Arsenal amassed the most points in the Premier League in 2015


In addition to sitting at the summit as they welcome in the new year, Arsenal top the charts for most points amassed in the Premier League in the last 12 months. The Gunners have 81 points from 38 games played, nine points clear of the chasing pack, and manager Arsene Wenger believes his side are in great shape to replicate such a record over the course of an entire season to win major silverware. They picked up 42 points between January and May of 2014/15 and have 39 points from August to the end of December this season (2015/16).

“I believe that we are mature enough and that we have the requested quality to fight and compete. The most important thing is to feel, at the end of the season, that we have given absolutely everything to be successful. After that, if somebody has been better than us, we will accept it, but we want to fight to show that we have a chance.”

Arsenal are top of the Premier League at the mid-point of the season, and sides that have led in the division by the half-way marker have more often than not gone on to seal the title. Wenger, however, isn’t being drawn into comparisons, and instead believes his side will have to earn the right for major silverware.

“We have a good chance as the statistics show you that eight of the past 11 years the team who was top on New Year’s Day won (the Premier League title), but it is not the date that is decided you win the league. We have to rise above that and show that we can deal with (the expectation).  We can have great solidarity in every single game and after that we have a chance. We have chance and we want to fight for it,” Wenger added.

Arsenal have been in this situation only recently, however, leading the Premier League for the longest period in 2013/14 before a late slump saw the Gunners relinquish the crown to the likes of Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea who al finished in the top-three. For 2013, the Gunners also picked up the most points (82) too. This season is slightly different due to the inconsistent form of every side in the league.

Manchester City continue to drop points in their away games, while the likes of Leicester City and Crystal Palace are currently occupying two spots in top-five, so the table is likely to look a lot different come May. Arsenal have been one of the most consistent, and have their destiny in their hands if they are to win a first league title since 2004.

Barcelona break Spanish record with 180 goals in 2015


Spanish La Liga giants Barcelona signed off for 2015 by breaking Real Madrid’s record for most goals scored in a calendar year. A recent 4-0 win against Real Betis saw the Catalans go two goals clear of Real’s 178 goals set in 2014, capping a fantastic year in the process. Currently top of the table and having sealed five trophies this year, Barcelona could hardly wish for a better 12 months.

Manager Luis Enrique has transformed the side since his appointment, and has the best strikeforce in Europe firing on all cyclinders. Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez both contributed 48 goals each of Barca’s tally of 180, while Neymar scored 41 times. It meant the trio of attackers made up 75% of the overall tally, further highlighting just how impressive they have all been on a consistent basis.

Barcelona’s goalscorers in 2015

Lionel Messi (48), Luis Suarez (48), Neymar (41), Ivan Rakitic (7), Pedro Rodriguez & Gerard Pique (5), own goals (4), Sandro Ramirez & Jeremy Mathieu (3), Rafinha Alcantara & Munir & Sergi Roberto & Andres Iniesta & Adriano & Marc Bartra (2), Thomas Vermaelen & Xavi & Dani Alves & Jordi Alba (1).

The Spanish club won the Spanish La Liga title, Spanish Copa Del Rey and Champions League, while adding two further pieces of domestic and European silverware, and are now setting new records for goals. It will deservedly see the squad named as one of the greatest in history, and the chief contributors to the impressive goal tally are surely among the best the game has ever seen?

Manager Luis Enrique isn’t content to rest on any laurels, however, and is planning even more success to come in 2016. Following the Real Betis victory, he said: “As far as intensity, we continued as we have done throughout the year, which is the best message we can send the fans heading into 2016. (It’s been) a very good year. I’d give it a nine. But everything can be improved.”

£Everyone can get better. The players, the coaches, and all the people that form part of this Club. There is very little difference between Europe’s big clubs and we have to keep working hard,” Enrique added. Barcelona have hardly suffered following the departure of long-serving influences in the side, and instead continue to improve years after year. No side has retained the Champions League since its’ name inception, but 2016 could be an incredible year for the Catalans given what they’ve displayed this time round.

Could Cesc Fabregas leave Chelsea amid Serie A links?

cesc fabregas chelsea

Chelsea midfielder Cesc Fabregas has endured a season to forget. The Spanish international has struggled for form with the Blues, and has found himself the recipient of ire fom the supporters due to rumours about his involvement of the sacking of former manager Jose Mourinho. While further reports suggests the ex-Barcelona man was in fact an ally for the Portugese coach, his form certainly didn’t help matters, and it would hardly be surprising  if he seeked greener pastures elsewhere in January.

While Guus Hiddink’s arrival means a clean slate for Fabregas, the 28-year-old could well take matters into his own hands if the rumours linking him to the Serie A are true. Italian giants Inter Milan and Juventus are reportedly keen on the playmaker, and the slower style of play could well suit the tiring midfielder, who has struggled with the fast pace of the Premier Leauge since winning the title. Fabregas has suffered burnout in 2015, and such was the reason his return to Barcelona didn’t go as planned in the long-term.

Many past-their-peak footballs had made the switch to the Italian Serie A due the slower paces style being easier to contend with, and a talented passer of the ball like Fabregas could certainly shine. He’s not at his best when having to chase down the opposition, but instead when he’s controlling possession with a like-minded midfield alongside him. He wouldn’t break the bank either given his poor form this year, and Chelsea could be considering letting him and many others go to rebuild with a youthful eye.

Fabregas is one of many players currently in the latter years of their career and players underperforming for the Blues this season. The Spaniard has struggled the entire year, and it would be hard to see Chelsea turning down a fair offer for the 28-year-old when the January transfer window opens. The Londoners have been heavily criticised for ignoring the up-and-coming talents at the club, while loaning out so many players rather than utilising them, and a Fabregas replacement could be in the youth side now.

Prior to his move to Chelsea, Arsenal were linked with the midfielder, with Cesc having played for the latter between 2003-2011, but opted against bringing him back. Manager Arsene Wenger felt he was no better than what he already had, and he has so far been proven right. With Fabregas short of form and being linked with clubs that would allow him to operate in his perferred playmaker role, rumours won’t die down of a possible move in January, so could he leave Chelsea this season?

What has Ryan Giggs learned from his stint as No.2 to warrant replacing Louis van Gaal?

ryan giggs louis van gaal manchester united

A number of Manchester United supporters are campaigning for club legend and current assistant manager Ryan Giggs to take charge of the club should manager Louis van Gaal be sacked, citing his knowledge of the club’s history, success as a player and cache in the game as a whole. But given the Welshman has known little other than United’s demise during his foray into coaching, what has he really learned from shadowing the manager that would suggest he would make a good successor?

Giggs was a senior coaching figure during David Moyes’ stint as United manager, taking the reigns full time for the final selection of games. He has been assistant to Louis van Gaal ever since, and the future plan appears to be for the 42-year-old to be a long-term boss at Old Trafford when the time is right. However, Giggs’ experience learning the ropes hasn’t been a pleasant one, and it seems far too early to be considering the long-serving midfielder for the top job at United.

Nevertheless, the rumour mill has been in full force, and even pundits are suggesting Giggs is having a positive influence on the side that could suggest top-level management might be coming his way soon enough. After Manchester United drew with Chelsea in the Premier League after a rare dominant display that deserve more, Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher suggested the Welshman’s tactics were on display due to the change in style from Van Gaal.

“If I hadn’t read a paper or watched television in the last 48 hours, I’d have thought it was Ryan Giggs’s first game in charge,” he said. “I’m not saying he was responsible for tactics but this was not a typical Louis van Gaal performance from Manchester United. This looked like the team of old with the way they attacked and pressed. It would have been a travesty had Chelsea snatched a winning goal.”

Giggs was most prevalent during the glory days of endless title triumphs and European success under Sir Alex Ferguson – one of the game’s greatest ever managers – playing a fast-paced attacking style of football that more than entertained the supporters. Van Gaal has favoured a slow and patient approach, so the change in style was very noticeable. Aside from links to the United job, Giggs was linked with the vacant Swansea position a number of weeks ago, and there seems to be a following that tip his for a bright coaching career.

In Moyes’ tenure, United set unwanted records for defeats in a league season and losses at Old Trafford to clubs that normally wouldn’t leave United’s backyard with a point. Giggs hardly picked up much as a coach except how not to go about his own approach. It’s been a similar situation with Van Gaal, although the Dutchman is far more stubborn about his style, so it’s hard to see how Giggs has much of an influence.

He’s held in high regard with the club hierarchy neverthelesss, and seems to fit the bill for what United want as their long-term manager in the future, but what has he really learned in the last two years?

Manchester City’s away woes continue in the Premier League


Manchester City travelled to the King Power Stadium to face Leicester City on Tuesday night and managed only a goalless draw for their troubles. Dominant in the first-half against the Foxes, Manuel Pellegrini’s men couldn’t make the most of their chances and possession and were frustrated to take a share of the spoils. It mean their wait for an away win in the Premier League was extended to six games.

The Sky Blues’ last win on the road in the league came all the way back in September – a 1-0 win against Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park – but since then City have fallen short when playing away from the Etihad Stadium. A goalless stalemate with Manchester United and Aston Villa  preceded consecutive defeats to Stoke City and Arsenal, and most recently Leicester City are the latest side to keep the title-challengers at bay.

Pellegrini was disappointed at the result and feels his side showed enough attacking threat to prove they can turn their away form around. He said: “I’m happy because we came here to try and win the game and we went for the three points. We had more attempts than Leicester and (tried) to win the game, but if you can’t win, then it’s important not to lose.”

“I think that tonight we were very solid and consistent team in defending against a difficult side as Leicester (who) have important players in a good moment and they always score goals. That’s why I repeat, not happy but not disappointed also because we played well but we couldn’t score.”

The result meant Leicester City finished level on points with Arsenal at the summit, while Manchester City remained in third place after 19 games, and more consistency is needed from the Sky Blues if they are to win the crown this season. Having won two Premier League titles in the last four seasons, a bright start to 2015/16 had City as big favourites to achieve major trophy success, but their poor away form has brought a number of other sides in the mix.

In addition to Leicester City and Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur are currently enjoying a lofty positiion at the mid-point, and as long as Pellegrini’s side continue to drop points on the road they will never pull away from the chasing pack, and instead risk losing ground on fellow contenders. There’s another half of the season to go, so can Manchester City be more consistent in their away games to prove their title credentials?

Atletico’s Jackson Martinez enduring difficult debut season at Vicente Calderon

atletico madrid jackson martinez

Atletico Madrid striker Jackson Martinez has been linked with a move away from Spain this season with reports suggesting the Colombian international could be part of a part-exchange deal with Chelsea’s Diego Costa. Martinez has struggled for form since making the £25M move from FC Porto, but his representatives have revealed he’s determined to prove his worth.

Agent Henrique Pompeo recently said: “I can’t say (rumours linking him to Chelsea) is a lie, this is football and nobody knows what the future holds, what I can say is that Jackson isn’t a player who leaves a club unless it’s through the front door. He’s very happy in Madrid, he loves the club, although obviously he would have preferred to have got off to a different start on a personal level, but he’s happy for the squad because things are going well.”

“Jackson is very grateful to Atletico, to (chief executive Miguel Angel) Gil Marin and (president Enrique) Cerezo, because they made a big economic effort to sign him and with calm and continuity Jackson will pay them back on the pitch. He’s had to adapt to a new mentality playing style, and a thousand other things, and then he was injured.”

Coming off the back of having scored 92 times in 132 games for Porto during his three seasons at the Estadio do Dragao, the 29-year-old has just three goals this time out. He was signed to spearhead Atleti to a major trophy, but has been overshadowed by Antoine Griezmann. There’s plenty of the season left to turn things around, but his advancing age means he may not have many years left at his peak.

Boasting pace, power, ruthless finishing, and normally consistency, Jackson Martinez was one of the most coveted strikers in Europe in the summer. Atletico Madrid won the race to sign him and were hoping he could replace the likes of Diego Costa and Mario Mandzukic. However, the South American striker has struggled to adapt despite his quality, but sees to be determined to see the season out in Spain.

Due to his poor form, there will be interest from a lot of suitors looking to bolster their frontline, and Martinez’s past scoring record at Porto will give sides confidence that he can replicate past antics at a new club. It’s unknown what Atleti’s stance on the striker, but they are likely to play the waiting game given how much he’s shone in the last few years in Europe.

Un primo bilancio sulla Serie A 2015-16


Mentre in Inghilterra il calcio non conosce sosta, in Italia la pausa natalizia è considerata qualcosa di sacro e si riprenderà a giocare solamente il 6 gennaio, il giorno della Befana.  L’occasione è utile per fare una prima analisi della stagione 2015/16.

Quando mancano due turni alla fine del girone d’andata, troviamo in testa alla classifica l’Inter. I neroazzurri guidano la classifica con 36 punti e, seppur privi di un gioco scintillante, hanno impressionato per solidità e compattezza. A ridosso della banda Mancini, troviamo la Fiorentina. I viola rappresentano l’autentica sorpresa del campionato e, anche se difficilmente potranno dire la loro per la conquista allo Scudetto, sicuramente venderanno cara la pelle con l’obiettivo di centrare una storica qualificazione in Champions League.  Con gli stessi punti della Fiorentina, troviamo il Napoli di Sarri, al momento il rivale più accanito dell’Inter. I partenopei, dopo un inizio difficile hanno messo in moto il turbo e trascinati da un Higuain fantascientifico si sono portati ad un solo punto dalla capolista, grazie anche alla vittoria nello scontro diretto del San Paolo. Al quarto posto e in grande rimonta troviamo la Juventus che con 33 punti si è portata a meno 3 dalla vetta. I bianconeri sembrano aver ritrovato il bandolo della matassa con il ritorno al 3-5-2 e con 7 vittorie consecutive sono la squadra più in forma del campionato. Leggermente più indietro, staziona la Roma di Rudi Garcia. I giallorossi hanno perso colpi negli ultimi due mesi, scivolando al quinto posto della classifica, a sei punti dall’Inter capolista. La loro abitudine a competere per i piani alti della classifica li rende comunque un avversario temibile per la conquista del titolo.

La grande delusa del campionato è il Milan. I rossoneri, tornati a spendere nella sessione estiva di calciomercato, avevano ambizioni da Scudetto, ma una serie di prestazioni poco convincenti hanno relegato la squadra di Mihajlovic al sesto posto in classifica con 28 punti. A quota 27 si collocano le piacevoli sorprese del Campionato Sassuolo ed Empoli, quest’ultimo reduce addirittura da quattro vittorie consecutive. Nella zona grigia della classifica, troviamo invece squadre che erano partite con tutt’altre ambizioni: la Lazio di Pioli ferma a quota 23, dopo che lo scorso anno si era piazzata al terzo posto e la Sampdoria che con i suoi 20 punti occupa la 14° posizione. Pericolante è la posizione del Genoa, al momento al quartultimo posto, mentre la sorte del Verona ancora senza vittorie e con solo 8 punti raccolti appare già segnata.

La top 11 della Serie A

Paulo Dybala

Tante conferme ed alcune sorprese in questa prima parte di stagione in Serie A. Andiamo a scoprire la top  11 da vicino schierando la nostra ideale formazione con un ultraoffensivo 3-4-3.

HANDANOVIC:  Con sole 11 reti subite il portiere sloveno guida la difesa meno battuta del campionato. Le sue prodezze hanno salvato l’Inter più di una volta. Indubbiamente il miglior numero 1 della Serie A.

MIRANDA: Se dalle parti di Handanovic si arriva con tanta difficoltà, buona parte del merito è della cerniera che Mancini gli ha creato davanti. Il brasiliano è stato il grande affare del mercato nerazzurro: un campione che ha cambiato il volto di un reparto disastroso nella scorsa stagione.

BARZAGLI: Con il suo ritorno in pianta stabile tra i titolari della difesa, la Juventus ha recuperato le vecchie certezze. Mai un sbavatura e sempre perfetto negli interventi è l’emblema della Juventus che non vuole mollare.

KOULIBALY: Pasticcione ed impacciato agli ordini di Benitez, Sarri è riuscito a trasformarlo in un leader della difesa dalla grande personalità. Se il Napoli ha subito solamente 13 reti, il merito è anche suo.

BONAVENTURA: Una delle poche note positive del Milan. Interno di centrocampo, esterno ed ala d’attacco: ovunque è stato impiegato l’ex atalantino ha sempre dato il suo contributo. Già 3 goal in stagione per lui.

SAPONARA: Completamente rivitalizzato da Gianpaolo, l’ex milanista è il punto fermo di un Empoli che sta facendo faville. Con 5 gol in campionato, si candida per un posto anche in Nazionale.

VECINO: Nel sistema ideato da Paulo Sousa magari non sarà il più appariscente, ma è fondamentale per gli equilibri di tutta la squadra. Pedina-chiave dal rendimento finora altissimo.

“PAPU” GOMEZ:  Con 5 reti messe a segno è il capocanonniere degli orobici. Autentico motorino sulla fascia destra, ha saputo sfruttare alla perfezione la sua velocità per mandare in gol i compagni.

HIGUAIN: I numeri parlano per lui. Capocannoniere con 16 gol (più della metà di tutto il Napoli) in 17 partite: una sentenza. Senza ombra di dubbio il miglior attaccante del nostro campionato.

DYBALA: Dopo un inizio in sordina il talento argentino è esploso, guidando la rimonta della Juventus a suon di gol, sono già 8 quelli messi a segno. Con Mandzukic forma probabilmente la coppia d’attacco più forte del campionato.

KALINIC: La sorpresa del campionato: arrivato in punta di piedi per sostituire Gomez, il centravanti croato si è preso la scena realizzando 10 reti ed oscurando la stella di Giuseppe Rossi.

Cuenta atrás para Arda y Vidal

Arda Turan

La sanción que impide al Barcelona inscribir a nuevos jugadores en su plantilla está a punto de llegar a su fin. El Camp Nou ya cuenta las horas para dar la bienvenida oficial a otros dos nuevos jugadores de altísimo nivel: Arda Turán y Aleix Vidal. Sin duda alguna, los mejores fichajes posibles.

Para poner en contexto, el año pasado la FIFA prohibió que el Barcelona inscribiera a nuevos jugadores debido a las irregularidades que cometió en el traspaso de futbolistas de categorías inferiores. Con el fin de establecer cierto orden internacional con los más pequeños, la máxima autoridad del fútbol consideró oportuno aplicar una sanción ejemplar. Y dicha sanción, todavía vigente, no permite que el Barça inscriba a ningún nuevo jugador hasta el 1 de enero de 2016.

A pesar de que no puede inscribir, el Barça sí que puede fichar. De modo que el verano pasado se hizo con dos jugadores muy importantes y que habían despuntado en sus respectivos equipos: Arda Turán, internacional turco con gran experiencia que fue líder indiscutible en el Calderón; y Aleix Vidal, un joven que el año pasado levantó la Europa League y ya ha debutado con la Roja.

Ambos jugadores ficharon por el equipo culé a sabiendas de que podían entrenar con el equipo pero no debutar con él hasta unos meses más tarde. Lo cual implica una voluntad más sincera por formar parte del club, más a aún teniendo en cuenta que hay una Eurocopa a la vuelta de la esquina y la falta de minutos puede dejarles fuera. Pero ese momento tan ansiado está a punto de llegar. El centro del campo del Barcelona puede dar un revulsivo nuevo y meter más revoluciones con la inminente aparición de estos dos jugadores.

¿Qué pueden aportar al equipo? Velocidad en el juego, control del centro del campo, recuperaciones de balón.. ¿Pero el Barça no lo tiene ya con Busquets, Iniesta , Rakitic? Desde luego que sí, pero ahora la competencia crecerá aún más y Lucho podrá rotar a sus jugadores, lo cuál implicará que el equipo llegue a final de temporada más descansado y con más energía para intentar coronarse de nuevo como rey del mundo.

Will Chelsea clash on Monday be Louis van Gaal’s last stand as Man Utd manager?


Manchester United travel to Stamford Bridge to face Chelsea in the Premier League on Monday evening, and for manager Louis van Gaal it could well be his final game in charge. The Dutchman has been under intense pressure following a barren run of results, and in the aftermath of their Boxing Day defeat to Stoke City he hinted at resigning from his post.

“I can also quit by myself. That is something I speak to (executive vice-chairman) Ed Woodward about by himself, not with (the media). It is not always that the club has to fire or sack me. Sometimes I do it by myself. I am the one who wants to speak first with the board of Manchester United and with my members of staff and players,” said Van Gaal.

“(My future with Manchester United) is more difficult because I am also part of the four matches we have lost, so people are looking at me. It’s another situation so you have to wait and see. I have to deal with that. (Pressure) is now the big issue and shall be higher and higher every match. We have to solve that problem.”

Currently 6th in the Premier League after 18 games, Manchester United are nine points adrift of top spot. They have gone five games without a win, losing their last three on the bounce, and have scored a paltry three goals for their troubles. Such form sees them with a disappointing 29 points from 18 games, and rumours have arisen that a change in management will be in the offing soon.

Former Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho has been tipped to be the next Manchester United manager with the Portugese coach having revealed he was keen to get straight back to work following his sacking from the Blues. Mourinho has also held an interest in taking over the United reigns for many years, and is said to be high up on the club’s shortlist should Van Gaal depart Old Trafford.

The biggest question is still how long Van Gaal will remain in charge of the Red Devils. Defeat to Chelsea would all but seal his fate accordingto various sources, but a positive result would throw his future in the air. Unless United have a man lined up to immediately step in for the struggling Dutch coach it’s unlikely Van Gaal will lose his job. Nevertheless, Monday’s Chelsea clash could be his last chance to turn things around.

Defeat for United could see them finish the day 12 points adrift of the Premier League leaders depending on results, while potentially seeing a gap emerge between them and the top-four. Van Gaal didn’t have to win the league in his second season, but show improvement from his debut campaign. With the clubout of the Champions League and spiralling out of the title race, he’s failing to meet his objectives.

Could Chelsea clash be his last stand as Manchester United manager?