Week 8 Premier League Review in Numbers

Week 8 Premier League Review in Numbers

Written by Adrian Addai

 

Games after the international break usually seem to throw up bizarre results and this week was no different with some shocks at the top and bottom of the table. Here are some of the stats you may have missed from this weeks results.

0- Unfortunately that is the number of away games Arsenal have won this season. They are going have to start picking up points on the road if they have any desires of getting back into that top four. With trips to Goodison Park and the Etihad on the horizon it will not be getting any easier for Arsene and his side.

1- Tottenham, recorded their first win at Wembley in the Premier League with Erikson providing a cool finish to give Spurs all three points against Bournemouth. They will be hoping to keep up the momentum at Wembley when Liverpool are the visitors next weekend.

2- The number of goals Manchester United have conceded in the opening eight league games, currently sitting with the best defensive record in the league having kept 7 clean sheets. Although they have owe much to David De Gea and his speedy reactions for keeping a clean sheet at Anfield which was otherwise quite a drab draw.

 

 

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Only one player has scored past De Gea this season (Choupo-Moting with a double for Stoke)

 

3 – Crystal Palace collected their first three points of the campaign being the last team in all of the English Football League to record a league win. To do it against the champions is just as impressive and with Zaha in the form he’s showing surely Hodgson will be a little bit more enthusiastic about their chances of survival.

4- Watford leapfrogged Arsenal into fourth position after a well fought victory over the Gunners this weekend. Marco Silvas boys are going from strength to strength and sit above Chelsea,Liverpool and Arsenal in the table as it stands. They bullied Arsenal in that last period of the game and Troy Deeney showed he still has plenty still to offer playing a major part in both the goals.

5- The number of assists Kevin De Bruyne has now registered in the Premier League this season, second only to David Silva in that race. Some of the range of passes he displayed against Stoke were nothing short of breathtaking. what is more remarkable since his debut for Manchester City he has contributed 32 assists which in that time is better than any current player in the league.

 

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De Bruyne has been in scintillating form so far this season registering 5 assists.

6- Bournemouth have now lost 6 of their first 8 league games and lie 19th in the league, only Crystal Palace have lost more in the league this season. This should serve as a warning sign to Eddie Howe who needs to get back to winning ways or else they might find themselves drifting further from the teams above them.

 

Written by Adrian Addai

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Top Candidates to Win the Barclays Premier League Golden Boot.

Top Candidates to Win the Barclays Premier League Golden Boot.

After 7 games of the return of the Barclays Premier League, its fair to say, we fans have not been disappointed. The Premier League table is already showing us a minor glimpse of how it could shape up come April and May. Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City are fairly running away with it, but there’s still a long way to go yet. Although, that hasn’t stopped some pundits and fans debating who could win the Barclays Premier League come May, with the names of both Manchester clubs ringing on a most fans lips.

But the debate for the Premier League title isn’t the only most talked about topic of the Premier League so far, but rather who could end winning the Golden Boot come May. With three players on six goals, the race for the Premier League’s golden boot looks set to be hotly contested. Blessed with an abundance of top quality strikers and here we list the top contenders for the Golden Boot Crown:

Harry Kane, (Tottenham Hotspur)

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What a September Harry Kane has had.

August proved again a bad month for Kane but it did not take him long to start scoring within the first few days of September, and has followed that up with 11 goals for club and country – 7 in the Premier League so far, and five in the Champions League after his hat-trick against Apoel Nicosia on Tuesday. Add to that, another two goals on international duty for England. 38 goals in total in 2017? Kane is in remarkable goal scoring form.

The previous winner of the Golden Boot for the past two seasons, we can’t put it past him to famously win the prize three times in a row. Let’s be honest, Harry Kane has everything you’d want from your modern day goalscorer. Brilliant build-up play, first touch, pace, power and a wonderful strike on him, you could bet your mortgage on him putting the ball in the back of the net 3 or 4 times out of five opportunities.

Can we describe Harry Kane as world class? That’s the debate we’d have to leave open for a while, but it won’t be given a definitive answer until Tottenham can improve on their success over the past two seasons especially progress in the Champions League. Can he lead Tottenham to glory this season? We’ll find out.

Sergio Aguero, (Manchester City)

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Is there any limits to Sergio Aguero’s abilities? In my own personal view, I feel he is the best finisher in the Premier League, been a huge fan of his ever since he joined the blue half of Manchester.

He is Manchester City’s all time top Premier League goalscorer with 128 goals, and is only one (176) behind City’s all time record goalscorer Eric Brook who graced the club between 1927-1940 with. Sergio Aguero is one course to reach this magnificent feat, and he damn well deserves the mantle.

One of the greatest marksmen the Premier League has ever seen. At the rate City are going in the Premier League this season so far, Aguero would certainly be one of the leading contenders battling for the Golden boot prize come the end of the season.

His recent car accident in Amsterdam is surely a blow to himself and for Manchester City in particular, an incident that could potentially rule him out for a couple months but you can’t bet against Aguero coming back firing on all cylinders.

Romelu Lukaku, (Manchester United)

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Have a read of this “little” stat, Romelu Lukaku is eight goals shy of reaching 100 Premier League goals at the age of 24. Remarkable, for a player still with a lot to learn and working under one of the greatest managers ever to grace the game, it is a tad scary that Romelu Lukaku still has a lot to offer.

Finally been graced with club of his dreams and playing amongst the biggest stage in World Football in the UEFA Champions League, Lukaku is at the right age and the right club under the right manager to engross himself amongst the best players in the world. He has taken to his new challenge like a duck to water with 10 goals in as many games, just goes to show the quality the Belgium international has. Pace, power, aerial ability, movement, and great finishing.

Lukaku isn’t the finished article yet, but that’s a good thing. There is still a lot more to come from him. He could well fire United to the Premier League title this season. We wouldn’t put it past him. A shoe-in to finally break his duck and win his first ever golden boot prize in which he finished second to Harry Kane last season.

Alvaro Morata, (Chelsea)

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Any thoughts of Alvaro Morata being too soft, or too polite for the Barclays Premier League was certainly thrown out of the window in Chelsea’s thrashing against Stoke at the Bet365 stadium. The Spaniard was merciless, ruthless and predatory as he notched his first hat-trick in English football. Followed by a lovely finish in the famous Champions League win over Atletico Madrid.

This is a player with unerring abilities, no wonder Zinedine Zidane was distraught at letting him go from Real Madrid. But, Morata had to make the move for the betterment of his career, and he has started life at Stamford Bridge with a bang. Diego Costa who?

Antonio Conte has asked Morata to be more like Costa in his aggressive streak, and that advice is on its way to being answered. The reason Morata will thrive at the bridge is his relationship with Conte and the fact that he is the main man. He had Cristiano Ronaldo, Bale and Benzema to contend with at the Bernabeu, but now under Conte’s tutelage, Morata has the chance to shine.

Alexandre Lacazette, (Arsenal)

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Two goals in Arsenal’s win against West Brom further solidified Alexandre Lacazette’s status as Arsene Wenger’s expected main goal threat for this season and years to come. This is a striker that has been amongst the leading scorers in Europe’s top 5 divisions over the past few years. His prolificacy at Lyon has not gone unnoticed, and was the reason why Wenger finally broke the bank to get his man.

4 goals in 7 Premier League games for Arsenal already, has placed Lacazette amongst the leading contenders for the golden boot even if we are already two months into the Premier League campaign. Most of Arsenal’s success this season will be based on the form of their new man and Alexis Sanchez, and if Lacazette prolong this form for most of the season, Arsenal could finally have a stable Premier League challenge on their hands. No doubt about it, the Frenchman will be there or thereabouts come May fighting for that Premier League golden boot prize.

Jamie Vardy, (Leicester City)

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It’s simple. Play to Jamie Vardy’s strengths and he will flourish. After an outstanding season in which Leicester famously claimed the Premier League title, Vardy was at the centre of everything good at the King Power. His second season under Claudio Ranieri didn’t go as planned, but that was down to a lack of confidence and the fact that the whole dressing room stopped playing for the Italian but as soon as Craig Shakespeare stepped in, Vardy has been back to his best.

That’s to down to two reasons, he’s regained his confidence and most of Shakespeare’s play revolves around the evergreen hitman. One thing is for sure, Jamie Vardy is back to his best with 5 goals in 6 games so far. Yes, Leicester won’t be fighting for the Premier League crown again or for even a top 6 place but that won’t stop Jamie Vardy wreaking havoc for the Golden Boot crown.

Gabriel Jesus, (Manchester City)

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What a player. From the moment he made his debut last season, you knew this guy was going to be a star, and he’s playing under the right manager to achieve his ambitions. Jesus is bound to get a handful of goals this season and that’s simply down to his relationship with Sergio Aguero and the abundance of attacking talent around him; Kevin De Bruyne, David Silva, Bernardo Silva and Leroy Sane to name a few names. Frightening.

His goalscoring exploits in his short time at Manchester City is nothing short of brilliant with 12 goals in 18 appearance in all competitions. Jesus has taken on the new challenge at City with consummate ease.

The future of Brazilian football alongside Neymar.

Alexis Sanchez, (Arsenal)

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We already know about the sheer quality of Alexis Sanchez, but after his failed move away from the Emirates, the question we as neutrals need to ask is can Alexis get back to the form that made him so formidable last season with 30 goals.

Wenger has a huge job on his hands trying to get Alexis back to his best, but the Chilean does have to honour his contract and if Arsenal have any chance of mounting a serious assault on the Premier league title then Alexis will be key to their hopes.

For all we know, this could be Alexis Sanchez’ last season at the Emirates.

 

 

Kevin De Bruyne: The Belgian Architect Central to Pep Guardiola’s City Project.

Kevin De Bruyne: The Belgian Architect Central to Pep Guardiola’s City Project.

Wednesday night saw Manchester City kick off their Champions League group stage campaign with a resounding and comfortable 4-0 victory over Dutch champions Feyenoord at the De Kuip stadium. Two John Stones goals either side of Aguero and Gabriel Jesus strikes saw City record their biggest away victory in their Champions League history.

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John Stones celebrates his second against Feyenoord.

After their 5-0 thumping of Liverpool at the Etihad last weekend, it seems as though Pep Guardiola has got his side playing the way he wants them. Free-flowing, silky, attractive football, the kind reminiscent of his Barcelona glory days and they certainly showed in these two victories.

Now in his second season in England, it will take some time before City reach the levels of the beautiful football Barcelona between 2009 – 2012, the year of dominance under Guardiola. However, days such as Wednesday’s Champions League thumping and the victory over Liverpool can only help the idea that City are heading in the right direction under Guardiola’s guidance.

The Spanish coaches ideologies and philosophies inherited from the cathedral of his one time mentor and footballing great Johan Cruyff, a legend who founded the idea of ‘Total Football’, a model Guardiola has been following all his managerial footballing life.

What Guardiola is trying to build at City is that ‘Total Football’ aura and brand, where players such as the attacking outlets are given the freedom to express. These aren’t just any players, but individuals blessed with great technical skill, an eye for goal, the eye for the beautiful pass and above all, a total understanding of the game. David Silva, Bernardo Silva, Yaya Toure, Sergio Aguero, Gabriel Jesus, Fernandinho, Benjamin Mendy to name a fair few, but one man central to Guardiola’s ideology and plans, one man who just about completes the puzzle, the Belgian architect Kevin De Bruyne – Guardiola’s on-field lieutenant.

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Kevin De Bruyne put in a masterclass performance in the 5-0 thumping of Liverpool at the Etihad.

Guardiola was used as the same outlet for Cruyff in his playing days, just as Xavi and Andres Iniesta were for him at Barcelona, and also the evergreen Philip Lahm at Bayern Munich. De Bruyne is currently engrossed with the same responsibility as those footballing greats, whether he can reach those same heights is certainly up to him but he is going the right way about it with these kind of performances. He was the shining light in an otherwise disappointing but progressive campaign last season for Pep Guardiola and his City side.

In his post-match interview after the Liverpool game, while collecting his Man-of-the-Match award, the Belgian was talking about needing to “play smart” , “find gaps” and exploit Liverpool’s highline. You could tell, Guardiola has had an impact on the Belgian, the sort of impact where De Bruyne is Guardiola’s brains on field. The Spaniard progressively puppeteering De Bruyne to do as he desires on the football pitch.

The match at the Etihad being marred by the incident between Sadio Mane and Ederson drew the attention away from the midfield masterclass we experienced from Kevin De Bruyne. It was a performance so in tune with what his manager wants that if you looked and analysed closely, its possible to make out that Guardiola was definitely pulling the strings from the sidelines.

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Kevin De Bruyne has become Pep Guardiola’s orchestrator for City so far this season.

The architect of City’s first two goals against Liverpool, supplying Gabriel Jesus and Sergio Aguero – the second being a perfect and sumptuous weighted through ball for Aguero which cut through Liverpool’s sorry defending, like something out of the parting of the Red Sea biblically delivered by Moses. Like something out of a gospel choir in a cathedral, caressingly soothing the souls of the congregation. City fans would have been graciously saved by the sight of Kevin De Bruyne’s deliveries. The Belgian killed the ball dead, pulled out his protractor and played a wonderful dissecting ball into Aguero’s path.

As far it gets from the tiki-taka or the total football, these are quick forward passes Guardiola loves where his players successfully force the issue. As always the case with Kevin De Bruyne, the weight at which the pass was measured was so mesmerising. If the Belgian was a butcher, he wouldn’t need scales.

To think, he couldn’t even make the grade under Jose Mourinho at Chelsea, he was then catastrophically sold to Wolfsburg. Though – since then -the Belgian has grown and matured into a wonderful footballer, picking up the ability to take the game by the scruff of the neck, the ability to control games at his own pace. Those characteristics were exactly on show in City’s two victories this past week. His cross for John Stones second against Feyenoord was also telling. A carbon copy of his cross for Jesus’s goal against Liverpool, a David Beckham-esque whipped delivery which Sky Sports Pundit Gary Neville was totally in awe of.

It is now 40 assists since he made the move to England from Wolfsburg for all of £51million in August 2015. According to Squawka, the 56 he has recorded since the 2013/14 season is more than any other player across Europe’s top five leagues over the same period. Simply outstanding.

Though, for him to be considered amongst the world’s best he would need to improve his goal return – as perhaps is the case with United’s Paul Pogba. Six and seven goals over the past two Premier League seasons is below what the Belgian is fully capable of . In fairness, he did hit the woodwork an astonishing nine times last season, more than any other player. Few are better in the world of football at keeping things simple than Kevin De Bruyne, no wonder why his performances go under the radar at times.

The flashiest thing he’s probably ever done is buy a king sized Twix. Even then, he would have probably thought it be better to save the other finger till later in the week. While his assists over the past week have been brilliant to watch, it is perhaps his innate and subconscious ability to find space when needed.

The Belgian international is not just one of the most creative players in the Premier League, he is also the most economical. He only runs when required. Acutely aware in a country raised on a culture where not running is deemed a crime, he has soon worked out that it would be easier to pick pockets by standing still.

Though in a more advanced role, Thomas Muller of Bayern Munich is another master at finding the only free deckchair on a really packed seaside. The technical term is the Raumdeuter – an interpreter of space.

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Kevin De Bruyne is entering the season in fine form.

Like many of the understudies of Johan Cruyff, Pep Guardiola has moulded the Total Football formula in his own image. When you don’t have the ball, you make the pitch as small as possible by pressing high up the pitch. And when you win it back, you do the opposite by making it as big as possible trying to pick out spaces.

At times, against Liverpool and Feyenoord, it was Total Football at its finest. Finding the space is one thing, but knowing what to do with it is another thing entirely. De Bruyne has that ability to see things that other players cannot, forever scanning and darting between opponents and team-mates. The perfect quarter-back at times, sitting deep and interpreting those exposed spaces. Think of it like this, he’s like a Google maps satellite. Technically speaking, he has all the attributes to hit almost every target possible.

The best way to control space is to have an on-field architect, someone to slow things down when play gets too hectic, then speed things up when the time is right. In terms of dictating the rhythm of a game – just like Xavi or Phillip Lahm in their own time – their are few better right now than Kevin De Bruyne. Against Liverpool, he was physically and technically on a different playing level to his Liverpool counterparts.

Whether Guardiola can succeed in his second season at the helm could hinge upon the form of his on-field lieutenant Kevin De Bruyne – along with David Silva. What would work in the Spaniard’s favour is the squad depth he has at his disposal, which means players cannot afford an off day, with Bernardo Silva, Yaya Toure, and Ilkay Gundogan, a trident of ridiculous talent, waiting in the wings.

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Pep Guardiola will hoping for massive improvement from his City contingent this season.

 

Nonetheless, City will be shoe in favourites with United and Chelsea for the Premier league title but part of any potential success City could enjoy this season whether it be in the Champions League or domestically hinges on the form of Kevin De Bruyne: The Belgian architect central to Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City project.

Barclays Premier League, Week 4 Predictions

Barclays Premier League, Week 4 Predictions

This weekend marks the return of the Barclays Premier League. After a hectic transfer window which saw some of the biggest transfer deals in history, its time to get back to business domestically , the first round of fixtures after the summer window – a chance to fully see new signings in action this coming weekend.

The fourth round of matches throws up another set of tantalising spectacles to keep a look out for, here are my score predictions for this coming weekends round games:

Manchester City vs. Liverpool, (12:30pm)

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The first match of the weekend is definitely an exciting one. A match involving two teams who will almost certainly be in the hunt for the title come the climax of the season; Manchester City and Liverpool. Both clubs under the guidance of two of the best coaches in the game. What a way to start the weekend.

Manchester City v Liverpool has thrown up some classic encounters over the past few years, last years draw at the Etihad stadium was a perfect example, with both teams throwing everything they had during that 90 minutes – an all or nothing game – which in turn could only end in a draw. Ever since Klopp joined Liverpool in 2015, they have never lost a game to City, the Reds have won 3 of their 4 games. Although, City have only just lost one of their last 23 games at the Etihad stadium.

Liverpool return to the Etihad stadium on Saturday in good form, and all looks set up for another classic encounter as the old Bundesliga coaches renew their rivalry. With Liverpool looking frightening in attack so far this season and City’s undeniable quality, there will be goals in this one, so I am going for a high-scoring draw.

Prediction: Manchester City 2-2 Liverpool

 

Arsenal vs. Bournemouth, (3:00pm)

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Will we see the best of Alexis Sanchez again?

What is going on at Arsenal? It’s the same old story at the Emirates with another torrid start to the Premier League season. And with questions arising whether we will still see the best of Alexis Sanchez after his failed deadline day move to Manchester City, it remains to be seen. Wenger desperately needs his team on his side though, as they have looked nothing short of shambolic so far, especially in opening weekend win over Leicester City, a game which saw some real struggles in defence for Arsenal.

Will Alexis be involved from the off against Bournemouth? A certain question that a lot of fans and pundits alike will asking in the lead up to the game. Arsenal are in desperate need of a win, and Saturday’s game against Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth will not provide and easy ride. The south coast club were unlucky in their defeat to Man City as their quality pulled them through in the end.

Bournemouth will certainly be up for this one, but I can’t see anything other than an Arsenal victory. However, a win for Wenger will not unmask the problems that are present for Arsenal.

Prediction: Arsenal 3-1 Bournemouth

 

Brighton & Hove Albion vs. West Bromwich Albion, (3:00pm)

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Can Chris Houghton’s men claim their first Premier League win this weekend?

Brighton would have probably looked at this fixture and thought, this is the one they can win. They haven’t had it easy so far in the league with games against Manchester City at home and away games at Leicester and Watford. Brighton coach Chris Houghton has stressed the importance of his side having a good home record if they are to have any chance of becoming a stable Premier League club for years to come.

Though, West Brom will not be easy pickings for Brighton. Tony Pulis has created a stable and steady atmosphere at the Hawthorns, and the question remains, can he take the club to the next level this season?

Brighton just can’t find goals so far this season, so I am going for West Brom to place more misery on Chris Houghton and his Brighton team.

Prediction: Brighton & Hove Albion 1-2 West Bromwich Albion

 

Everton vs. Tottenham Hotspur, (3:00pm)

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Ronald Koeman has stressed his disappointment at Wayne Rooney’s actions, could he start against Tottenham?

What a game we could have on our hands here.

You don’t know what you’re going to get with Everton. They were fantastic against Manchester City at the Etihad, only to then put in a disappointing display against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, they played so poorly Chelsea couldn’t be bothered to score more goals. Koeman’s target this season is to snuff out those inconsistencies this season, and this big game against Tottenham is a good way to start. However, it could be difficult simply due to the fact that Everton have not replaced Romelu Lukaku’s goals. Rooney and Sandro Ramirez are good additions, but it is unlikely they will score the goals to fire Everton to break into the ‘Top 6’.

Tottenham would have been disappointed with the draw against Burnley, to concede so late in a game was so unlike Pochettino’s men. He will desperately be urging his side to put things right this weekend to fully kick start their season. Let’s be honest, we haven’t seen the best of Tottenham yet. Could we see the beginning of things to come against Everton. I certainly think so.

Prediction: Everton 1-2 Tottenham Hotspur

 

Leicester City vs Chelsea, (3:00pm)

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Danny Drinkwater joined Chelsea from Leicester City on deadline day.

Another intriguing game.

Leicester City were unlucky against Manchester United at Old Trafford last time out but Mourinho’s men had enough quality in the end to snatch a comfortable win. Without a doubt, Craig Shakespeare has restored the confidence and belief back into the team, plus they have been able to keep star man Riyad Mahrez who has been a real professional so far this season as he pursued a move away from the club this summer. He finds himself still at the King Power, so how much will that have an effect on him?

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Deadline day saw Riyad Mahrez remain at the King Power.

And how will Leicester cope without Drinkwater who joined their opponents on deadline day? Will their be hostility in the air when Drinkwater makes his bow?

We’ll see.

I’m going for the Champions to edge this one, although I could be wrong. Chelsea have picked themselves up after their disappointing opening day defeat to Burnley, and with Morata and Willian on form, and Eden Hazard back to fitness too I expect them to grab a sneaky win here at the King Power.

Prediction: Leicester City 1-2 Chelsea

 

Southampton vs Watford, (3:00pm)

Watford under Marco Silva could look a real asset to watch out for this summer. Silva has really recruited well. Richarlison, Nathaniel Chalobah, Andre Gray and the addition of Will Hughes could be the players to take the club to the next level and Marco Silva is key to their success. They’ve started really well this season, and really impressed against Liverpool and also ripping Bournemouth to shreds in an impressive win.

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Mauricio Pellegrino looks a steady appointment for Southampton football club.

Southampton on the other hand have proved a difficult side this season, and Pellegrino has already proven some of his managerial qualities. Can he get Virgil Van Dijk back playing and on his side? That would be a huge boost for both Pellegrino and the club.

Nonetheless, this will be a tight battle. I’m going for a score draw here.

Prediction: Southampton 1-1 Watford

 

Stoke City vs Manchester United, (5:30pm)

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Can United make it four wins in a row at the Britannia?

After three wins from three, and no goals conceded, United find themselves top the table before the international break and this upcoming game against Stoke could prove to be their first real test of the season. United haven’t tasted victory at the Britannia since 2013 and will be looking to overcome their demons in Saturday’s evening kick-off. Mourinho’s men do look a much better side than last season, and with the addition of Matic, their attacking players have real sense of comfort and authority at this moment as their wins over West Ham and Swansea showed but, Stoke will not be rolled over that easy.

Mark Hughes once again has created a steady ship at Stoke, and after their impressive victory against Arsenal, they will have their tails up but I feel United’s quality will tell in the end. Lukaku, Martial, Pogba and Mkhitaryan all find themselves in scintillating form. Throw in Marcus Rashford and Juan Mata, and United may just have too much.

Prediction: Stoke 1-3 Manchester United

 

Burnley vs Crystal Palace, Sunday, (1:30pm)

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Palace manager De Boer is in desperate need of a first victory, away at Burnley could prove a tough ask.

 

Crystal Palace find themselves in a real heap of trouble, with Frank De Boer trying to implement a new style on the club. Yes, they have struggled and De Boer must be given time. However, patience is no longer a valuable trait in the Barclays Premier League and the Dutch coach needs a first victory, and fast or else he will lose the fans and the dressing room. The players are seriously lacking in confidence, and ideas. Is De Boer changing too much too fast?

Burnley are a very difficult side at home, and will prove a difficult test for Crystal Palace. Lets be honest, Sean Dyche’s side have started the season better than expected, a victory over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge and a draw against Tottenham at Wembley? Dyche couldn’t have asked for more from his players. An unimpressive loss to West Brom at home would have really disappointed them and they will want to put that right this weekend

I feel Burnley would have too much here.

Prediction: Burnley 2-0 Crystal Palace

 

Swansea City vs Newcastle United, Sunday, (4:00pm)

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Paul Clement may have pulled off a real coup in the loan signing of Renato Sanches from Bayern Munich.

How Swansea pulled of the signing of Renato Sanches, went to show the connections Paul Clement has. After formerly working with the Portuguese wonderkid while in his time at Bayern Munich, he was able to convince long time friend and Bayern manager Carlo Ancelotti that Swansea City was the perfect environment for Sanches to continue his development away from the Bundesliga giants. What a signing this could be for Clement and his side, throw in the return of Wilfried Bony and Swansea will be delighted with their deadline day business.

If Clement can reinvigorate the form of both men, Swansea could be in for a very good season in the Premier League. Losing Gylfi Sigurdsson wouldn’t be so bad after all.

Newcastle manager Rafael Benitez will not be happy with his transfer dealings this summer, and he has constantly made his feelings known over the past two months. Now that the window is closed, Benitez must now make do with his side, but if his CV is anything to go by. Newcastle will do fine this season, but I have a sneaky feeling Swansea will nick this.

Prediction: Swansea 2-1 Newcastle

 

 

West Ham vs Huddersfield, Monday, (8:00pm)

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Slaven Bilic will be hoping his West Ham side right their wrongs against Huddersfield on Monday night.

 

West Ham manager Slaven Bilic is treading on thin ice. The Croatian is in dire need of results as he finds his team at the wrong end of the table after 3 games. His position has already been under review by the clubs owners and anything other than a win against Huddersfield could be the final nail in the coffin. Monday’s game against high flying new boys Huddersfield will be Bilic’s biggest game so far, and he needs a win.

Huddersfield will be no pushovers, and will be full of confidence going into this one. Manager David Wagner has really instilled an early belief and  But I’m going to go for West Ham here, their quality may shine through in the end.

Prediction: West Ham 2-1 Huddersfield

Ousmane Dembele a Top Purchase by Barcelona; The Right Man to Replace Neymar.

Ousmane Dembele a Top Purchase by Barcelona; The Right Man to Replace Neymar.

Barcelona have completed the signing of Borussia Dortmund forward Ousmane Dembele for a club record fee.

The 20-year old France international signed a five-year contract. Dembele has been handed the squad number 11 previously worn by Neymar who joined Paris Saint-Germain for a world record fee last month.

A Barcelona statement read:

“FC Barcelona and Borussia Dortmund have reached an agreement for the transfer of Ousmane Dembele for 105million euros plus add ons. The player will sign a five-year deal and his buy out clause is set 400 million euros.”

Ousmane Dembele has been a priority target for Barcelona all summer, along with Liverpool’s Brazilian playmaker Philippe Coutinho, as Barcelona are looking for reinforcements following the sale of Neymar to Paris Saint-Germain for a world record £198million. The deal for Dembele is the second most expensive transfer in history.

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The departure of Neymar has left a gaping hole in the dressing room at Barcelona.

Talks for Dembele, who has been suspended from any club activity since the 10 August after he missed a training session without permission, had broken down after Barca refused to meet the clubs valuation for the player. An offer worth more than €100m was rejected two weeks ago, with Dortmund insisting the will not accept anything less than €150m for a player they signed the previous summer for a 10th of that cost from French outfit Rennes.

However, after three bids for Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho being rejected – the Spanish giants insisting they will return with a fourth bid – Barca instead opted to move forward with a deal for Dortmund forward Ousmane Dembele, with a deal worth an initial fee of £97m and add ons up to £38m.

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Despite the huge fee, Ousmane Dembele is the ideal candidate to replace Neymar.

With the unexpected sale of Neymar to PSG, Barcelona are in desperate need of reinforcements, the reason for their desperate activity in the transfer window this summer. Other than Ousmane Dembele, since the sale of Neymar few weeks ago, Barcelona have been interested in Liverpool’s Coutinho, Jean Michaël Seri from French club Nice and PSG’s Angel Di Maria – with personal terms said to be agreed between the club and the Argentinian winger who played for Real Madrid in 2014. They have already secured the services of former Tottenham midfielder Paulinho from Chinese club Guangzhou Evergrande for €40 million.

Barcelona are believed to be aiming for another two or three signings before the window closes within the next week. The purchase of Ousmane Dembele, though, represents very outstanding business from Barcelona despite the hefty fee. Considering today’s market, the extortionate prices and the potential ability of the player, Barcelona have found themselves a gem in Ousmane Dembele. This is a player with world class abilities as his debut season at Dortmund has shown. An out-an-out winger with devastating speed, brilliant dribbling abilities and a maturity beyond his tender years at 20-years old. He was the fulcrum of Dortmund’s attack last season.

 

While Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s news that he may as well be staying at the Westfalenstadion, is welcome news to Dortmund fans, the departure of Dembele is sure to worry Dortmund fans more than anything. They have invested in Dyanmo Kiev winger Andriy Yarmolenko, but questions will be asked whether he can have the same impact as Dembele did.

Nonetheless, Aubameyang’s return of 31 goals in the Bundesliga last term would have been tough to replace. Aubameyang also played a huge part in Dembele’s adaptation to the side, acting as a big brother type figure to a player who was only 18 when he signed for BVB, and who had played less than a full season of senior football for Rennes. Reading in to his return of six goals in 22 Bundesliga games – respectable but not spectacular – without context, you might wonder just how Dembele would replace Neymar.

Check the other column, and you would see Dembele holds a further whopping 18 assists – Bundesliga and the Champions League combined – gives you what the French trickster is about. Check out his through ball for Aubameyang against Bayern Munich in the German Super Cup – start of season show-piece – a picture perfect through ball cutting open the Bayern Munich like something out of the parting of the Red Sea.

So, while keeping Aubameyang is a nice feeling for Dortmund, losing Dembele would be a devastating blow, a tough pill to swallow considering the massive amounts of ability he holds. To sell Dembele would mean Dortmund would have to start again, in terms of building again in the final third. There aren’t many footballers out there with the same talents as Dembele, that’s why arguably the biggest club in the World has come calling for his signature.

How Dortmund deal with this loss is one thing. How Dembele deals with the move to Barcelona is another, considering the weight of expectation on his shoulders lifts five times more. No doubt about it, he is a direct replacement for Neymar. Yes, Neymar, a statement that is sure to send shivers down his spine. Add on top of that, he will be lining up with the World’s best in Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi. What a difference a year makes. Dembele finds himself on the cusp of a career changing move.

German football expert, Lars Pollman feels Dembele is making the right move for his career:

“After correctly deciding an intermediate step would be best for his career as he was ready to leave Rennes last summer, there’s little doubt that Dembele is now ready to take on any challenge.”

And why wouldn’t he be ready? As Pollman alluded to, Dembele is in charge of his own destiny, if he is able to cause as much havoc in the German Bundesliga, then who’s to say he won’t cause much more with Lionel Messi and co? Dembele could be the man to close the massive bridge that is separating Real Madrid and Barcelona in terms of squad quality.

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Is Dembele ready to take another huge step in his career?

Whether Barca go back in for Coutinho once the signing of Dembele is sealed is another matter. It is reported according to Sky Sources, that Philippe Coutinho hopes the signing of Dembele does not hamper his chances of a move the Camp Nou as well but Sky Sports expert Guillem Balague has stated in his Sky Sports Column that Barcelona will attempt to sign Coutinho one again, after Dembele has completed his move.

With that said, Dembele thinks big. Rather than worrying about the possibility of losing his place in the squad for next summers World Cup if things are tricky at the Camp Nou, he’s probably thinking if he clicks to devastating effect with Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi, Didier Deschamps will have a hard time leaving him out of the line-up come next June.

Barca coach Ernesto Valverde is thrilled to have landed Dembele and stated:

“He is a player who guarantees us depth, something that we have lost and that we need.”

Dembele adds a youthful exuberance to a Barcelona that is starting to age. Busquets, Iniesta, Messi, Suarez and Pique all find themselves around the age of their 30s. The addition of Dembele will provide Barcelona with the youthful spark they have missed. Yet Dembele has rarely shied from the fact that he can see himself succeeding with Barca in time, and maybe now is the perfect moment.

I for one cannot wait to see Dembele in a Barcelona shirt, forget about the price tag. Dembele will be worth every outlay Barca pay Dortmund. At the tender age of 20, Ousmane Dembele is ready for the big time, ready to fill the gap left by Neymar. They do say, ‘If you’re good enough, you are old enough’.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan, the Brains Behind Jose Mourinho’s Well-Knitted Machine.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan, the Brains Behind Jose Mourinho’s Well-Knitted Machine.

The summer signings of Romelu Lukaku, Victor Lindelof and Nemanja Matic further highlighted the meticulousness and reliability of Jose Mourinho’s transfer strategy, not only in his decorated career but in his short spell at Manchester United. All three signings have addressed the need in which United tried to compensate for last season. Certainly, Zlatan Ibrahimovic was the main catalyst in most of United’s success last season but despite that, it felt like something was missing.

Zlatan’s big frame and presence was a huge factor up front for United last season, but he did not have the pace and movement required to fully punish teams. At times last season, United’s build-up play and impetus in the final third was at times laboured and forced. Jose Mourinho addressed that need with the instant signing of Romelu Lukaku who has already proved an instant hit at Old Trafford, with 4 goals in 3 games in all competitions (inc Super Cup against Real Madrid). The Belgian’s size, mobility, movement, pace and power is perfect for Mourinho and the type of forward United have been missing for large parts after Sir Alex Ferguson’s departure in 2013. Finally United have a forward they can look forward to experience for the now and the future with the striker still at the tender age of 24.

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Romelu Lukaku has already hit the ground running at Old Trafford, with 3 PL goals in 2 games.

The signing of Nemanja Matic addressed the need of a midfield enforcer, a man that can hold his own in front of the defence, screening opposition play and also allowing Paul Pogba the liberty to roam. Matic certainly fit the bill, at the expense of Chelsea becoming light in their own midfield department – a gift to Mourinho that could become Chelsea’s undoing as they aim to defend their Premier League crown. As well as Lukaku, Matic has made the position his own, stamping his authority in both the opening wins against West Ham and Swansea in addition to an impressive display in United’s defeat to Real Madrid in the Super Cup. Ander Herrera was a suitable option in the role last season but Mourinho felt the Spaniard wasn’t enough, and Matic could prove to be United’s most important signing of the summer. Throw in defender Victor Lindelof who signed from Portuguese champions Benfica. A player who hasn’t had the same impact as both Lukaku and Matic who have Premier League experience, but Mourinho would not have invested in the Swedish international if he wasn’t good enough. As the season grows on, we could see the quality Lindelof holds as Eric Bailly did last season.

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Nemanja Matic has already shown he is a vital cog in the Manchester United machine.

The signings of Eric Bailly, Paul Pogba last season was the start of something new in Mourinho’s tenure, but one man who hasn’t garnered as much praise as Matic, Lukaku, Pogba so far this season – it certainly wouldn’t bother him – is the silent Armenian magician Henrikh Mkhitaryan.

As Romelu Lukaku celebrated in front of the away fans, with a Christ the Redeemer-like celebration as he scored United’s second goal at the Liberty Stadium, the Belgian pointed to Mkhitaryan and ushered him over – a mere act taking the glory away from himself and praising the creator – the quiet Armenian humbly ambled over to accept his portion of praise. The Manchester United away end inside the Liberty Stadium were rampant, as they had experienced football which captivated the imagination of the Ferguson era. Liberation is a wonderful. Mourinho pointed out in his Post match press conference, stating he allowed his ‘horses to run free’.

Mkhitaryan’s pass for Lukaku’s goal, the second in a 4-0 rout over Swansea City, more ruthless than emphatic, was something of the sublime – like a knife slowly but ruthlessly cutting through a ham sandwich. He did the same for Anthony Martial against West Ham in United’s opening match at Old Trafford, with a similar first time ball of scalpel-like precision.

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Henrikh Mkhitaryan could be the key weapon for United’s title challenge this season.

Few are better at laying on the eye of the needle pass, killing teams with a five to 10 yard ball than Henrikh Mkhitaryan. In fact, United have not only Mkhitaryan in the technical department, but also Juan Mata. Both players are blessed with such great vision and the ability to provide for their team-mates. Romelu Lukaku had barely put him down when Paul Pogba became the next consumer of Mkhitaryan’s creation in the final third. Another rapid and lightening quick counter attack culminated in the French superstar being slid in to net with such precision and stylishness as he cutely chipped the Swansea goalkeeper, a goal as deft and soft as a Mother’s kiss. It wasn’t only the finish that left fans drooling but the run and subtle pass by Mkhitaryan which was a sight to behold, a sight all United fans will be desperately wanting to see throughout the season.

Regardless of whichever variant of Lukaku, Martial and Marcus Rashford on the pitch at any given time, United have it in the armoury to leave defenders gasping for breath. Though they can drift in and out go games like students do subconsciously in a lecture hall, Mkhitaryan and Juan Mata are the perfect players to complement the pace and power of Martial, Rashford, Pogba and Lukaku – the perfect players to join the dots in the spaces vacated between the lines.

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United’s attacking fluency is one to watch out for as the season progresses.

The freedom in which United’s attacking players can strut their stuff could be something to behold, all of them should owe Nemanja Matic a trip to the pub on a regular basis. The Serbian is the reason why United can finally have the liberty and license to cause havoc in the attacking third, all credit should go to Jose Mourinho for that masterstroke of a purchase. That massive presence was missing last season, and with fans calling out for a more youthful signing in Monaco’s Fabinho, little did they know that Mourinho had other plans, a player he trusts and a player who has been part of a Premier League title winning team for 2 of the past 3 seasons. Coincidence?

Whether tucking in behind Romelu Lukaku or moving infield from the right wing, Mkhitaryan already this season looks as though he’s got the bit between his teeth and he has no intention of relinquishing it which makes us question when Jesse Lingard will finally have a run in the starting line-up. Mkhitaryan means business. 5 assists in three games is no joke, 4 more than his entire total last season.

Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku have emerged as twin totems of a new Manchester United that is slowly but surely starting to look like the old one. The win against Swansea City was the first time in 110 years United have opened a league campaign with wins by four or more goals in their first two matches. The athleticism, dynamism the pair provide is a given, but just as important, if not more so, is the brand of enthusiasm they have injected into the dressing room that had felt stale for quite a long while.

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Paul Pogba and Lukaku have been the forefront of United’s rejuvenation.

Making light of Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s absence was hardly going to be easy for Lukaku. While it would be silly to write of the Swede’s 28-goal haul last season, after just a couple of games we have seen United play a more exciting brand of football than at any point last season. The Swede’s charisma and aura was the tonic for a transitional phase and maybe his return to the club after injury might just be, again, the extra push and injection that Mourinho and his side need to take their game up a notch.

Paul Clement after the game said his side played to United’s strengths trying to chase a goal while 2-0 down, which in turn allowed United to counter-attack time and time again. Attempting to apply that to the style last season at United was like trying to play hide-and-seek in an empty room. It just did not work.

While Pogba and Lukaku could grab the headlines, it should not be understated just how key a role the more underrated Mkhitaryan could play in United’s renaissance. He has been involved in four of United’s 8 goals already this season. He ended last season with 11 goals in all competition, including the second goal in the 2-0 Europa League triumph over Ajax in Stockholm, he was arguably the competitions most influential player. But too often last season, the Armenian floated like a butterfly and stung like one too. Perhaps that assessment is unfair given his goal of the season scorpion kick against Sunderland on Boxing day, a further reminder of his quality and imagination.

Jose Mourinho stated in his press conference that Mkhitaryan’s form has been down to the relationship between the player and Mourinho himself:

On Mkhitaryan’s full debut against Manchester City last September, he looked so overwhelmed, trying to do too much like a fish out of a water. Somehow contriving to lose the ball 12 times despite being completely anonymous, he was hooked off at the break but spawned a tough love routine from Jose Mourinho, he did not return to the fold until December.

The Armenian is a huge talent, no doubt about that, but one Mourinho would have expected more from given his £26.3million for him on the back of an astonishing season with Dortmund in which he was involved in a combined total of 55 goals. One more than United scored themselves last season. Mkhitaryan registered 4 goals and a single assist. He is notoriously a slow starter at new clubs, he only exploded in to life at Dortmund in his second season. At Shakhtar Donetsk, it was the final of three seasons that he also showed his true quality. Lets be honest, the Premier League is a different kettle of fish, taking a while getting used to his new surroundings was always going to be the case.

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Mkhitaryan will be hoping for a big second season at Old Trafford.

23 goals and 32 assists in his final season at Dortmund is of course, an astonishing feat. Even Mourinho isn’t that demanding in terms of statistics, but if the Portuguese coach can irk out something a little close to that feat then United could be looking strong candidates come May for not only the Premier League but in the Champions League also.

Mkhitaryan will be central to any success United have this season, as he was last season popping up with vital goals in the Europa League.

If history is anything to go by, Mkhitaryan is in for massive and industrious second season at Old Trafford. In a team full of superstars and characters, Henrikh Mkhitaryan is the Brains of the whole operation.

 

 

Lacazette Signing a Signal of Intent, But Arsenal Must Do Everything to Keep Alexis Sanchez.

Lacazette Signing a Signal of Intent, But Arsenal Must Do Everything to Keep Alexis Sanchez.

After years of empty speculation and rumours, Arsenal have finally got their man. Alexandre Lacazette has completed his £52million move from French outfit Lyon to the Emirates Stadium. The French hotshot has signed a five-year deal after Arsenal agreed a club-record fee with Lyon which could rise to the figure of £52M over the course of his contract.

Lacazette had initially had a verbal agreement with Atletico Madrid this summer but any potential move collapsed as Madrid were handed a transfer ban which was handed by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

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Alexandre Lacazette signs a five-year deal at Arsenal, Sky Sources understand.

Arsenal’s opening bid of £39m was rejected last month, but Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas had confirmed that a deal was likely to be completed after the sides compromised on a fee that would eclipse the £42.5m Arsenal shelled out to sign Mesut Ozil in 2013.

Lacazette did say towards the end of the season that he would only move to a club playing Champions League football next season but it seems as though the lure to play under Arsene Wenger has softened Lacazette’s ambitions. He boasted the highest conversion rate of an striker in Europe last season (38.9%), scoring an incredible 37 goals in 45 games as Lyon secured a fourth placed finish in Ligue 1 and reached the Europa League semi-finals.

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Alexandre Lacazette is unveiled as Arsenal’s record signing surpassing the fee paid for Mesut Ozil in 2013.

There is a reason for optimism within the Arsenal faithful with the hope that Lacazette can continue the form that has seen him become of Europe’s most deadliest strikers. His goal-scoring record puts him among the very best in Europe. Only Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Gonzalo Higuain and Robert Lewandowski have scored more goals than the Frenchman in the last three seasons. He is even above Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Harry Kane and Sergio Aguero too.

In actual fact, his numbers are improving every season. He notched 28 league goals and 37 in all competitions last term – his best ever return to date. He leaves Lyon as their best ever goalscorer in 30 years and the fourth highest in the clubs decorated history. It would be difficult to dismiss his record as anything but special.

The Frenchman promises to be a fine addition to a team that has been crying out for a deadly frontman for many years, since Robin Van Persie. But if Arsene Wenger repeats his failings from 2012, then Arsenal could be in danger of regressing yet again. The signing of Lacazette is all well and good, but Arsenal MUST do everything in their power to keep – yet still, the finest player in the dressing room, Alexis Sanchez.

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Could Alexis Sanchez be on his way out of Arsenal?

Sanchez recently said he knows where he will be playing next season, and is yet to reveal if he will be extending his contract at the Emirates.

Former Arsenal player Nigel Winterburn, told Sky Sports News HQ that it is imperative that Arsene Wenger retains his attacking players for next season and indeed he is right, Arsenal can ill-afford to lose Alexis seeing as he’s been their best player for the last couple years.

Wenger now finds himself in the same position he was five years ago with Robin Van Persie threatening to run down the last year of his deal. Wenger went on to spend £10m on an unknown quality who had just fired Montpellier to the French title, Olivier Giroud. Lets be fair, Olivier Giroud has been a fine servant to the club and has been excellent value five years on. He has given five good seasons at the Emirates scoring 98 goals in the process. It is no surprise as Giroud approaches his 31st birthday that teams around the Premier League are circulating for his signature.

To be honest, signing Giroud to replace Van Persie was a serious downgrade. At that point in time Van Persie was the best striker in the country, scoring 30 goals during the 2011-2012 season, the most by any Arsenal forward since the great Thierry Henry who scored 30 in the Invincible season.

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Arsenal can ill-afford to lose Alexis to a direct rival like Van Persie in 2012.

Arsenal scored 74 goals that season, and it was just last season that they beat that total for the first time since Van Persie left. Only now, Arsenal are starting to find their cutting edge in front of goal again, because only now do they have a World-Class centre forward. Certainly, Giroud is a quality striker, but he’s not one that can win you a League title. The use of Sanchez as the main man up front gave Arsenal much more impetus last season. Arsenal are a completely different proposition with and without him in the team, which is the reason why he, unlike Mesut Ozil, is worth breaking their contract barrier for.

If Sanchez does leave Arsenal this summer, then Wenger will find himself in the same position he did when he sold Van Persie, no matter how quality Lacazette is. Arsenal may be a clinical side next season, but with Sanchez remaining – maybe, just maybe Arsenal could find a formula that could claim them the Premier League title.

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Could this be Arsenal’s front three next season?

Lets be honest, a Lacazette, Ozil and Sanchez attacking trio is what most teams could only dream of. A trio that could terrorise teams next season, and Wenger would be foolish to allow Sanchez to leave, especially if its to rivals Manchester City.

If Sanchez does leave the club, then Arsenal face the prospect of a long summer trying to replace him. Sure, the club have been linked with the likes of Monaco’s ace winger Thomas Lemar and Leicester’s Riyad Mahrez, but none of them can match the desire, the energy, the leadership, the determination and most importantly the ability to score incredible and crucial goals on his own. The only way to replace a world class player,  unfortunately, is with world class. No disrespect to Mahrez and Lemar but they are nowhere the level and class of Alexis Sanchez – they are not at the ‘World Class’ level as of yet.

The signing of Alexandre Lacazette is a clear statement sent by Arsene Wenger in what could be a last chance saloon to embark on a serious assault on the Premier League. Lacazette has been the calibre striker Arsenal have been longing for, a striker who could win points on his own – his record over the past few seasons clearly shows he is capable. The signing of the Frenchman is a step forward, but selling Sanchez could represent two steps back.

Its clear, Arsenal must do everything in their power to keep Alexis Sanchez. Lose him, and Wenger can forget about ending his long Arsenal tenure with Premier League success.