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  1. 1 point
    The Premier League relegation survival battle this season is not so much a race as a Royal Rumble. Literally half the league is scrapping for their top-flight status, with 11th-placed Watford (on 27 points) just three points above 19th-placed Huddersfield, while Bournemouth and Everton, ninth and tenth respectively, are just four points above the Hornets. At the start of the season it looked like Crystal Palace were set to do a Derby County in meekly surrendering their top flight status, but they're now 14th, while a month ago, it looked like Swansea City had fallen into disarray, but they're still very much alive in 17th place. When Frank de Boer was unceremoniously sacked so early in the season, the choice of Roy Hodgson as the new Palace manager was met with groans. Likewise when Carlos Carvalhal, who had failed with a team in the division below, was announced as the new Swans boss, it was seen as a dreadful call. But rather than wilting away and dying, both teams have experienced an upturn in form and have claimed some great results along the way. Palace were goalless and pointless when Hodgson came along, with the players having failed to adapt to the change in style ushered in by De Boer - not to mention the lack of communication - as they were still used to the Sam Allardyce school of play. Hodgson was a more reassuring, "old-school" type of manager, whose training sessions are very hands-on, focusing on repeated drills and a meticulous, disciplined approach but at the same time keeping things relatively simple. The players know where they stand and what to do, and given the upturn in form, it's working wonders. And despite the ridicule that Hodgson has received at the helm of Liverpool and England, he retains a sense of self-belief and confidence in his abilities, similar to Allardyce in fact, but like Big Sam is also not adverse to make use of flair players like Wilfried Zaha, while his man-management - witness Bakary Sako's superb adaptation from forward to winger - has also reaped dividends. As for Carvalhal, whose appointment at the Liberty raised eyebrows given he was sacked by Championship side Sheffield Wednesday, he has turned a side which was also en route to relegation into an outfit which looks like it belongs in the top flight. The Portuguese is known as being a fan of attacking football but he has built from the back, instilling defensive foundations as a platform upon which to build. Indeed, Swansea have seemed more confident off the ball, keeping their shape but pressing aggressively against opponents. Mike van der Hoorn has been given a new lease of life, drafted in as a third centre-half and putting impressive performances, while the full-backs have been urged further and further up the pitch to great effect. Other notable differences include the upturn in form for both Sam Clucas and Jordan Ayew, and the amount of men which Carvalhal commits into the opposition box - all these aspects have given the Swans a fighting chance of survival. However, both sides will be pressing on without key players - Palace have lost Sako for the remainder of the season, while Swansea will be without Leroy Fer and Wilfried Bony. But given how Hodgson and Carvalhal have already upset the odds as "bad" appointments in failing teams, there is much cause for optimism going forward despite these injuries, and when it comes to the home straight, I believe both sides will get over the line and end the season as Premier League clubs. Share your thoughts about this feature article on Football Manics by signing up for FREE to the website, visiting the forum and joining the chat with fellow football fans.
  2. 1 point
    With the January transfer window in full swing, we are looking at some of the players who could potentially strengthen each of the top 6 Premier League clubs. Our selections have been made around a number of factors, including current rumours, players who would suit each team, and signings who would be realistic in terms of expenditure. Manchester City We start with the team who are poised to become champions of England for the third time in 6 years. Pep Guardiola has once again set up a team that plays the beautiful game exactly how it should be played, which makes it hard to pick out any players who will make a real difference to them. Harry Maguire Age: 24 Position: Centre back Current club: Leicester City Previous clubs: Sheffield United, Hull City How realistic is the transfer?: 5/10 Cost: £45-55m Our first suggestion is someone who could potentially form an all-English future defensive pairing with John Stones. Harry Maguire has impressed many with his brave style of play at the heart of the Leicester defence, and he is someone that Guardiola could look to as a long-term replacement for captain Vincent Kompany. Like compatriot Stones, Maguire is more than comfortable with the ball at his feet, and can often be seen driving into midfield trying to take his side forward. He is someone that would suit Guardiola’s style of play to perfection, and under the Spaniard’s coaching, he could become part of a very exciting centre-half pairing. The prospect of those two playing together on a regular basis is also in the best interests of the England national team, who could benefit from a defence that boasts experience at the heart of a Pep Guardiola side. This is a signing that is unlikely to happen in this transfer window, but certainly one to keep an eye out for in the summer. Jose Gimenez Age: 22 Position: Centre back/right back Current club: Atletico Madrid Previous clubs: Danubio How realistic is the transfer?: 3/10 Cost: £50m A man who established himself in the Atletico Madrid starting XI in the 2014/15 season, Jose Gimenez has fallen out of favour in Diego Simeone’s plans this season. City may see him as a replacement for Eliaquim Mangala, who was loaned out to Valencia last season, has struggled for game time this term. He primarily plays at centre back, although he can put a shift in at right back when called upon. Simeone appears to prefer a pairing of Diego Godin and Stefan Savic in the middle of the defence, whilst the emergence of Sime Vrsalijko at right back has seen his chances of game time at all cut short. Although he proves a worthy back up, Gimenez will surely be looking for a move away from Madrid sooner rather than later, and Manchester City, along with rivals Manchester United, have been long term admirers of the Uruguayan international. At the age of just 22, Gimenez still has a lot to learn, and a coach like Guardiola would certainly bring the best out of him and turn him into a more complete player. Manchester United Having already sealed the deal to sign Alexis Sanchez ad make him the highest earner in the Premier League, Manchester United are highly unlikely to making any more signings, but here’s a couple of players that could catch their eye in terms of who to look at in the summer. Samuel Umtiti Age: 24 Position: Centre back Current club: Barcelona Previous clubs: Lyon How realistic is the transfer?: 6/10 Cost: £50-55m Long gone are the days of Manchester United’s hard-battling, feared defensive partnerships. Eric Bailly is a start, but finding someone to go alongside him at the back has proved hard for Jose Mourinho, after the disappointing beginning to Victor Lindelof’s life in Manchester. Samuel Umtiti could prove a worthy partner for Bailly, after impressing in La Liga with Barcelona over the last season and a half. He might not be the tall, strong centre half that we are used to in the Premier League, standing at 1.82m, however what he lacks in height, he compensates in ability. The £75m paid by Liverpool for Dutch defender Virgil Van Dijk makes Umtiti’s release clause of roughly £50m look like an absolute bargain, especially considering he still has a number of playing years ahead of him. United would surely be looking to offload at least one of their current defenders before diving into the market for another one, but they may need to act quickly to ensure they beat rivals Manchester City to his signature. Danny Rose Age: 27 Position: Left back Current club: Tottenham Hotspur Previous clubs: Leeds United, Watford (loan), Peterborough United (loan), Bristol City (loan), Sunderland (loan) How realistic is the transfer?: 6/10 Cost: £45m Danny Rose would bring something to Manchester United that they have been lacking in recent times, a fast-paced attacking left back, much like they have on the right hand side in Antonio Valencia. Luke Shaw offers a similar style of play, however he has not quite lived up to his potential since his big money move from Southampton in 2014, mainly due to injury. Rose still has a few years left ahead of him, and he offers experience as part of Mauricio Pochettino’s well organised Tottenham side of recent seasons. He’s established himself in the England starting team over the last couple of years, although he has been forced out of Tottenham’s defence after returning from a long injury, due to the emergence of Ben Davies. This could tempt Spurs to offload Rose, and Manchester United would certainly be potential suitors for the full back. Chelsea Chelsea are having a mixed season up until this point. They remain in both domestic cup competitions, as well as the Champions League, but fans would get more satisfaction out of being closer to Manchester City at the top of the table, as impossible as it may seem. Chelsea always seem to loom towards more experienced figures in the transfer market, which is shown in the two suggestions that we’ve made. Oscar De Marcos Age: 28 Position: Right back Current club: Athletic Bilbao Previous clubs: Alaves How realistic is the transfer?: 5/10 Cost: £25-35m Oscar De Marcos is the player that Chelsea thought they were getting when they signed Davide Zappacosta. The Italian has failed to impress since signing in the summer of 2017, and Conte might already be looking for an adequate replacement. De Marcos has been a key figure at Athletic Bilbao since joining them in 2009, however he has seen his playing time cut short this season due to a number of injuries, leaving Bilbao seeming to prefer second choice right back Inigo Lekue due to the consistency that he can bring. De Marcos might see this as his opportunity to get a move to the Premier League, and Chelsea would certainly be a potential destination for him. Chelsea already boast a strong Spanish contingent, with the likes of first team players Fabregas, Morata, Alonso and Azpilicueta which would play a part in helping him to fit in. Arturo Vidal Age: 30 Position: Central midfielder Current club: Bayern Munich Previous clubs: Colo-Colo, Bayer Leverkusen, Juventus How realistic is the transfer?: 6/10 Cost: £40-50m Another man who has failed to win over Chelsea fans is Tiemoue Bakayoko. He hasn’t necessarily had a poor season, but he certainly has not lived up expectations since his big money move last Summer. Arturo Vidal is a name that pops up in every transfer window, with regards to Chelsea. Currently plying his trade for Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga, he has previously worked under Conte when the pair were at Juventus. The midfielder is a passionate player who is not afraid to get stuck in to challenges, a play style which will suit him to the Premier League. He might come at a hefty price for the Blues, however this is something which does not normally put them off of transfers. Rumours circled at the start of January that potential deal could be struck for Vidal once the Bosman transfer of Leon Goretzka to Bayern was sealed, and with the latter being completed within the last few days, these rumours are likely to start up again between now and the Summer. Liverpool Liverpool’s potent attack was damaged by the sale of Phillipe Coutinho to Barcelona. Having not made any acquisitions so far in this window, Klopp has come under pressure from expectant fans waiting for a big-name replacement. Here’s a couple of ways in which they could splash the cash in the final days of the window. Naby Keita Age: 22 Position: Central midfielder Current club: RB Leipzig Previous clubs: Red Bull Salzburg How realistic is the transfer?: 3/10 Cost: ? Although Naby Keita will officially be a Liverpool player when the summer transfer window opens on the 1st of July, the Reds could look to bring him in early, as a way to spend some of that staggering £140m they received for Coutinho. A midfield of Jordan Henderson, Emre Can and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is certainly not the most appealing to all Liverpool fans, and it’s clear that some extra quality needs to be brought in if they are to continue their strong challenge for a Champions League place. There are not many players that we can compare Keita to in terms of giving an idea of what to expect from the midfielder. He possesses a very unique style of play, which has allowed him to stand out in the Bundesliga since RB Leipzig’s promotion in 2016. At the age of just 22, the Guinea international has bags of energy, which would further compliment Liverpool’s pacy counter attacking style of football. Although it is very unlikely that he will move early, Liverpool have nothing to lose in trying to negotiate a deal. Alisson Age: 25 Position: Goalkeeper Current club: Roma Previous clubs: Internacional How realistic is the transfer?: 7/10 Cost: £40m Since the days of Pepe Reina, Liverpool have struggled to find a worthy replacement in the goalkeeper position, leaving Jurgen Klopp still unsure over his 1st choice between the sticks. Simon Mignolet had been his preferred choice for most of the season so far, however Loris Karius has played in 3 of the Reds last 4 fixtures. With the money coming from the sale of Coutinho, Klopp might see it as an opportunity to finally bring someone with a little more quality in his last line of defence. Alisson saw his game time limited last season, acting as a backup for Wojciech Szczesny however he did get his chance in Europe, impressing in the Europa League. In 2017/18, he has further improved his reputation, and is joint top of the clean sheet table in Serie A with 9 in 19 appearances. He is only 25, leaving him a many playing years ahead of him, and he could the man Liverpool are looking for. Tottenham Hotspur In recent years, Tottenham may not have been able to compete with the rest of the teams on this list financially. That being said, the gap is starting to close and they have become a force to be reckoned with both domestically, and in Europe. Even so, Spurs have failed to win a trophy since the 2007/08 season which is becoming increasingly frustrating for fans. Here’s who they could look at to bolster their side. Ryan Sessegnon Age: 17 Position: Left back Current club: Fulham Previous clubs: - How realistic is the transfer?: 8/10 Cost: £30-35m Ryan Sessegnon has made quite the impression on English football since his emergence in 2016. The youngster helped England lift the UEFA Euro u19 championship in the summer of 2017, having only just turned 17 himself. He currently plays in the Championship for Fulham where he has been involved in 21 goals in just over 50 appearances, an impressive record for a man who primarily plays at full back. Although Spurs might not be in the market for a left back, Sessegnon is a versatile player who can play anywhere down the left flank. When playing in a more attacking role, he has scored 7 and assisted 2 in just 8 league matches, a record which even a world class striker would be proud of. Tottenham have been known for developing young talent in recent years, with the likes of Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli improving vastly under Pochettino, and Harry Kane coming through the ranks of the academy which is why Spurs would seem like a very interesting proposition in the eyes of Sessegnon. Amadou Diawara Age: 20 Position: Holding midfielder Current club: Napoli Previous clubs: San Marino, Bologna How realistic is the transfer?: 5/10 Cost: £40m Diawara is another player that has made his breakthrough in the last couple of seasons. Napoli snapped up the midfielder after he had a successful season in Serie A with Bologna, and he has caught the eye of many top European clubs after impressing at the San Paolo. Tottenham could look to Diawara as a long-term replacement for Moussa Dembele, who is now 30 years of age. The Guinean would be an ideal signing for Spurs, as we know that Pochettino likes to develop players over time to fit into his style of football, and at the age of just 20 the Argentine manager could turn him into something special. He is a deep-lying playmaker, who boasts a 92% passing accuracy, and has also shown positive signs of defensive awareness, helping to put him on the wish-list of many of Europe’s elite. Arsenal Arsenal are more split than ever. The departure of Alexis Sanchez has brought out both the best and the worst in the club. It shows that they have not learned their mistakes from the Robin van Persie situation, although it also shows their desire to strengthen, with the signing of Henrikh Mkhitaryan, and the pursuit of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang Age: 28 Position: Centre forward Current club: Borussia Dortmund Previous clubs: AC Milan, Dijon (loan), Lille (loan), Monaco (loan), Saint-Etienne (loan), Saint-Etienne How realistic is the transfer?: 7.5/10 Cost: £50-55m Aubameyang would simply be a start to resolving Arsenal’s many problems. It’s going to take a lot more than one signing, and most likely more than one or even two transfer windows to reach the level expected of fans. The potential signing of Aubameyang, which is the Gunners are viewing with optimism, would form a fantastic partnership, on paper, with Frenchman Alexandre Lacazette, and German Mesut Ozil. With 13 goals in 15 appearances this season in the Bundesliga, the Gabon international is a proven goalscorer, and has been since his very first league match in Dortmund’s colours, in which he scored a hattrick. Whether he would be used as a replacement for Alexis Sanchez or Theo Walcott, Aubameyang has the pace to offer the same counter attacking style football that Arsenal have been known for under Wenger. Time will tell over this one. Steven N'Zonzi Age: 29 Position: Defensive midfielder Current club: Sevilla Previous clubs: Amiens, Blackburn Rovers, Stoke City How realistic is the transfer?: 4/10 Cost: £27m Even Arsenal fans are struggling to stand up for Granit Xhaka. He seems out of place, like he is not a natural defensive midfielder. The solution? Buy a defensive midfielder that can defend of course, but with Arsene Wenger it is never that simple. That being said, Steven NZonzi is a name that was linked with the North London side in the summer, and the rumours returned just before the January transfer window opened. No one would have predicted the success of the French international when he moved to Sevilla from Stoke in 2015, however he became a well recognised force in La Liga under Unai Emery and Jorge Sampaoli. Sevilla are struggling this season, and a change of manager last month has further scarred a somewhat disappointing campaign as of yet. The midfielder might cost more than Arsenal would be willing to pay for a 29 year old, however it would show true ambition for success to make a signing like this one. Share your thoughts about this feature article on Football Manics by signing up for FREE to the website, visiting the forum and joining the chat with fellow football fans.
  3. 1 point
    Finally we have the confirmation - Alexis Sanchez is now a Manchester United player and Henrikh Mkhitaryan is an Arsenal player. Twitter absolutely blew up as soon as the deal announced as both sets of fans shared their joy and few even expressed their disappointment. Negotiations took weeks and fans were eagerly waiting for the announcement but it is understandable that a direct exchange of players is a tough deal to complete considering the various negotiations involved with both players and their agents and so on. It was very much a certainty than the Chilean's time at North London was coming to an end as he was on his last 6 months of contract. Manchester City came very close to signing the player on summer transfer window's Deadline Day but Arsene Wenger made it clear that the Arsenal forward would not have been allowed to leave the Emirates if a suitable replacement was not brought in. Pep Guardiola was still the favorite to get the deal done in January but Arsenal deemed their offer of £20m way too low for a player like Alexis even though he only had 6 months remaining on his contract. Mkhitaryan, meanwhile, is a player who is very much admired by Wenger and Manchester United were ready to send the Armenian the other way in exchange for the Chilean and this is where both parties came in agreement. Sanchez has been a terrific player for Arsenal who has scored 60 goals and delivered 25 assists in 122 Premier League appearances for the club. The El Nino Maravilla has also won FA Cup twice in 2015 and 2017. It would be fair to say that he wanted more and Arsenal failing to qualify for Champions League has been a major factor in his decision of wanting out of the club. As a big fan of Arsenal and Alexis I can't help but feel sad that he has chosen to join Manchester United but I don't think anyone can deny a player of his ability should regularly be in the Champions League. Jose Mourinho and United wanted a significant win over Manchester City of any sort and winning this player battle will be a huge lift for the club. The Portuguese manager is very good when it comes to convincing players and promises of regular starting spots and huge investment in the next summer must have been a major factor in Sanchez's decision. Mkhitaryan started the season very well but could not maintain his form and was overlooked by Mourinho for most part of the season thereafter. The Armenian has scored 5 goals and provided 6 assists in 39 appearances in Premier League for the Red Devils. He still has unfinished business in England and I am pretty sure he will be eager to show his worth with quality performances at Arsenal. His style of play is likely to suit Arsenal more than United whereas Sanchez is a kind of player who can score lots of goals and give 100% to any club. I think both players will achieve success with their new clubs. At the end of the day Arsenal have lost a world class player but have gained a very good player. It was very much a given that they are going to lose Alexis for free and yet they have managed to gain something very good out of a nothing situation. Share your thoughts about this opinion feature article on Football Manics by signing up for FREE to the website, visiting the forum and joining the chat with fellow football fans.
  4. 1 point
    A freezing cold South Yorkshire afternoon greeted the 1420 Pompey fans attending New York Stadium for the first time in this League 1 clash. After a minutes applause to honour the lives of the two ex Millers players (John McGlashan & Rodney Fern) who sadly passed away this week, impeccably observed by both sets of supporters the match got under way with the visitors quickly in the ascendancy. Pompey's Matt Kennedy's ball seemed perfect for Kal Naismith but the Pompey forward screwed his effort well wide. Jamal Lowe was the next Pompey player to threaten the Rotherham goal with a good effort that brought a good save from Rodak in the Millers goal. Rotherham were struggling to gain a foothold in the game & almost fell behind again on the half hour when Pompey striker Brett Pitman could only head a Naismith cross into Rodak's hands. A good turn & snapshot from striker David Ball that just cleared the bar towards Half Time was the Millers only real chance of any note & the Millers manager Warne must have been happy & relieved to go into the break level. HALF TIME...........MILLERS 0 POMPEY 0 Despite their being no changes in personnel at the start of the second half the home team came out invigorated & started taking the game to Pompey almost opened the scoring after just a few seconds of the 2nd half when loanee midfielder Richie Towell saw a goalbound effort blocked by the Pompey defence. Rotherham were doing all the pressing now & after a few Millers corners were starting to panic Pompey's back line Centre Half Richard Wood sent a close range effort wide from around 6 yds. Plenty of goalmouth scrambles were coming fairly regularly now & from one of these both Towell & David Ball saw their close range efforts well wide. Ball then sent an effort inches wide after good wing play on the right by midfielder Forde. The decision to go for the win had been taken with Newel, Smith & Taylor replacing Forde, Yates & Ball in an attempt to get the goal our 2nd Half performance deserved. Just as the 4th official 5 minutes board has started thestart of added time, the Millers were not satisfied with a point &.went all out for the win which was achieved when in the first minute of the five a good cross by sub Michael Smith was expertly headed home by left back Joe Mattock. A tough but deserved win for Rotherham in a game of two halves but for me Rotherham's attitude was spot on & they dominated the second half.

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