They [United] are going to have problems.

“On Sunday, they [Rafael and Blind] are going to have to make sure they match the power of Chelsea on set pieces and their strength.

“Fellaini could come in handy. Carrick is six-foot-one and there might be an option there. You’ve got to think about those things going into the game and I’m sure Louis van Gaal will.”

Ahead of stern back-to-back fixtures, United will play Chelsea, Manchester City, Hull City and Arsenal in the next one month if there is a commander on van Gaal’s side who may survive the aerial attacks Mourinho’s men boast and likely define the Dutchman’s era at United, it is none other than the hulky Marouane Fellaini.

Oct 212014

After a reported illness which left him out of the 2-2 draw against Hull City at the Emirates on Saturday, Lukas Podolski is not only available for selection but could make a surprise start in the UEFA Champions’ League away encounter with Belgian giants Anderlecht on Wednesday night. This season, Lukas Podolski has been more active on social media platforms more than his involvements in the Arsenal play and this would mostly be attributed to the presence of more highly rated attackers in the Arsenal squad rather than underperformance, as his lethargic tendencies in front of goal cannot be undermined. Podolski, 29, was a subject of transfer speculations all summer long with reports suggesting that manager, Arsene Wenger, would sell the player and fund a move for a younger and more potent attackers like Marco Reus and Edinson Cavani, but that wasn’t to be as the German forward himself revealed that he was persuaded to stay by the manager Arsene Wenger amidst a plethora of interests.

The least of Arsene Wenger’s worries going into the game against Anderlecht would come in the forward line as the Gunners despite losing Olivier Giroud on the long term, have more than enough players who could be deployed in the goal scoring department, one of which is the 29-year-old former Cologne FC Captain, Lukas Podolski. However, the title of this article would come as a surprise to many supporters as Podolski hasn’t even started a Premier League match this season making just 5 substitute appearances in total for the North London side. Reports now suggest that Podolski would start against Anderlecht probably alongside Alexis Sanchez upfront for Arsenal, as the manager looks to rest either of Danny Welbeck or Alexis Sanchez. The two forwards have been in fantastic forms since they signed for Arsenal this summer-the real reason Podolski isn’t getting the starts- and resting one of them would really be a welcome idea.

While it is very possible for Arsene Wenger to deploy Podolski as the yeoman upfront, it isn’t very likely as the Frenchman has demonstrated his preference for gangling attackers in the build and frame of Olivier Giroud, Yaya Sanogo and Emmanuel Adebayor. However, if deployed as the number 9, then we would likely have Danny Welbeck rested while Alexis Sanchez would operate from the left wing of attack. But if Podolski would be played on the left wing, one of Alexis Sanchez of Santi Cazorla would likely be rested for this match. However, Arsene Wenger fixes his team, with Podolski starting, it really would be an opportunity for the German to stake a claim on a regular shirt for Arsenal. Podolski expressed recently his unhappiness at the lack of opportunities at Arsenal but a start for him in the match would seem a golden chance for him to  remind the manager and all fans of how important he could be for the team.

Many believe that the chance of Lukas Podolski coming back into the Arsenal squad and commanding a regular spot in the squad looks very slim. This summer Arsenal has signed Alexis Sanchez from Barcelona to bolster an attack which depended solely on Olivier Giroud, who seemed spent towards the end of last season. However, Lukas Podolski, who came into the team the same year as Giroud has had fewer time on the pitch but has demonstrated his lethal tendencies in front of goal, with a good number of strikes for the North London club. Podolski, 29, is mostly deployed from the left flank of attack and his position is seriously threatened by the form and presence of players like Alexis Sanchez, Joel Campbell, Mesut Ozil, Santi Cazorla and even Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, most of who are in their early or mid 20s and can play on the left and some in the middle. Depending on how Wenger wants to play and the tactical approach to a particular game, Podolski was thought to be relegated to being the w 3rd or even 4th choice in the left wing of Arsenal’s attack. As a lone attacker upfront, Wenger seems to prefer the Adebayor, Sanogo and Giroud frame for a traditional number 9 and even though he has scarcely been deployed there by Arsene Wenger, he had played in that position for FC Koln and for Germany in the past. Therefore, Lukas Podolski would be 3rd or 4th choice upfront considering the fact that Wenger might want to experiment Alexis Sanchez in that position for Arsenal.

Now however, Podolski would do well to make selection very difficult for manager Arsene Wenger by playing his hearts out for the Gunners in this crucial UEFA Champions’ League game and probably grabbing a goal or more, to silence his critics and put smiles on the faces of his teeming followers and fans on social media, many of whom have praised is spirit and loyalty to Arsenal with his recent banter on Tottenham Hotspurs, the Gunners’ North London rivals.

’Tayo Amosu.

Oct 212014

Arsenal has been alerted by the availability of Marseille talismanic forward Andre-Pierre Gignac and reports are saying Arsene Wenger is keen on landing the attacker for free next summer. According to reports the player’s contract expires by the end of the season and Marseille stand the painful risk of letting him go for free or the reasonable decision to sell him for a modest fee in January, but Le10Sport has now revealed that the player isn’t interested in extending his contract at Marseille and has rejected their contract extension offer. Recently, the player’s agent, Christopher Hutteau, admitted that his player could play for either Arsenal or Liverpool, the two sides that have been linked to the player, saying: ‘‘Given the fact that he is not very old, he has a real market value. This is a striker with a relatively atypical profile, responsive to the physical challenge, the archetypal player who can succeed in a big club. He can play in England, Arsenal or Liverpool, no problem. For me, it is (his real value) between 12 and 15 million Euros.’’

Andre-Pierre Gignac, 28, was first noticed on the international stage in 2008 when he scored 25 goals for Toulouse in the French Ligue 1, a feat that got him signed up by Marseille in 2010. But at Marseille, his form and fitness level went on and off due to injuries and some inconsistencies. However, last season, he found his scoring boots and netted 22 times in 44 games. Then, the French giants hired Marcelo Bielsa, the Argentinean and former Chile national team coach before the World Cup and the veteran coach seems to be bringing out the best in Gignac. Bielsa reportedly told Gignac to lose 5kg of weight in order to hit 25 goals this season. Gignac has hit 10 goals in 10 matches this season so far Marseille and they stand a chance of losing him to international suitors in England. If a move of intent to keep the layer isn’t made by Marseille, then Arsenal would be able to hold talks of a pre-contract agreement ahead of his switch to the Emirates Stadium next term.

However, the injury to Olivier Giroud made the manager, Arsene Wenger, sign Danny Welbeck from rivals, Manchester United on transfer deadline day. However, Arsenal has had a slow start to the English Premier League season, winning just 2 matches with 4 draws and 1 loss. The Arsenal attack has not really been top notch so far this season, and though Gignac has been variously likened to Olivier Giroud in terms of playing styles, the manager could just land the player on a free transfer by the end of the season. This kind of deals cannot just be put past Arsene Wenger, who is known for his good negotiating skills and knack for good value for money deals. But for many Arsenal fans, this would represent a misplacement of priorities, as the defence and defensive midfield positions need more attention than the top striker position.

With blazing Danny Welbeck, a fully fit Olivier Giroud, a scoring Yaya Sanogo, a resurgent Lukas Podolski, fantastic Alexis Sanchez and smoking hot Theo Walcott, one would wonder if signing Gignac next season is a necessary move by Wenger, considering the urgent and pressing need for a central defender and a defensive midfielder.

’Tayo Amosu.


Oct 212014

Chelsea will clash with fellow Group G opponent, Maribor without influential striker Diego Costa after picking up a hamstring injury, which also saw him side lined in the 2-1 defeat of Crystal Palace last Saturday.

The sensational striker will miss Chelsea’s third Champions’ League Group game match at the Stamford Bridge and Chelsea manager has confirmed that the Spaniard will miss the clash due to his nagging injury which also saw him miss out on Saturday’s win over persistent Crystal Palace.

The Portuguese who confirmed the condition of the Spaniard said in a press conference on Monday: “He hasn’t trained because he is not in the condition to do so,” Mourinho said.

“It’s the same problem [hamstring injury] that he is having, it’s simple. Let’s see what happens for the next weekend [against Manchester United].

The Spaniard has made a sensational start in the Premier League, scoring nine goals, after switching from Atletico Madrid in the summer to be with the Blues.

Chelsea currently has 4 points from two games in Group G and the Blues’ manager further confirmed that several of his players will be out of action for the clash against Maribor.

According to Chelsea boss, Andre Shurrle, Ramirez and Nigeria star, John Mikel Obi will also miss out in the clash while striker Didier Drogba is not fit to play a full match.

“Mikel made a big effort to be available for the weekend. He came back from the national team with a foot problem. He can’t play [against Maribor],” the Chelsea manager said.

“Didier Drogba is not in a good condition to play for 90 minutes, but he can play.”

With Diego Costa out and a struggling Drogba, Chelsea would look to find attacking alternatives on the bench, following Mourinho’s warning that the Slovenian club are not to be taken lightly and that resting some of them ahead of the clash with Manchester United at the weekend will not be an option.

“The group is not an easy one,” Mourinho stated.

“[Maribor] are a difficult team and I’m happy because I think my players have the feeling they are a difficult opponent so we must play with the best we have. We are not going to give favours by resting or changing the team.

“We have four points in the group, which is not bad but we need seven out of three matches as that gives us a little bit of stability for the second part.”

Chelsea face Manchester United at the weekend and the Chelsea boss has admitted that he has no idea when the Spaniard will be available for club side.

Costa joined Chelsea from Atletico in the summer for a fee of £32 million. The striker has been in sublime form for the Blues this season, having scored nine goals so far for Jose Mourinho’s side.