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Oct 302014
 

Chelsea return to action in the Premier League after an uninspiring 2-1 win over League 2 side Shrewsbury Town at the New Meadow Stadium.

Chelsea will face Queens Park Rangers at 15:00GMT on Saturday  in what will be its first league match at home after the October international break. Chelsea have played two consecutive away league match against Crystal Palace and Manchester United at Old Trafford.

Chelsea will look to extend their lead at the top of the league table after a last gasp strike from Van Persie saw them leave Old Trafford with a single point. To Jose Mourinho and his boys, the result was more of a 2points lost than 1point gained because Chelsea had everything to take the maximum three points at Old Trafford.

Such point loss is what Jose Mourinho cannot afford at Stamford Bridge when Harry Redknapp and his neighbour London outfit come calling this Saturday.

The bookmakers will be high on Chelsea picking the maximum three points so, we look at Five reasons why this will be Chelsea’s game to loose.

Good Home Record

Chelsea have an impeccable home record under Jose Mourinho. The lose to Sunderland last season was Mourinho’s first lost as a manager in the league at Stamford Bridge. Again Chelsea have only lost once at home since the beginning of last season and has not lost or drawn any match at home this season.

Chelsea have also kept clean sheets in all of their home games this season except for the 4-2 win over Swansea. Expect this to be a straight win for the Blues.

Current Form

Chelsea have been in an excellent form since the start of the season winning seven and drawing two of their nine matches played in the league while QPR have only managed two wins while loosing six of the same number of games played.

Chelsea have also scored the most number of goals(24) this season while QPR have done the exact opposite shipping in 18goals, the most by any club this season. On current form this is a one-way win for Chelsea.

Chelsea Water Tight Defence

Chelsea defence have the best record at home this season. The team have only conceded two goal in Stamford bridge this season. And with QPR strikers finding it difficult to score goals this season, expect the likes of Terry, Cahill, Ivanovic and Luis to shot them out again.

When you don’t give Chelsea’s defence much of a trouble, expect the team to come out on you. The result? Goals.

Return Of Diego Costa

The Epl leading goal scorer is set to return to action in this game after sitting the previous two league game due to hamstring problems.

Costa has been in excellent scoring form for Chelsea since making his switch from Atletico Madrid. The 26-year-old striker has scored nine goals in just seven premier league appearances for Chelsea this season.

He has scored at least one goal in every of the league matches he has played so far this season. Expect him to get a goal or two against a shaky QPR defence.

QPR Weak Defence

QPR have the worst defensive record conceding 18goals in nine matches at an average of 2goal per game. This is largely due to lack of understanding between the central defenders.

There have been no stability in the QPR defence with Harry Redknapp always shuffling the back-line per game. This season has seen Redknapp pair different players at the heart of QPR’s defence. The likes of Rio Ferdinand, Nedum Onuaha, Suk-Young Yun, Richard Dunne and Mauricio Isla have all had stints in central defence this season.

With the instability and lack of understanding between QPR defenders, expect Chelsea’s attacking and creative players to rip the defence apart.

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Oct 302014
 

In a bid to bolster the clubs defensive options, Manchester United’s manager Louis van Gaal has been linked with yet another centre-back. Ezequiel Garay who switched from Benfica to Zenith St Petersburg only this summer for about £12m and it still remains to be seen if the Russian outfit will even consider any bid for the Argentine.

The defender caught the Manchester United manager’s fancy about 9 years ago when he was a member of the Argentine youth team that won the Under-20 Championship in Holland. More so, van Gaal got to see more of Garay while he was partnering United’s new boy Marcos Rojo in the Argentine national team at the World Cup in Brazil.

When Didier Drogba rose high enough to power in the opener against Manchester United last weekend, it obviously was a miscalculation on the part of van Gaal’s centre-backs and now the Dutch boss is more determined to shore up his defence by January. In fact with the news emanating from some quarters in Manchester, many are said to believe that he could even be a better buy than the much discussed Mats Hummels. Now, Manchester United fans have heard a lot about Hummels and might even know more about the German than his mother but how much do they know about Ezequiel Garray? Well, here are five facts about Manchester United’s target.

  • In the last five years, Garray has played 97 club matches in three different clubs. Between July 2009 and August 2011, he featured nine times for Real Madrid scoring a single goal. The Argentine enjoyed a better spell when he moved to Portuguese outfit Benfica in the summer of 2011 appearing 78 times before he agreed to move to Zenit around June this year, he has till date appeared 10 times for the Russian side.
  • At 1.86 m tall, the Argentine’s height will be important to the defensive section at least to deal with crosses and set pieces. He will also shoulder some of the responsibilities that Nemaja Vidic used to handle. More so, with the experience he has garnered from playing in about three different leagues, he will show leadership to most of the upcoming defenders that Louis van Gaal currently has.
  • In his 10 games for Zenit, the defender has an average pass accuracy of 90%, created four chances, won 51% of his duels and completed passes totalling 21metres. So far this season, of all Manchester United’s defenders only Marcos Rojo has a report this encouraging and given the fact that they both had a wonderful partnership at the World Cup, Manchester United might be set for another Ferdinand-Vidic combination.
  • Garray played under José Mourinho at Real Madrid and was in fact the forth-choice stopper in the 2010-2011. He appeared in five league games and another two in that season’s Spanish Cup against FC Barcelona where the Madrid giants got an extra-time win.
  • In 2005, Garray won the under-20s tournament with the Argentine’s youth team. He played alongside Sergio Aguero, Oscar Ustari, Fernando Gago and Lionel Messi.

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Oct 302014
 

Manchester United have since the beginning of this season  played less ferocious teams and until last weekend have not been really tested by any of the premier League’s top four. After narrowly avoiding a defeat against the league leaders Chelsea, they will have to brace up against the defending champions and city rivals Manchester City. The Citizens have received a boost with the recovery of the versatile Samir Nasri who is expected to feature in City’s upcoming Capital One Cup ahead of this weekend’sManchester derby according to reports from Goal.

The French international who has a 100% shot accuracy this season had been side-lined for about a month after he underwent a surgery following a groin injury but the Etihad boss is now confident that his attacking midfielder will be available for deployment against Newcastle and subsequently Manchester United. The 27-year-old’s services have been sorely missed as the English Champions fell to a defeat in faraway Russia after been 2 goals ahead against CSKA Moscow and another loss to West Ham last weekend. Manager Manuel Pellegrini confirmed to pressmen that:

‘Frank Lampard is out with a muscle injury, all the other players are fit, and Samir Nasri is working normally and is on the squad list for tomorrow.’

Manchester United on the other hand have been heaving a sigh of relieve as several of their first team regulars have been recovering at an encouraging rate. Louis van Gaal will for the first time this season have Michael Carrick available, Ander Herrera and Phil Jones might also make surprise returns, with the continuous dip in form that Robin van Persie is experiencing, the manager will be happy to have RadamelFalcao. More so, team captain Wayne Rooney having served his 3-match ban will be on hand to lead the Red Devils into the derby.

With Nasri fit, Pellegrini might consider playing him from the wings or probably directly ahead of David Silva to tee up with the strikers especially Sergio Aguero. Yaya Toure will attempt to muscle down the frail midfielders that Louis van Gaal has but the Dutch boss will likely deploy the in-form Marouane Fellaini in an attempt to provide the much need physical presence in the midfield. If Carrick can play, then Ander Herrera won’t really be missed. Daley Blind and Michael Carrick will tidy up behind Fellaini and Angel Di Maria and either Juan Mata or Adnan Januzaj will bring the play towards the strikers and then the manager will have to make a decision on whether to play the frustrating Robin van Persie or the hungrier Radamel Falcao ahead of Wayne Rooney.

Whatever the Old Trafford manager decides, his players will need to capitalize on the opportunities they have because even at their best, they can only strive to match City at their worst, hence each chance they squander drops them further down the hole.

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Oct 302014
 

Louis van Gaal is leaving no stone unturned in his bid to ensure that the defensive woes that befell Manchester United this summer terminate by January. After hitting brick walls in the deals for Mats Hummels, the Dutchman has sent scouts to monitor Benedikt Howedes. The defender, who was anintegral member of Germany’s world cup winning side,and plies his trade with Schalke 04, possesses a level dynamism that is rarely found in players of this era. Although he is usually deployed as a centre-back at his club, Howedes was used as a left full-back at the world cup and he did well to convince fans and critics alike that he could be effective in both positions.

Louis van Gaal has had the defender under his radar since he was incharge of Bayern Munich in Germany andwas reported to have shown interest although it was sure if the Dutch boss made a move. At 26-years-old, Howedes will fit perfectly into Manchester United’s team and even though his contract runs for another 3 years his £14m buy-out clause isn’t it enough to deter the Manchester giants.

Since he graduated from his present club’s academy, Manchester United have been monitoring his development and several news outlets confirmed that United had a team to scout the defender during the 1-1 draw with Bayern Munich in August where he was excellent in the left full-back position. To confirm the fact that Louis van Gaal had designs on the defender, one might like to consider the statements from the players own mouth, where he admitted to several attempts that Bayern Munich under Louis van Gaal made to sign him up and further revealed that he might consider a move out of the German league in the nearest future. He was quoted to have said:

‘I said it before that it could be option to play for club abroad one day, to know about a new culture and environment.’

Of all the other defensive targets that have been linked to the Old Trafford outfit, only Howedes and Mats Hummels fit into the below-26-years age cap that Louis van Gaal has placed on new entrants into the club. It will be recalled that since the new manager took charge, he has made sure to avoid ageing players with the exception of RadamelFalcao who isn’t technically a Manchester United player as he is currently on loan from French club PSG, there is no other new player above the 26-year mark.

Hence, the manager might be more keen on Howedes as the Mats Hummels deal might be to dicey to seal and with the dire situation that the club is defensively at the moment, Louis van Gaal doesn’t really have the luxury of time to wait on Hummels, and if by January, Dortmund are still stalling, £14m for Howedes wouldn’t be such a bad deal.

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Oct 302014
 

Arsenal have found wining matches in the Premier League hard to come by since the season started. The club has just three wins from nine Premier League matches, a sequence that has seen Arsene Wenger’s side draw five of the nine matches, with three of those draws coming against Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur and Hull City at the Emirates. As Sean Dyne’s Burnley arrive the Emirates on Saturday, they would be looking for their first league win of the season, while Arsenal would be looking to register its first consecutive win in the Premier League this season.

With the Clarets arriving the North London as the side with the worst record in the league, we look at five reasons why Arsenal would beat Burnley on Saturday.

  1. THE TEAM IS GRADUALLY DEVELOPING A WINNING HABIT

Arsenal recorded victory from the jaws of defeat in the Champions League match against Anderlecht last week after being on the back foot throughout in Brussels, the same happened at the Stadium of Light when again the team failed to sparkle, but relied on two defensive howlers to record a 2-0 win. The hallmark of a good side is the ability to irk out victory when not playing well, and with confidence returning from those two victories, the theme is expected to continue on Saturday.

  1. THE DRIVE TO RECORD A FIRST HOME WIN IN TWO MONTHS

The Emirates faithful has not tasted victory in the last two months in the league, with the last minute winner from Aaron Ramsey against Crystal Palace the last time Arsenal won at home. Playing against Burnley represents a huge chance for the players to put another win on the board after three successive draws against Manchester City, Spurs and Hull City, incidentally matches in which Arsenal trailed at certain times.

  1. THE ALEXIS SANCHEZ FACTOR

The Chilean has been involved in Arsenal’s last four Premier League goals against Hull City and Sunderland; he has scored three goals and provided an assist for the equalizer against Steve Bruce side. The match against Sunderland was the first time his goals has fetched Arsenal all three points in the League, after his goals against Leicester City, Manchester City and Hull City only fetched Arsenal a point. Despite giving Arsene Wenger’s side the lead in those matches. With his form, he is expected to extend his scoring streak in front of goal.

  1. THE RETURN OF THEO WALCOTT

The English winger is expected to make his return against Burnley, this is expected to give added spice to the match, and his prowess in front of goal together with Alexis Sanchez in the side should make for an high tempo game which would suit Theo Walcott to mark his return with a goal in the pitch he suffered his knee injury.

  1. THE ONE WEEK REST

Not much has been made about the fact that Arsenal was not involved in a midweek fixture. But the one week rest would have afforded Arsene Wenger the opportunity to work on the combination play of his players as well as other new things. And with that in mind, a full steam display when that combination clicks could only lead to devastating consequences against Burnley on Saturday.

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Oct 292014
 

Chelsea have had a bright start to the season and everybody- board, management, coaching staff, players and fans alike are happy in the direction the club is going. Some players have started brightly while some are still taking time to adjust. The January transfer window though, a couple of months away and as expected players will be coming in and player will be going out either on loan on an outright sale.

It is usually expected that players who are not finding their footing in the club should be the ones to be sold while sometimes players could be allowed to go in search of regular football action especially when the club cannot guarantee such player adequate playing time. So, we look at three players who could leave Chelsea this winter transfer window.

Petr Cech

One player that is high on this list is Petr Cech who irrespective of his fantastic performances over the years for the club has suddenly found himself playing second fiddle to Belgian sensation Thibaut Courtios.

Thibaut Courtios returned to Chelsea in the summer after spending three years on loan at Atletico Madrid of Spain (a time where he has gained the reputation as one of the best goal keepers in the world). He instantly became manager Jose Mourinho’s preferred choice between the sticks hence, relegating long term first choice Petr Cech to the bench.

Cech has spoken about his frustration at being left on the bench and has promised to address the situation as soon as possible. He has only made three starts for Chelsea this season, all in cup games.

A lot of club will look to take the advantage of offering him a regular action to lure him away from Stamford Bridge this winter. Real Madrid and AS Roma of Italy have been strongly linked to the player in recent weeks with a January move muted. His agent has also claimed that English clubs- Manchester United and Liverpool have made enquiries concerning the player’s situation but he will likely move abroad if a move is to happen.

Real Madrid’s captain and goal keeper have been under immense fire and criticism this season for his performance and it looks Carlo Ancelotti is keen to replace the Madrid veteran and could turn to Cech whom he worked with during his time at Chelsea. It is believed the Italian does not really values second choice keeper Keylor Navas who just joined the Spanish giant this summer after an impressive showing for Costa Rica at the FIFA 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

AS Roma could also be a surprise destination as the capital club look to topple Juventus for the Seria A title and also make a mark in the Champions league. They already have the service of former Blue Ashley Cole who is also a good friend of Cech.

Petr Cech at 32 as a goal keeper, still have age on his side. He is still up there with the best in term of performances and his case is just a case of having a youngster who at 22 is seen as club’s long term keeper. Courtios has been excellent to say the least. He is one out of two goalkeepers shortlisted for the FIFA Ballon d’or 2014.

Cech is likely to move this winter transfer window in search of regular shirt even as the Euro 2016 event is drawing near and he is a very important member of the Czech squad.

John Obi Mikel

The Nigerian has also found regular action hard to come by since the second coming of Jose Mourinho. This is no blame of anybody but he’s. He has simply not lived up to billings when given the chance.

The understanding and partnership between Fabregas and Matic in the central midfield area has been hailed as the best in the premier league at the moment and it is yet to be seen how Mikel will break into the team.

He has been linked to Inter Milan and Galatasaray of Turkey in recent past and there could be a possible move this January. Chelsea still have Ramires in his position and if rumours linking Real Madrid’s Sami Khedira to Stamford Bridge is true, then Chelsea could be set to offload him.

Mohamed Salah

Before the January 2014 transfer window, Mohamed Salah was one of the hottest wingers in the world but the Egyptian has caught a Torres-like figure since he joined the club last January.

He has looked off what who we knew him to be and Chelsea could cash in on him or loan him out this January. There are a lot of players ahead of him in his position and he has not done enough to justify his inclusion in the handful of games he has played for the club so far. His national team manager Shawky Gharib has claimed he need to leave Chelsea to get regular action and Salah could heed his national manager’s advise.

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Oct 292014
 

Chelsea needed a late Jermaine Grandison own goal to edge out a well composed Shrewsbury Town club in the Capital One Cup fifth round played out last night.

It was a spirited performance by the Shrews as the club is popularly called at their New Meadows ground and Chelsea must have counted themselves lucky to survive the late surge of the opponent that resulted in Andrew Mangan 75th minute equaliser.

Chelsea will wait to know the next opponent they will face at the quarter final when the draw is made latter tonight. But before then, we take a look at 5 things we learnt from Chelsea’s 2-1 win over Salop last night.

The Youngsters Are Coming Good:

Yesterday saw Jose Mourinho hand three youngster- Kurt Zouma, Andreas Christensen and Nathan Ake a start with 18-year-old Christensen making his full senior debut in a competitive match. There were also places in the bench for the pair of Lewis Barker and Izzy Brown though they didn’t get to play.

Thee trio of Zouma, Christensen and Ake played all 90minutes, giving a good account of themselves. Zouma was simply one of the best performer for the club proving an effective partnership with Gary Cahill at the heart of the defence.

Andreas Christensen who played at right back looked calm and never really looked troubled against a Shrews attack who were pouring forward at will. Ake too also showed class in the midfield, retaining balls and moving them quickly when needed and its no surprise Mourinho left the trio on the pitch for the entire duration of the game.

Experience like this will really give these youngsters opportunities to learn and develop further and they are already showing good signs of things to come.

Mourinho Looks He Is Interest In This Cup:

The line-up Jose Mourinho went out with yesterday against a league 2 side shows that the special one is up for this cup. Though, there were seven changes made to the team that started the Manchester United game on Sunday but the line-up is one that can be seen as relatively strong.

Four players in the line-up were Champions league winner while more than half of the line-up have won the Europa cup or played in the champions league finals.

It was a blend of old, experience,  youth and energy in the line-up an indication that the manager takes the competition as serious as it could get.

Drogba Defying Age:

Age, they say is a matter of numbers and Didier Drogba really made those assertions look true. He has scored in his last two games prior to this game. After playing all 90minutes against United on Sunday, everyone thought the 36-year-old would have taken a rest from this game bearing in mind the game is coming barely 48hours after the Sunday game.

But he defied the age thing and whatever consequencies that comes with it to play the game. Got himself the first goal taking his tally to 3goals in 3matches since Diego Costa and Loic Remy got injured. He also gave good account of himself all through the game again, showing his selfless character- something the younger players should learn from.

Chelsea’s Fringe Players Are Doing Themselves No Good:

The likes of John Obi Mikel and Mohamed Salah got another opportunity again to convince Jose Mourinho that they deserve a regular spot in the team but they once again fluffed it.

With youngster Ake partnering Mikel in the midfield, one would have expected the Nigerian to be the one taking the initiative and controlling the midfield but Mikel characteristically, just sat back and allow the game to roll by.

Salah on his own part kept squandering chance after chance. His inability to pick his passes very well was also glaring. Though he will brag with the assist off the first goal but his overall performance is no where near what is expected of him.

Constant performance like this could make earn them the other side of Jose Mourinho and they could be forgotten men at the club faster than you expect.

No Small Teams Any Longer In The Cup Games:

Shrewsbury put up a performance that once again goes to show there are no minnows in the cup game any longer. In the fourth round MK Dons shocked Manchester United with a 4-0 scoreline and it took Liverpool a lengthy penalty kicks to edge out Middlesbrough.

It is high time Premier league clubs began to recognise this fact and put in a decent shift in matches involving the so called ‘small teams’. Chelsea would have been in for a rude shock when Shrewbury equalised and kept on coming at them if not for Grandison’s late own goal.

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Oct 292014
 

Things appear to have gone horribly wrong for one of the English Premier League’s finest who switched to the Italian Serie A, and according to reports from The Express, is now considering a possible move back to England. Ashley Cole has won over 100 caps for England and has also enjoyed very successful spells with both Arsenal and Chelsea.  Cole’s bustling speed used to be his strong point and as a defender you dare to rest on your oars once you knew that Ashley Cole is on the pitch, but that was a couple of years ago because as of now, Serie A defenders seem unperturbed with the former Chelsea man’s presence at Roma. The full-back might have continued to enjoy some respect based on his reputation if Arjen Robben had not brought to light his age induced ineptitude during the recent Champions League clash against Bayern Munich.

Roma boss, Rudi Garcia seems to have realised that Cole isn’t the energetic defender he once was and has decided to cut his loss on him. Reports from Italy have indicated that Cole isn’t finding it easy to keep up with the high-intensity training obtainable at the club and as such Garcia has demanded that the club’s management make arrangements to offload him. It is only logical that the defender considers only English Premier League clubs or where else will he be easily accepted?

Of the big wigs in England, Manchester United are the only club that appear to be short on full-back supply. Since Patrice Evra exited the club this summer, the responsibility had fallen on summer arrival Luke Shaw’s shoulders to keep things going on the right but with the injuries and incessant dip in form that the teenager had experienced, Louis van Gaal has had to deploy either of Marcos Rojo or Tyler Blacklet when Shaw is absent.

Marcos Rojo is needed more and is better suited in the centre-back position and Tyler still needs to learn hence, it is normal for many to link the out-of -favour Cole to the club. However, what the proprietors of these rumours fail to realise is that van Gaal is deeply committed to the rebuilding process which he has going on at the club and if anyone thinks he will want to bring someone who is seeing off the last two years of his career into the mix, they’d better think again.

Patrice Evra was more than Ashley Cole could ever be at Old Trafford and the Frenchman was quick to jump ship once he realised that the club had committed to about £30m for a teenager in his position. While many fans, out of love and respect for the prolific Evra insisted that he shouldn’t leave, the 33-year-old refused to be myopic and realised thatthe club wouldn’t pay so much for someone they don’t intend to use… and that was Evra, who still had a contract running at the club.

Well, this is football and a lot of funny things have and will still happen, but with the current spate of Manchester United, they should not make themselves a dumping ground for some player who fell short of expectations in Italy.

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Oct 292014
 

It appears that Chelsea’s manager is trying to avoid what Manchester United are currently battling with in their defence section after the exit of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic. Rumours are seriously linking the Chelsea manager with Barcelona’s Gerard Pique who is seen to be a probable successor for the ageing John Terry.  Pique has been a subject of serious criticisms following his uninspiring performance against Real Madrid in last weekend’s El Clasico.

At the moment, the Stamford Bridge outfit are low on centre-back options. José Mourinho has had to rely on the partnership between Garry Cahill and skipper John Terry for most of the season. Terry isn’t growing any younger and Mourinho cannot expect a continuous display of excellence from the ageing defender and the 27-year-old Pique is listed as a top choice of the London club with a £24m bid said to be in the pipelines.

Chelsea will be facing a serious competition from Manchester United, a club that Gerard Pique featured for between 2004 and 2008 before switching to the Catalan. Louis van Gaal in fact has more defensive problems to solve having missed out on Thomas Vermaleen, Mats Hummels and Mehdi Benatia this summer and will be poised to correct that mistake by January. The Old Trafford boss has been continuously linked with moves to sign either of Aston Villa’s Ron Vlaaror Stoke City’s Ryan Shawcross but the Pique deal appears to be much more tempting than the previous two.

However, Gerard Pique has dismissed a probable move to either of the two Premier League giants and has reinstated his dedication to the Nou Camp outfit.  While discussing his stay at Manchester, He was quoted to have said:

‘I left a lot of friends there and was really happy there, even if I didn’t play as much as I wanted to. I obviously had Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic at Manchester United, they were never injured, never banned (red card), it was very hard.’ But I have always said I want to retire here and if possible, stay here my entire career. At this moment, I am not thinking about leaving, and I am really happy if it is true that United want me… but I want to stay. I am a Barcelona fan, I have been since I was a kid, and I want to stay. This is the first time here at Barcelona that maybe I am not playing as much as I want to but I am really happy with the way I am playing.’

With Piques statements, Manchester United should better focus on how to probably convince the dynamic Mats Hummels to force a move away from his German employers or better still get Ron Vlaar who will be quite cheap since Aston Villa is expected to relish the opportunity to get some cash from the 29-year-olds deal. On the other hand, José Mourinho will also have to get busy if he really needs a proven defender, but the Portuguese has his inexplicable way of doing things and this time shouldn’t be different.

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Oct 292014
 

Arsenal’s strategy in the transfer market in recent years have seen players from the big two (Real Madrid and Barcelona) in Spain end up at the Emirates, Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez’s arrivals in the last two summer transfer windows has added huge quality to the Arsenal squad, and the Chilean particularly has carried the team in the last few weeks, a point widely acknowledged by the fans that he recently won the club’s player of the month award.

What signing players from the big two in Spain brings is that players from these clubs are already schooled in the act of winning, that they have a mentality of always wanting to win, something a player like Alexis Sanchez would have learnt from his time playing under Pep Guardiola, which brings up the name of Barcelona winger Pedro.

The 27 year old Spain international has a similar mentality and attributes to Alexis Sanchez. He is a kind of player that Arsenal could do with, not just for his experience (he was part of the dominant Barcelona team that wept everything before them when Pep Guardiola was at the helms at the Nou Camp), but the work ethics he would bring to the Arsenal set up. What most Arsenal fans would give to have another player like Alexis Sanchez that would harry and hassle opposition players into making mistake. These are things the Spaniard is good at having been schooled in that act, and he could transfer that to Arsenal.

At things stands in respect of his future with Barcelona, it is clear that he does not have much of a future in the Nou Camp if his current situation is anything to by, a scenario that Arsenal could use to it advantage to get a player who created a record of scoring in six club competition in 2009.

He has grown disillusioned at his limited playing time at the Nou Camp, and according to reports he wants to leave his boyhood club. His role is expected to be restricted even further in the coming months with Luis Suarez’s return from a four months ban exacerbating his limited playing time for Barcelona.

A player of is quality who can play anywhere along the frontline just like Alexis Sanchez could be of immense benefit to Arsenal. He currently has just a year and six months left on this current deal with Barcelona, and going by his limited playing time, it is unlikely that it would be extended.

The high energy pressing and work rate that Alexis Sanchez has exhibited so far since his arrival could be increased in Arsenal’s armoury if Pedro is signed. With his contract drawing to a close, he could be available for less than his current value, as Barcelona have showed a tendency of dishing players they want out for a fee lower than the market value of the player, ala Cesc Fabregas.

Although, many would be quick to point out that going by need alone, he is not the type of player Arsenal needs, but with the likes of Tomas Rosicky, Lukas Podolski and Joel Campbell restricted to a bit part role this season, a player like Pedro could contribute to the Arsenal team than even Santi Cazorla who has struggled at times this season.

Added to that is the fact that, a familiarity with Alexis Sanchez during their past time with Barcelona could add more to Arsenal’s game than it is at the moment.

Arsenal could do with Pedro’s winner’s mentality, and the good thing is that he could be available for transfer.

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Oct 282014
 

Manchester United’s full-back Rafael is trying to get the top echelons at Old Trafford to a round table talk about a possible contract extension according to goal.com. Since the retirement of Garry Neville, the Brazilian has evolved into a versatile right full-back for the Red Devils but even after featuring over 100 times for the Old Trafford outfit, Louis van Gaal is still unconvinced that the Fluminense defender is still worthy of the regular shirt he currently enjoys at the club. As such the manager might not be willing to commit to another contract just yet but it is certain that he will not allow the Brazilian use up the remaining two years of his contract before he gets an extension.

Louis van Gaal’s reservations about the defender might be due to the incessant injury worries that had hampered Rafael’s run of form over the years as the defender has only managed about 35 games over a span of 3 years.

For most of the summer, the club had been continuously linked with Fioretina’s Juan Cuadrado and in fact until recently Barcelona’s Dani Alves. Although the Juan Caudrado deal seems to have been blown off as the winger is now poised to commit his future to the Florence based club. Rafael is just 24-years-old and as such fits well into the rebuilding process going on at the club and with the level of brilliance he currently shows, there is little doubt that he would make his marks.

Another school of thought is that Manchester United may not be willing to match the new wage structure that the defender might demand but as of now, he is the best that the club has in that position and unless they plan to bring him a competition by January, then they should be ready to consider a worthy package for the player. Since they can pay Luke Shaw a whopping £120,000/week, how much more a player whose bustling energy is something Manchester United have been relying on since the exits of John O’Shea and Wesley Brown.

Rafael surely has more to learn because he appears to be still battling with his youthful exuberance but he has about 6 more years to play for the club and as such, he should still be afforded time. Over the years, he maintained a steady rise in personal development despite the many injuries that threatened his career and this was probably what Sir Alex Ferguson saw when he decided to retain him at the time when his twin was offloaded.

However, if the Dutch boss is still unconvinced, then the Brazilian must step up his game and prove to his boss that he deserves the spot he currently occupies.

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Oct 282014
 

Chelsea are already short of striking options with the injuries to star striker Diego Costa and Loic Remy. Chelsea presently have aged Didier Drogba as the only true first team striker in the squad.

Though Drogba has done an excellent job going by his age in the last two matches the club have played without its first choice striker, but it is easy to see that the powerful Ivorian has lost a yard or two of pace and is no longer the predator we used to know in front of goal.

Jose Mourinho will be looking on how to fix his attacking problems and it is believed the special one could call upon German World cup winner Andre Schurrle to play a major role in this campaign in the absence of his main strikers.

Schurrle’s versatility means he would be the one Jose Mourinho could call upon to share the striking responsibilities with Didier Drogba. Mourinho has shown in time past that he can use Schurrle as a striker.

The manager in the game against Manchester United last season deployed Schurrle upfront leaving striker Fernando Torres on the bench. Schurrle is a fast player and if they is anything that Chelsea have missed in the last two games is a fast player running behind the opposition defenders into the box. Didier Drogba could not cope with the pace of our attacking midfielders when Chelsea initiate a counter.

Schurrle with his pace can run behind the defenders and he is also a good finisher. The creative midfielders in the mould of Fabregas, Oscar and Hazard are there to provide the needed through balls for him to pounce on.

Though the 23-year-old is just returning to action with the substitute appearance at Old Trafford being his first appearance since the international break after being diagnosed of illness, Mourinho could well hand the pacey winger cum striker a huge role in upcoming games.

Schurrle has shown that he has a keen eye for goal. His club records and international record speaks to a greater extent that he can get the goals when called upon.

Since 2011 when he made his senior appearance for Mainz, he has made a combine 166 appearance for Mainz, Bayer Leverkkusen and Chelsea scoring 48 times despite playing as a winger. He has also made 42 appearances for the German senior side scoring 17goals. That’s quite impressive for a winger.

One of Schurrle’s greatest asset is his long distance sprint which could be put into effective use in counter attacks and he can also shoot from long range.

With Diego Costa set to be sidelined for up to six weeks, and back-up Loic Remy still suffering from his groin injury, Andre Schurrle could be set for a huge role for the club this season. This role could even go beyond the return of the strikers from injury as he is one of the few players that gives Mourinho options against different oppositions.

He can play as a winger, a second striker or even as a main striker if need be and this is the quality Jose Mourinho look forward to in all of his players.

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Oct 282014
 

If you are looking to get some extra cash this weekend then you might be reluctant to stake your money on Manchester United when they face Manchester City and your decision would be very logical. Manchester City have been the more enterprising of both clubs having registered 17 points in their last 9 games against United’s 13. Consequently, one of them sits quite comfortably in the third place while the other languishes in the 8thposition. More so, as much as Manchester United have been ravished by injuries this term, their city rivals have been a bit lucky although they had their own injury scares to deal with but for the Red Devils this season, it has been one step forward and about three backwards. In fact erstwhile manager Sir Alex Ferguson exclaimed ‘are we going to get a break from all these’ when he received reports that Phil Jones has yet again suffered another injury.

Amidst all the worries that Louis van Gaal has had to face, he has still managed to produce some encouraging performances that have continued to give the fans a feeling that although Manchester United is still a work-in-progress, they could still achieve better than they did under David Moyes. The derby will be daunting for Louis van Gaal’s men no doubt but there are still about 5 reasons why the Red Devils can still come out tops.

High Spirits: Just as you imagined, the Red Devils went in to face Chelsea with the primary aim of avoiding a humiliation similar to the one suffered when both teams last met, where Samuel Etoo was on hand to put three past the Red Devils. But after the first half, even United’s critics were awe-struck and only the worst of them could still muster the courage to spite the club. Once, Robin van Persie got the equalizer, you’d see the fire in the eyes of the players… a feeling last felt during the Fergusson era. With the current feeling around the team, there is no way they will be a push over when they face the Champions.

More Players Available: At least, Louis van Gaal can heave a sigh of relieve now that more first team regulars are available. The Dutch boss can turn to either Herrera or Carrick if need be and will now have Wayne Rooney and Radamel Falcao to shore up the attack.

Rooney has to Impress: The captain sat out the last three games after he picked up a needless Red Card against West Ham and when he leads the Red Devils out to face Manchester City, he will have to do more to make up for past mistakes.

The Back four seems to be more reliable: So they managed to deny the league leaders a win and even at that, they shielded their goalie so much that Chelsea could only send in about 8 shots as against 13 of theirs. Just like Sir Alex Ferguson, stated, you get better results when the back four play together regularly. If Louis van Gaal deploys the same back four he used in the last game, then they might be able to replicate last weekend’s performance.

Incredible De Gea: The prolific Spaniard have been doing wonderfully well for the Red Devils since the commencement of the season especially against Everton and more recently Chelsea. With such a reliable option in between the sticks, Manchester United might just wrap the game up.

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Oct 222014
 

According to reports, Theo Walcott could be in line for a surprise inclusion in the Arsenal squad for Wednesday’s match against Anderlecht in Belgium. The England international has been out for nine months with a cruciate ligament injury, and he only just returned to full training two weeks ago. He played his first match last Friday against Blackburn in an Under-21 game at Meadows Park. The speedster came out unscathed after playing 45 minutes.

He could be in line to make his first Champions League appearance for over a year, his last appearance in Europe came against Marseille in the same competition in a goal scoring return at the Stade Velodrome in September last year.

Arsene Wenger is thought to be taking his time to reintroduce him into the first team fold, but after his extensive rehabilitation, and his comeback, it is believed that he could be in line to play a part against the Belgian league leaders. The 2-2 draw against Hull City came too soon for him after featuring 24 hours earlier in an Under­-21 fixture.

His inclusion would come as a boost to Arsenal in many ways, because of what he brings to the teams setup. Besides being a winger with pace with a good scoring record, his movement in the final third has benefited Arsenal hugely in the past, by taking away opposition players for other teammates to exploit such spaces created by his movement.

In the absence of Mesut Ozil, and the slow tempo with which Arsenal played against Hull City, his addition to the team, would essentially open the door for Arsenal to reintroduce it high tempo game, and his ability to be a creator of goals, going by his past assist ratio would also come in handy in the German’s absence.

Whether Arsene Wenger would be favourably disposed to starting the winger is a different proposition altogether. However, using a player that suffered a similar injury at the same time as Theo Walcott in January, in the person of Radamel Falcao, who incidentally has been playing since August, but had his surgery three weeks after the Arsenal man; Theo Walcott’s return to full match competition would not come entirely as a surprise, only that Arsene Wenger and the club’s medical team seem to be holding him back before unleashing him.

Arsenal would be seeking to register it second straight win in the Champions League group stages when they play Anderlecht at the Constant Vanden Stock Stadium in Brussels.

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Oct 222014
 

Arsenal’s impressive youth player, Jack Jebb has departed Arsenal for a famous destination for Arsenal loanees, Stevenage. The 19-year-old is on a month long loan with the League 2 club to gain first team experience which could help him grow at Arsenal. Jebb played for the U-19 Arsenal team last term after representing at lower youth levels previously, but has featured for the U-21s recently. Jebb, who plays as an attacking midfielder has been compared in style to compatriots, David Beckham and Jack Wilshere. He not only is a potential Arsenal senior player but also an English prospect that has represented the country at the U-16 and U17 levels.

This loan move for Jebb for a month would allow him gain some first team experience and also be back in time for some more actions for Arsenal. Arsenal Academy not only refines raw talents and turns them into super stars, they also graduate some of them into the Arsenal senior team and some are sold to other big clubs for their careers to blossom. The Arsenal Academy has produced world class players of yesteryears which includes Tony Adams, Martin Keown, Ray Parlour, Paul Merson, Liam Brady, the current coach, David O’Leary, Niall Quinn, Pat Rice, who have all retired, some have served and others still serving at various capacities in the football world. Also graduates of the Academy who are still actively playing include, Cesc Fabregas, Johan Djourou, Kieran Gibbs, Jack Wilshere, Emmanuel Frimpong, Wojciech Szczesny, Oguzhan Ozyakup, just to mention a few.

Jebb would have an opportunity of playing for the first team of Stevenage and his creativity would be expectedly on display at the League Two side. The creative midfielder was a regular player for the Arsenal U-18 last season with 21 appearances and scoring 5 goals. The player is known for his set-piece specialities which got him the tag “next David Beckham”. He recently curled home a fine free-kick in the Youth Cup quarter-final win over Everton. Many followers of the Arsenal Youth set-up have expressed disappointment at Jebb’s slow integration into first team action, as players his age-Calum Chambers, Hector Bellerin, Isaac Hayden- are already in playing for the senior Arsenal team, but the fact that he has joined Stevenage on loan is an indication of his rise gradual up the ladder of first team football at Arsenal. It can also be recalled that Jack Wilshere, who Jebb has been likened to, also broke into the main team at age 18 and before then, Wilshere went on a couple of loan spells before making it into the Arsenal senior team.

Stevenage has harboured and helped many Arsenal Youth players in the past and the club is gradually gaining popularity as Arsenal’s breeding site. And just like many other Arsenal youngsters in the past, Jack Jebb is poised for a quality time of experience at the League Two side. Alongside Jebb, Stevenage Borough also signed 3 other players on loan which include David McAllister from Shrewsbury Town, Josh Clarke and Charlie Adams.

’Tayo Amosu.

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Oct 222014
 

Manchester United’s last game against West Bromwich Albion caused a serious heartache to many Old Trafford fans despite the fact that manager Louis van Gaal stated that it was the club’s best outing since he took over at the club. The Red Devils conceded a goal very early in the match and it did threaten their flow of play at the Hawthorns.

The Manchester United boss opted for a 2-midfileder option with 2 other wingers operating from the flanks and as such he deployed Ander Herrera just ahead of Daley Blind. The Spaniard obviously weakened by the effect of the injury spell he recently recovered from, was a shadow of his former self, hence it was just a flood gate of attacks from the home team.

Notwithstanding, the Red Devils rallied and they strung a couple of passes together but the inefficacy of the attackers upfront made sure that those efforts never came to fruition. However, one of the more interesting highlights of the match was when Louis van Gaal whispered something to Marouane Fellaini, the replay confirmed that the manager was bringing to the Belgian’s notice a mistake that Herrera made and so it wasn’t surprising to see the lanky midfielder came on for Herrera in the second half.

He supplied some bustling energy into the fray and after about eight minutes of his involvement, powered in an equalizer to keep Manchester United in the game. The late come-back that the Red Devils mounted rested mainly on the doggedness of the Belgian midfielder and Radamel Falcao, and this has prompted many pundits to opine that had Fellaini started the game, then Louis van Gaal could have bagged his first away victory since his arrival at Old Trafford.

What beats many keen observers is how Marouane Fellaini who was so uninspiring last term and in fact almost joined Italian outfit Napoli this recent summer suddenly rejuvenated into a midfield enforcer cum match winner for the same team that almost cast him away. Although same thing is happening to Rafael, but he is a lone ranger in his position at least for now, that is not the case with Fellaini. It appears that the Belgian is better suited in the attacking-midfield position, the same position that is keenly contested by the trio of Wayne Rooney, Juan Mata and Adnan Januzaj. On a good day the manager will opt to play captain Rooney behind a striking duo of Radamel Falcao and Robin van Persie, but if van Persie keeps up his ineptitude, the manager might just move Rooney up with Falcao and then a spot would have been freed up for any of the other three midfielders including Fellaini.

Whatever Louis van Gaal eventually decides, it will not change the fact that Fellaini, if given more game time, will prove more of an asset than many presently give him credit for, and if he keeps churning out good performances, then the manager will continue to field him and that could spell doom for Juan Mata, whose performance has been hardly encouraging.

By Tomilayo Alapinni

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Oct 222014
 

The pattern within the bookmakers community can always be an indication to which a transfer would end up, although, their assertion is not always cast on stone, as there could be intervening circumstances that would influence the direction of a transfer.

As the January transfer window draws close, Bookmakers Ladbrokes have placed Arsenal as the odds on favourite to sign Hull City defender Andy Robertson. The 20 year old left back has not spent half a season at the KC Staduim having arrived from North of the border in Scotland from Dundee United for a fee of £2.8 million.

Arsenal currently have adequate cover in the left back role in which Nacho Monreal and Kierab Gibbs are the players that have held sway in that position. However, the dearth of cover in defence as created a situation where Nacho Monreal has deputised at centre half in Arsenal’s last game against Hull City. It is not clear whether Arsene Wenger intend to bring in the Scotland international in order to move Nacho Monreal into central defence permanently.

The bookmakers have shown on several occasions that they could point the direction in which a player would end up, prior to Alexis Sanchez’s transfer to Arsenal, several bookmakers stopped taking bets on the Chilean’s transfer to Arsenal almost a month before he joined, which further indicates that their claims in respect of this particular transfer could have some steam to it, and there is also the small matter of Micheal Owen’s move to Manchester United in 2009, when there was no prior notice, yet the news first broke through the bookmakers before he was confirmed to be heading to Old Trafford.

While, some claims could be wide off the mark, a snippet of what Arsenal would do in respect of the January transfer window, has been revealed by this report.

According to the Daily Star, it would take as much as £10 million to prize the former Celtic youth player away from the KC Stadium. A fee that coincidentally falls into the reported £20 million transfer kitty available to Arsene Wenger to spend in the January transfer window.

Arsene Wenger has alluded to the fact that he would rectify the shortage of defenders in the January transfer window, and going by Ladbrokes revelations, they could have given a clue to where Andy Robertson would end up, but ultimately there could be other intervening factors that could alter what happens in respect of this particular transfer.

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Oct 222014
 

Arsenal seem to be losing the battle to sign German and Real Madrid midfielder Sami Khedira, this is after Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti dismissed the possibility of the 27 year old leaving the Santiago Bernabeu in January. This particular turn of events gives Chelsea an advantage over the pursuit of the midfielder, after reports emerged last week that Jose Mourinho’s side were in the frame to reach a pre contract agreement with the former Stuttgart midfielder.There were indications that Arsenal could have an head start in signing Sami Khedira with a possible £10 million mooted as a fee that would prize the 6ft 2in midfielder away from Madrid, but Carlo Ancelotti is of the view that the European Champions are still holding out on the chance that the player would sign a contract extension, even though he has previously rejected two offers from the Los Blancos hierarchy.

“We have until June to reach an agreement with him. If he wants to sign an extension, the club will renew him. If not, he will leave the team at the end of the season.” the Italian said

This sudden turn of events reduces Arsenal’s chances of signing him at the end of his contract, he is expected to command a huge wage being a free agent, and considering that Arsenal’s move for him in the summer did not materialize due partly to his wage demands, that is expected to rise further being a free agent which would put Arsenal at a disadvantage, and shifts the ball to Chelsea’s court as they would be in a better position to meet the player’s wage.

Chelsea’s link to Sami Khedira stem from Jose Mourinho’s time as Real Madrid manager as both parties still retain an existing relationship, which could well be rekindled if the player runs down his contract as expected.

Although the German World Cup winner has been in the news with various speculations linking him to Arsenal, he has not featured much this season as a result of a knee injury which required surgery. He was an unused substitute in Real Madrid’s 5-0 victory over Levante last weekend in La liga. Speaking of the player’s comeback from injury, Carlo Ancelotti said “Khedira has come back really well, he trained with the squad and he’s ready to play. Of course he’s not in optimal condition after missing the last 40 days, but he’s an important player for us.”

Sami Khedira’s future is looking every bit away from the Santiago Bernabeu, and though Carlo Ancelotti is still clinging to hope that he would sign the contract on offer, the possibility of that happening is slim at best particularly as he would be free to open talks with potential suitors in January ahead of a Bosman in the summer. While Chelsea seem favourite going by this recent development, the pendulum could still swing Arsenal’s way especially with the German contingent at the Emirates.

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