Nov 212014

In what seems like cruel twist of fate, Chelsea’s ever present shot stopper Petr Cech is on the verge of leaving the Blues after over 10 years of exemplary goalkeeping.

It seems like yesterday when the Italian Carlo Cudicini, one of the best goal keepers in the Premier league back then suffered the same fate when a 22 year old Cech first came to the club.

Now it seemed the tables have turned and the Czech international, suddenly finds himself an ‘old man’ fighting to maintain his relevance in the team.

The 34 year old has been graceful thus far, but has made clear his dissatisfaction with the current state of things, even though he admitted he would have loved to stay.

“Everyone is asking me what if and what will happen. As a player that has two years on his contract, I cannot make the choice. It’s simple. If the club says; you are staying here, then I’ll be staying. I can only leave if the club lets me go and that is not the case”

“I’m doing my best to change the situation. I want to play as often as possible and be prepared to be as good as possible for the fixtures in the New Year”- Petr Cech on Friday

It is however clear that the club needs to make a decision as the situation seems to have taken a twist with both Arsenal and Roma thought to be interested. Although the Blues are not naturally a selling club, it is their usual practice to sell any player they no longer have use for.

It is obvious that the London side is spoilt for choice with Thibaut Courtois, Petr Cech and Mark Schwarzer all being world class goal keepers. With the Blues currently dealing with a shortage of home grown players, going one foreign player less wouldn’t hurt them at all.

There are very few clubs in the world football that would lose a player like the Czech international and not experience a drop in quality and Chelsea is one of those clubs.

The Belgian Courtois is at least on the same level with the 34 year old with almost 10 years to get even better before he reaches the age that Cech currently is.

As far as back ups go, the Australian Schwarzer would be the best backup in the league as he is currently third on the overall clean sheet log, just behind Englishman David James and his Chelsea teammate Cech.

Current No 1 for the Blues Courtois seems to sympathize with his rival and admits that he too would be looking towards the exit door if the same situation had befallen to him;

“As a goalkeeper you want to play. If I was in that situation where I didn’t play a lot, then I would leave too” – Courtois

One thing that is however very clear, is that Chelsea seem not to have a lot to lose as they could sell the aged goalkeeper for millions and still retain the overall quality in the goalkeeping department.

Nov 212014

A fixture that used to be between title contenders in the past may have gone down to the level of a top four contest but this fixture still remains an important one in the English Premier League. Both teams have lost vital points so far this season and are not having the best of start to the Premier League. The fixture may have been marred by so many injury problems from both teams but it is expected to be an important win for whoever wins. Arsenal have beaten Manchester United once in the last 14 meetings and it is high time the Gunners step up and pick important points against the Red Devils if they are to make their top four finish intention concrete. Arsenal is priced at 23/20 to win the match. Manchester United however are yet to secure an away victory in the last 7 away English Premier League matches and this presents a good opportunity for the Red Devils for confidence boost.

The major talking point will be the possible featuring of Danny Welbeck against his former club, Manchester United. The English striker scored twice for England last weekend and will hope to prove Louis van Gaal wrong after the Dutchman sold him to Arsenal in the summer for £16 million. Arsenal manager will have to come up with a solution to their recent defensive loss of concentration after dropping points against Anderlecht and Swansea from winning positions. French duo of Laurent Koscielny and Mathieu Debuchy will be unavailable for Arsenal while Mikel Arteta and Olivier Giroud have been declared available by Arsene Wenger. The availability of these two players will be a big boost for the Gunners as they hope to have enough depth especially with Theo Walcott ruled out of the encounter after an injury set back. The late arrival of Alexis Sanchez from international duty may be a source of concern for Arsene Wenger but the Chilean is expected to feature as he looks to continue his brilliant run of form. Danny Welbeck who is priced at 7/5 to score at anytime or 5/1 to score the first goal is expected to face Manchester United despite having to wait for a late fitness test after suffering a hamstring injury on international duty with England.

Manchester United who are priced at 13/5 to win via on the other hand have to cope with the absence of Daley Blind who will have to wait for some time to know the extent of his injury. Louis van Gaal’s side already have a lot to cope with at the back prior to this fixture and things are not looking better as they are expected to field an unlikely and inexperienced defence against Arsenal tomorrow. David De Gea should be fit enough to play after recent scare about a dislocated finger. First choice right back, Rafael Da Silva, Phil Jones, Jonny Evans, Marcos Rojo are all unavailable for the Red Devils leaving the manager with no choice than to turn to U-21 defenders. Both Luke Shaw and Michael Carrick will have to wait for a late fitness test to confirm their availability for the crunch fixture while Radamel Falcao has been ruled out for a further two weeks. Chris Smalling will return from suspension and United fans will hope he will step up from his childish display last time out against Manchester City.

Despite injury concerns for both teams, it will be an interesting and open game which could go either way. Arsenal have found it difficult breaking down Manchester United in recent years. Although this presents the best opportunity for the Gunners but Manchester United improved display against Chelsea and Manchester City shows they still relish the big matches. New signings Alexis Sanchez and Angel Di Maria will however be expected to create the needed spark for their respective teams. With one point between both teams, it will definitely be a great contest.

Referee, Mike Dean will be in charge and he will be assisted by J. Collin and D England with M Jones the fourth official at the Emirates in English Premier League Saturday late kick off.

Nov 182014

The German international returned from a hugely successful World Cup campaign to which he was immensely instrumental.  Months later, the winger is now out of favor at Stamford Bridge due to a combination of illness and poor form.

After an especially disappointing performance against Shrewsbury town in the Capital one cup, Mourinho urged Schurrle to raise his game and the attacker had to make do with bit a part role in recent weeks. The World cup winner has made just four Premier League starts for the Blues this season and was forced to pull out of the current Germany squad after suffering another illness.

With the January window around the corner, speculation has begun in earnest about the Andre Schurrle’s destination.

It has been reported in sections of the English media that the versatile attacker was disillusioned with life at Stamford Bridge, although the general consensus seems to be that Jose Mourinho would prefer the former Bayern Leverkusen man to stay and fight for his place.

Rumors of a player plus swap deal for the exciting Marco Reus has been rampant with a lot of Chelsea fans generally excited by the idea. Schurrle is reported to have been offered as a replacement for Reus were he to come to Chelsea, with the London side also willing to include an additional 10million to the deal.

Speculation about the deal involving the two Germans seems to have cooled down. However, new transfer news out of Germany reports that Schurrle might be heading to German outfit Schalke 04. However the supposed link was short lived as the Bundesliga side has come out to deny the report;

“We’re not considering Andre Schurrle at all. We are comfortable with the players we currently have”- Roberto Di Matteo

The Italian manager is set to welcome his former side to the Veltins arena on November the 25th and it’s likely that his rumored target will get to see some time on the pitch.

The 24year old already has 2 goals this season, the first one against Leicester being a definite contender for goal of the season, and the second came against Manchester City after the attacker came in as a substitute, late in the game.

It is expected that the German winger will remain at Stamford Bridge till the end of the season. If his form does not improve by then, Schurrle who’s already on the fringes of the German national team would be looking to move to greener pastures in other see more playing time for his country.

Nov 182014

Manchester United midfielder faces up to 6 weeks out with a knee injury he sustained whilst representing the Netherlands on International duty. This injury is the latest in the series of injuries,  that seemingly has Manchester United players dropping like flies.

Blind went down injured after a challenge in 19th minute from Latvia’s Eduards Visanakovs. The 24 year old is the latest of 9 players currently out for the Red Devils. The January transfer window can’t seem to come fast enough for Van Gaal’s men, as they are badly in need of reinforcements.

Daley Blind’s knee injury has deepened Manchester United defensive crisis as they prepare for Saturday’s trip to Arsenal, with several key players confirmed already out of that clash.

“I’m proud of my 25 games for the Dutch National team, but I’m also gutted with my injury… I’ll stay positive and will come back stronger. Nevertheless a great win” Blind was quoted as saying.

With Arsenal and United desperately needing to win to keep pace with the table toppers Chelsea, the Manchester based club will find it exceptionally hard to beat a very good Arsenal side with such a depleted squad, as players such as David De Gea (dislocated finger), Phil Jones (shin splits), Johnny Evans (ankle), Rafael Da Silva (muscle problems), Michael Carrick (groin problem), Radamel Falcao (Calf Problem) are all expected to miss the titanic clash.

Blind who joined from Ajax for 13million pounds in the summer, has played in 8 matches for United this season and thus far has been largely impressive for the side.

The Dutchman’s injury is the most devastating for the old Trafford faithful as the 24 year old was handy during the defensive crisis. With the former Ajax man capable of playing a variety of positions including left back, Center back and defensive midfield.

Van Gaal will need the youngsters, Tyler Blackett and Patrick Mcnair to step up yet again at the Emirates.

With Manchester United in seventh place, they probably can not afford to play for a draw. Although It is noteworthy to point out that going for a win with two rookie center backs, may not be an entirely wise cause of action.

Asked before the international break whether his other defenders, who didn’t play the match against Crystal Palace would be back in time, the former Netherlands boss was not too optimistic.

“No I don’t think so because now some of them have not played for 5 to 6 weeks. They could not sit on the bench because they can only play 20 minutes but I can not put a lot of players on the bench, who are not 100 percent fit”- Van Gaal said.

For the Old Trafford hierarchy, the winter transfer window will present them with a chance to correct some of the mistakes made during the summer window, which saw Manchester United purchase a host of only attacking talent that included the likes of Radamel Falcao and Angel Di Maria.

All is not lost, as the purchase of a couple of defensively competent players will do a lot for their league position at the end of the League season.



Nov 172014

Arsenal face Manchester United in the next round of Premier League matches on the 22nd of November at the Emirates. Both sides would be coming into the match with contrasting fortunes after Arsenal suffered a disappointing 2-1defeat at Swansea, while Manchester United needed a goal from Juan Mata to see off an obdurate Crystal Palace side at Old Trafford. Arsene Wenger’s side has just four wins from eleven league matches, and has not beaten Manchester United at the Emirates since 2011.

Going into match, there remain several injury concerns from Arsenal. Laurent Koscielny remain out with an Achilles problem, Mathieu Debuchy is still making his way back from an ankle ligament injury. While Mesut Ozil is not expected back until the New Year with the knee ligament injury he picked up against Chelsea in early October.

The positive news coming into the match is that Oliver Giroud could make the squad for the match as he has returned to training from a fractured tibia; Mikel Arteta should have recovered in time to face Louis Van Gaal’s side

As a result, we are likely to see a line up of

Wojciech Szczesny, Calum Chamber, Per Mertesacker, Nacho Monreal, Kieran Gibbs, Mikel Arteta, Jack Wilshere, Oxlade Chamberlain, Santi Cazorla, Alexis Sanchez, Danny Welbeck.

The Substitutes bench could take this shape

Damian Martinez, Hector Bellerin, Mathieu Flamini, Aaron Ramsey, Lukas Podolski, Yaya Sanogo, Tomas Rosicky

Arsene Wenger has tweaked Arsenal’s formation for the last three Premier League matches, choosing instead to adopt a 4-4-2 formation, which has seen Alexis Sanchez deployed in a more central role behind Danny Welbeck. The work rate of both strikers make up for the shortage of players in midfield, but Arsene Wenger has tended to make up for that shortage by adopting a doubt pivot of Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini. However, Jack Wilshere was absent through injury and suspension before returning against Swansea, and he is expected to stage a comeback to the lineup alongside Mikel Arteta, who would be important in Arsenal’s ability to keep possession.

Arsenal’s league campaign have been largely stop start this season, when things were looking up following the first consecutive league victories of the season against Sunderland and Burnley respectively, they suffered a reverse against Swansea City after throwing away another lead with just a quarter of the match left.

As a result of the club’s indifferent form, there are cluster of clubs separated by just a point from 6th to 10th position. It means Arsenal cannot afford any more room for error in the coming league matches starting with the match with Manchester United.

The Emirates have become something of a fortress in the league, after going 24 league games undefeated, a record that dates back to the opening day of last season, although there have been more draws (3) than wins (2) at the Emirates this season in the league, the record is expected to be severely tested by a Manchester United side that boast some array of attacking players, and with Calum Chambers likely to be up against Angel Di Maria, it should be a tasty affair.

Nov 172014

There has been precious little good news for most Arsenal fans since the season started. While the club’s season has threatened to unravel before it even began, the injury situation at the club has also added to the lack of fluency that was the hallmark of previous Arsenal teams. However, some measure of good news has emerged out of the many injuries that have plagued the club.

The first has to do with Abou Diaby. The French midfielder has only featured just once this season, that is against Southampton in the Capital One Cup. At other times he made the bench against Aston Villa in the Premier League. Other than that, he has been out for most of this season with hip and thigh injuries respectively. With claims that his body suffers from reactions anytime he takes to the field as a result of his long spell out with injuries.

The issue got to a head a couple of days ago following reports that he was facing three months out with a hamstring injury. It was a claim that was quickly dismissed by the club. The fact that the club was quick to dismiss the media reports means he could be making his way back to fitness. The good news is wrapped in the fact that Abou Diaby is not facing another long time out injured.

Yet what constitutes good news in respect of the injuries that have plagued Abou Diaby for years would differ from what is good news to others. The Frenchman has endured a torrid time with injuries that few would ascribe just anything that is not injury related to him as good news.

Secondly, this particular one would split opinions as regards whether it is good news or not. The club’s former captain Thomas Vermaelen left for Barcelona in the summer. So far he has yet to feature for the Catalans since he was signed, having been continuously plagued by injuries. His last season with Arsenal was interspersed with injuries.

Now the good news here is that Arsenal’s sales of Vermaelen to Barcelona for a fee of £15 million was a good piece of business because of his injury record, and that if he had remained with Arsenal he would have been currently out injured just as he is presently sidelined with Barcelona.

The 28 year old has been liken to Jonathan Woodgate in some sections of the Spanish press. The former Middlebrough defender was injured throughout his stay with Real Madrid, as a result, the Catalan press has compared Thomas Vermaelen’s situation to that of Woodgate.

It is difficult to arrive at a conclusion whether Thomas Vermaelen’s current situation at Barcelona constitute good news to Arsenal in anyway. The gap created by the Belgian’s departure has not be filled, and the defence of the team has been repeatedly exposed as a result.

Another thing is whether he would have stayed fit during this period that Arsenal are short of defenders is only open to conjectures. That he is currently sidelined at Barcelona is pure coincidence and not a sense of good fortune to Arsenal in anyway or form.

Nov 172014

In what has been a prosperous 3 years for Atletico Madrid, the Spanish side have picked up trophies such as the La Liga, Europa league, Copa Del Rey and even managed to get to the Champions League final last season.

One of the protagonists in this success story has been the youngster Koke, who was a major contributor to the fairytale that has been Atletico Madrid in the past two seasons.

Success in this case has a major disadvantage, in that other clubs will probably begin to poach players that have contributed immensely to this success. With players like Courtois, Costa and Luis already gone, it seems like the Spanish side may have little chance of retaining its other grand jewels, of which Koke is the cream of the crop.

An academy product of the Madrid based club, Koke has risen through the ranks to the starting eleven with astonishing results. Although already dubbed the next Xavi, the Spaniard is more than just a deep lying playmaker capable of passing the ball. The youngster can also play in attacking midfield as well as on the left wing.

With the English Premiership moving towards a more skill based style of play, it hardly comes as a surprise that Giants of the English game, Chelsea and Manchester City have thrown their hats in the ring, signaling their intentions to acquire the Atletico Madrid man.

Manchester City currently have too much power in the likes of Yaya Toure and Fernandinho but little to no finesse, while Chelsea desperately need to bolster an already thin midfield,  that in the future could  virtually collapse with an injury to their talismanic Cesc Fabregas.

Koke has long since been linked with a move to the Premier League and the coming to light of the existence of a release clause to the tune of 48 million may make negotiations far more straight forward.

Atletico are facing testing financial times and the management of the heavily indebted club may be forced to raise funds by selling a big star during the upcoming transfer window, with Koke being their most valuable asset.

Both Chelsea and Manchester City are long admirers of the 22 year old midfielder and the stage seems set for an epic transfer tussle. One thing is clear, wherever this talented youngster goes, he will shine like a million stars.

Notwithstanding, the two English giants had better not get too comfortable, as reports emanating from Spain suggest that Catalan side Barcelona, have also joined the race to acquire the Atletico Madrid star.

Although the Spanish side were reportedly keen on bringing the Spanish international to the Nou camp, the opportunity to sign Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez could not be missed. However, with that transfer already wrapped up, the Luis Enrique coached side have set their eyes once more on Koke.

Barcelona’s attempt to Land the 22 year old in June was met by little encouragement from Atletico, and they promptly signed the player to a new deal that runs till 2019. One thing’s for sure, the highly rated youngster will not remain at Atletico beyond this summer.

Nov 152014

With the January transfer window approaching there are already hints that Arsenal would be looking to bring in at least one player in the winter. Arsenal’s need is firmly itched on the signing of a defender to help plug the holes in a leaky defence and the club could still move to sign a defensive midfielder.

However, there are indications that the outlook on Arsenal transfers in January would not be on arrivals, there is a possibility that Lukas Podolski could leave the club in the winter after he again complained at his lack of playing time, and he has hinted at a departure.

Joel Campbell is also in the same boat as the German forward, although the Costa Rican has not been as vocal as Podolski, he is one of those players that could get the chop in January, because he cannot even make the squad.

Czech Captain Tomas Rosicky also spoke about his future, but said a departure from the Emirates is not on the cards, which means he would not leave in January.

While the week that preceded the international break has been a bleak one for Arsenal, the transfer front portends a different picture, with reports that the club is still in pole position to sign Real Madrid midfielder Sami Khedira. The German midfielder is just weeks away from opening negotiations with interested clubs in January, and Arsene Wenger is expected to be in front of the queue to sound out the possibility of the 27 year old swapping The European Champions for the FA Cup holders.

Arsenal are still looking to launch a double swoop for Barcelona pair Pedro and Dani Alves. The former’s contract expires next summer, and he finds himself in the same situation as Khedira, where he too can commence discussion of a move in January. Pedro, would cost in the region of £24 million as his playing time in Nou Camp has been limited following Luis Suarez’s arrival in the summer. Although, Barcelona might decide to keep the full complements of its players in January because of a transfer ban placed on the club by FIFA.

Also, Ipswich defender Tyrone Mings is another player that has been linked to the club ahead of the January transfer window. The left back has the physique to play in a central role, reports claims he would cost in the region of £10 million. The 21 year old, who plays in the English Championship, has impressed Arsenal scouts and the club could press the button to activate a move for the player.

Ipswich are currently riding high in the English second tier, whether Mick McCarthy’s side would sanction a move for the young defender remains to be seen.

With several complaints from players about limited playing opportunities this season, Arsenal’s business in the January transfer window could involve a host of departures, besides the expected signings that Arsene Wenger would make, it is expected to be a busy transfer window for Arsenal, the last winter window was quiet, but from the way things have pan out, it is unlikely to follow the same path this time around.

Nov 142014

Arsenal are looking to replace want away German forward Lukas Podolski with Brazilian and Benfica attacking midfielder/striker Anderson Talisca. This is according to reports. The 20 year old has been in impressive form in the Premiera Liga in Portugal since his €4 million move from Brazilian side Bahia in the summer.

He has scored nine goals in all competitions for Jorge Jesus’ side since he was signed including eight goals in the league which leaves him at the top of the goal chart in Portugal.

As a result of his style of play, he has been compared to Yaya Toure, while others claimed he is more Rivaldo type of player than the Manchester City midfielder.

The player report claims he is set to replace, Lukas Podolski, has complained several times at his lack of playing time this season, the 30 year old German World Cup winner has been a bit part player since the season commenced. He had taken various turns this season to express his unhappiness at his lack of playing opportunity. He claimed earlier in the week that Arsene Wenger should be asked why he has not been playing regularly as he was getting frustrated at his situation at the club.

With his future set for review in January, after he asserted that he would reconsider his future at the time, Arsenal are now looking to replace a 30 year old with a player that is 10 years younger.

Anderson Talisca was recently called up to the Brazilian national team by Dunga after his impressive start to life in Europe. He was called up as a replacement for the injured Lucas Moura for the friendlies against Turkey and Austria.

With the repeated complains of Lukas Podolski in the last couple of weeks, Arsene Wenger is not expected to stand in his way if he pushes for a move away in January. The Frenchman has an antecedent of not blocking the transfer of players especially those itching to leave, and judging by how he threw in Yaya Sanogo against Swansea last weekend when Arsenal were searching for an equalizer, rather than Lukas Podolski, it seems he does not rate the latter highly, when he was more likely to score a goal in that situation than the rookie Yaya Sanogo.

Although he is the best finisher at the club, he seldom contributes to Arsenal’s overall game when he is involved, and now that he is already on the wrong side of thirty, his style of play is not expected to change anytime soon which means he could be nearing the end of his time in North London. Anderson Talisca would be an upgrade on the former Cologne forward, he is younger, and has more about his game than Lukas Podolski. Yet, this season is his first in Europe; the club might want to watch him closely to see how he develops further seeing that he is just 20 years old.

Nov 142014

According to reports, Arsene Wenger is prepared to meet the £24 million release clause in the contract of Sevilla and Polish defender midfielder Grzegortz Krychowiak.

Grzegortz Krychowiak has impressed since he moved to la liga in the summer. According to his statistics, he averages 3.6 tackles in every league game he has played so far, while his interceptions in the games played so far stands at 3.1 per game.

The 24 year old has been an impressive figure since he joined the La liga outfit in the summer for just €4 million. He was previously with French side Reims before he joined Unai Emery’s side this season.

The inadequate cover in Arsenal’s midfield as necessitated the need for an imposing figure in the club’s central midfield. The shortcomings of Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini have consistently being exposed since the season commenced. Although the former boast more ability than the latter judging by his ability to hold on to the ball, and his overall intelligence, his continuous fitness issues which has seen him suffer three different injuries this season means the club’s need an upgrade in that position.

At 6ft 1in Grzegortz Krychowiak has the height to add something dynamic to Arsenal’s midfield. And by the fact that he is second only to Javier Mascherano in statistics as the best tackler and inceptor in la liga, he could be a good signing.

Arsenal would have to do battle with Borussia Dortmund in the quest to sign the 24 year old. Jurgen Klopp’s side does not however boast the finances to pull off the transfer, which leaves Arsenal in pole position to sign the former Bordeaux and Nantes midfielder.

The 24 year old made his international debut in 2008, and he has over 20 caps for Poland. He has been part of a Poland team that has made an impressive start to the Euro 2016 qualifiers, including an historical win over Germany in October, the first by any Poland team.

Arsene Wenger’s priority for the January transfer window has taken on more significance, as the club’s travails is not restricted to a defence that has struggled without his best defender, but a midfield that has also struggled to give any semblance of protection to the defence this season.

The continuous link of Grzegortz Krychowiak could be a push from the club to address the weakness in midfield. While the focus is firmly on the defence, the fact that Grzegortz Krychowiak once played as a centre half during his time at Nantes, means he could do a job there for Arsenal if he is signed.

It is no coincidence that he has recently been linked to Arsenal, only last season he was playing in French ligue Un, and going by the fact that it is a league Arsene Wenger knows so well, he should know a thing or two about the 24 year old, coupled with the fact that Gilles Grimandi must have seen him several times.

It remains to seen whether Arsene Wenger would drop his age long reluctance to sign a defence midfielder when the January transfer window reopens. Wojciech Szczesny would want a national team colleague at the Emirates.

Nov 132014

Chelsea look way ahead of other clubs in the race to sign new Brazilian “whizkid” Anderson Talisca. Jose Mourinho have shown huge interest in the player over the summer while stating that the only thing stopping the 20-year-old prodigy from moving to England is a work permit.

It is believed Mourinho has made enquiries about the player from his former home-town club Bahia with a view of loaning him elsewhere in Europe where he would be able to get work permit.

Talisca however joined Benfica in a 4 million deal believed to be the highest the club have ever received for the sale of any of their players. Talisca has started life brightly in Europe and has been in sensational form for Benfica. He has scored 9 goals from 14 appearances for the club in all competitions.

Often compared to Yaya Toure because of his physique and techniques but many believe he is more of the Brazilian icon Rivaldo. Talisca is an attacking midfielder who can play from the middle or either side of the flanks. His built, strength and keen eye for goal means he can also operate as a striker.

The player has received much praise and admiration from the special one and is believed to be highly rated by him. Chelsea could be making a move for the forward especially now that he has been called up to the Brazilian national team, meaning his work permit issue could well be a thing of the past soon.

Chelsea will be hoping to use Mourinho’s influence and advantage to get the 20-year-old as it is believed that the Portuguese was among the first to show interest in the player even while he was at Bahia.

Benfica would however pose a little challenge as they wouldn’t want to lose another of their star player that easily. It is yet to be seen how they will able to fight interest off the player as the player himself will fancy a move to top European league and Chelsea could be his preferred choice.

The player himself has spoken in glowing terms of Jose Mourinho after acknowledging the comment Mourinho made about him.

The 20-year-old would soon be the target of top European clubs especially with his impressive goal scoring form at Benfica which have seen him earn a senior national call-up from Brazilian coach Dunga. But Mourinho’s long term interest and connection to the player would prove very valuable for Chelsea in beating off competitions to sign the youngster.

Chelsea and Benfica have done good business in recent past in terms of player signing. The likes of Ramires, and now PSG defender David Luis were all signed from Benfica. Nemanja Matic also moved from Chelsea to Benfica before he was resigned by Jose Mourinho in January.

Talisca could well be another Benfica and Brazilian player to join Chelsea as the English club is set to launch a bid for the youngster come the summer transfer window.

Nov 132014

Louis van Gaal is a man who does not condone mediocrity, and even at the clubs where he had worked before his switch to Old Trafford, he had perfected a philosophy of having the best and brushing up the upcoming ones. On his arrival at his new job post, things were in utter disarray. The club had recently finished in an agonizing 7th place on the league table. The fans were anxious and the management confused, but the guys who were saddled with the duty of hiring the next manager moved in the right direction when they closed in on the Dutchman. At the time when he agreed to the switch, he was still in charge of the Dutch national team but that didn’t matter as he had his scouts and assistants at Manchester making the preparations for the new season.

He made no mistakes with his signings at least for a club that couldn’t offer Champions League football, hiring Angel Di Maria, Ander Herrera, Marcos Rojo and Daley Blind wasn’t too bad. Louis van Gaal also made some trimmings of the squad he met particularly in the striking position. He was quick to assess and conclude on Danny Welbeck who has since joined Arsenal, but he seemed to have rated Javier Hernandez quite higher than the Englishman as he only sanctioned a loan deal to Madrid to still keep the Mexican under his watch. To bolster his striking option, the manager then paid £6m to conclude a season long loan deal with French outfit AS Monaco for Radamel Falcao’s services, and then he relaxed hoping for an explosive season.

Unfortunately, things haven’t been going as expected, and this is not that his new signings are not up to standard but the fact that most of his squad members have been battling with various injury scares. Falcao in particular has come under heavy criticisms for been unavailable for most of the crunchy ties that the club has played this season and many pundits seem to believe that the manager had let Welbeck and Hernández leave too soon. The Colombian striker is yet to play a complete game for his new club and although he has shown the hunger and poise that the team actually needs at the moment, his ephemeral form has been hampering his chances.

It would be understandable if it was any other of the summer arrivals since they are already in for a long haul but for Falcao who is hoping to get a permanent deal, a goal from 5 cameo appearances isn’t going to cut him a £80m (wages inclusive) deal. in some quarters, it is widely reported that the Colombian is still suffering from the knee injury that side-line him for most part of the last season and subsequently the World Cup but the has rebuffed such claims while declaring himself fit for action, his father has also stated that his son has been recovering quite steadily and has been having private training sessions but the fans are growing impatient. They need results not some fitness statistics on paper. If ‘El Tigre’ wants a new deal, he needs to step it up soon especially now that Robin van Persie’s frustrating displays is wearing the club down.

Nov 132014

Arsene Wenger has on several occasions mentioned the players he missed out on signing since he became Arsenal manager. While the pick of the bunch has been Cristiano Ronaldo, who came so close to joining Arsenal that he was even at London Colney before he joined Manchester United in 2003.

In spite of this, few know about the other players that came so close to joining Arsenal in the past.

Cesc Fabregas move to Arsenal in 2003 as a 16 year old could have been better if other players who became high profile players had followed suit. This is according to Spanish football expert Guillem Balague.

According to him through a revelation from his new book titled “Messi” he revealed that Arsenal had a deal in place to sign Lionel Messi and Gerard Pique, which would have seen both players arrive North London along with Cesc Fabregas.

The Catalan midfielder went on to have a stellar eight years with Arsenal, which culminated in him being appointed the club’s second youngest captain after Tony Adams. He eventually rejoined Barcelona in 2011 after Arsenal failed to build a title winning side with the Spaniard as the leader.

However, Guillem Balague revealed how it could have been better for Arsenal if the other duo had joined Fabregas to move to Arsenal.

He started with a scouting trip undertaken by Arsene Wenger’s Spanish scout Francis Cagigao. He was said to have been aware of Fabregas, Pique and Messi as far back as 2002. Having attended a youth tournament in which the trio was involved for a Barcelona Cadet side.

According to the reports, the Arsenal scout searched for Messi’s agent Horacio Gaggioli with a view to offering the player the chance to fasten his path to first team football at Arsenal, something he was not going to get at Barcelona at the time.

Part of Guillem Balague’s book dealing with Arsenal’s scout discussion with Messi read thus:

“That night Francis had dinner with the agent and expressed an interest in Messi, and interest that culminated in an offer being passed to the boy’s father Jorge.”

“From that moment the lines of communication between Arsenal and the Messi’s were open, Cesc and Pique were also target.

He added further

“Cagigaon(Arsenal’s scout) was one of the few, indeed, probably the only, European scouts at these tournaments, so the offer from Arsenal was Leo’s first from a foreign club since he had Barcelona.”

The deal did not materialise though, the issue of work permit and the fact that there was no guarantee that the family would be offered a flat put paid to any deal.

The revelation also extends to what could have been a triple swoop for three of Barcelona’s players. Gerard Pique was also revealed to have agreed a deal with Arsenal according to Guillem Balague, but the defender’s agent was said to have put a death knell on the deal, he was not prepared to wait for his client to turn 16 before the deal could be announced. The deal was said to have been cancelled, while the young Pique joined Manchester United instead.

The revelations are startling if they are actually true. There have been reports in the past that Cesc Fabregas was not the only La Masia Academy product that Arsenal wanted to sign in 2003. Lionel Messi has been mentioned on several occasions, but a work permit issue was what contributed to why a deal did not happen.

Those where the years when Arsenal was ahead of other clubs in scouting missions, in recent times, the scouting of club has left much to be desired. As the quality of players signed via scouting has declined, and Arsene Wenger’s mention in the AGM that he could not find a defender was an indictment on the scouting of the club.

Nov 122014

According to reports from the Express, Manchester United have resolved to cut their losses on one of their midfielders, Juan Mata. It was erstwhile manager, David Moyes who sanctioned the deal to bring him over to Old Trafford from Chelsea, but it appears that the new man in charge is not really sure of what the future holds for the Spaniard and may open the doors for him as soon as January. In an attempt to describe Louis van Gaal’s desperation to offload the midfielder who has been relegated to few cameo appearances at the club this term, the same source further reveals that, the Dutchman will welcome bids around the £20m mark (a whooping £17.1m loss).

Despite coming on as a second-half substitute and getting the winning goal against Crystal Palace last weekend, Mata is still unable to convince his boss that he has a role to play in the current scheme of things. Unlike Kagawa who didn’t get enough time to show the manager what he was capable of, Mata had completed three 90-minute matches for the Red Devils this season alone but the former Chelsea man is currently facing similar issues that he faced under Jose Mourinho only 10-months back.

Mata’s lack of physical presence and defensive abilities dropped him of the list of the Chelsea manager’s favourite players despite the fact that he won the Chelsea player of the year award for 2 consecutive sea sons. After several talks with between Mourinho and Mata about his style of play, the manager bared his frustration by omitting his name of the squad list in the first half of several of the matches during the 2013/14 campaign and eventually sold him off to Manchester United.

At the time when he arrived at Old Trafford, David Moyes was under serious pressure for his presumed lack of activity in that year’s summer. The Scot had only signed Marouanefellaini from his former club and many fans believed that he lacked the pedigree to lure class-acts players over to the club. To right this wrong, Moyes jumped at the opportunity to sign Mata and in fairness to the Spaniard, he actually hit the ground running and even now that he is not getting adequate game time, Juan Mata has still managed 9 goals from 24 appearances. Another awesome thing about him is that his goals come exactly at the point when it matters most for the Red Devils, for instance, the recent one against Crystal Palace.

If Louis van Gaal actually shows Mata the door by January, he will still attract a couple of big-wigs amongst which is one of his former employers, Valencia, and the current Li Liga champions, Atletico Madrid. But even with the confidence that he will get equally good employers out there, the midfielder is determined to fight for his place. However, there is only little to what he can do especially as the manager has stated explicitly that team captain, Wayne Rooney is his first choice attacking midfielder. Unfortunately, Juan Mata is not dynamic enough to fit in elsewhere and if he will remain at the club, then he really needs to step it up.

Nov 122014

Jose Mourinho is said to have risked Cesc Fabregas and Ramires in the Liverpool game as both players were not fully fit to prosecute the game.

The gamble though, paid off in terms of result as Chelsea ran away 2-1winner over Brendan Rodgers’ side on Sunday but backfired on the injury front as Cesc Fabregas was said to have picked up a thigh injury which could rule him out for up to three weeks.

The Spanaid is a potential doubt for his country’s game against Belarus and Germany in the coming weeks though his withdrawal won’t be official until he is access by the national team medics and medical reports from Chelsea also verified.

Fabregas has been in sensational form for Chelsea since making his move to the club in the summer. His display against Liverpool is typical of what he has always been for the club this season- comfortable on the ball, linking the defence with the more attacking players further up the pitch, passing the ball around nicely hence retaining possession, creating goals scoring chances for team mates and scoring as well.

He has brought about a kind of stability and calmness to the Chelsea midfield and his understanding and partnership with Nemanja Matic in central midfield has been phenomenal. He has featured in all of Chelsea’s 11 games in the league so far scoring once and raking up an incredible nine assists.

Jose Mourinho speaking about the injury after the match also heaped praise on both players whom he believed put themselves on the line for the club.

“Every player was fantastic and some were absolutely brilliant but Ramires and Fabregas both played injured. Mourinho said.

“Fabregas has a hamstring injury, Ramires is the same thing (groin) as before but he knew for my plan it was important for him to start the game.

“Fabregas is fantastic professional and he gambled and I gambled. He can join up with Spain but if he does he will be back”.

Febragas joined the list of Chelsea players who will not be representing their country in the upcoming international break after Diego Costa was Ommitted from Vincente Del Bosque side and Andre Schurrle pulled out of his German national squad because of illness.

If the three week speculated is true, then Fabregas could be set to miss Chelsea’s league game at home to West Bromwich Albion as well as the Champions league game against Schalke 04 in Germany and the trip to the stadium of light to face Sunderland.

The 27-year-old former Arsenal captain has had a huge impact in Chelsea’s game this season and there is no doubt his commanding presence will be missed if he stays out those games.

Chelsea will hope to be able to get results in his absence and expects he makes a quick return to the team. Fabregas joined Chelsea from FC Barcelona of Spain in a deal worth around 27million in the summer after Ansenal manager Arsene Wenger failed to activate the buy-back clause Arsenal had on his contract when he moved to Barcelona.

Fabregas couldn’t cement a permanent role in the Barce side and was often played out of position. His move to Chelsea came as a surprise to everyone as it was Arsenal everybody thought he would have moved to if he was to make a return to the Premier League.

He is however enjoying his new club under the special one and he has looked like the player we know him for when he was in Arsenal.

Nov 122014

Manchester United have been struggling for most of the games that they have played this season but even with the frustrating display, they are still on the 6th position, just about 3 points away from the elite top four. Their defenders have been going in and out of various injury spells and at the moment, only Chris Smalling is available for deployment for their next match. So it begs the question, how have the team managed to not only survive, but achieve the level that they are currently.

Firstly, the manager had been gambling his job on a couple of youngsters, some of whom he actually handed debuts to. In some matches, the gambling paid off but on other occasions, it had been very terrible. Some of the frustrating outings were the opening day loss to Swansea and also the devastating 5-3 loss to Leicester City. But if accolades were to be giving to the players for their admirable fighting spirit, then David de Gea needs to get a double. If it wasn’t for the Spaniard’s brilliance, the Red Devils might have suffered a worse fate that will in fact, make erstwhile manager, David Moyes appear like an angel.

Despite De Gea’s form, Louis van Gaal appears to be quite keen on hiring the services of another Spanish stopper and has now rested his gaze on former Barcelona stopper Victor Valdes. Valdes enjoyed a successful spell with the Catalan giants and won every major laurel that was up for grabs but is now set to set up shop elsewhere. Lines appear to be falling in beautiful places for Valdesas he has been spotted severally while training at the Aon training complex although the manager was quick to quell the rumours that he was trying to hire the keeper. Louis van Gaal explained that Valdes isn’t the first player he is giving such opportunity to and went ahead to list a considerablenumber of players who at some point were beneficiaries of his generosity. One of such players is Robin van Persie, who was afforded such opportunity with the Dutch national team while van Gaal was in charge.

Despite van Gaal’s claims that Valdez is only at the club to attain full fitness to enable the Spaniard get suitable employers, the stopper was seen at Old Trafford on Sunday with the other squad members who didn’t make the team list against Crystal Palace. Speculations have intensified especially as the goalie seems to enjoy signing autographs for the droves of eager fans that keep trooping out to meet him.

At 32-years, the stopper still has some quality in him and perhaps the efforts of the physios at Old Trafford appeared to have paid off considering the tweet that Valdes put up on his twitter page, his tweet read: ‘Great training session Today. Almost Ready, Thanks for your supportive messages through these months. They have helped me a lot.’

Now that Valdes is fit, the club might offer him a one year deal but then he will be facing in David De Gea, an uphill task.

Nov 112014

Liverpool are keen to bounce back from their woes by January, so as they are shopping for quality players, several goalkeeper targets are also coming under their radar every day after series of uninspiring outings by their current goalie Simon Mignolet. One of such targets is Asmir Begovic who currently plies his trade with Stoke City. Fortunately for the Reds, their target could be available for just £10m as he currently has about 20 months left on his contract.

During the club’s busy summer, manager, Brendan Rodgers attempted to lure Begovic away from the Britannia stadium but his 15 million pounds price tag was what made him steer towards a cheaper option in Sunderland’s Simon Mignolet who has now turned out to be bad buy. In a brief comparison of the two keepers, both have managed only 2 clean sheets so far this season although Begovic has made fewer saves and also conceded three goals lesser than his Anfield colleague.

Over the past few months, Brendan Rodgers has been linked with several keepers and the rumours actually intensified during the summer. With the arrival of Mignolet at the club, many fans believed that at least in the short term, their problems between the sticks would be solved but unfortunately, things haven’t been panning out as planned as the Belgian save hands appears to be out of place at the Merseyside.

Asmir Begovic has an overwhelming 100% claim success so far this term and it is really not surprising as he has almost a decade of experience in the English Premier League and as such appears much more confident than the man at Anfield.

Neville Southall who at some point served as a goal keeper for Liverpool’s city rivals Everton had bared his mind about Mignolet when he maintained that the goalie will never match up at Anfield and in Southall’s words ‘he is not Liverpool standard goalie’

To be fair on Mignolet, he had an awesome debut for the Reds and in fact saved a spot kick against Stoke City in last season’s opening day and although he has been struggling since then, he still churned out a couple of brilliant albeit occasional performances. Unfortunately, his form has now taken a nosedive at a point when Brendan Rodgers cannot afford backlogs. Recently, the Liverpool first choice has come under heavy criticisms for his decision making.

The manager is already under a lot of pressure with the poor overall performance of the entire team and cannot ignore the fact that he cannot manage a team where the attack has suddenly gone cold and the keeper isn’t reliable. By January, Rodgers will go all out and get Begovic who will be 5 million pounds cheaper by then according to reports. Although, the bulk of the blame cannot be laid on Mignolet because it wasn’t only Southall who raised the red flag about his ability but the Anfield boss ignored. While fielding questions from the Liverpool Echo, the former Everton goalie explicitly stated: ‘All I can say about Simon Mignolet is he’s definitely in my Top 20 of Premier League goalkeepers.’  And trust me, you couldn’t get a warning more directly coined than that.

Nov 112014

The defensive woes Arsenal have faced this season has elicited some comments from several quarters, and previous players who played under Arsene Wenger have been amongst the most vocal to voice their concerns as well as adduce reasons why things have unravelled defensively since the season commenced.

Arsenal’s former striker and previous record goal scorer Ian Wright has pointed out that the club’s defensive struggles is linked to the refusal of Arsene Wenger to give a freer hand to his assistant Steve Bould. He claimed as much during a BBC 606 Phone in programme. He was asked why Steve Bould’s effect was not been felt in the defensive set up of the team despite his past as an uncompromising defender. The fingers he says points to Arsene Wenger.

“What is worrying is that Steve Bould is there and these mistakes are happening.

“I know there are players Steve Bould has recommended to Arsenal that they’ve not taken. That needs to change.”

With the way things have gone this season particularly defensively for Arsenal, it makes you wonder what kind of advice Steve Bould gave that was not taken, this is assuming Ian Wright is speaking from a position of knowledge, yet going by his past affiliation with the club he wouldn’t have been speaking to cause mischief, but rather to get things across by making it clear.

When Steve Bould took over from Pat Rice in the summer of 2012, there were positives, even though not initially, but the defensive improvement was all too common for all to see last season when Arsenal could defend a lead without any fret that they were going to concede. The team was organised, and the hand of the assistant manager was also apparent from the way the team took corner kicks last season, there was a clear plan to it, with Per Mertesacker stationed at the front post while he flicks the corner to the back stick for a tap in where possible.

There was a clear plan from the way Arsenal defended, and the way they were organised. Even if that did not prevent some heavy defeats last season, yet there was an overall improvement acknowledged by many observers.

However, the defensive woes of the team this season bear the hallmark of past Arsene Wenger teams that have lacked any measure of organisation.

Conversely, looking at the contributions or better still the non contributions of Steve Bould, could the present personnel in defence has something to do with the present disorganization? Steve Bould had Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny throughout last season to work with, both on shape and technique, plus there was Bacary Sagna, meaning there was a stable back four to work with.

Fast forward to this season, the absence of Laurent Koscielny and Mathieu Debuchy means there have not been a stable partnership in the back four, and the situation has not been aided by the square peg in a round hole that is Nacho Monreal in central defence alongside Per Mertesacker.

The issue lies in both a dearth of quality defensive cover, coupled with the fact that Steve Bould role in organising the defence may have been reduced. Only time would tell whether there would be any improvement on that front in the coming games.