Champions League Last 16 Draw Previews and Reaction.

Champions League Last 16 Draw Previews and Reaction.

Monday’s Champions League Last 16 draw threw up some intriguing match ups as five of the English clubs through to the knockout learned their fates. Chelsea who were the only English club to finish runners up in their respective groups were paired with La Liga leaders Barcelona, fellow Londoners Tottenham were paired with last years losing finalists Juventus while Manchester United will travel to Sevilla for the first leg of their last 16 tie.

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Tottenham have drawn 2017 runners up Juventus in the last 16 of the Champions League.

City will travel to Basel while Liverpool were drawn with Portuguese outfit FC Porto. Probably the tie of the round saw last years winners Real Madrid paired with Paris Saint Germain. Bayern Munich who finished behind the French leaders were paired with Turkish outfit Besiktas who have impressed in the competition topping a group which included French champions Monaco, Besiktas and German’s surprise package of last season RB Leipzig. Italian side Roma complete the draw as they are paired with Ukrainian outfit Shakhtar Donetsk.

Here is my reaction and previews to these mouth watering ties being played in February 2018 involving the English clubs, including probably the biggest of the lot, Real Madrid vs Paris Saint Germain:

Chelsea vs Barcelona

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Andres Iniesta scored a dramatic late winner for Barcelona at Stamford Bridge in 2009.

After finishing runners up in their group, second to Roma, Chelsea were faced with the repercussions as they were paired with Barcelona once again. This match up has thrown up some frantic spectacles in recent years, probably the most memorable being Andres Iniesta’s dramatic winner on aggregate at Stamford Bridge in 2009, a game which had Didier Drogba sent off for his altercation with the official. Chelsea were on course for a successive Champions League semi-final with Manchester United until Iniesta broke their hearts with a spectacular strike in stoppage time. Barcelona then went to lift the trophy easily dispatching of Manchester United 2-0 in the final held in Rome.

Chelsea’s record against Barcelona

P W D L GF GA
15 5 5 5 20 25

Chelsea got their own back a few years later as they beat the 2011 champions on aggregate after an impressive showing at the Camp Nou. A  freak game which involved Messi uncharacteristically missing a penalty against the Bar and an off form Fernando Torres sealing the tie with Chelsea’s second goal. The blues then went on claim the trophy of their opponents in the final against Bayern Munich on their own turf.

Chelsea have arguably the most unfavourable tie matched up with Ernesto Valverde’s men in a week where Antonio Conte conceded his sides Premier League title ambitions have been brought to an end following their defeat to West Ham over the weekend.

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Lionel Messi and co will pit themselves against Antonio Conte’s Chelsea in the last 16.

However, Barcelona have not been at their best this season despite being top of La Liga. Valverde has changed the style over at the Camp Nou which has only ignited some of the doubters over his appointment at the start of the season. Though Chelsea may feel, they can cause an upset in this tie; Valverde has vastly improved Barcelona’s defence, the time of shipping goals at a canter last season under Luis Enrique has been brought to an end by Valverde’s rigid style. Suarez’ form has suffered as a result, as well as Barca being heavily reliant on the brilliance of Lionel Messi than they’ve ever been.

The return of Ousmane Dembele from a long term injury could further boost Barcelona’s chances but Chelsea cannot be ruled out of this one if the 2012 result between these two is anything to go by.

This game is too close to call.

Key Men:

Barcelona: Lionel Messi

Chelsea: Eden Hazard

Real Madrid vs Paris Saint Germain

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The last 16 draw through up a tantalising tie between last years winners Real Madrid and this seasons favourites Paris Saint Germain.

Probably the tie of the round.

Maybe, just maybe we will finally see just how good Paris Saint Germain really are as they are paired with last years winners and 12 time champions Real Madrid. Can Unai Emery’s French giants stop Real Madrid’s run to another Champions League glory. Who maybe causing the upset here? I doubt it would be PSG as they are looking a real force to be reckoned with scoring an incredible 25 times in the group stage. A Champions League record.

Over recent seasons, Paris Saint Germain have always fallen short of reaching the next level but this year they are tipped for greatness especially on the European stage, and that brings massive expectations on Unai Emery and his side to deliver. With the impeccable front three of Neymar, Edinson Cavani and probably the most exciting youngster right now in Europe, Kylian Mbappe. Few people would bet their mortgage that PSG would run out winners come the final in Kiev next year.

Despite Real Madrid’s shaky form this season, when you have five time Ballon D’or winner Cristiano Ronaldo on your side, you’re always bound to come up trumps. Zidane has proven a brilliant coach during his time at the helm, but how motivated are Real Madrid to try and match the lofty ambitions of last year, famously lifting the domestic and European double? The loss of Alvaro Morata and James Rodriguez have hit Zidane and his men hard this season, as there is a lack of quality to call up on when needed this season. January might see Real Madrid strengthen their squad though it may be difficult to add quality. This is the Champions League, a competition Real Madrid simply cannot be ruled out of.

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Cristiano Ronaldo broke yet another Champions League record, scoring in each of Real Madrid’s six group stage matches.

Though what’s for certain, one of these giant clubs WILL have to relinquish their position in the competition in February. Just who could it be?

A fascinating spectacle to look forward to.

Key Men:

Real Madrid: Cristiano Ronaldo

Paris Saint Germain: Neymar

Juventus vs Tottenham

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Paulo Dybala’s Juventus have been paired with Tottenham Hotspur in the last 16.

Another potential exciting tie on the cards.

Tottenham would have looked at the draw wanting to avoid the likes of Juventus and Bayern Munich but there’s the old saying; “If you wanna be the best, you gotta beat the best” and certainly, Juventus are in that category. Mauricio Pochettino would be licking his lips – albeit nervously – at the prospect of testing his side against the Italian giants and last years beaten finalists.

Juventus may not be the side of the past, and their period of dominance in the Serie A slowly and progressively looks to be coming to an end with the likes of Inter Milan and Napoli causing a stern challenge so far in the Italian league. Tottenham will feel they have got a chance in this one. With Harry Kane leading the line, Tottenham have every chance to prove themselves, though Juventus’ defence will be a brutal challenge for Pochettino and his side, plus the added quality of Gonzalo Higuain and fellow Argentinian hotshot Paulo Dybala, one of the most exciting young footballers in the game.

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Tottenham will be looking to cause another impressive upset as they face Juventus in the last 16.

This is a fascinating tie, if Tottenham can play the same way against Real Madrid a few weeks back, they would have every chance. However, this is the knockout stages where it is ‘do or die’ and Pochettino will be psyched up by the challenge; a challenge to prove that his Tottenham side are indeed worthy competitors amongst Europe’s best.

Key Men:

Juventus: Paulo Dybala

Tottenham: Harry Kane

Basel vs Manchester City

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Raheem Sterling has been a surprise package in this seasons Champions League with 4 goals to his name in the competition.

Basel toppled Manchester United in the penultimate group game in November but now they find themselves facing off against their noisy neighbours Manchester City. Guardiola would be licking his lips at the prospect of going through to the next round with ease, but as United found out in their matches against Basel, they are no pushovers.

Manchester City are on fire right now, and you wouldn’t bet against them running away with this tie. However, this is the Champions League and there is no room for complacency. Basel have blown hot and cold when it comes to facing off against English opponents in recent years which leads us to question which Basel side will turn up once this tie kicks off in February.

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Basel ran out 1-0 winners over Manchester United when the sides met in November.

Depending on where City are at domestically come February, you would back them to comfortably overcome this obstacle despite that.

Key Men:

Basel: Michael Lang

Manchester City:  Kevin De Bruyne

Sevilla vs Manchester United

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Paul Pogba has proven integral to much of Manchester United’s play this season, his presence will prove vital come this tie in Feb.

Manchester United could have so easily drawn Bayern Munich, Juventus or Real Madrid in the last 16 had they not got their own way – but instead they will vie their chances against Sevilla.

While many fans will breathe a huge sigh of relief at what seems a relatively favourable draw, United will have to be wary of a side well versed in European football. Though, Sevilla have not enjoyed a comfortable season as of yet in the league despite sitting pretty in fifth. After their trouncing at the hands of Real Madrid recently, it gave fans of another indication of how hot and cold the side are blowing so far this season. Also, coach Eduardo Berizzo is battling cancer – a probable reason as to why Sevilla aren’t doing as well as they would like.

Sevilla do hold dangerous weapons in the arsenal which United would need to be wary of with players such as Joaquin Correa, Wissam Ben Yedder, Luis Muriel, Steven Nzonzi, Argentinian playmaker Ever Banega, former Manchester City wingers Jesus Navas and Nolito. These players could hold the key to their chances of overcoming Mourinho’s Manchester United.

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Certainly, Mourinho and his men will fancy their chances although you would back the Portuguese coach to do thorough scouting and research on his Spanish opponents before the tie comes about in February and what’s for certain is United MUST keep Paul Pogba fit if will have any chance of progressing not only against Sevilla, but even further if they hold any ambitions reaching their first final since 2011.

Key Men:

Sevilla: Steven Nzonzi

Manchester United: Paul Pogba

FC Porto vs Liverpool

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Mo Salah’s Liverpool will face off against Portuguese outfit FC Porto.

Liverpool scored a staggering 23 goals in the group stage, only French leaders Paris Saint Germain scored more (25). Klopp has got Liverpool enjoying the Champions League nights at Anfield once again, and who’s to say they can’t get past an impressive FC Porto and match it amongst the best in the quarter finals.

Like Manchester United, Liverpool would have been biting their nails at the prospect of being paired with giant outfits such as Bayern Munich, Juventus and Real Madrid who all finished second in their groups – instead they are paired with Portuguese giants FC Porto, who impressively topped the likes of RB Leipzig and Monaco to make it out into the knockout stages.

This might be the last on this list, but that doesn’t take away the fact that this tie could be a classic with both teams capable of attacking master classes. Though, I feel Liverpool will have too much for Porto.

Key Men:

FC Porto: Vincent Aboubakar

Liverpool: Mo Salah

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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’.

Major Transfer Deals Most Likely to Happen This Summer. (Part 2)

Major Transfer Deals Most Likely to Happen This Summer. (Part 2)

Now lets take a look at Part 2 of our expected major transfer deals to happen this summer:

Alexis Sanchez – Manchester City/Bayern Munich/Chelsea

How Arsenal fans would rue Alexis Sanchez leaving the Emirates this summer; lets face it, the Chilean forward deserves more than what he is getting at the club. A player of his calibre should be winning major honours but he won’t do that as long as he remains at Arsenal. Sanchez has reportedly stated himself, he is frustrated at the lack of ambition and drive shown by his fellow team mates and the club. Don’t be surprised to see him walk out on the club in the summer with Manchester City and Bayern Munich believed to be sniffing down his neck with the former the most likely destination due to his past ties with Pep Guardiola at Barcelona.

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Alexis Sanchez has enjoyed another fruitful season in front of goal.

Nonetheless, individually Sanchez has enjoyed another great season in front of goal taking his all time tally Premier League tally for the club to 50 goals. He is player who will not at stop at nothing to get a victory – a characteristic shown on many occasions this season when he throws a strop or at his fellow team-mates.

Maybe the time he starts winning the trophies he so well desires could be away from Arsenal, who knows?

Alexandre Lacazette – Arsenal/Atletico Madrid/Liverpool

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Lacazette has revelled up front for Lyon in Ligue 1 for three consecutive seasons.

A player who has been on top of his game for a long while now. A player that has carried the weight of Lyon’s world on his own shoulders for a number of seasons. Step forward, Alexandre Lacazette.

I am very surprised he has not moved to a Champions League club already despite his goalscoring prowess that only a few players in Europe can match. Lacazette has encompassed rising from the academy ranks to becoming one of Europe’s most coveted goalscorers. He is one of only four players – Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Harry Kane – to have hit the 20 goal mark in one of Europe’s top five leagues to three successive seasons.

Lacazette has notched 126 times for Lyon in 274 games. When one considers he broke into the first team as a winger under former coach Claude Puel, its even more impressive 110 goals in 182 games since the switch to becoming the main man upfront, after the iconic Lisandro Lopez moved on. In those last three campaigns, the 25 year old has notched 88 goals in 128 (73 in 96 in Ligue 1 alone). Astonishing.

So its natural Europe’s finest should be interested in his services, and a move to the Premier League or even La Liga is on the cards this summer with Arsenal and Atletico Madrid believed to be lining up a big money move for the French hotshot.

Tiemoue Bakayoko – Manchester United/Chelsea

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Tiemoue Bakayoko is wanted by both Manchester United and Chelsea this summer.

A player central to the successes of Monaco this season – I mean literally. Tiemoue Bakayoko has been a massive presence along with Fabinho in the centre of Monaco’s midfield throughout the season. His power, ball-playing ability and defensive awareness has seen him gather interest from top clubs in Europe such as Manchester United and Chelsea all soaring for his services this summer. Blues boss Antonio Conte sees the French international and his fellow countryman N’Golo Kante as the perfect partnership in Chelsea’s midfield.

Chelsea are confident of sealing a deal for Bakayoko but have Manchester United to contend with for his signature. It is believed Bakayoko would prefer a move to Old Trafford, but only if they are in the Champions League next season.

However, the Premier League Champions Chelsea, have been leading the chase for the Monaco midfielder, who they want to make an early summer signing with an offer of £30million.

Benjamin Mendy – Manchester United/Manchester City

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Benjamin Mendy has been integral to Monaco’s success this season, expect a big move for him this summer..

Another player who has flourished this season for Monaco, making a huge contribution to the team’s formidable attacking force, French left-back Benjamin Mendy. The defender has been a major outlet on the left for Monaco with his marauding runs and devastating deliveries, he has contributed more assists across the league and Champions League than any other defender in Europe – more than Marcelo of Real Madrid and David Alaba of Bayern Munich. The 22 year-old has been instrumental for Leonardo Jardim’s men who are on course to win their first Ligue 1 title in 17 years.

Benjamin Mendy is now being touted by Manchester United, Man City and Chelsea because of his performances this season. It is understood he is now valued at around twice the figure Monaco paid Marseille for his services – a sum of £12million pounds – and his of interest to all of the top 6 teams. However, sources close to the player have told Sky Sports that Jose Mourinho, Pep Guardiola and Antonio Conte are the most keen to secure Mendy’s services.

All 3 managers have cause to search for a new left-back especially City manager Pep Guardiola who has had to rely on the services of Gael Clichy – a player most certainly expected to be part of Guardiola’s summer exodus as the former Barcelona coach looks to build the Etihad club in his own image and Mendy fits perfectly in his plans. City are in desperate need of a major reshuffle in defence which could mean Guardiola going all out for Benjamin Mendy.

Expect there to be a major bidding war for the French international left-back this summer.

Andrea Belotti – Manchester United/Chelsea/Arsenal

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Andrea Belotti has enjoyed a breakout season at Italian outfit Torino.

Torino president claimed to have rejected a £56m bid from Arsenal for striker Andrea Belotti. A man who has enjoyed a fantastic breakout season in Serie A, has attracted interest from a host of top clubs in Europe. Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea have all been linked with Belotti the past couple of months and his stats shows why.

After failing to score in his first 10 games for Torino following a move summer move in 2015, a goal against Bologna that year sparked a major turnaround. Since then, the Italian has never looked back, he has scored 28 goals in 42 appearances for both club and country. He has also created 33 goal-scoring opportunities for his teammates – more than any other centre-forward in Italy. His speed unsettles defences, while his strength and determination can turn seemingly lost causes into openings for his team.

His €90 million release clause would be sure to drive out clubs trying to signing the player; however, the Italian striker has dismissed claims his buy-out clause reaches that figure.

Michael Keane – Everton/Manchester United

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Will Michael Keane make a return back to his boyhood club this summer?

 

Manchester United are interested are interested in re-signing Burnley defender Michael Keane, according to Sky Sources.

Keane, 24, left United to join Burnley permanently in 2015 for £2m, four years after he signed a professional contract at Old Trafford. United are understood to have a 25% sell on clause standing from the deal, meaning they would be due a quarter of any fee paid to re-sign Keane back. No talks have been made regarding a potential deal yet, but Mourinho is a keen admirer of the centre-back after an impressive campaign for Sean Dyche’s steady Burnley side.

Everton, Tottenham and Liverpool are all believed to be interested in Keane, who has just one year left on his current contract – which could prompt Burnley to cash in this summer.

Ross Barkley – Tottenham/Arsenal

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Ross Barkley has yet to put pen to paper on a new contract at Goodison.

Everton boss Ronald Koeman earlier this month gave Ross Barkley a deadline to sign a new deal at Goodison Park. Barkley has just one more year on his current deal but has so far refused to put pen to paper on a new deal as he considers his future at the club.

Tottenham are amongst a number of clubs thought to be monitoring Barkley’s situation and Koeman stated Everton are not prepared to wait for until the start of next season for a decision from the England international.

Everton are already on a look out for his potential replacement if he was to leave this summer with Ronald Koeman said to be interested in Swansea’s Gylfi Sigurdsson and Ajax’ attacking midfielder Davy Klaassen, though the former has stated he is happy to stay at the Liberty stadium beyond the summer.

Whatever Barkley decides this summer, he’s got to make the right call because his immediate future and supposed ‘potential’ is on the line… No pressure.

Leonardo Bonucci – Manchester City/Chelsea/Barcelona

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Could Leonardo Bonucci be on his way out of Juventus this summer?

According to widespread reports, Barcelona are trying to coax Leonardo Bonucci to the Nou Camp. Spanish media Outlet, Don Balon reckon the Catalans view the Italian defender as the ideal candidate to bolster their back line. It has been suggested Barcelona will move for the defender if Juventus are victorious in their pursuit of the Champions League trophy against Barcelona’s rivals Real Madrid.

The Premier League’s elite have also been heavily linked with Bonucci. Chelsea were desperate to secure his services last summer, but Juventus knocked back their advances. However, other reports such as the Telegraph say the Blues are still in the hunt for the defender – along with Manchester United and City.

Kyle Walker – Manchester City

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Various reports have suggested a fall out between Kyle Walker and Tottenham coach Mauricio Pochettino. Could he be on his way out?

Reports in the Daily Mail suggest Chelsea and Manchester City are both interested in the services of Tottenham right-back Kyle Walker amid growing rumours in various other news outlets that there has been some unrest between the England international and Tottenham coach Mauricio Pochettino behind the scenes at White Hart Lane, as a result, Walker has been recently left out of the Tottenham first 11 in key games such as the North London derby against Arsenal.

Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy was already set to slap a significant price tag on the 26-year-old if he is to sell to a direct rival. But a potential tug-of-war between City and Chelsea will drive the price ahead of what promises to be a hectic summer for Kyle Walker.

Though, Tottenham are believed to be relaxed about the situation seeing as Walker is contracted to the club until 2021. Pep Guardiola’s City face an uphill summer as the Spanish coach aims to revamp his squad for the 2017/18 upcoming season and Kyle Walker could be central to those plans as Guardiola is desperate need for a new full-back after Argentine City legend Zabaleta confirmed he would be leaving the club in the summer. Guardiola sees Walker as the ideal replacement and believes the England international has all the ingredients for the perfect Guardiola-type full-back.

Bernardo Silva – Manchester United

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Bernardo Silva has been one of the many young shining stars in an outstanding Monaco side.

Another rising star among the brilliant crop of players unearthed and Ligue 1 champions Monaco. Portuguese playmaker Bernardo Silva has been hugely impressive this season, his understanding with his fellow forwards such as Kylian Mbappe, Falcao and Thomas Lemar has been the bedrock of an exciting and devastating attack as we’ve ever seen from any Monaco team.

Silva has expressed his dreams of moving to a “top club” in future. The £70million rated winger helped his side capture the Ligue 1 title after his side’s 2-0 win over St Etienne. Monaco could be hit by a mass exodus this summer with Benjamin Mendy, Tiemoue Bakayoko, Kylian Mbappe, Fabinho and Thomas Lemar all being coveted by Europe’s top clubs this summer.

Much of Bernardo Silva’s future does hinge upon the rest of his team-mates as it is looking massively unlikely most of the top stars at the club will be seeking greener pastures this summer. Jose Mourinho sees Bernardo Silva as the ideal signing to boost his attacking options for next season. United have struggled in front of goal this season, and Mourinho has made plans to solve that issue with a World Class striker and another attacking midfielder being added to his shopping list this summer.

Silva does hold Champions League ambitions, and Mourinho will try everything in his locker to ensure he is triumphant against Ajax in the Europa League final on Wednesday to match those ambitions.

Radja Nainggolan – Manchester United/Chelsea

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Nainggolan has been a key figure in Roma’s renaissance over the past few years.

 

According to Sky Sports News HQ, Manchester United have entered the race to sign Belgium and Roma. Sky Sources understand that Mourinho is looking to trump Antonio Conte to the signature of the 29-year-old, one of the most sought after midfielders in Europe.

It is understood United’s interest is at an early stage and no deal has been agreed with AS Roma. Last summer, Chelsea made several offers for the Belgian powerhouse to join Stamford Bridge, a bid which was rumoured to be in the region of £34million.

Since joining Roma permanently in 2014, following a loan spell at the Stadio Olimpico during the 2013/14 campaign, Nainggolan has become a vital part of the resurgence of Roma in recent years, making 120 appearances, scoring 26 goals in the process. Outside of Paul Pogba and Ander Herrera, Mourinho is short of options in the middle, with Marouane Fellaini reportedly in talks with Turkish side Trabzonspor about a summer transfer and Michael Carrick turning 36 by the time the new season kicks off, Mourinho will be looking for ideal candidates to stock up his midfielder especially if they have ambitions to successfully compete in the Champions League next season.

Major Transfer Deals Most Likely to Happen This Summer. (Part 1)

Major Transfer Deals Most Likely to Happen This Summer. (Part 1)

As another exciting and dramatic Premier League season draws to a close, all eyes will be drawn to what will be an interesting spectacle in the Summer Transfer window. Yes, the football on the pitch will be over, but the action off it continues. Feast your eyes on what is likely to be the most captivating Summer window yet with clubs such as Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Tottenham, and the La Liga heavyweights Real Madrid and Barcelona sure to spend buck loads of cash.

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After a difficult first season for Guardiola at Man City, he will certainly be dipping into his mega-bucks transfer funds this summer.

With Chelsea and Tottenham running away with it in a two-horse race, both Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho will be slightly disappointed they have been able not to match the ambitions of both the London clubs. Expect both coaches to pull out big cheques this summer to strengthen their squads for the new season. Arsenal on the other hand, are facing an uncertain summer as the future of Arsene Wenger continues to be in question, will he still be at the helm this summer? Reports are emerging that the Frenchman will sign a two-year extension to his current deal.

And what about in La Liga? Barcelona themselves will be facing a hectic transfer window as they not only will be looking to strengthen their squad but will be on the hunt for a new man at the helm to replace Luis Enrique. Will Real Madrid be looking for another Galactico? Eden Hazard maybe? Kylian Mbappe?

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Could Eden Hazard become the next Galactico signing at the Santiago Bernabeu?

There are a lot of questions, debates and uncertainty that will need to be answered as we enter into the summer transfer window. Nonetheless, it will be an enthralling summer filled with transfer surprises and of course, a number of mega-buck signings.

But which of these major signings can we expect? Lets take a look at Part 1 of the expected major signings to happen this summer:

Antoine Griezmann – Manchester United

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Could Antoine Griezmann be joining up with his French team-mate Paul Pogba at Old Trafford?

A transfer saga we are tired of seeing on our front page of the newspaper, our social media platforms, or even on the news but its a potential transfer that is sure to light up the Barclays Premier League if Manchester United succeed in getting the deal over the line. Lets face it, Antoine Griezmann has grown into one of the biggest stars in World Football. Once considered too small a player to make it on the biggest stage during his early stages at Real Sociedad, the French superstar has defied his earlier critics with some outstanding performances for Atletico Madrid under Diego Simeone. It is now 3 successive seasons Griezmann has surpassed the feat of 20 goals in all competitions in a calendar season. The current season hasn’t been as good a season as we would have expected from Atletico but they are on course to compete in the Champions League again next season by fighting for a 3rd spot with Sevilla.

Antoine Griezmann just maybe the calibre signing United need right now, with the uncertain future Zlatan Ibrahimovic after his significant injury , Jose Mourinho is in desperate need of a top quality striker and Griezmann fits the bill. United’s record in front of goal this season has been nothing short dismal plus with Ibrahimovic out, they only have Marcus Rashford and Wayne Rooney to call upon… Mourinho is in desperate need of Griezmann’s services. If that is to happen, Champions League football must be secured for next season.

Romelu Lukaku – Chelsea/Manchester United

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Who will Romelu Lukaku be joining this summer?

Reports in The Sun Newspaper are stating that Romelu Lukaku could turn his back on a potential deal to rejoin Chelsea due to his worry about fitting into the style of Antonio Conte. It is believed the Belgian forward is torn between going back to Stamford Bridge and the prospect of moving to Manchester United. Lukaku, who is on course to finish the Premier league season with the Golden Boot with 24 goals to his name with the season drawing to a close, desperately wants to play Champions League football next season. While that luxury may not yet be certain at Old Trafford, the prospect of joining Chelsea might be Lukaku’s only real option.

Chelsea’s sporting director, Michael Emenalo will behind the move if Lukaku is to return to Stamford bridge and with Diego Costa surely on his way to China, Conte will be looking for an ideal replacement; however, the £80million asking price Everton have slapped on the Belgian may hinder Chelsea’s chances to make a move on the Belgian and the may swing their attentions elsewhere, with Alvaro Morata at Real Madrid likely to become available in the summer. Wherever Romelu Lukaku could end up this summer, lets just hope he makes the right move for his career. Champions League football may have to wait a little longer…

James Rodriguez – Manchester United/Chelsea/Juventus

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According to Sky Sports La Liga expert, Guillem Balague, Manchester United are clear favourites to sign Real Madrid playmaker James Rodriguez. The Columbian superstar and United manager Jose Mourinho both share the same agent – Jorge Mendes. It is believed that James is being touted by many of the top clubs in Europe but he sees United as the ideal club for the next stage in his career.

According to Colombian Radio Station RCN, James Rodriguez has agreed a deal in principle with Manchester United. It is also believed, James and his agent Jorge Mendes, have met with Real Madrid president Florentino Perez to discuss the players discontent with his situation at the Bernabeu.

Rodriguez is frustrated at the lack of game time being handed to him by Zidane at the club, despite that, he has reached double figures in terms of goals for the season in Madrid’s 4-0 victory over Granada couple weeks ago – a testament to his qualities which came to light at the 2014 World Cup, the reason Real Madrid invested so heavily on him straight after the tournament.

James is one of Europe’s most coveted talents and he obviously feels he won’t be able to reach his potential on the bench at Real Madrid, and of course he is right. The Columbian is just too good to be languishing on the sidelines, but how will he fit into the starting XI at United or Chelsea? Another question we’ll have to find out in this transfer window.

Alvaro Morata – Chelsea/Arsenal/Manchester United

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Could Morata be on his way to Stamford Bridge?

Another player on the cusp of leaving the Santiago Bernabeu. Another forward too good to be languishing on the bench. Alvaro Morata is in desperate need of a change of scenery; observing from the bench at Real Madrid just won’t do him any favours. Morata has notched an impressive 21 goals this season, 15 La Liga goals in 11 starts, an astonishing return despite being no.2 to Karim Benzema – a testament to the quality he adds to the team as Real Madrid continue to battle for trophies both on the European and Domestic front.

According to Sky Sports La Liga expert Guillem Balague, Alvaro Morata wants to see what happens with the situation at Chelsea regarding the potential sale of Diego Costa – there is a choice to be made between Morata and Lukaku, the first one preferred by Conte and the second preferred by the club. There is a debate as to who would suit Chelsea more, it is believed that Morata would be the better option tactically. His movement, understanding of the coach and his intelligence leading the line may swing Chelsea towards the signing of the Spanish international.

There haven’t been many reports about links with Arsenal but why not Wenger go for the young forward? Arsenal are in desperate need of a top-quality forward and Morata certainly fits the bill. Wenger would be wise to move for him too.

Eden Hazard – Real Madrid?

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Premier League title winner Hazard is happy at Stamford Bridge but will he be tempted by a move to the Santiago Bernabeu?

A potential transfer deal that would truly damage not only Chelsea fans but the Premier League neutrals also. Eden Hazard has become one of the most exciting players to watch over the years with his unerring pieces of skill and ability on the ball. If Hazard was to move to La Liga this summer, we will be losing of the Premier League’s most prized assets. We all talk about Ronaldo, Messi and Neymar but Hazard should be breathed in the same class.

Various reports have emerged that Hazard is more than happy to stay with Chelsea one more season as the club return into the Champions League after a year out. The Belgian superstar has two Premier League trophies to his cabinet already and he will be dreaming of a Champions League medal. Hazard would need to decide this summer, which club can match his ambitions this summer? A move to the mighty Real Madrid who are on course for yet another European gong to their decorated Champions League cabinet or stay it out at Chelsea to see what happens. Hazard does look like he is staying at the Bridge next season but when a transfer deal involves Real Madrid, you just never know…

David De Gea – Real Madrid

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Will David De Gea finally get the move he desires this summer?

Twice over the past three years Real Madrid had failed in their attempts to secure the signature of Manchester United goalkeeper David De Gea. This summer may just be the year Madrid finally get their man. Widespread reports have suggested that the Bernabeu club will go all out for the Spanish goalkeeper once the transfer window reopens.

A goalkeeper who has grown into one of the World’s best after a difficult start to life at Old Trafford under Sir Alex, he has matured and grown considerably since then. His confidence and belief in his own outstanding abilities his biggest attributes over the years at United.

It is reported in various news reports that United are trying everything they can to offer De Gea a contract with only two years left on his current deal, however, it seems as though De Gea has his heart set on a move back to his homeland.

If that was to occur, Jose Mourinho will have a tough job on his hands trying to replace an incredible asset – a goalkeeper worthy winning points on his own, a goalkeeper that can win you a Premier League title in fact.

Kasper Schmeichel – Manchester United

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Could Kasper Schmeichel follow in the footsteps of his father in succeeding at Old Trafford?

This deal could be in direct response to the above. If David De Gea was to leave Old Trafford – it is believed – according to Sky Sources that Leicester City’s Kasper Schmeichel could be the potential heir to the Spanish goalkeeper’s throne. And why not? Schmeichel represents a steady replacement for David De Gea, if you look at his form and abilities over the past few years. Schmeichel’s heroics last season in Leicester City’s remarkable Premier League title triumph and his performances in the Champions League this season has catapulted him to greater heights and he could find himself at a top club like Manchester United before the start of next season.

Bearing in mind, his father used to be an Old Trafford legend. Prophecy?

Virgil Van Dijk – Man City/Liverpool/Chelsea

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Will Virgil Van Dijk remain at St Mary’s next season?

Southampton manager Claude Puel stated he is adamant Virgil Van Dijk will be staying at Southampton beyond this summer. Clearly the French coach does not his board well, in over the past 6 years Southampton have received reasonable money for star players for example; Sadio Mane, Luke Shaw, Adam Lallana, Nathaniel Clyne Dejan Lovren have all been sold by Southampton for large sums (mostly to Liverpool) and that won’t change this summer regarding the future of Van Dijk.

Strong, agile, steady and solid. All you need in a top class defender plus he great ability on the ball is a huge asset to the way Southampton play, no wonder why they have sorely missed his presence at the back for most of the season.

Expect clubs like Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool to submit high bids for the Dutch international who is valued at an incredible £50million pounds. Southampton will gladly accept that kind of offer with open arms.

Marco Verratti – Barcelona/Bayern Munich

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Marco Verratti has stated he likes the PSG project at this moment in time, but a move to the Camp Nou could sway his decision.

The ideal successor to Andres Iniesta’s throne at Barcelona. The Catalan club have been trying to sign the Marco Verratti for a while now, and it easy to see why. The diminutive Italian seems the perfect fit for Barcelona’s midfield that you’d think he’d been moulded from the earth found under the Camp Nou pitch. It’s quite unerring how good a match this would be if Verratti were to seek pastures new and move to Barcelona this summer.

Marco Verratti is a playmaker extraordinaire. Capable of dictating play, threading balls through the eye of the needle – into feet, onto runs. He can run with the ball, and while he’s no Neymar, he certainly has the ability to dribble past his opponents with ease. More than his ability to attack, he is a great defender. A shield to the back four at PSG – tenacious in the tackle, and his zeal for dispossessing his opponents. The perfect man to replace the great Andres Iniesta. I ain’t a Barcelona fan at heart, but I would be very excited at the prospect of watching Verratti dominating La Liga for years to come.

Bayern Munich are believed to be interested in the Italian’s services also – a perfect replacement for Xabi Alonso who is retiring at the end of the season. Though his ability would make him a perfect fit for Barcelona.

Wonderful player.

Alexis Sanchez Proves he Deserves Centre Stage in Wenger’s Attack.

Alexis Sanchez Proves he Deserves Centre Stage in Wenger’s Attack.

As Arsenal put in a resounding 3-0 performance against London rivals Chelsea on Saturday, Arsenal fans must have felt as though they were watching a side that is starting to click. Yes, we’ve said this year after year when it comes to Arsene Wenger’s team but Saturday’s performance against Conte’s men was nothing short of brilliant. Chelsea simply couldn’t resist or even contain Arsenal’s attacking prowess. It’s no surprise that Alexis Sanchez played a very crucial role in taking apart their long time rival and ‘bogey team’ as Arsenal fans would commonly associate with Chelsea. However, it was perhaps a shock to see Sanchez perform so resolutely from a role he is unfamiliar with.

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Alexis Sanchez was a thorn in Chelsea’s side all game.

It seems as though Arsene Wenger has found a new attacking setup that may make them the league’s most entertaining force once again. There is no doubting that Wenger has done it before, but a vast majority of Arsenal fans would agree with the fact that it has been so long since they celebrated a team that is worthy of Premier League champions, a team that is able to contend with the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Juventus for European glory. The patience within the Emirates faithful has been wearing thin as Arsenal Wenger has failed time and time again since his ‘Invincible’ season in which Arsenal were once considered the best team on the planet after that remarkable undefeated Premier League season.

Well, the ‘Invincible’ season was nearly a lifetime ago but its now or never for Wenger and his men; sooner rather than later, Wenger would be hanging up his ‘bomber jacket’ after just over 20 years in the hot seat at Arsenal instilling a identity and building a legacy. Various amounts of rumours are emerging that this may Wenger’s last bout as Arsenal coach and if these rumours are true then now is the time for Wenger to give his all in the job and come out with another Premier League title to his record.

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Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil could be the key men in Wenger’s hunt for another BPL title.

One man who could be key to achieving that dream is the Chilean international, Alexis Sanchez. Over the weekend, he notched his 47th goal in his 100th Arsenal appearance, one fewer than the great Thierry Henry had scored in his first 100 appearance. Sanchez’ performance against Chelsea was reminiscent of the Frenchman’s time at Arsenal constantly tearing apart defences with his movement, skill, technical ability and goal scoring prowess. Yes, naturally Sanchez is a winger by trade but taking a look at his record for the club, why can’t Wenger place his trust in the Chilean up front? His partnership and understanding with Mesut Ozil was one to behold at the weekend, could we be experiencing the next Dennis Bergkamp and Thierry Henry partnership?

Arsenal were electrifying against Chelsea. Antonio Conte is a manager schooled in Serie A where the philosophy is based around the art of defending and stifling attacks. However, his team simply could not live with the pace, skill and pressing of Sanchez and co. Arsenal were majestic particularly in the first half much to the delight of Wenger who in his post match press conference with Sky Sports stated:

“In the first half, we wanted to play this high pace, put them under pressure and play at the very high collective connection with the speed of passing. It’s one of those moments as a manager when you think: ‘Today is a great day.’ In the first half it was nearly perfect: Overall in the first half, we showed great quality. We played with style, with pace, with movement. That’s the kind of football we want to play.”

Asked whether the performance was one of Arsenal’s best in recent years, Wenger added:

“Coming out straight after the game, I’d be tempted to say yes. It’s one of those games where what we wanted to do worked very well. So yes, one of our best performances of recent years.”

Arsenal hadn’t played this well for some time – almost precisely a year in fact, when they inflicted the same kind of defeat to Louis Van Gaal’s Manchester United last season. In both games, the Gunners blitzed an impressive three goals in the first half before a controlled and disciplined second-half performance enabled them to comfortably see the game out. In that game as well, Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil were key to Arsenal’s movement, pace and high intensity football. Van Gaal’s United could not live with them. The goals came about similar means too – pressing high up the pitch to force the opposition into errors and capitalising quickly on the opponents mistake and transitions in play. It’s rather compelling that Arsenal – so built upon a possession based style, their best performances in recent years have come at the result of a fast paced reactive attacking football.

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Theo Walcott notched Arsenal’s second in a wonderful passing move.

Despite all this, there is a warning to Arsenal here. After an impressive performance against Manchester United, Wenger’s side failed to build on that performance and maintain that sort of form for the rest of the season, and that has been the problem for Wenger over the past years; his side impress on in patches of the season not for the whole season. And that is something Wenger must address – to keep this momentum going and to replicate the sort of football Arsenal displayed against Chelsea through unto the last day of the season, that is what the Arsenal fans want and that is what Wenger must deliver.

If they are to do that, then Wenger would need to keep Alexis Sanchez at the heart of his attack. After a slow start in his position, he is finding his feet in considerable style. He has made five Premier League starts, and has already scored 4 goals. For several years, Arsenal have been desperate for a quick and prolific frontman; their pursuit of Jamie Vardy and Alexandre Lacazette did not materialise in the summer not knowing that the answer to their problems has been staring them in the face all along.

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Alexis races clear to score Arsenal’s first goal.

Alexis’ goal on Saturday epitomised his true value to the Arsenal team and his potency from a centre-forward position. He never gives defenders a moment on the ball which was evident in the way he capitalised on Cahill’s hesitancy in possession, nipped the ball from him and raced clear to score a tremendous improvised chip over Belgian keeper, Thibaut Cortouis. He also showed his true value in Arsenal’s third goal, tearing away up the field as part of a quick counter attack with Mesut Ozil, his movement, diverting away from David Luiz and Gary Cahill to receive the ball from Ozil and them playing him in with a lovely lobbed short cross for the German playmaker to volley home via a fortunate bounce.

It feels as though Arsenal are moving on from the presence of Olivier Giroud, Sanchez provides probably a better alternative in the way he drops in to space to allow the likes of Alex Iwobi on the left wing (what a player he is) and the rejuvenated Theo Walcott to advance beyond the defence and a pose a threat on goal. Yes, Giroud’s link up play was impressive but his lack of pace was a concern for Arsenal’s attack and something Arsene Wenger thought he had to change going into this season. Without Giroud in the XI, Arsenal look a better opposition as the 4-1 win against Hull and Saturday’s win against Chelsea showed.

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The formation Arsene Wenger uses allows Alexis Sanchez the freedom to roam, the freedom to drop in, find space and link up with the likes of Ozil, Theo Walcott and Iwobi behind him. Also Alexis is allowed the liberty to go out on the wing and leave the defenders without a striker to mark which leaves them guessing, this enables Theo Walcott the opportunity to nip in like Arsenal’s second goal showed – the lovely passing move which Chelsea could not live with was down to the movement and unpredictability of Arsenal’s attack.

The system is not just down to Alexis. The players around him are integral to this approach. With the Chilean often drawn deep and wide, it is vital that there are players around him who are prepared to run in behind and take up central spots. Walcott is excellent at that job, and the Englishman is enjoying a swift renaissance. There are tactical reasons as to why Walcott is flourishing; with Giroud up front, Walcott was just confined to a stationary position out wide and that is where he is limited. However, with Sanchez up front, the Chilean almost swaps positions with Walcott which draws defenders out of their position and allows the attack to find pockets of space to exploit.

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Walcott is enjoying a new lease of life with Sanchez at the forefront of the attack.

When Arsenal smashed United last year, Walcott played as the central striker but he couldn’t maintain that form for the rest of the season, but perhaps he’ll enjoy more longevity on the right flank especially with the use of Sanchez up front. Behind Alexis and Walcott is Ozil and Alex Iwobi who are acting as the chief operators. The emergence and breakthrough of Alex Iwobi has seemed to really help Ozil, with the Nigerian in the team, Ozil no longer has to do all the work – their jobs in behind Alexis are now diversified. There are now two players in the attacking third of the pitch capable of unlocking a defence with a piece of skill or unparalleled vision.

Wenger now has a huge job on his hands to keep his stars fit throughout the season – something he has been unable to achieve in previous seasons. If Arsenal can manage to keep Sanchez, Mesut Ozil, Theo Walcott, Alex Iwobi and Santi Cazorla on the field and at the same time then there is no reason why they cannot mount a better challenge for the Premier League title. Few fans may argue Sanchez is not the answer up front but studying his record, he is indeed a proven goalscorer, a player who puts in maximum effort in every single match he’s played. Lets not forget, Wenger successfully converted Thierry Henry from a winger into a striker and look how that turned out.

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Arsenal must keep Sanchez fit to have any chance of claiming the BPL title.

 

Arsenal’s front four has a potent chemistry, especially with Alexis Sanchez at the heart of it. The system Wenger is deploying has provided Gunners with the speed, potency and unpredictability, and most importantly, the belief. If they continue to play like they did on Saturday, then Wenger’s 20th anniversary could be remembered as a special season for the Gunners faithful.