FM

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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Oct 222014
 

Manchester United’s £60m summer signing, Angel Di Maria seems to have compounded the injury woes of the Louis van Gaal led side, after pictures of him applying ice packs on his right thigh emanated. The former Real Madrid player made way for Ashley Young n the 76th minute of the 2-2 draw against West Bromwich Albion on Monday night. Now, the player would join Antonio Valencia, Patrick McNair, Johnny Evans and Jesse Lingard on the sidelines for Manchester United. This would represent a massive setback for Louis Van Gaal as Di Maria has become an important figure in Manchester United’s quest for resurgence and claiming the English premier League title. Di Maria only arrived Manchester United this summer and has established himself as a mercurial player for United already.

The picture showing Di Maria padding his right thigh with ice packs is so much indicative of a groin injury which may take a minimum of two weeks before it totally heals. Therefore the possibility of not having Angel Di Maria in the Manchester United team to face fierce rivals, Chelsea this weekend looms and Louis van Gaal should be worried about this situation. Di Maria who is in contention for the signing of the summer has had goals and assists in this season’s campaign and many Manchester United faithful would really depend on him to bring Manchester United back into reckoning domestically and in Europe. As official announcements have not been made about Di Maria’s injury, many United supporters would pray for speedy recovery and would hope to see the player line up against Chelsea next weekend for United. The 26-year-old winger has netted thrice for Manchester United in 6 appearances this season, but has also created 16 chances for his teammates. While other players like Ashley Young, Adnan Januzaj and Juan Mata are available for selection, none of them has been in impressive form lately.

Di Maria alongside Mesut Ozil and Cristiano Ronaldo formed very potent attacking force at Real Madrid and he scored a total of 22 goals in 124 appearances for the Spanish heavyweights, before moving to Manchester United in the summer. For Argentina, Di Maria has netted 16 times for the U-20, U-23 and the senior national team in 72 appearances all together. An important member of the Argentina squad that got to the finals of the 2014 FIFA World Cup held in Brazil, though he missed the final against Germany through injury. Before then, he had been a member of the 2008 set at the U-23 level that won the Beijing Olympic Gold Medal alongside Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano, who now play for Juventus and Barcelona respectively. Di Maria has been handed the mythical number 7 jersey at Manchester United, previously worn by former teammate at Real Madrid, Cristiano Ronaldo, David Beckham and Eric Cantona, which confirms how highly rated he is at Manchester United.

United drew 2-2 against West Bromwich Albion on Monday thanks to a late equalizer in the 87th minute from new signing Daley Blind. With that, Manchester United occupy the 6th  position on the EPL log with 12 points from 8 games, 10 points adrift the league leaders Chelsea, who the Louis Van Gaal side face next weekend. Di Maria’s presence in that game against Chelsea would hand not only an injury boost but also some psychological and morale boost for the Red Devils.

’Tayo Amosu.

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Oct 222014
 

Jose Mourinho has declared that Deigo Costa may be out of action till the middle of November due to a long standing injury.

Costa joined Chelsea during the summer from Atletico Madrid for a fee of about £32 million pounds. Costa had taken the premiership by storm in his first season, scoring goals at will. He has scored nine goals in seven matches leading Chelsea to the top of the table and is currently joint top scorer with Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero.

Mourinho has stated that Costa does little in training, due to the hamstring injury he has had for some time, for this reason Costa is been placed on a special training regime. This is why Chelsea have tried to manage Costa in order for Costa not to suffer a long term injury lay off.

It now seems the pressure and strain for playing for both club and country has been too much work load for Costa to bear and handle and has finally caught up with him, leading to his injury lay off, which made him miss the match over the weekend with Crystal Palace which Chelsea won 2-1.

Considering Chelsea are still in all competitions, challenging for titles and will have a lot of matches to play, Chelsea may have to consider going for another striker during the winter, January transfer market, especially if Costa’s injury worries continue.

Chelsea’s current striking options are the duo of Drogba and Loic Remy.

Drogba is not the same striker that first graced Stamford Bridge years back, a feared striker giving various defences a lot to think about and handle. Using his brute force and strength to bully defenders into submission and scoring great goals.

Drogba is not as deadly as he used to be, age has taken its toll on the Ivorian striker and injuries have slowed him down. For this reason Drogba has not featured much this season for Chelsea and may just play a bit part for Chelsea this season.

Loic Remy has proven himself in the premiership but is yet to find his feet at Chelsea and may need  a lot of time to settle at Chelsea.

If Chelsea do decide to bring a striker in January, who are the likely candidates. One name that has cropped up so far is Swansea’s striker Wilfried Bony. Bony has done well for Swansea since joining them from the Dutch league. Many had questioned whether he will make the cut in the Premiership; so far Bony has proven all doubters wrong as he has been superb for Swansea. Bony was initially bought to serve as a back up to the equally impressive Michu, but as time went on he began to play a more significant role and making the starting team regularly. Michu has gone to Napoli and Bony has now become the main man up front for Swansea.

Will Swansea be willing to sell their prized asset? They will be willing if the prize is right. Swansea’s asking price will not be out of the range of Chelsea; in fact Bony will be a lot cheaper than Chelsea’s former targets like Falcao and Cavani.

Bony will we be a good fit for Chelsea; He reminds one of fellow Ivorian Drogba as they are similar. Bony has a presence on the pitch as he is very physical and hard to get of the ball. He is also good in the air, and for a bulky man has a lot of pace and skills, and will be a good replacement for Costa when he is injured or the pair can both play together when both are fit and will form a formidable partnership.

 

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Oct 212014
 

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

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

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

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

“We do not think about that (the

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Kc Emmanuels

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Oct 212014
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Kc Emmanuels

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Oct 212014
 

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

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

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

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

’Tayo Amosu.

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Oct 212014
 

Fellaini Does Not Have A Future With Manchester United

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

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

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

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Oct 212014
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Oct 212014
 

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

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

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

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

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

’Tayo Amosu.

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Oct 212014
 

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

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

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

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

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

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Oct 212014
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Kc Emmanuels

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Oct 212014
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Oct 212014
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Oct 212014
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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