EPL Week 4 Rundown

Manchester City score 5 to see off Liverpool at the ETIHAD

Manchester City faced their first real test of the season and responded beautifully controlling a heavy pressing squad like Liverpool with ease. Many expected Man City’s defense to struggle with the pace the Reds bring and they did early. Yet as the game went on Manchester City looked extremely comfortable on the ball and were never really rattled by Liverpool’s attack in the second half.

The game started well for both sides with each team being able to create chances. The game was quick and back and forth until Manchester City found the net when Kevin De Bruyne found Aguero with a great through that the Argentine put it in with class. Liverpool knocked at the door but Ederson was up for all the shots from the Reds.

Then came the talking point of the game, Mane’s red card. The Senegalese international accidentally kick the City keeper, Ederson, who ran out to head the ball right out side of the box. Although Mane’s eyes were always on the ball the kick got the keeper clearly in the face in a gruesome fashion that almost looked like a Karate Kick.The referee didn’t really have an option and sent Mane off.

After the red everything was lost for Liverpool who lost their fight and organization, trying many different formations to stop the bleeding but nothing was done. Manchester City controlled the pace and found five goals. Highlighting the performance is how well Aguero and Gabriel Jesus were able to play together. Many believe both strikers can’t be on the field together but Saturday they looked in perfect sync, creating chances of each other’s movements. Jesus scored twice and was a handful for the overmatch Liverpool defense.

The last two goals were scored by Sane who came in and made an immediate impact. Finishing up an amazing team goal when he teamed up with Mendy on the left-hand side. Then came the Golazo of the weekend when Sane took a left footed shot from outside the box and put it left in the top corner, leaving the keeper with nothing to do.

Manchester City Finally looked like a Guardiola side if they are able to control games and create chances constantly like they did Saturday they could easily find themselves competing for all the titles this year. Liverpool, on the other hand, will have to work on the same issues they had last year and find ways to stay compact at the back even when playing a high pressing style.

Manchester United finally drop points

United started the year with perfect form winning all three of their matches by multiple goals. The form finally stopped when they traveled to Stoke over the weekend. The Potters were great at pushing United and putting their center backs under pressure, something we had yet to see this year. United faced their first adversity of the season a responded well to get the game back and find the lead. They couldn’t keep control of the game but the team showed heart in the performance.

Choupo-Motíng caught Baily napping and found the space in behind to finish a cross and put Stoke City ahead late in the first half. United responded quickly scoring a scrappy goal right before the halftime whistle. Manchester came back strong in the second forcing the issue and finding the net when Lukaku put in the rebound of his own attempt to get United ahead.

The lead didn’t last long as it was time for Stoke City to respond quickly to going down. Phil Jones did a horrible job defending the corner and let Choupo-Moting get a free header to tie the game. United pushed the issue but was never able to regain the lead and dropped their first points of the year.

Manchester United still sit a top of the table but have shown that they are beatable and that the issues at the back we saw last year are still there. They still look the part and responded well to going one goal down.Still, should be considered the title favorites from what we have seen of this season so far. As for Stoke this was a great result and are showing great play. They look in prime position to make a push at the Europa League spots and be nowhere near the relegation battle.

Spurs And Arsenal get much-needed wins

Spurs got a much-needed win after dropping points at home last week beating the Toffees 3-0. They faced the tough challenge of traveling to Goodison Park and face the heavy spending side Everton and passed it with ease. Spurs Controlled the game and finally look like the elite side we saw last year. Harry Kane broke the goal drought he had to start the year. Netting two goals, one from a cross that found its way in and the other was a classic give a go goal Kane scores. Ericksen scored the other goal and was the best player on the field dribbling up and down the pitch and finding any pass he wanted. Spurs form comes at a good time who welcome Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday in Champions League play in a matchup that might decide the group.

Arsenal was the other team desperate for a result after the disastrous result versus Liverpool last week. They look in control all the game beating a Bournemouth 3-0 having the ball and creating chance after chance. The defense looks in no pressure all 90 minutes which was something that everyone was looking at. The Gunners face another tough test next Sunday when they visit Chelsea and the defense will have to perform like today if they want the result. Danny Welbeck found the net twice putting in a performance that might delay Alexis Sanchez re-introduction to the first 11. Arsenal looked better and started both their new signings of Lacazette and Kolasinac, something they have to do to keep performances up. Keeping the home form up was key for Arsenal to keep the pressure of the fans off the team.

Morata Keeps on shining

Chelsea Had a difficult road test visiting recent champions Leicester City and came back with three points. Still without Hazard and saving some players for the midweek champions league matchup, Chelsea was able to see out the result and gain all three points.

The first goal of the game was Morata who again was able to score a header by finding the space in between the center backs and sending the ball home. Filing in nicely with Diego Costa yet to show up to practice. The second goal came in the second half when Kante hit a low rolling shot that found the bottom corner facing his former team. Leicester City thought they found a way back when they had penalty scored by Vardy but it was difficult for the Foxes to create chances and continue having a rough start to the season. Chelsea, on the other hand, find their third straight win after the embarrassing loss in against Burnley week one.

Crystal Palace loss but West Ham win in their must win-or-get sacked games.

Crystal Palace sacked their manager Franck de Boer yesterday after starting the year with four defeats and his team not scoring a single goal. He was brought in this summer to change the style of play but that could never have been done in four games. What will make matters worse for De Boer is the final match he had. The goal they conceded was a huge gift from a back pass that Chris Wood pushed it home. Palace controlled the 90 minutes creating 23 shots and allowing only two but they were unable to find the net and now De Boer is out of a Job. Palace face a long season as four games in they lose their manager and the same problems remain, the team will have to respond quickly if they want to stay up.

West Ham was the other team facing a 0-4 start but the hammers responded with a gritty 2-0 over recently promoted side Huddersfield town. They played a classic English style of sending a ball over a top and having Andy Carrol knock the ball down to create chances. They left it late but found a deflection goal and a tap in off a corner. This win will give the manager more time to fix the system and it was a great result as the club’s first home game of the season.

The rest of the league

Watford got a great 2-0 win on the road as they beat a Southampton side that continues to struggle infront of the goal. They have failed to score the last three games. Brighton got their first win and goal of the season versus West Brom from in a 3-1 game. The last game saw Newcastle getting a scrappy 1-0 win at Swansea as they look to ignore the lack of spending in the transfer window.

There is no midweek action this week as the top teams will have Champions League play in the first European match day on the season.Expect some weird squad selections next week in response to these matches.

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Headlines From Transfer Deadline day

Winners: Tottenham

Serge Aurier comes in to fill the hole left behind by Kyle Walker(Image: Getty Images)

Spurs added depth to their squad which is what they desperately needed.They seem like the only club who really go what they wanted. The north London club has a starting 11 that can compete with anyone. Serge Aurier is a World class wing back they are bringing in from PSG. He will probably take up the role left behind by Kyle Walker’s departure to Manchester city. They got 50 million from Man City found a cheaper replacement on deadline that cost less than half (23 million).

The other pick up was Fernando Llorente who will come in and be a valuable back up to Harry Kane. The only other striker in the squad was Victor Janssen who can’t seem to score in the Premier League. Llorente is an experienced Spanish international that will understand his role, he is big, mobile and finally, gives Spurs a real option off the bench. To add more to the news they stole the striker from Chelsea who was talking to Swansea all week and then Spurs came in on deadline day and signed the Striker.

They may have missed out on bringing in the third player that was promised on deadline day but the squad has added a lot of talent. With the addition of Davinson Sanchez, last week Spurs looks like they have a full squad to compete and actually win the Premier League. They still might be a little thin to really compete in the Champions League after their difficult draw.

 

Losers: Arsenal and Alexis Sánchez

 

Alexis Sanchez’s Long waited move fell through on Deadline Day (Images; Getty Images )

After losing 4-0 at Anfield, Many expected Arsenal to be very active and bring in players. They threw in a massive bid for Thomas Lemar that was accepted by Monaco but the young French international decided he didn’t want to go a club that wasn’t in the Champions League.

They sold players on Transfer deadline day but not the one that many thought would go in Alexis Sanchez. The Gunners did accept a bid for Sanchez from Manchester city but decided not to go through with the deal after not getting a replacement. Now Arsenal is stuck with a player that is causing problems in the locker room, You don’t know how motivated and will probably leave on a free next summer.

The Gunners are in a crisis and on transfer deadline day they did nothing to improve their situation. From the Alexis point of view, he is frustrated that Arsenal backed out of the deal and that the Chilean will having to be in London more time that he wants to be probably not competing for trophies.

On the end of the spectrum, Manchester city lost the opportunity of becoming one of the scariest teams in Europe. The addition of Alexis Sanchez to the squad would have put the up there with the best teams in the world and one of the favourites to win the Champions League.

Arsenal Finished outside the top Four last season and all they have done this summer is gotten rid of some players and only brought in two Reinforcements. If Sanchez and Ozil don’t come motivated than the Gunners face the fear of becoming a mid-table team. Lacazette is a world-class striker that will get Arsenal goals and Kolasinac will be a much-needed help to the defence but that simply isn’t enough to get them among the Elite in the EPL. Arsenal should’ve done something on Deadline day or not have left it all for late in the transfer window.

Chelsea gets rejected by a player again

Usually, when a team are champions a lot of players want to go there but it is very interesting transfer window, Chelsea has managed to get rejected on numerous occasion. Romelu Lukaku rejected them earlier in summer when he decided to go to Manchester United over the Blues. Then two days ago Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain decided to turn down the move to go to Chelsea in preference to go to Anfield. Then to end Transfer deadline day they got rejected by Ross Barkley, a player that currently seems out of favor in his current squad.

While they still brought in players during the summer that will help the squad it still seems weird that so many players have rejected them recently. It wasn’t all bad news for Chelsea they were able to bring Davide Zappacosta and Danny Drinkwater on Deadline day. Zappacosta is a Right back but can play on the left-hand side and will be a much-needed backup in the heavy wingback system of Chelsea. Danny Drinkwater will be another proven midfielder that helps Chelsea deal with the expanded fixture list this season.

Chelsea didn’t have the worst day but they should have a better day and better summer but were denied by many of their top targets throughout the transfer window.

 

Liverpool miss out on having the perfect summer

Deadline day has passed and Coutinho is still a Liverpool player. They will have sweat it out one more day as Barcelona’s Window closes today. In addition to that, they have Brought in Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain who be able to play various positions in the high pressing Liverpool system.

Virgil Van Dijk will stay at Southampton to surprise of many (Image; Getty Images )

The thing is they failed in bringing in Virgil Van Dijk who would have been the perfect signing for the Reds. Liverpool is in much need of a secure center back that you can have confidence in every game. The other loss was not being as strong in their pursuit of Lemar. They were a couple million short of the offer that accepted from Arsenal and the player started that he really wanted to play for the Reds.

If Liverpool would have brought in those two players alongside what they did they would have had the perfect summer. As of now, that is in prime position to get top four again and be able to compete in every competition they are in. Yet, if they would have added them they would be among the contenders. This squad is slightly a step down from the other Manchester Squads and Chelsea but those two players would have put them right up there.

Liverpool still had a good summer they added some depth to the squad and didn’t really over spend for any players.

 

Other Big Moves

The most eye-catching move was made by Swansea who brought in Renato Sanchez on loan from Bayern Munich as their replacement to losing Sigurdsson a couple of days ago. He is a young prospect that was key in Portugals run to win the Euros last year. Amazing that a world class player goes to a mid-table team. The other team that had great news on Transfer Deadline day was Crystal Palace who got in the much needed center back in Buying Sacko from Liverpool. They also got help up top with signing Niasse, Crytal Palace has not started the season well. Losing three games they needed to bring in players was something the team had to do if they ever want to get out of relegation battles.

Renato Sanchez will be on Loan at Swansea this year (Image; Getty Images)

 

This Transfer Deadline day will be remembered for the WHAT IF. So many transfers were close to coming together that fell through. It was a day that had players reject moves, teams waiting on other teams to do so and angry players driving and flying to other countries to work out their move. Transfer Deadline day is always crazy but finally, it is the end of the silly season and teams can focus of what they have because nothing else can be done. So much money was spent this summer and it only set up the best Premier League yet.

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Weekend Review, Arsenal humiliated and Madrid drop points

It was a big week in club soccer as the teams get prepared for the international break. Too many managers these weeks are going to be frustrated with the break. As it puts them two weeks without the squad and they can’t fix many of the problems that team have. So any team coming from a win, it is huge they go into the break in a good mood and will most likely keep their form, On the other hand, the teams that lose don’t have a chance to work on the problems and will only have 2 or 3 days before the next matchup.

 

England

The big match up of the weekend was Liverpool vs Arsenal. Many expected a high scoring match from both teams as they both are considered to have leaky defenses. Yet, only one team showed up at Anfield and that was Liverpool. The Reds won the game 4-0 dominating both half of the game creating chance after chance. They showed that they could still be elite even without Coutinho in the side. They have to fight off Barcelona for a couple more days but if they lose the Brazilian to a transfer the front three of Saido Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mouhammed Salah will have no problem scoring and creating chances.

 

Arsenal though probably had their worst performance in the last five years falling to put a single shot on target. This has lead many Arsenal fans to bring back the campaign of Wenger out. To make matters worse Arsenal has to fight off losing some of their key players these next few days and have no time practice because of International break. The Gunners are in a crisis. Their new formation isn’t working with many players looking disinterested in playing and the squad is nowhere deep or as good as the Arsenal fans expected. With three matches in, I doubt Wenger loses his job but during his whole time at Arsenal this might the worst position he has ever been.

Here are the game highlights

In the rest of the league of Chelsea dominated most of the game beating Everton 2-0, finally looking like the champions of last season. Alvaro Morata and Fabregas particularly impressed as the Spaniard duo connected for the goal and were influential. It’s early in the season but Alvaro Morata scored in the weekend and has been showing he could be the perfect replacement to the departure of Diego Costa from the squad.

 

Tottenham dropped points again at home, officially dropping more this season than in all of the last year. The team is trying to convince that the Wembley form is not a problem but these were more points drop at the end when Spurs are playing in this stadium. This a problem if it continues throughout the season and they don’t have their home form of last year they will have no chance of winning the premier league. They dominated most of the game finally breaking through with Dele Ali’s goal but they couldn’t see the result out and letting Chris wood have a good run at the box score.

The Manchester Squads both had wins over the weekend. United continue their scary good form to start the season by dominating a Leicester City side to win 2-0. United has been in amazing form to start the year and is becoming the clear favorites to win the premier league before the transfer window completes. Mourinho seems to always win titles in his second years and this team seems to finally feel like the old Ferguson teams.

Manchester City won on a 90-minute winner versus Bournemouth right at the end. Sterling hit the shot and celebrated with the fans but to the surprise of the whole stadium, he got a second yellow. This means Sterling will miss the next game for celebration with the fans but he didn’t really do anything over the top. Bournemouth might come out of the game feeling gutted as the southern team had Charlie Daniels score an amazing goal in the 11th minute. They lost the lead by a goal from Gabriel Jesus who plays a smartly taken quick free kick to catch the team sleeping.

The rest of the EPL saw 3 draws, Newcastle surprised with a 3-0 win over West Ham and Swansea stealing a win at Crystal Palace. Manchester is the only perfect side and sits on top of the table but the upcoming days with transfer window closing it will let us know where everyone truly stands.

 

Spain

In Spain, the great Real Madrid dropped points at home drawing to a resilient Valencia side in a game that was back and forth and either club could have won.The champions couldn’t survive with missing two of stars with both Sergio Ramos and Cristiano Ronaldo out with a suspension. Marco Asensio came to the rescue for Madrid with an amazing performance that might set him up to be a starter even when Ronaldo comes back. Bale was jeered out after his performance bringing his departure back into question. Barcelona cruised into another 2-0 with an outstanding performance from Messi who scored twice. the team doesn’t look as strong upfront but they are still able to really control matches versus the mid table Spanish sides. To Many Barca is in crisis but things are looking up they will add a couple more signing before the transfer market closes a go into the international break top of the table.

Italy

In Serie A the weekend was highlighted by the comeback 3-1 win by Inter Milan over Roma on the road. The Italian capital side dominated the first half and created chances after chances scoring ones with a true striker’s goal from Dzeko hitting the post three times. In the second half, Icardi took over and score two quick finishes to give Inter the lead and Vecino finishing it in the 89th minute putting home a Perisic cross in for his second assist in the game.

 

The other big clubs also took care of business. Juventus completed a two goal comeback to beat Genoa 4-2 on the road. Dybala scores a hat-trick bringing his team back after conceding two goals in the opening 15. The defence is not as sound but if Dybala keeps playing like this It won’t matter. AC Milan won 2-1 at home versus Cagliari with an amazing free kick by Suso. Milan scored early with the teenage sensation Patrick Cutrone putting home a cross but lost the lead. The Suso free kick was the ultimate kick in the game. The big spending squad has yet to reach its potential but have started the season on the right foot. Napoli also had a comeback win beating Atalanta 3-1 with Zielinski scoring an amazing goal.

The transfer window is wrapping up and it will curious to see how the teams look after the three days that are left. It will be interesting to see which teams set themselves up for success or failure, so expect random big news this couple days.

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Has Chelsea gotten worse this summer?

Chelsea won the premier league with two matches left last season, losing only five matches. They added the second-highest points tally in Premier League history with 93 points. In doing so, they broke the record for the number of wins in a season with 30 and equalized the record for consecutive wins in a season (13.). At the end of the season, they were seen as heavy favorites to repeat with the potential of ending the year with a domestic double. Then the FA Cup Final happened, Victor Moses gets sent off and Arsenal controls the rest of the match to win the title, ending the great season Chelsea with a sour taste.

Transfer moves have actually hurt the Blues chances

Diego Costa was told he wasn’t needed earlier this summer (image: Getty Images)

Ever since Victor Moses was sent off the team in that final, Chelsea has been trending downwards. Diego Costa was told he wasn’t needed a couple of weeks later with the goal in mind that Romelu Lukaku would be brought in as a replacement. Then fast forward a couple of weeks and their main rival Manchester United came in and swooped up the Belgium striker leaving Chelsea forced to buy their second option in Alvaro Morata. In essence, Chelsea created a problem they didn’t have to face by just telling Diego Costa nothing and selling him when the replacement was in the club. Now you still haven’t found a good replacement and the league starts this upcoming weekend.

Is Bakayoko enough?

Tiémoué Bakayoko who Chelsea got for £40 million (Image: Getty Images)

That is just the main example of how the Blues have been fumbling this transfer window. Their second big money signing was Tiémoué Bakayoko which cost the Blues £40 million. The young Frenchman was brought in to make more competition in the middle of the field. He is an elite ball winner coming from the French champs Monaco and is just 22 years old. Yet Chelsea didn’t mess up in signing him, they did in responding to his arrival by selling Nemanja Matic, one of the corner stones of the latest two championships Chelsea has won, and Nathaniel Chabolah.

 

 

Selling players to the competition will hurt Chelsea

Selling Matic to Manchester United has given one of Chelsea’s biggest rivals a great player that fills one of their biggest holes for the same money as Bakayoko. So while you feel the squad has marginally improved United has improved far more. So ultimately the transfer move has in a way benefited your rival more than the team, which is something you never want. Both the selling Matic and denouncing Diego Costa are self-inflicted problems that have really hurt their chances of repeating.

Nemanja Matic who was sold to one of Chelsea’s biggest rivals Manchester United (image: Getty Images)

The third thing that has made them worse is losing many of the young talents that would have helped the squad dealing with the rise of fixtures this season when the team is in the Champions League. Chelsea is known in recent years for having one of the best academies in the world but none of the players seem to be making the jump into the first team. The example this year can be seen with Dominic Solanke who was sold for basically nothing to Liverpool and Nathaniel Chabolah who was captain of the England youth setup and was sold for only £5 million.

 

 

Is Chelsea a selling club?

The biggest problem with Chelsea’s transfer window is they haven’t really spent, which is troublesome in a summer where all your biggest rivals are spending over £200 million. As of today, Chelsea has spent £127,500,000 while earning £105,300,000 from offloading players. This means they have just spent £22,200,000 and that is without the sale of Diego Costa. So once that deal is finally done it would mean Chelsea would be a selling club while the rest of its competitors are spending an insane amount of money.

So while Chelsea making money in the summer is not a bad thing, it is if you are trying to compete in all the competition at the same time. What defending champion has decided to not spend in the transfer market? Even two times European champion Real Madrid is making moves. Big clubs always try to improve the squad in summer but the Blues look more focused on doing good business than actually improving a squad that needs work.

What the community shield showed us

In a matter of months, Chelsea has gone from the heavy favorite to a club that must spend to keep up with the rest. The example of the level dropping was seen in the Community Shield Sunday where the display against an Arsenal team that was missing Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil was pretty poor. Both Batshuayi and Morata struggled to keep the ball up front and hold possession which led to many long balls from the wings to just fly over. This shows that a proper replacement for Diego Costa has yet to be found or that both strikers need to improve for the team to find success.

Arsenal beat Chelsea in the community shield showcasing a lot of Chelsea’s problems ( Images: Getty Images)

The second big hole was seen when Fabregas got tired. When the Spaniard got tired in the second half Arsenal was able to find spaces a keep possession in big spells. Fabregas is no longer the player that can play box to box for a full 90 minutes and there was no Matic to come in and help. Bakayoko will help but he is young and unproven and time will be needed for him to incorporate himself well with the squad.

Chelsea was the talk of English football last season but in a matter of a couple months, they are no longer favorites. This leaves many fans lost with what the plan actually is, Chelsea will have to make moves to try to improve the squad in the coming weeks before the season starts if the Blues really want to repeat as champions and have a good showing in the champions league. The summer has been bad for Chelsea but there is still time to bring in a couple of players that turn everything around.

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Top 5 Current Transfer Stories

Alexis Sanchez leaving Arsenal

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Alexis Sanchez,who has yet to sign an extension and would be free to go next summer (Image:Getty Images)

Alexis Sanchez is on the last year of his current contract and there has still been no announcement of him signing an extension. This means even thou Arsenal has started preseason with him in the squad if no contract is signed they will be forced to sell the player or face the fear he leaves on a free transfer next summer(which Arsenal will never let happen). Currently Manchester City and Bayern Munich are looking for the Chilean signature and if Alexis Sanchez doesn’t sign a contract it  might just force Arsenal to sell there main man. While Arsenal will demand a lot of money for the Chilean, teams know the situation and low ball their offers. Sanchez score 24 goals and gave 10 assists for the Gunners last season. What also adds stress to the situation is Arsenal missed out on Champions League Football and it would be very hard to find a proper replacement for the Chilean. They may have the money but Emirates Stadium is not that attractive without Champions League Football. It is essential for Arsenal to try to keep Alexis.

To understand how essential it is for Arsenal I posted a link HERE of Sanchez highlights last season.

Ivan Perisic To Manchester United

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Inter Milan are asking £50 million for Perisic. Who scored 11 and had 8 assist last season.(Image: Getty Images)

This transfer negotiation has been going on back and worth for a while now. The sides are supposedly only £9 million apart with pricing. Ivan Perisic is coming off one of his most productive season with Inter Milan netting 11 goals and creating eight assists, dominating the left-wing. The Croatian is a quick player who is also big and great in the air, things that are usually needed to succeed in the physical English premier league. Manchester United look to bring in the player to bolster their attack, which only scored 53 goals last season. Perisic’s play style also fits the Mourinho classic counter attack style and fits well with United latest signing Romelu LukaKu. From the Inter Milan point of view their isn’t much to do except try to get a much as you can for him. Inter want to keep Perisic but he his trying to force the move and its never smart to try to keep a player if they want to leave.

Highlights explaining his £50 million price can be seen HERE.

Kylian Mbappe to Real Madrid or Arsenal

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Where will he be “the main man” next season? (Image: REUTERS)

The Mbappe saga has been the longest of the summer since it started before the summer had arrived. Kylian Mbappe broke into the scene last season as an 18-year-old earning his spot in Monaco’s starting XI. With that spot he became the best player on the side scoring 15 and totaling eight assists in Ligue 1 and netting six goals in Champions League play. He led the team that won the French league and reached the Semifinal of the biggest tournament in Europe at such a young age. It is no wonder why the 18-year-old kid is rumored to be going for the biggest transfer fee in history, or close to it. Real Madrid seem to be the front-runners but they still haven’t sold Alvaro Morata to make the money and clear the space for French International to come. Arsenal on the other hand can’t offer him Champions League play, a tournament he would be able to participate if he doesn’t move. No deal is close, leaving Monaco worried it all might come down to the deadline. Monaco is trying to convince the youngster to stay one more year in the French league before moving to one of the big teams in Europe.This would give Monaco more time to get the right deal. Ultimately Mbappe has said to press he wants to play for Madrid and it is only a matter of time until the Spanish giants get the financial and squad space together.

Highlights of the wunderkind can be seen HERE.

Nelson Semedo to Barcelona

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After missing out on Bellerin,Semedo has become Barcelona’s main right back target (Image: NurPhoto/Getty Images)

Barcelona has been desperate in their look for a right back. Most of last season they played with Sergi Roberto at the position, a natural midfield player. Their long transfer target for the position. Hector Bellerin, has officially ruled out the move and Barcelona in recent weeks have changed their focus to the Portuguese international Nelson Semedo. The 23-year-old right back started 31 of the 34 games for the Portuguese champions, Benfica, and created seven assists coming from the back. Semedo also has great passing and dribbling skills which goes hand in hand with Barcelona’s system. The negotiations have been slow but expect them to speed up quickly now that it’s official Bellerin is not coming and preseason is starting.

Highlight of the player you might be seeing in every Classico next season HERE

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to Chelsea

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Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is the last proven striker left in the market, Where will he land? (Image:Getty Images)

Chelsea is desperate to get a world-class striker into the building after missing out on Romelu lukaku and telling Diego Costa he is not wanted. They don’t have a proven goal scoring threat up top. While Pierre-Emerick Aubemeyang is not the greatest fit to Antonio Conte’s style, the other strikers Chelsea are looking at are to overpriced. Morata and Andrea Belotti are more ideal targets for Conte but both are priced slightly lower than Aubameyang and are not as proven. The Gabon striker scored 31 goals in 32 appearances and Borussia Dortmund seem to want to cash in on the striker. Chelsea made an 70 million offer for the forward late Thursday night and negotiations are starting to begin. Aubemeyang has become Chelsea’s main target for the position. If the Costa situation isn’t resolved then don’t be surprised if the Blues go a spend as much as they can on Aubameyang, as he really is the last proven world-class striker left in the market.

HERE are highlights of all the goals Aubameyang scored in this year’s Bundesliga.

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Alec’s Premier League XI of the 2016-17 Season

With Chelsea clinching the title and Hull claiming the final relegation spot, the dust has mostly settled in the Premier League this season. The time has come to reflect on the most outstanding performances of the season and determine who were the eleven best. In honor of Antonio Conte’s successful three back formation, the team of the season will be the 3-5-2 with which the Blues won thirteen straight matches during the season.

Goalkeeper: David de Gea, Manchester United

In a mostly underwhelming season for the Red Devils, De Gea has been a bright spot. He has made crucial plays to save United several points throughout the season. Most recently, De Gea guided an undermanned and outmatched United to a draw at rivals Man City by keeping a clean sheet despite an assault on his goal throughout the match.

Consistently rated among the top three keepers in the world, the Spaniard is said to have an eye for Real Madrid and his potential departure would leave a massive hole to fill in goal for Jose Mourinho.

 

Centre Back: Cesar Azpilicueta, Chelsea

Before this season, the Spaniard typically played left back for the Blues. But under new boss Conte, he has thrived as a central defender in the Italian’s three back system. Azpilicueta has earned an excellent 7.29 match rating on WhoScored.com in the 28 matches he has played centrally.

The Spaniard’s rise was a major reason why Conte’s formation was able to be a success and why Chelsea are champions of England. Azpilicueta figures to continue to be a major part of the club’s plans next season.

Cesar Azpilicueta thrived in Antonio Conte’s three back formation at Chelsea this season.

 

Centre Back: Eric Bailly, Manchester United

Moving to Old Trafford last summer from Valencia, Bailly was a bit of an underrated signing as the media focused on the arrivals of Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. However, the Ivorian has arguably been the Red Devils’ most productive signing this season. With the United back line being plagued by injury and inconsistency, Bailly has been a constant and has shown his quality, as well as his potential, as he is only 23 years old.

Bailly certainly looks to be following in the footsteps of Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic, and other legendary United defenders as his future looks bright and United plan on him being a defensive cornerstone for years to come.

 

Centre Back: Toby Alderweireld, Tottenham Hotspur

The best defender on the best defensive team this season, Alderweireld has been everything Spurs could have hoped for and more since moving to the club from Southampton his summer. Alderweireld was at the center of a back four that conceded just 24 times in the league this season, eight less than anyone else. Alderweireld is a very smart player who doesn’t make mistakes at the back and can provide an occasional goal from a set piece header.

Although there are a few reports suggesting the Belgian international is hesitant to sign a new contract at Tottenham, there is no concrete evidence to believe he won’t be spearheading Spurs’ back line at the start of next season as well.

 

Centre Midfielder: N’Golo Kante, Chelsea

Voted PFA player of the year, no player has had a greater impact on the Premier League in the past two seasons than Kante. A central piece of Leicester’s title winning side a year ago, Kante’s high energy has put less pressure on his Chelsea teammates this season. As of May 8th, Kante had covered the fifth most distance in the Premier League this season. Kante became the first outfield player to win back to back league titles with two different squads since Eric Cantona with Manchester United in 1993.

Kante figures to be a key player in Antonio Conte’s midfield next season. The Frenchman will seek to follow in his countryman Cantona’s footsteps with a third consecutive triumph.

 

Centre Midfielder: Dele Alli, Tottenham Hotspur

In his second season at White Hart Lane, the young England international has continued his ascent towards stardom with 17 league goals, which leads all midfielders. The 21 year old came up big during important games. Including scoring both goals in a must-win 2-0 victory over Chelsea. Dele provides an extra dimension to his arsenal with his ability to be a threat in the air.

While he has been linked with Real Madrid. It is hard to envision Spurs letting their budding superstar leave at the tender age of 21. Expect Alli to continue to flourish next season as he looks to lead Tottenham to their first Premier League title.

 

Right Midfielder: Sadio Mane, Liverpool

Looking back on last summer, Mane was arguably the best signing made by any Prem side in 2016. The former Southampton standout scored 13 goals for the Reds in 26 matches before going down injured in April. When he was in the side, Mane’s pace was electric and freed up space for fellow attackers Philippe Coutinho and Roberto Firmino. Mane’s impact on Liverpool has shown when he is not on the pitch. Liverpool earned 59 points in the 26 matches Mane featured (2.3 ppg). In the 11 that he missed, the Reds managed only 14 (1.3 ppg).

Just 25 years old, the Senegalese international is only just hitting his prime. With Jurgen Klopp set to spend in the summer, Mane will enjoy plenty of help in the attack if he manages to stay healthy.

Liverpool has struggled mightily without the presence of Sadio Mane on the wing.

Left Midfielder: Eden Hazard, Chelsea

Although his teammate N’Golo Kante claimed the honor of PFA player of the year, Hazard made a strong case for the award as well. Following a disappointing 2015-16 campaign, the Belgian has bounced back to the tune of 15 goals and five assists in the league. The threat he provides when he is on the ball forces extra attention from opposing defenses. Hazard made a habit of scoring in key matches throughout the season and none was more spectacular than his solo goal to clinch a vital three points against Arsenal in April.

Antonio Conte will surely fight hard to keep his playmaker, but Real Madrid lurks. If Hazard stays, it will be interesting to see if he can stay motivated or if he will drop off as he did last season.

 

Attacking Midfielder: Kevin de Bruyne, Manchester City

Despite an overall disappointing season for Man City, de Bruyne’s second season in Manchester has been anything but. The Belgian has been among the Premier League’s most unlucky players when it comes to finishing, but has still managed six goals. Where he has really contributed is with his 16 assists, tops in the league.

Next season, the pressure will be building for Pep Guardiola at the Etihad and he will look to de Bruyne to be one of the key contributors.

 

Right Striker: Romelu Lukaku, Everton

Despite having less talent around him than his peers on this list, Lukaku has still amassed 24 goals in the league. With one game to go, he is in the driver’s seat to win the Golden Boot for most goals. Perhaps the most physical player in England, Lukaku’s blend of size, strength and speed make it nearly impossible for opposing defenders to stop him when he gets moving with the ball.

While he is clearly a level above Everton, questions remain regarding whether Ronald Koeman and the Toffees will let the 24 year old Belgian leave in the summer. Lukaku played at Chelsea in the past and could potentially replace Diego Costa at Stamford Bridge if the former decides to leave.

Romelu Lukaku’s physicality makes him a nightmare for opposing defenders.

Left Striker: Alexis Sanchez, Arsenal

In the past, Sanchez has featured at wing for the Gunners. However, Arsene Wenger utilized the Chilean this season at striker and Sanchez responded. He is the only player to have double digit goals (23) and assists (10) this season. His brace in Tuesday’s 2-0 victory over Sunderland kept Arsenal’s top four aspirations alive and showed how important he is to the side. Sanchez will have a shot at the Golden Boot on Sunday when he faces off with Lukaku’s Everton.

Sanchez is said to be quite unhappy at Arsenal and a summer exit looks imminent. Chelsea, Juventus and Paris-St. Germain are said to be monitoring the situation. Wherever he ends up next season, Alexis will make a major impact.

 

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What Next Season’s Contenders Need to do to Improve in the Summer (Part 2)

Manchester City

Pep Guardiola’s second season in Manchester will be highly anticipated and expectations will be massive. With a year of experience in England under his belt, a title and run in the Champions League (assuming City make top four) will be expected.

City have perhaps the least amount of work to do as far as improving personnel. One storyline will be whether Sergio Aguero departs the club following the emergence of Gabriel Jesus. In Jesus and Kelechi Iheanacho, Guardiola has two young strikers with massive potential to develop. Aguero is nearing the end of his prime and may fancy a move back to Spain or Argentina in order to get more play time.

When City do go shopping in the summer, it will be mostly geared towards their defense. City’s deficiency at full back could be solved by signing Tottenham right back Kyle Walker. At left back, Jose Luis Gaya of Valencia would be a massive improvement over the departing Gael Clichy. Finally at goalkeeper, Guardiola needs to find an alternative to the horror show that has been Claudio Bravo and Willy Caballero this season.

 

Arsenal

The most uncertain future among England’s top clubs is that of Arsenal. The Gunners could very well lose their manager and two best players at the end of the season.

The club has been pretty mum on whether Arsene Wenger will still be at the Emirates next season. A split fanbase has made this story one of the most talked about in recent months. If Wenger ends his 21 year run at the club, two rumored candidates are Borussia Dortmund’s Thomas Tuchel and Monaco’s Leonardo Jardim.

Alexis Sanchez looks to be on his way out of the Emirates this summer. The Chilean leads the club with 25 goals in all competitions this season.

On the field, the team’s leading scorer this season, Alexis Sanchez, is all but guaranteed to be leaving in the summer. His list of possible suitors contain Chelsea, Paris St. Germain, Juventus and Bayern Munich. Midfielder Mesut Ozil also faces an uncertain future.

If either Sanchez or Ozil leave the club, it will leave a massive gap. However, the massive transfer fee Arsenal will collect will give them options in the replacement process. Monaco’s Thomas Lemar and Everton’s Ross Barkley are the latest rumored targets to replace Sanchez and Ozil respectively.

 

Manchester United

Much of what United is able to accomplish in the summer will be dependent on their result in the Europa League final May 24 vs Ajax. A victory would boost the Red Devils into next season’s Champions League, and equally importantly, it would make Old Trafford a very attractive destination in the summer.

Uncertainty over the striker position is first and foremost on Jose Mourinho’s mind. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is 35 and just sustained a serious knee injury. Marcus Rashford, while equipped with serious talent and potential, is still raw. Mourinho could look to the transfer market at that position. Antoine Griezmann has long been linked with a move to Man U and his addition would certainly make United quicker and more creative in the final third, an area they lacked in Mourinho’s first year with the club.

Two familiar faces could potentially depart the club this summer. Wayne Rooney has struggled to break into the first team under Mourinho and has been linked with a move back to his boyhood club Everton after an illustrious 13 year career for United. Goalkeeper David de Gea was close to moving to Real Madrid two summers ago and Los Blancos could come knocking again this season.

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Is Champions League Still Reachable For United Without Zlatan?

Manchester United’s quest for Champions League football next season took a massive hit when star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic suffered serious damage to his ACL and PCL ligaments in Thursday’s Europa League tie with Anderlecht .

United are fighting the battle for Champions League on two fronts, in England and in Europe. Jose Mourinho’s side controls their own destiny for a top four finish in the Premier League. Thursday’s showdown with Manchester City will have serious table implications in addition to the heated derby atmosphere.

A difficult schedule still awaits, with visits to City, Arsenal and Tottenham still to come. Zlatan’s injury thrusts the spotlight on young Marcus Rashford and club legend Wayne Rooney at striker. Anthony Martial will also likely be given a chance to redeem himself for past chances not taken.

Manchester United will need Wayne Rooney to re-find his form of old.

Rashford has been significantly better in the last month and can give shaky backlines fits with his pace and work rate. Rooney and Anthony Martial both stepped up by scoring United’s goals in a 2-0 win over Burnley on Sunday. If that trio continues to play well, it could even be an improvement over filtering the entire attack through Ibrahimovic. Liverpool’s loss to Crystal Palace on Sunday puts United in their best table position in months, making a top four dream very much alive.

In Europe, the Red Devils are in the Semi-finals of the Europa League. They must win the competition in order to automatically qualify for next season’s Champions League. Celta Vigo from Spain will prove to be a difficult test in the semis.

While they only sit tenth in La Liga, Celta have proved they can be giant killers by defeating both Barcelona and Real Madrid this season. Forward Iago Aspas is tied with Antoine Griezmann for fifth in La Liga with 16 goals on the season. Man U also lost defender Marcos Rojo to injury and will be shorthanded facing Aspas and the dangerous Celta attack.

Iago Aspas has tormented opposing defenses all season.

United will likely play similarly to the way they did against Anderlecht. Expect Mourinho to be conservative in the opening away tie and attack back home in Manchester in the decisive second tie.

 

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An Update on World Cup Qualifying (Part 3)

Europe (UEFA)

Europe’s qualification process for the World Cup involves nine groups of six teams. The winner of each group automatically qualifies for the tournament while eight out of nine second place teams advance to a separate head to head playoff. With so many prominent footballing nations in Europe, the spots are highly competitive.

Group A

Halfway through the qualifiers, France sit at the top of Group A. Sure to be one of the favorites in Russia next summer, Les Bleus are  having no problems in qualifying. The Netherlands, who missed out on Euro 2016, are in danger of missing out on Russia as well. Despite talent such as Arjen Robben, the Dutch sit fourth on 7 points, six behind the French. Sweden sits in second with 10 points, despite the retirement of Zlatan Ibrahimovic from the national team.

 

Group B

Granit Xhaka (Photo courtesy: goal.com)

The top two in Group B seem to be clear cut at this point, with Switzerland and Portugal distancing themselves from the field. The question is, who will qualify automatically and who will have to go to the gruesome two leg playoff stage? Switzerland are well rounded with players such as Arsenal’s Granit Xhaka, Wolfsburg’s Ricardo Rodriguez, and Borussia Monchengladbach keeper Yann Sommer. Portugal, of course, are Euro 2016 champions and led by the brilliant Cristiano Ronaldo. Switzerland have a three point advantage over Portugal with 15. Hungary sit third with 7.

 

Group C

Group C was always going to be Germany’s from the get go. The reigning world champions sit comfortably atop the group with 15 points. The fight for a potential playoff spot is in progress between Northern Ireland, Czech Republic, and Azerbaijan. The Northern Irish, who sit second with ten, are looking to build on a strong performance at Euro 2016. The Czech team are without longtime goalkeeper and current Arsenal player Petr Cech.

 

Group D

Serbia and Ireland currently sit atop Group D with 11 points. The Serbians have many prominent Premier League players such as Chelsea midfielder Nemanja Matic, Man City left back Aleksandr Kolarov, and former Chelsea man Branislav Ivanovic who now plays for Zenit St. Petersburg. Ireland made it to the knockout stages of Euro 2016. Sitting four points back with 7 are dangerous customers in Wales and Austria. Led by Gareth Bale and David Alaba respectively, both teams are capable of finding themselves in Russia next summer.

 

Group E

Robert Lewandowski looks set to play in his first World Cup next summer as Poland have taken a six point lead in their group. The Polish team also features Monaco defender Kamil Glik and Napoli striker Arkadiusz Milik among others. The battle for second is close, so close that the one second place team omitted from the playoff on points scored could very well be from this group. Christian Eriksen-led Denmark is in contention for that spot along with Romania and Montenegro.

 

Group F

England have put themselves in a good position to win Group F. The Three Lions have a four point lead on Slovakia and five point lead on Slovenia. The Liverpool duo of Daniel Sturridge and Adam Lallana have each scored twice in the campaign. Scotland is also in the group and sits in fourth. Slovakia played in Euro 2016 and enjoy the services of Napoli midfielder Marek Hamsik.

 

Group G

Gigi Buffon (Photo courtesy: zimbio.com)

Another group that has seemingly erupted into a two horse race, Group G contains two of the games’ greatest nations in Spain and Italy. Both sides have had to rebuild from the remains of golden generations in recent years. Spain now has David de Gea and Thiago while Italy boasts Marco Verratti and Leonardo Bonucci. However veteran presence still exists with Andres Iniesta and Gianluigi Buffon. The third place team fighting to stay alive is an up and coming Israel side which should see more players move to Europe soon.

 

Group H

After disappointing in recent tournaments, Belgium look set to get another opportunity next summer. They lead their group by two points over Greece and three points over Bosnia and Herzegovina. Belgium is loaded with talent such as Eden Hazard, Kevin de Bruyne, Thibaut Cortouis and Romelu Lukaku in the Premier League alone. Greece is a scrappy defensive side with solid players such as Roma’s Kostas Manolas. Manolas’ current teammate and former Man City striker Edin Dzeko features for Bosnia and Herzegovina along with Juventus midfielder and free-kick maestro Miralem Pjanic.

 

Group I

Following a heartbreaking Euro 2016 exit, Croatia and its “golden generation” currently have the upper hand on an automatic spot in Russia. Led by a superb midfield of Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic and up and comer Marcelo Brozovic of Inter Milan, Croatia are certainly favorites to maintain their top spot. In second is Iceland, who grabbed headlines last summer with an incredible run in France culminating with a victory over England. Swansea playmaker Gylfi Sigurdsson is their vocal point. Ukraine and Turkey sit two points behind the Icemen. Players such as Yovhan Konoplyanka and Arda Turan bring quality to those sides.

 

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An Update on World Cup Qualifying (Part 2)

North America (CONCACAF)

The final stage of qualifying in North America features six teams with three automatically qualifying and the fourth place side moving onto an international playoff. With four of the ten matches played, it is Mexico who have claimed the top spot with three wins and a draw equaling ten points.

The United States stumbled out of the gate, but recovered this past week with a thrashing of Honduras and a hard fought draw in a visit to Panama. The US currently sit in that dicey fourth position, ahead of Honduras on goal differential. The rise of young stars such as Borussia Dortmund’s Christian Pulisic and Bobby Wood of Hamburg have given new life to an American side that desperately needed, and could still use a pick-me-up. The US have proven commodities in goalkeeper Tim Howard as well as John Brooks, Fabian Johnson and Clint Dempsey.

Mexico’s side includes a trio who star in the Portuguese league. Wing back Miguel Layun and midfielder Hector Herrera are regulars for second-place Porto. While striker Raul Jimenez plays for league leaders Benfica. All three gained valuable experience in the Champions League Round of 16 this season. Finally, the Mexican attack is led by former Manchester United and Real Madrid forward Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, who now plays for Bayer Leverkusen.

Costa Rica announced itself to the world with a run to the quarterfinals in Brazil in 2014. Former Arsenal winger Joel Campbell and midfielder Bryan Ruiz are experienced international players and play for Sporting Lisbon. Finally, Costa Rica’s best attribute is the wall that is goalkeeper Keylor Navas. Since his outstanding performances in the 2014 World Cup, Navas has become the first choice goalkeeper at Real Madrid and made key saves during their Champions League title run a year ago.

New United States manager Bruce Arena is off to a strong start in his attempt to save the USMNT’s World Cup Qualifying Campaign

Who Will Be in Russia Next Summer?

Mexico have firmly put themselves in a good position and their past experience should keep them from falling back.

Navas, Ruiz and Campbell are about as talented a trio as there are at this stage of qualifying. Costa Rica will be there next summer.

The talent of the United States is too much and as they become more and more adapted to new manager Bruce Arena’s tactics, they will only get better and better.

Finally, Honduras’ past experience should help them eek out Panama and Trinidad & Tobago for fourth place and a spot in the playoff.

 

South America (CONMEBOL)

Widely considered to be the most exciting of the qualifying processes. CONMEBOL’s qualifying is only one round featuring all ten nations with the top four qualifying for the tournament and the fifth place team qualifying for a playoff.

With the help of some mind-boggling performances from their superstar Neymar and guidance of new manager Tite, Brazil sit atop the group by nine points and have already clinched a spot in Russia next summer. Bottom feeders Bolivia and Venezuela have been eliminated, but just six points separate teams two through eight with just four matches remaining.

James Rodriguez-led Colombia sit second at 24 points. That is one point ahead of Chile and Uruguay, who boast their own stars in Alexis Sanchez and Luis Suarez respectively. Argentina sit in the playoff spot with 22 points, but have been rocked by the news that Lionel Messi will serve a four game suspension for cursing at the referee.

With three matches remaining on Messi’s suspension, Argentina will need their other big players to step up in his absence. Paris Saint Germain’s Angel di Maria and Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero are two names that come to mind as possible candidates to pick up the slack.

Argentina will have to fend off Ecuador who sit on 20 points, as well as Peru and Paraguay who are further back with 18.

Lionel Messi’s suspension means his teammates will need to step up if Argentina want to qualify for Russia

Who Will Be in Russia Next Summer?

Rodriguez, Sanchez and Suarez all enjoy strong enough supporting casts to join Neymar and Brazil in Russia next summer. Rodriguez has pacy Juventus winger Juan Cuadrado. Sanchez is aided by Bayern Munich’s bulldog midfielder Arturo Vidal. Suarez teams up with PSG striker Edinson Cavani to make for a dangerous strike force.

Finally, it is difficult to imagine a World Cup without the magic man himself, Lionel Messi. Argentina has more than enough talent to get by in his absence and advance to a playoff where they will surely be heavy favorites..

 

Check Back Next Week for Part 3, and an update on European qualifiers.

 

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