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Aneesh

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  1. When as an Arsenal fan I watch Europa League games, my mind has lots of questions related to the competition which usually helps in passing time because frankly speaking almost every game (7 to be exact) has been boring so far. Let's discuss those questions related to Arsenal's Europa League campaign. The first major issue is - should Arsene Wenger now prioritise Europa League for the rest of the season? A one off season away from Champions League is okay but a club like Arsenal that is self sustaining cannot afford to make this a habit. Qualification money right now does not have the value it used to have few years back but major sponsorship deals can get affected if Arsenal do not qualify for Europe's premier club competition again. There are only 2 routes to achieve that - Premier League and Europa League. Chances of finishing in the top 4 appear to be very slim. The Gunners sit in 6th spot 8 points behind 4th placed Chelsea and with 11 games to go the gap looks big enough. Also worth considering the fact that Tottenham sit between Chelsea and Arsenal at 5th. That leaves Arsene Wenger with only one realistic option of making a comeback to the UEFA Champions League which is to win the Europa League. The knockout stages of the competition started well as Arsenal beat Östersunds 3-0 in Sweden thanks to goals from Nacho Monreal, Mesut Özil and an own goal from *this is why being a football writer is exciting* Sotirios Papagiannopoulos. Arsenal did not need a spectacular performance to beat them and return leg looks to be just a formality. The next issue is Alexandre Lacazette's knee injury. The French forward is expected to be out for four to six weeks which means he will miss the return leg of Round of 32 match and also potential Round of 16 games. With Olivier Giroud sold and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang cup tied for this competition, can Arsenal rely on Danny Welbeck who was not at all impressive last night/ In my opinion Arsenal will be hoping for another easier opponent for this stage. Another issue in my mind is constant changing of the side for Europa League games. Arsenal should be prioritising this competition and in order to have any hopes of winning this, a settled eleven is needed. Big players like Mesut Özil, Henrikh Mkhitaryan should become used to of playing with the squad that will be put out in Europa League games. There was also a change in centre-back pairing on Thursday as Calum Chambers partnered Shkodran Mustafi. Now will they pair up again for any other game this season? I don't know. By far the biggest issue is - can Arsenal beat the other strong contenders? On paper Borussia Dortmund, AC Milan, Marseille, Atletico Madrid, Napoli, Olympique Lyonnais and RB Leipzig are very strong teams that Arsenal will have to overcome in order to win the competition. Arsenal have a good enough squad but I have not seen any kind of special performance so far that convinces me but problem is Arsenal didn't need to do too much so far to win games. So Arsenal should really be making the Europa League their priority for the remainder of the season and play their best team to win the competition and re-enter the Champions League next season. 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. Another entertainment-filled transfer window slams shut and now football is back to disturb us. Sounds wrong right? I know but this is what it actually felt like. Never before I have seen such a busy winter transfer window in Premier League. Arsenal fans have seen lots of unexpected stuff over the years but one thing that has still surprised most fans is the flurry of transfer activity in January. Much of the transfer period was consumed by the Alexis Sanchez saga, will he go or will he stay, will he join Man City or Man Utd, etc. Arsenal maintained their stance of wanting a player in exchange just what they tried to do in the summer when they were asking for Raheem Sterling in exchange from Manchester City. A player swap deal between Alexis Sanchez and Henrikh Mkhitaryan suits all parties. Arsenal come out from a very tough situation of losing a great player for free with a class player on their books. Newly appointed transfer scout Sven Mislintat identified the young Greek centre back Konstantinos Mavropanos and judging by the comments of Arsene Wenger, the young defender is impressive in training and hence has not been loaned out. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is a player who will be perfect for Arsenal. He works hard, he scores goals, he can match the wavelengths of creative midfielders like Mesut Ozil and Henrikh Mkhitaryan. The Gabonese forward has scored 141 goals in his 3 and a half years at Borussia Dortmund and scored a hat-trick in his Bundesliga debut. More of the same please. Theo Walcott has served Arsenal for a long time and it was essential for him to go out and find his form once again. Everton will be a perfect team for him and who knows may get a call for the England's World Cup squad. For the very same reason Olivier Giroud opted to leave the club to search regular gametime in order to make France's World Cup squad - although one may think how will he get those games at Chelsea. Francis Coquelin also was on his way out to Valencia and joins former Gunner Gabriel Paulista at the Spanish club. Arsenal have failed to find defensive reinforcements in this transfer window but it's clear that in this whole season trimming down the squad was a necessity which has been done successfully. Finally I can feel that there is a sense of planning been done for the future. Overall this has been a successful window but the summer window will be huge. I expect Arsenal to focus on buying more than selling in the summer and for that to happen, trimming down the squad was essential. Had it been done in the summer, the season would have gone much better. But better late than never. Arsenal fans were desperate for something positive and the signings of Mkhitaryan, Aubameyang and appointments of scout Sven Mislintat and head of football relations Raul Sanllehi have given us a good start. Ins Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Borussia Dortmund) Konstantinos Mavropanos (PAS Giannina) Henrikh Mkhitaryan (Manchester United) Outs Theo Walcott (Everton) Francis Coquelin (Valencia) Mathieu Debuchy (Saint Etienne) Olivier Giroud (Chelsea) Loaned out (selected players) Jeff-Reine Adelaide, Chuba Akpom, Krystian Bielik 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.
  3. 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. Another exciting weekend of Spanish football is here. Some big games are coming up this weekend including Real Madrid v Sevilla and Villarreal v Barcelona. Let us now go through the 10 fixtures this weekend. ALAVES v LAS PALMAS Gameweek 15 will begin with the Friday night game between 2 teams in the relegation zone. 19th placed Alaves welcome 18th placed Las Palmas. A win for either side can take them above the relegation zone depending on other results. Both teams won their respective fixture in gw 14 and this will be a massive showdown. Hat-trick hero for Alaves last weekend Ibai Gomez will be up for it. Jonathan Calleri is the top scorer for Las Palmas this season with 5 goals. Prediction - Score Draw GETAFE v EIBAR 8th placed Getafe host 13th placed Eibar at the Coliseum Alfonso Perez. Getafe became the first team to beat Valencia this season and Eibar as well come into this game in some form winning their last 3 fixtures in the La Liga. Getafe have been hot and cold at home this season winning 4 and losing 3 while Eibar away from home have just faced defeats in 2 out of 7 games. Prediction - The narrowest of home wins REAL MADRID v SEVILLA The first massive clash of the gameweek is the 2nd game on Saturday evening at Santiago Bernabeu between Real Madrid and Sevilla who sit at 4th and 5th spot in the table respectively. Sevilla come into this game after winning their last 3 matches whereas the Madrid giants have drawn 2 of their last 3. Surprisingly both draws were goalless which is not what we expect from Zinedine Zidane's men. Marco Asensio and Isco are top scorers for Real so far with 4 strikes. Surely the now 5 time Ballon d'Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo has to increase his goal tally which is stuck at 2 right now. Prediction - Real Madrid cannot afford to drop points now so expect them to beat Sevilla DEPORTIVO LA CORUNA v LEGANES 17th placed Deportivo welcome surprised package Leganes who sit at 7th spot in the table at the Estadio Riazor. Cristobal Parralo's side are just 2 points above the relegation zone and badly need a couple of good results to release some pressure. Lucas Perez, the Arsenal man on loan at Deportivo, is their top scorer with 4 goals and has to take responsibility for this game as well. Prediction - Draw VALENCIA - CELTA VIGO High flying Valencia, who have just suffered their first defeat of the season last weekend at Getafe, face 10th placed Celta Vigo at Estadio Mestalla on Saturday night. This game can turn out to be a goal fest as Valencia are 2nd top scorers in the league with 33 goals while Celta are 4th best with 28 goals. Simone Zaza has been sensational and has already scored 9 goals for Valencia this season. Iago Aspas is also flying high this season and has scored 8 already for Celta Vigo. Prediction - Home victory for Valencia REAL SOCIEDAD - MALAGA 9th placed Real Sociedad welcome basement dwellers Malaga at Anoeta Stadium. The visitors have suffered defeat in all of their 7 away games this season whereas La Real have won just 2 of their 7 home games. Willian Jose is the top scorer for La Real with 7 strikes while the goals not coming frequently for Malaga, Uruguayan Diego Rolan has struck 3 times. Prediction - Home win for Real Sociedad REAL BETIS v ATLETICO MADRID 11th placed Real Betis host 3rd placed Atletico Madrid at Estadio Benito Villamarin. Atleti are not having a great season but are still unbeaten in the league and have the joint best defence conceding just 7 goals in 14 games while Betis have conceded 4 times more - 28 goals. Great chance for Diego Simeone's men to win this game and hope to close the gap on Barcelona and Valencia. Antoine Griezmann is expected to increase his goal tally which is at 5 right now. Prediction - Away win for Atletico Madrid LEVANTE v ATHLETIC BILBAO 14th placed Levante welcome 16th placed Athletic Bilbao at Estadi Ciutat de Valencia. Athletic Club held Real Madrid to a goalless draw last week but their last win came in gameweek 8 when they beat Sevilla at home. Levante and Bilbao both have won just 3 of their 14 games so far and have scored 14 goals each. This is really a game between out of form and short of confidence sides. Prediction - Goalless draw VILLARREAL v BARCELONA Sunday night's game promises to be a cracker as 6th placed Yellow Submarines welcome the league leaders to Estadio de la Ceramica. Villarreal are without a win in 3 games but can be expected to give Barca a tough fight. Barcelona were surprisingly held at home by Celta Vigo last weekend but are still unbeaten. Cedric Bakambu tops the scoring charts for the home side with 9 goals and no prizes for guessing the top scorer for Barca. Hint - he's the best in the world. Prediction - Barcelona win ESPANYOL v GIRONA The last game of this weekend is the Monday night fixture between 15th placed Espanyol and 12th placed Girona at the RCDE Stadium. Quique Sanches Florez' team is not doing really well which is bit of a surprise. They have just scored 11 goals in 14 games and 8 of those came from Gerard Moreno (5) and Leo Baptistao (3). Uruguayan Cristian Stuani is the top scorer for Girona. The ex-Boro man has scored 8 times so far. Prediction - Home win for Espanyol The La Liga Santander action resumes tonight and we expect some very interesting games which can have a massive impact on the league standings. Adiós. Share your thoughts about this preview feature article on Football Manics by signing up for FREE to the website, visiting the forum and joining the chat with fellow football fans.
  5. The football media season, also known as the transfer season, is in full swing - we are just midway through it and some major deals have been completed already. Fans spend hours reading the transfer news and assessing completed deals so lets discuss a top signing of top 5 European leagues. LA LIGA VITOLO - SEVILLA TO ATLETICO MADRID, LOANED TO LAS PALMAS No better deal than this to start the article. Atletico Madrid are facing a transfer ban and have still arguably have made the best signing of La Liga so far. Atleti cannot register new players before January so, after buying Vitolo from Sevilla, have loaned him out to Las Palmas for the first half of upcoming season. The 27-year-old Spain international paid his own £33m release fee which was funded by Atletico Madrid, according to Marca. Vitolo was a vital part of the Sevilla side that won the Europa League three years in a row. The winger has scored 4 goals for Spain in his 11 caps. Other major transfers include Dani Ceballos from Betis to Real Madrid, Nelson Semedo from Benfica to Barcelona, Gerard Deulofeu from Everton to Barcelona, and Ever Banega back to Sevilla from Inter. BUNDESLIGA JAMES RODRIGUEZ - REAL MADRID TO BAYERN MUNICH (2-YEAR LOAN) Bayern Munich are not just having fun on their Twitter accounts, they are also making transfers in a fun way. After signing Kingsley Coman on a 2-year loan from Juventus couple of years ago, they strike again by signing James Rodriguez from Real Madrid on a 2-year loan deal. The loan fee paid for 2 seasons is €10m and they have an option to buy him for €40m thereafter. Signing the Colombian international could be a crucial move for Bavarians as Thomas Muller faced a poor season last time out and "Robbery" (Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery) are not getting any younger. New signing Serge Gnabry has also been sent out on loan to Hoffenheim. Bayern alone have dominated the key Bundesliga transfer business so far, also acquiring Sebastien Rudy and Niklas Sule from Hoffenheim and Corentin Tolisso from Lyon. PREMIER LEAGUE ALEXANDRE LACAZETTE - LYON TO ARSENAL Since Premier League transfers the get most clicks and comments online, let me first accept that there have been many many good signings made so far. However, Arsenal's new number 9 stands out in my opinion because finally the Gunners have splashed the cash to replace Robin van Persie. Arsenal fans were demanding a proven goalscorer for some years now and finally their prayers were answered as the Frenchman joins from Lyon for £ 52m. Alexandre Lacazette scored 28 goals for Lyon last season in Ligue 1 and 76 goals in the last three seasons and has also featured in Ligue 1 team of the season three times in last four seasons. Other major deals - Romelu Lukaku from Everton to Manchester United, Wayne Rooney's return to Goodison Park from United, Victor Lindelof from Benfica to Man United, Kyle Walker from Tottenham Hotspur to Man City, Bernardo Silva from Monaco to Man City, and Mohamed Salah from Roma to Liverpool. SERIE A LEONARDO BONUCCI - JUVENTUS TO AC MILAN We can write a book on new signings made by AC Milan in this window but they have arguably pulled off a contender for signing of the summer in Leonardo Bonucci. The stunning transfer saw the Italian champions sell arguably the best defender in the world (best player in the world in my eyes if defenders get same recognition as goalscorers) to a Serie A rival. Problems between the defender and boss Massimiliano Allegri may end up proving costly to the Old Lady. A Champions League final loss to Real Madrid also caused problems between Bonucci and several now-ex-teammates like Dani Alves, Andrea Barzagli and Paulo Dybala. Other major transfers - Douglas Costa from Bayern to Juventus, Borja Valero from Fiorentina to Inter, Hakan Calhanoglu from Leverkusen to Milan, Andre Silva from Porto to Milan, and Roma recruiting Rick Karsdorp and Hector Moreno. LIGUE 1 DANI ALVES - JUVENTUS TO PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN Veteran full-back Dani Alves was announced as a PSG player this week after rejecting the approaches from various Premier League clubs including Manchester City. The Brazilian was released from Juventus this summer and hence was a free agent on the market. PSG boss Unai Emery will hope that this signing can help them win the league back from AS Monaco and help the Parisians go further in the Champions League. Other major transfers - Adil Rami from Sevilla to Marseille, Steve Mandanda from Crystal Palace to Marseille, Bertrand Traore from Chelsea to Lyon, Terence Kongolo from Feyenoord to Monaco, Luiz Gustavo from Wolfsburg to Marseille. A tremendous amount of money has been spent so far and we are still only halfway into the market. More major deals to happen. So which has been your favourite signing? Share your about this feature article on Football Manics by signing up for FREEthoughts to the website, visiting the forum and joining the chat with fellow football fans.
  6. Just one month has passed from Arsenal's impressive FA Cup final win over Chelsea, but still the disappointments of last season in the Premier League and Champions League outweigh that victory. This off-season is very much needed to recharge batteries and take mind of the game for some time. So what happened after the FA Cup final is that Arsene Wenger has signed a new two-year contract at the Emirates Stadium. I don't think majority of Arsenal fans wanted that but I also know that said majority of Arsenal fans knew this will happen. Arsene had said that top-four qualification would not have affected his position, he also said FA Cup will not affect it which just confirmed what fans already knew. He is not accountable to anyone, club do not set targets for him and ambition is just a word used during contract extensions by Stan Kroenke, Ivan Gazidis and Wenger. Arsenal for some time have loved delaying the inevitable. This summer was another perfect opportunity to make a fresh start and plan for the future but instead they chose to delay it. I can understand that the club did not plan at all for life after Wenger and extension was a no-brainer for them but what worries me is that this doesn't seem to be the reason of extending his contract if statements from Stan Kroenke and Ivan Gazidis are to be believed. Stan came out and said Arsene is the perfect man to deliver Premier League and Champions League. But on what basis? When did we win a European trophy under him? Last league title was 13 years ago so on what basis such lame comments are thrown towards fans? Wenger's refusal to work with a Director of Football also makes sure that even now the planning aspect regarding his successor is on hold. More than a month has passed since his contract extension and no player currently on the books has signed a contract extension nor the players expected to leave have left yet. Sead Kolasinac has been signed for free and Alexandre Lacazette should become club record signing this week. The French striker right now divides opinion simply because Arsenal refused to pay the asking price for him last year but now have decided to pay much more than that. The teenage sensation Kylian Mbappe of AS Monaco is constantly linked but it will be very difficult for Arsenal to pull this off. One of Thomas Lemar or Riyad Mahrez seems likely to join the Gunners if various reports are to be believed. The biggest issue this summer for Arsenal was Wenger, Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil. Manager has signed an extension, Mesut Ozil also looks likely to extend his stay but there are still doubts regarding the Chilean forward. Arsenal simply have to keep their best player of last season. Manchester City are rumoured to be his next destination but Arsenal should be wary of another fan backlash if they allow this to happen. If Arsenal manage to keep their big players and add a couple more players of quality like Lacazette then they can challenge next season. No Champions League football can help them in the Premier League run in. Would love to end this by saying exciting times ahead but as an Arsenal fan I am not sure about that. What I am sure about is that this summer's transfer business is of huge significance and next season is a massive one for Arsenal FC. 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.
  7. So, in just a few days, another season of the Premier League will come to an end. It is noticeable that in recent years, the only thing which has come to conclusion in the final gameweek is not the title or relegation spots, but the Champions League qualification spots. With 37 games played all across the board, three teams are vying for two remaining spots. Manchester City and Liverpool look to be the favourites but Arsenal have an outside chance as well. 3rd - Manchester City (75 Points) Pep Guardiola's men sit 3rd in the table and in good form. 3 wins in last 3 games scoring 10 goals. City just need a point in their final game at Watford to cement a spot in next season's Champions League group stage. Watford, who have lost all of their last 5 games, have nothing to play for really so this should be an easy ride for City. 4th - Liverpool (73 Points) The top 6 table toppers Liverpool have still not sealed their Champions League berth is quite surprising and worthy of criticism to be fair. The Reds need to win and hope Man City draw or lose to have any chance of finishing in top 3. Liverpool just need to match the result of Arsenal's game to end the top 4 saga but a defeat can make things interesting. Relegated Middlesbrough visit Anfield on the final day and Calum Chambers (on loan from Arsenal) should be pumped up. 5th - Arsenal (72 Points) Arsenal are playing their best football and not surprised it has come when the race for top 4 is on. How this team starts performing for this sole objective but not for anything else is a mystery for some. My guess would be that failing to reach top 4 makes Arsene Wenger accountable (I hope) to his boss (if there is a boss). The Gunners need to beat Everton on the final day and hope Boro get something out of the Liverpool game to qualify for Champions League. Arsenal can leapfrog Man City too in an unlikely scenario of Watford beating Man City and Arsenal beating Everton and there is a goal difference swing of 5. And if two or more of the above sides end up with equal goals for, goals against, and points, then we could have a playoff for the automatic spot, or for the chance to make the CL altogether! This weekend will provide an exciting conclusion of the Premier League 2016-17 season and with all the games kicking off at the same time there will be a test of nerves of managers and players. Can't wait. Share your thoughts about this news story on Football Manics by signing up for FREE to the website, visiting the forum and joining the chat with fellow football fans.
  8. In my last article, dated February 28, I discussed the mess Arsenal were in. Three weeks on, it has become a crisis. Struggling to find one aspect where the club is impressive right now. Board members are hidden, fans are divided, manager keeping fans in the dark, players not performing on the pitch and last but not the least the ongoing transfer rumours. Arsenal have played 4 games in March and won just one - the FA Cup quarter-final against non-league side Lincoln City. Defeats against Liverpool and Bayern Munich were not surprising while the latest defeat at West Bromwich Albion was overshadowed by the air show. Arsene Wenger's future is still doubtful in many eyes but hearing him recently and reading his quotes makes me think he is gonna stay and the results don't even matter. Fan protests are on and they are likely to continue even if the manager signs an extension. The Frenchman admitted that it will affect his decision making but recent reports suggests fans don't matter either. Without a doubt the biggest problem right now is lack of trust. Fans have no trust in the board and the manager. CEO Ivan Gazidis appears only at the season's end to promise signings to calm the fans and in hope of season ticket renewals while manager is making same mistakes every season and even the quotes in press conferences give fans no hope. There is a massive distance between the fans and club. It is hurting the fans. The latest comments of Arsene Wenger after the West Brom defeat has given me shocks. Still not revealing his future (which is another contract) and explaining why Champions League qualification is not as important as it was before and his future does not depend on that. On UCL qualification he says ''Of course, on the sporting front it would be a blow, but financially the Champions League does not have the impact any more that it had five or six years ago because of the influx of the television money (to the Premier League).'' Another comment where the present situation of Arsenal is exposed. For years and years Arsenal fans have heard why top 4 is so important and now after the TV money it is not so important. Part of fanbase have been successfully "brainwashed" about treating top 4 as a trophy and fans supported this decision of the club. But what now? If now not qualifying for Champions League is also Okay then what next? As a fan I absolutely see a sign of betrayal. We all know financial aspects are so important for football clubs now but even if it's just a business it is not going well at Arsenal because in a business - Customer is King. A business is only considered successful when customers are satisfied. For Arsenal, currently, fans are of very little importance. Chris Sutton came up with strong views here - "Arsenal is a dictatorship and Arsene Wenger surrounds himself with yes men." It is a dictatorship when you are accountable to no one and you can do whatever you want to. At Arsenal amazingly Arsene looks to be self employed. There is no one above Wenger at the club who has good knowledge of football. The planning or lack of planning actually by the club is absolutely shocking. The current team just like Arsenal teams recently lack leaders. Only yes men surround Arsene Wenger and recent reports suggested that Alexis Sanchez was not happy with something and was dropped as a result. To sum it up it as a fan near future of the club looks worse. If reports are to be believed, players who don't look to be happy with the condition of the club - Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil, Lucas Perez, Alex Oxlade Chamberlain to name a few look set to leave. If Arsenal fail to qualify for Champions League then will Arsene Wenger be able to replace players of same if not better calibre? The club is losing the trust of fans fast and the angry protests will eventually grow as, if nothing changes at the club in terms of board and manager, well then nothing will change on the pitch either. Arsenal and Arsene have been outclassed this season again. Even if I was greatest fan of Arsene and wanted him to stay, I would genuinely be worried if the club allows him to stay on after such unrest among fans and poor results and another year of no title challenge. Share your thoughts about this Arsenal feature article on Football Manics by signing up for FREE to the website, visiting the forum and joining in the chat with fellow football fans.
  9. Chris for a club like Arsenal what's going on is a mess. Change needed and you accept that as well. Coming on to your comment on United - they are gonna win the league before Wenger (if he stays).
  10. This article is dedicated to a topic on which I assume every football writer has given his opinion. Some were biased and had their agendas while some were hitting the core points. But do you ever wonder why does Arsenal invite such discussions every season? The reason is that each and every season is the same at the club and in this line itself the question whether Arsene Wenger should stay or leave is answered. Witnessing yet another season of a failed title challenge and embarrassing exit in the Champions League (no prizes for guessing the round) has finally woken up a lot of fans. In recent years clubs like Borussia Dortmund, Atletico Madrid and even Leicester City have done what Arsenal couldn't. That surprisingly didn't put pressure on Wenger but things are changing now. It will definitely be foolish to say that the Frenchman is behind all the problems at Arsenal but as of now he appears to be the man in total control of this club. Yes, the owners care about making the club richer and don't necessarily want trophies for that etc is fine BUT Arsenal are no longer a club that has to sell its best players to achieve its targets. Wenger has spent close to 100 million pounds this summer and results appear to be the same still. My biggest frustration or concern with the club is setting low targets. Aiming for top four in the league every season and the knockout stages in UCL is a habit. Most assume it's all the owners' fault and Wenger is doing a great job but can't win because of people behind the scenes. Here comes a big question then - when Wenger has so much power at the club (everyone knows that) then how come he is happy to be a part of such a club where the owners do not care about trophies and have other objectives? Why does he constantly defend those in the boardroom when it comes to transfers, season targets, etc.? A manager who wants to win will definitely in my eyes not want to be a part of such a mess. Now we come to the point that players like Mesut Ozil, Laurent Koscielny, Hector Bellerin and so on want Wenger to stay. Well, the media and even fans know that the club is run by the manager here and almost every decision is taken by him. Players know there will be a massive structural change at the club if he goes and their future will definitely be uncertain. The players know about the club much more than fans and media on this topic. They see every year is the same story and not once the manager comes under pressure from the owners. What message do they get from this? Few players have it too safe under Wenger in charge and constantly get away with poor performances as well. Another top point of Wenger's backers was the squad he is going to leave behind when he retires. Let's not talk about the future but discuss the present. The prime years of big players of Arsenal - Laurent Koscielny, Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez, Petr Cech under Wenger has failed to give a league title or even mount a strong title challenge. Ozil and Sanchez's contracts expire in the summer of 2018 and it doesn't look positive right now. So hope of Wenger leaving behind a fantastic squad for the next manager is gone in my view. We all love the attacking nature of Arsenal but football has changed massively and failing to adapt is the biggest crime in this world. Arsenal set up the same way against every opposition and in almost big game find themselves tactically incapable. Then comes the term 'mental block' and if a manager who has spent more than 20 years at the club fails to instill a winning mentality in the players then its simple - he has to go. Knowing the club too well, it is not shocking that a new contract is on the table for Wenger because planning at Arsenal is abysmal. Since AW is in complete control of the club, the board members will have to appoint more than one personnel to replace him. A manager and football director (maybe more) becomes a must and this involves a sincere planning effort which is not seen at Arsenal right now. Massimiliano Allegri has been linked recently with Arsenal and he can be a good appointment if Wenger decides to step down. Others who are constantly linked are Tomas Tuchel of Dortmund, Roger Schmidt of Bayer Leverkusen and Eddie Howe of Bournemouth. Diego Simeone is also regularly linked and is one of my favourite managers but I don't see him at the Emirates because I don't think he will be happy to work in an environment where targets are not as high as it should be. But a dreamer can dream. So in a nutshell Arsenal right now are in a mess which will definitely not be solved by Wenger and even if he decides to step down it will take some doing for the next man in charge to make us title contenders again. As a fan who gives a lot of time to watching Arsenal, thinking about Arsenal and care a lot about the club (just like many others) it's undeniable that ARSENAL NEEDS CHANGE. The club are just delaying the inevitable and it's better to act now. Winning isn't everything but not competing is unacceptable. Share your thoughts about this feature on Football Manics by signing up for FREE to the website, visiting the forum and joining the conversation.
  11. 23 games down, 15 games to go. With the arrival of February, the Premier League is heading into the business end and there is only one club looking capable of winning the league title - Chelsea. As a football fan, I find many similarities in this season and last season. No team looks flawless yet only one team maintains consistency while the other contenders fail at regular intervals. Last season Leicester kept going on impressive runs losing just 2 of their 23 games and this season Chelsea go on winning runs and have just lost 3 games. Last season's contenders - Man City, Arsenal, Tottenham, Manchester United - are contenders this season as well but they keep dropping points at regular intervals giving Chelsea a comfortable lead after every gameweek. We can now talk about the title race and how top 6 are faring after 23 games. CHELSEA - 56 Points Chelsea are top of the table and have a 9 point lead over their nearest rivals Spurs who ended the Blues' fantastic 13-game winning run. There were doubts whether Chelsea can recover and go on another run and as of now they are 3 unbeaten and got a tough fixture at Anfield out of their way with a decent 1-1 draw. Chelsea have still shown few weaknesses but I have no doubts in saying that Antonio Conte has been virtually flawless. Hasn't put a foot wrong. Diego Costa's bust up with a coach and rumours of a move to China have been handled fantastically by the Italian. Chelsea face Arsenal at Stamford Bridge tomorrow and can knock the Gunners out of the race by winning and extending the gap to 12 points. TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR - 47 Points Spurs sit 2nd in the table after a disappointing draw at Sunderland's Stadium of Light. The league's bottom club managed to hold Mauricio Pochettino's men. This result can be damaging for Spurs as they missed out on closing the gap on Chelsea. Christian Eriksen, Dele Alli and Harry Kane are in good form and their title hopes are dependent on performances of these players. Tottenham have 3 home games in their next 4 fixtures. They face Boro at home tomorrow. Time to go on a run to have any hopes of unseating Chelsea from top spot. ARSENAL - 47 Points Arsenal are 3rd in the table level on points with Spurs but behind on goal difference. In my last article I wrote the words 'Same Old' for Arsenal and I still don't have anything to add to it. Arsene Wenger's men gave a typical title chasing Arsenal performance when they lost to Watford at Emirates after winning 5-0 at Southampton. The Gunners face Chelsea at Stamford Bridge tomorrow and can help themselves with a win. Wenger won't be on the touchline because of his disappointing behavior towards officials during their match against Burnley. But when the presence does not help why will the absence hurt? LIVERPOOL - 46 Points The wheels are coming off Jurgen. Liverpool don't look like the team who were outscoring almost every team earlier in the season. 1 win in their last 5 games and they failed to beat Chelsea which could have reignited their hopes. Liverpool have knocked themselves out in my opinion but all is not bad. 100% the expectations and ambition this season was top 4 and they have a fight on their hands. Jurgen Klopp's men face a rejuvenated Hull City on Saturday and they should be up for it. Sadio Mane is back too who has played 3 games in AFCON and has been eliminated from 3 competitions in that period of time. 1 tournament per game. Yikes! MANCHESTER CITY - 46 Points Pep Guardiola's men are out of the top 4 but are just behind fourth placed Liverpool on goal difference. Strange is the only word I can use for them. One game they look unbeatable, next game they look like a mid table side. Swansea and Bournemouth are their next 2 opponents and both are very much winnable games. Gabriel Jesus has started his City career in great fashion and the future of Sergio Aguero will remain uncertain now. Already much talked about trio Leroy Sane, Gabriel Jesus and Raheem Sterling look to be crucial for Man City. They can put a lot of pressure on Liverpool, Spurs and Arsenal for sure. MANCHESTER UNITED - 42 Points Winless in 3 and without a defeat in 3. Draw specialists Manchester United have the joint most draws (9) in the Premier League and most in the top 6. A 0-0 draw at Old Trafford against Hull City reminds us of 0-0 against Burnley but it was similar in terms of scoreline only. Performance looked to be very average against Hull. Unsurprisingly Jose Mourinho preferred to talk about referees, Jurgen Klopp, behaviour of journalists more than the performance. Well, it works for him and we have seen many decisions go in their favour recently after constant criticism of referees. United face league champions Leicester City next at the King Power Stadium. Final thoughts So just like last season, it looks like only one team is good enough to win the league and the other contenders just keep on dropping points at regular intervals. It will not be wrong to say that the 13 game winning run of Chelsea just might have already given them the title. One last thing I want to add which is not related to the title race is the treatment of reporters by certain managers. I think the Premier League should look into the disappointing behaviour of certain managers towards journalists who are doing their job but getting insulted in return. Either don't make it compulsory for managers to speak after the game so that they can send assistants to do it or start punishing the managers for rude answers. Share your thoughts about the Premier League title race on Football Manics by signing up for FREE to the website, visiting the forum and joining the conversation.
  12. So we're into the first full working week of January and society is back in full swing after the stop-start festive period. Of course, English football does not rest during Christmas and New Year, but with the FA Cup third round weekend out of the way, now is a good time to stop, look back and focus on how the Premier League table has shaped up. In this article, Football Manics writer Aneesh Chandoke looks at the sides in the Premier League title race. CHELSEA Chelsea are still at the top and, up until last Wednesday, appeared to be running away with the league title, but their London rivals Tottenham Hotspur reignited the title race with a solid 2-0 win over the Blues at White Hart Lane. For a good number of weeks Antonio Conte made us feel as if Premier League is the new Serie A (Juventus cantering to the title every single season) but thankfully the race is now wide open again. Defeat to Spurs ended a run of 13 straight Premier League wins for Chelsea, but if they can bounce back from this setback and go on a run even half as impressive as the one that's just ended, then no one can stop them from winning the league. It will definitely be tough to go on such a run once again though, especially because champions Leicester City - who can still beat anyone on their day despite their comedown from last season - Liverpool and Arsenal are 3 of their next 4 opponents. LIVERPOOL Jurgen Klopp's men sit 2nd in the table 5 points behind leaders Chelsea. Liverpool were impressive in their most festive fixtures and their huge win over Manchester City at Anfield shows that. However, their final festive fixture against Sunderland saw them drop 2 points which highlights a lingering inconsistency and could prove to be costly. The Reds have scored 48 goals in 20 games, which is highest in the league, but they have also conceded 23 goals which is highest when it comes to the top 6 of the league. A trip to Old Trafford to take on bitter rivals Manchester United is next for the Reds, and Chelsea will come to Anfield soon. Their title challenge can depend on these 2 games. TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR Spurs are 3rd in the league table, 2 points behind Liverpool and 7 behind Chelsea, and just ahead of Manchester City on goal difference. Mauricio Pochettino's men have been under the radar for much of the season so far, but their ultimately comfortable 2-0 win over leaders and rivals Chelsea has shown a statement of intent. Tottenham have the best defence in the league with just 14 goals conceded in 20 games. Next up is West Bromwich Albion at White Hart Lane and then a trip to the Etihad Stadium to face Manchester City. MANCHESTER CITY Something is not right at Manchester City. After a fantastic start to the season, Pep Guardiola's men have somewhat fallen off the pace. Consistent chopping and changing of the team and indiscipline shown by the players on the pitch look to be the reasons behind it. Pep's strange post match reactions also deserve a mention here. Man City have greater depth in squad and that gives them a definite edge over the likes of Liverpool and Spurs. Everton and Tottenham are their 2 next opponents and I expect both games to be mouthwatering. ARSENAL As an Arsenal fan I can just write 'Same Old' and the world will understand what I am trying to say. Anyway, the Gunners sit outside of the top 4 and are 8 points behind leaders Chelsea who were whacked 3-0 at the Emirates. Complete different story for both clubs since then. The league table shows Arsenal are in the mix but the struggles of Arsene Wenger's charges against top teams makes them top 4 hopefuls at best. Olivier Giroud's sublime scorpion kick goal deserves a special mention but sadly that could be the highlight of Arsenal's season come May. The next 3 opponents of Arsenal are all in the bottom half of the table so this could be a time to rack up some points and hope that the teams above them encounter blips. MANCHESTER UNITED The Red Devils are the in form team of the Premier League, having won their last 6 games, but still sit 10 points behind leaders Chelsea and 3 points behind the top 4. In addition, they have scored fewest number of goals (31) among the top 6 teams in the league. Safe to say Jose Mourinho is now aiming for a top 4 finish after years of taunts aimed at teams consistently finishing in the top 4, but if they can rack up a winning run similar to that of Chelsea, who's to say they could launch a late challenge? Man United face Liverpool next at Old Trafford and it is a very important game for both these teams. CONCLUSION With 18 rounds still to play, the Premier League will definitely give us a few more twists and turns. As of now Chelsea look to be the favourites but should be challenged by Liverpool and Manchester City. Tottenham, Arsenal and Manchester United will need to do something special to win the league this May. What do you think about this feature? Who will last the distance in the Premier League? Share your thoughts about this article on Football Manics by signing up for FREE to the forum and joining the conversation.
  13. Another exciting weekend of Premier League action has finished and gave us some very interesting talking points. There have been some breathtaking games this season which proves that the Premier League is indeed the best in the world in terms of entertainment. On this note, I would like to discuss a few talking points of the season so far after the conclusion of Gameweek 14. Chelsea smile after eight wins in a row It would be unfair to start this article by discussing any club other than Chelsea and its manager Antonio Conte. The Blues are improving with each passing fixture, which will surely be causing anxiety to the other title contenders. This weekend's game against Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium had talking points and controversies in itself, but the fact is that Chelsea turned it around in style and earned 3 points. The Blues are the perfect example of how a good manager can transform the club without heavily relying on the transfer market. It is funny that last season after 14 games Chelsea were 14th in the table with 15 points and now they are 1st with 34 points. A major talking point for them this season has been Conte's 3-4-3 which has been sensational this season and will rightly be lauded if Chelsea win the league in May. Net flicks and Chile - Alexis on fire Gonzalo Higuain, Robert Lewandowski, Antoine Griezmann, Alexandre Lacazette or Olivier Giroud? Arsenal have had several names bandied about in terms of prospective target men. Surprisingly it was Alexis Sanchez who was given this responsibility and no one can say this move has not worked. The Chilean is enjoying his football and, with 11 goals and 4 assists, not to mention 5 in his last 2 Premier League games, he is the heartbeat of Arsenal and if he keeps up his magic, he may end their wait for their first Premier League trophy in 12 years. Clean-cut Costa in constrant with Sergio aggro The Premier League this season has been nothing short of magical. Diego Costa is the joint top scorer in the league with 11 goals but that is not the magic I am talking about. 14 games in and zero suspensions for the Spaniard is indeed magical whereas Manchester City's Sergio Aguero is collecting suspensions for fun. His latest red card means the Argentine will have alteast missed 7 games in the league by the time Gameweek 19 begins. Costa has been on the verge of getting a suspension after collecting his 4th booking of the season in gameweek 6 against Arsenal but surprisingly hasn't received a yellow card since. Everyone is enjoying this free scoring, hardworking Diego Costa who has indeed worked on his 'dirty' side of the game and I do feel it is also down to the new manager Antonio Conte who cannot do anything wrong at the moment. Dilly ding dilly gone? Leicester City right now look to be in a relegation battle, sitting just 2 points above the relegation zone. Claudio Ranieri's magic is not at all working in the Premier League this season even though they are doing well in the Champions League. Their top players Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez, Wes Morgan and others are all massively underperforming while new signings have also not been very impressive. The tag of one-season wonders would still be accepted but relegation battle is just unbelievable right now. Big improvements are needed if they are to survive. Football is not played on paper One thing which has come under notice this season is how quite a few teams with talented players have been struggling. The key example is Manchester United. The likes of David de Gea, Paul Pogba, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Wayne Rooney and so on are internationally renowned players, yet the team is 9 points away from a top four place. Lower down the table, we have Crystal Palace, West Ham and Leicester City. Let's name just a few of the top players in those teams. Christian Benteke, Wilfried Zaha, Loïc Rémy, Mathieu Flamini, Dimitri Payet, Simone Zaza, Michail Antonio, Álvaro Arbeloa, Riyad Mahrez, Jamie Vardy, Islam Slimani, Danny Drinkwater... the list goes on. Who could have foreseen teams boasting some clearly very good players doing so badly? Red Devils suffering hellish time under Jose Mourinho Jose Mourinho works very hard in his press conferences and therefore he is always a talking point. Even when his team does well he is the talking point and when it doesn't do well he is still the talking point. Sadly for him it's all bad right now. Another draw against Everton has put Manchester United 13 points behind leaders Chelsea. At this point the Red Devils are closer to relegation points tally than the league leaders. From badly treating few players, to disappointing results, to walking out of the press conferences and disrespecting media, to taking a needless dig at other teams and managers, Mourinho is a big talking point and the surprise is that he feels media does not respect him. I wonder why? Final thoughts This wonderful Premier League journey will go on and on and we can't wait for the games ahead. Surely lots of stories and talking points to erupt each gameweek. Share your thoughts about this feature on Football Manics by signing up for FREE to the website, visiting the forum and joining the conversation.
  14. Serie A is one of the most tactical leagues around which is known for its interesting team selections, tactics and tight games. One third of the season has passed and 14 rounds have been played - only Genoa and Fiorentina have played a game less because the match on September 11 was abandoned due to a hailstorm. Juventus are currently top of the pack on 33 points after winning 11 games and losing 3. It is no surprise that the Bianconeri are at the top once again but this season they have looked a bit vulnerable compared to recent seasons. Defeats against both Milan giants has given others hope of ending the Old Lady's domination. During the 2014-15 season Juve lost 3 games while they lost 5 last season, but as of now they have already suffered 3 defeats. New big money signing Gonzalo Higuain is their leading scorer with 7 strikes in the league, while the impressive BBC backline - Bonucci, Barzagli, Chiellini - can once again be a source of success this season as Juve have the best defence in the league, conceding just 12 goals in 14 games. AS Roma are 4 points behind Juve and sit in 2nd place. The Giallorossi are the leading scorers in Serie A with 33 goals scored in 14 games. They have a perfect record at home by winning 7 out of 7 games at Stadio Olimpico. Bosnian forward Edin Dzeko, who has been under pressure throughout his Roma career, is finally delivering and is the leading goalscorer with 12 strikes. Mohamad Salah is also having a great season as the former Chelsea man has scored 8 goals already. The Eternal Derby against city rivals Lazio is their next game. Finally, AC Milan look to be back to form in Serie A. The Rossoneri currently have the final Champions League qualifying spot of the league (3rd place) and are level on points with Roma. Manager Vincenzo Montella is doing a fine job and results specifically against teams like Juventus are showing that. Goals are spread throughout the Milan team as Carlos Bacca leads the scoring charts with 6, closely followed by man in form Suso with 5. Youngster Manuel Locatelli has been a sensation this season and is enjoying his breakthrough campaign, having scored twice already. Other teams which can be considered dark horses for the title race are Lazio and Atalanta, who have collected 28 points each, and also Torino and Napoli who have 25 points each. One Milan giant has improved but the other is still not able to match its past. Inter Milan currently sit 8th in the league table with 21 points. Dutchman Frank de Boer was the club's head coach when the season started but his sacking has led to the appointment of Stefano Pioli. A shambolic performance in the Europa League group stages mean that the Narazzuri's European season is over and it will also be a challenge to qualify for any European competition next season. Pescara, Crotone and Palermo currently sit in the relegation zone but Empoli and Sassuolo can also be dragged down if results don't improve. When it comes to individual players, Edin Dzeko and Mauro Icardi are having a brilliant season as both have struck 12 goals and are joint top scorers. Andrea Belotti of Torino is enjoying this season very much after scoring 10 goals already. This is the breakthrough season for the 22-year old-and has also become a regular for the Italian national team. Another young Italian enjoying the season is Fiorentina's Federico Bernardeschi, who has become a regular member of the Azzurri. Gianluigi Donnarumma of Milan is a shining star this season and big things are expected from the teenager for club and country. Suso of Milan has also been very impressive. The 23-year-old Spanish midfielder is regularly chipping in with goals and assists. As a fan of Serie A and Italian football as a whole, I hope for a very interesting title race which goes down to the wire. Juventus looks to be the best of the lot but there surely are a few challengers who can pose a serious threat. Share your thoughts about this feature on Football Manics by signing up for FREE to the website, visiting the forum and joining the conversation.
  15. With the Premier League a third of the way through, things have shaped up nicely among all 20 teams. We have three main contenders for the title in Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City, with dark horses in the shape of Arsenal and Tottenham. Things become much tighter from sixth place downwards, with only nine points separating sixth-placed Manchester United from 18th-placed Hull City. So what do we make of the teams scrapping at the lower end of the table? Aneesh Chandoke looks at each club in detail, beginning from the one propping up the table. SUNDERLAND The Black Cats are currently bottom of the league table and I must confess that my view is, after fighting relegation battle for many years, this could be the year they finally go down. Nothing seems to be right about their squad and even the manager David Moyes seems out of his depth and at a loss to explain his side's poor showing. Jermain Defoe is their only hope for survival but leaking goals in almost every game is not ideal. Fellow strugglers Leicester City and Swansea City are their next two opponents and it is very important for them to pick up maximum points in both these games. SWANSEA CITY I cannot say I am surprised to see Swansea sit 19th in the table but I will definitely say that their fans and their past managers who have made them a stable Premier League club don't deserve this. A stable football club with good possession based football style who used to dominate home games against even bigger opponents have all of a sudden become relegation favourites. A club that used to back their managers and keep calm have all of a sudden become a hiring-and-firing club. Swansea is a great example of how a change of ownership can't always be promising. Fans are unhappy with the appointment of American Bob Bradley and the results so far have also not been good. Gylfi Sigurdsson is right now running the club on the pitch and Swans will want him to continue firing on all cylinders if they have to survive in the league. HULL CITY The Tigers started the season in turmoil and to be very honest it is a surprise they are not in bottom two. Manager Steve Bruce left the club due to issues with the board and club only had 13 fit senior players at the start of season, but accruing seven points in their opening four games was nothing short of a shock. However, they came back to Earth with just four points from their next nine games. Middlesbrough and Crystal Palace are their next two opponents and they will have to start winning such games if they want to stay in the Premier League. CRYSTAL PALACE Steve Mandanda, Yohan Cabaye, Andros Townsend, Christian Benteke... no point naming more players because, when such regular international players are struggling, then you know this is not your season. Alan Pardew is having an awful time at Selhurst Park and there is nothing I can say about them which can bring some hope for them. Only thing of note is that I enjoy watching their games because entertainment is guaranteed. Just this Saturday, Palace threw away a two-goal lead to lose to strugglers Swansea 5-4. As a result, the Eagles are out of the relegation zone on just goal difference. Pressure is rising on Pardew and I will be very surprised if he goes into the new year as the manager of Palace. Southampton and Hull City are their next two opponents and Palace are in desperate need of points or at least a clean sheet. WEST HAM UNITED Another team who possess a good squad but not able to defend properly and hence find themselves in a difficult position in the league table. I will be a little sympathetic for Slaven Bilic as many key players got injured at the same time at the start of the season. Dimitri Payet, Andre Ayew, Aaron Cresswell, Sofiane Feghouli, and Andy Carroll to name a few got injured in August and the Hammers couldn't cope with it. They are one point away from relegation zone right now and their next two opponents are title contenders Liverpool and Arsenal. Still I will be surprised if West Ham don't solve their issues and aren't in a comfortable position come May. MIDDLESBROUGH Boro have given few decent performances and have even been able to compete against the likes of Arsenal and Manchester City. Their problem for Boro is they are unable to convert draws into wins. Just two wins out of 13, with six draws, is not bad considering they are a newly promoted club, but they will need to do better over the next few months. One positive for Aitor Karanka's men is that they dont concede sloppy goals and have a good defensive record which is very fital in a fight for survival. Hull City at home are their next opponents and Boro surely will be hoping to win this and get into a comfortable position for now at least. LEICESTER CITY Leicester City, the Premier League champions, are in relegation fight right now. Claudio Ranieri's men have just won three of their opening 13 games and sit two points above relegation zone. Champions League football has turned their heads a bit and they have been mighty impressive in that competition winning four out of their five games so far. With qualification into the next round assured, we expect Leicester to switch attention back to the Premier League and start collecting a few wins. Struggling Sunderland are their next opponents. BURNLEY It was pretty obvious that Burnley will find it tough in their return to the Premier League. They are regulars in getting promotion to the top flight and then getting relegated. Currently they sit three points above the relegation zone and are very impressive at Turf Moor - all four wins have come at home. Defensive stability may keep them in the Premier League this season but it will be difficult if better squads on paper like Leicester, Palace, and West Ham get into form and move above them. --- Stoke City and Bournemouth, who sit 11th and 12th in the league table respectively, can also get into trouble if they don't pick up regular wins, but they are doing this right now. So far so good for them. With two thirds of the season still to come, many ups and downs of each and every team will be on show. However, the likelihood is that the teams who will be in Championship next season will all come from the above list. Share your thoughts about this feature on Football Manics by signing up for FREE to the website, visiting the forum and joining the conversation.

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