Premier League Fantasy Player Rankings – Round 10

As per the request of many of our members, we are introducing weekly articles that rank players based on their expected football fantasy performance for the upcoming round. These rankings are based solely on our opinion and are subject to actual player performance and participation in the round matches as well as injury, suspension, etc. You should, of course, continue to manage your fantasy team by doing your own research and not just depending on our opinion. We also welcome comments and suggestions.

The Premier League season has been exciting with Liverpool challenging Manchester City and Arsenal for the top spot and defending champions Leicester City dwindling in 12th place. Continue reading

Youngsters star as Arsenal and Liverpool progress in League Cup

Euro 2016

The League Cup has a long legacy of being a competition in which young players have gained their first experience of playing for English Premier League clubs.

That legacy continued in the fourth round of this season’s competition, as several youngsters starred in Arsenal and Liverpool’s respective victories.

Whilst Arsenal beat Reading 2-0, courtesy of two Alex Oxlade Chamberlain goals, Liverpool advanced to the quarter finals as Jurgen Klopp’s side overcame Tottenham 2-1.

After Daniel Sturridge scored twice, Lucas Leiva conceded a penalty, which was confidently converted by Vincent Janssen.  Nevertheless Liverpool threatened to re-extend their lead against a Tottenham team, within which a number or promising youngsters excelled.

Pochettino introduces a quintet of young players

Specifically whilst 18-year-old Cameron Carter Vickers performed with real maturity in central defence, Harry Winks delivered an accomplished central midfield display.  The 20-year-old outshone his midfield partners Tom Carroll and Eric Dier.  Although Tottenham were forced to undertake a significant amount of defensive work, with Liverpool dominating much of the game, both Josh Onomah and Georges-Kevin N’Kouduo, who are 19 and 21-years-old respectively, showcased flashes of their attacking talent.

Although the quartet ended up on the losing side, they each took the opportunity to impress their manager Mauricio Pochettino, with the Argentinean also introducing Shayon Harrison as a second half substitute for N’Kouduo.

Klopp’s crop of youngsters impress as Liverpool progress

Whereas five youngsters featured in Tottenham’s team, four appeared for Liverpool, with their midfield being particularly youthful.  Specifically starting alongside Kevin Stewart and Georginio Wijnaldum were Ovie Eraja and Marko Grujic.

Despite being only 18-years-old Eraja showed great confidence by being both brave and comfortable in possession, with Grujic, who at just 20 has already been capped three times at senior international level for Serbia, produced an energetic and powerful central midfield performance.  As well as providing an assist for Sturridge’s first goal, Grujic played with great authority and purposefulness, to enhance his reputation as one of the finest box-to-box midfielders in European football.

Whilst one of Sturridge’s goals was created by Grujic, the other was set-up by Divock Origi.  The 21-year Belgian internationalist released Sturridge with a fine through ball, onto which the England striker ran before finishing past Michael Vorm.

The partnership between Sturridge and Origi was one of many positive aspects of Liverpool’s performance, to which right back Trent-Alexander Arnold made an extremely positive contribution.

Quality defines performance produced by a youthful Arsenal

In a similar way to which the 18-year-old delivered an enthusiastic and zestful display of real quality, so too did several Arsenal youngsters as they helped their side comfortably defeat Reading 2-0.

Both Alex Iwobi and Jeff Reine-Adelaide, who are aged 20 and 18 respectively, provided excellent support to Lucas Perez in attack, the 21-year-old centre back Rob Holding displayed great composure and understanding of the game to help his goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez keep a clean sheet.

In addition to being solid defensively, Arsenal was also a strong attacking force, as they varied their offensive moves excellently by playing well centrally and distributing the ball accurately to wide areas, which the impressive duo of Oxlade Chamberlain and the 19-year-old winger Ainsley Maitland Niles capitalised on to torment Reading full-back’s.

Shortly after his second goal Oxlade Chamberlain was replaced by the 19-year-old Berlin born Gedion Zelalem, with one other Arsenal youngster to make a substitutes appearances was the 18-year-old striker Chris Willcock.

League Cup lit up by talented youngsters

Therefore a chief characteristic of both Arsenal and Liverpool’s fourth round League Cup victories was the involvement of many young players, who repaid the faith which their respective managers showed in them by producing excellent performances.

Liverpool aiming for the top

lffc

As Liverpool climb towards the top of the Premier League after a terrific run of results, they face a trip to a venue they would rather forget on Saturday. They don’t have the best of records against Crystal Palace, but if they win at this traditionally tricky venue, it may prove to be crucial when tallying up the points at the end of the season.

After leading the race for so long in 2014, then Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers and his Liverpool side were dismantled by Chelsea at Anfield. As the visitors ran out 2-0 winners in a must win game, Liverpool travelled to London knowing nothing less than an emphatic win would keep their title hopes alive.

Joe Allen bagged his first Premier League goal and goals by Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez had the Reds in total control. However, as the away fans urged their team forward in search of more goals and with Manchester City firmly in their sights, there was a cruel twist to come at the end of this epic match.

On the 79th minute, Damien Delaney scored for Palace and a late double from substitute Dwight Gayle left Liverpool distraught as their defence crumbled and needing a miracle to be crowned champions in that season. Luis Suarez was famously ushered off the pitch by captain Steven Gerrard and as it was, the title was now in Manchester City’s hands.

They return to Selhurst Park on Saturday as a side barely recognizable from the one that capitulated that night. Brendan Rodgers has moved on to pastures new (now managing Glasgow Celtic), Steven Gerrard plies his trade in the MLS and Luis Suarez is now banging in goals and claiming trophies for fun with Barcelona in Spain. However, there is life beyond that and with Roberto Firminho and Sadio Mane finding form under manager Jurgen Klopp, the Liverpool fans are starting to believe again.

With an opening day 4-3 victory over Arsenal, they have proved they have the fight for the big matches and there are certainly some big matches coming up. Their next seven matches (apart from Southampton) are all against clubs in the lower half of the Premier League, and if as expected they can go on a winning run, it will set them up nicely for a crack at the title after the winter break.

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Diego Costa leads the way in the Premier League scoring charts

Manchester City v Chelsea - Premier League

After 90 Premier League matches this season we have seen 242 goals. That’s an average of 2.69 per match with Manchester City and Liverpool leading the way with 20 goals apiece.

With seven to his name so far, Diego Costa leads the way in the goalscoring charts with seven for the season. The man Jose Mourinho paid £32 million for from Atletico Madrid in 2014 after leading them to their first Primera Liga title since 1997, has had a terrific return in his two full seasons and scored his 60th for Chelsea in all competitions against reigning champions Leicester City in a 3-0 win.

Former Chelsea striker Romelu Lukaku is next up with six for the season so far. After a slow start to the season, the Belgian striker, linked with a whole host of clubs in the close season, decided to stay with Everton and it’s looking like a wise decision. He has scored all six of his goals in his last six matches, including one against Manchester City and a hat-trick against struggling Sunderland.

A trio of players sit on five for the season, namely Sergio Aguero, Theo Walcott and Michail Antonio. Argentinian striker Aguero, now in his sixth season with city, has scored 107 goals, and is going through a bit of a drought at the moment, having failed to score in his last five matches (seven including internationals). Theo Walcott, who has scored five in each of his last three seasons with Arsenal, looks like bettering that total this season, and is well on course to break his season best of fourteen, back in 2012/13. Michail Antoinio’s goals are certainly helping a West Ham side that are struggling at the moment. Signed from Nottingham Forest in January last season, he weighed in with eight goals and he should hit more than that this time around.

Manchester United’s box office signing, Zlatan Ibrahimovic sits on four. He hasn’t scored since scoring in the 2-1 defeat at the hands of City and although he arrived in a blaze of publicity, the 35-year-old has some way to go to convince United supporters that there is life in the old dog yet.

Surprise of the season has to be Jamie Vardy. The English striker scored a phenomenal 24 last season as he helped Leicester to their first Premiership title. He has managed to net just twice this season, in a 4-1 defeat at Liverpool and a 2-1 win over Swansea.

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Morata on course to become a key player for Real Madrid

Euro 2016Successful spell with Juventus

Success laden is the best means by which to describe the two seasons that Alvaro Morata spent with Juventus, who signed the striker from Real Madrid for €20m

The 24-year-old helped the Turin giants win successive Serie A and Coppa Italia titles.  Furthermore Morata also played a key role in Juventus’ run to the 2014-2015 Champions League final, which they lost 3-1 to Barcelona.

As well as scoring in that defeat, Morata showcased his superb finishing ability against two of European football other top clubs.

Specifically Morata scored in each leg of Juventus’ 5-1 round of 16 aggregate win over Borussia Dortmund, whilst he repeated the feat at the semi-final stage of the competition against his current club Real Madrid.

After scoring in the first leg, which Juventus won 2-1, Morata’s goal during the second half of the return fixture, in response to a Cristiano Ronaldo penalty, proved decisive since it earned Massimiliano Allegri’s side a 1-1 draw, meaning they progressed to the final 3-2 on aggregate.

Whilst Morata’s form in European football’s premier club competition during his first season with Juventus was impressive, he also scored 10 goals in 34 domestic appearances, as for the first time since season 1994-1995 the club won the Coppa Italia and Serie A double.

Subsequently Juve achieved that feat for a second successive Italian campaign, with Morata scoring 12 goals in 47 appearances in all competition, to earn himself a place in Vicente Del Bosque’s Euro 2016 Spain squad.

Morata’s Euro 2016 exploits

At the finals, in four appearances Morata scored three goals, including one as Spain lost 2-1 to Croatia on the same day that Real Madrid activated a buy-back clause to resign him from Juventus for €30m.

Positive start to resumption of Morata’s Real Madrid career

Since re-joining Real Madrid, Morata is the only member of the club’s squad to have featured in each of the 13 competitive games that Zinedine Zidane’s team have played this season.

However eight of Morata’s appearances have been made as a substitute, with Zidane preferring to start Karim Benzema as his central striker.

Whilst the 28-year-old Frenchman has scored four goals this season, so too has Morata, as the 16-times capped Spanish internationalist progresses steadily towards establishing himself as a key player for Real Madrid, to a similar extent to which he was at Juventus.

In each of his last two appearances Morata has emerged as a substitute to score, with his latest goal being of the utmost importance, since it earned Real Madrid a 2-1 victory over Atletico Bilbao.  That result propelled Los Blancos to the top of La Liga, as it coincided with former leaders and fierce city rivals Atletico Madrid losing 1-0 to Sevilla, with Samir Nasri scoring the only goal of that game.

Prior to scoring against Bilbao, Morata vividly portrayed his opportunism in front of goal to produce a fine finish during Real’s 5-1 Champions League group stage home win over Legia Warsaw.  That was his second goal in this season’s edition of the competition, with Morata’s first being a last minute winner against Sporting Lisbon as Real beating the Primiera Liga side 2-1 at the Bernabeu.

Bright future lies ahead of Morata

Therefore although Morata is yet to become a regular in Zinedine Zidane’s starting XI, he has made several key contributions for Real Madrid this season and possesses the potential to make many more.

That is particularly the case given the quality of his finishing and movement, whilst searing pace and technique are another two of Morata’s chief attributes.

Ultimately since Morata is blessed with great technical giftedness, whilst being an energetic striker who works tirelessly, he is undoubtedly a great asset for club and country, with him having proven that this season.

Therefore at present Morata is very much on course to becoming a key player for Real Madrid.

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Swansea and Sunderland losing vital ground

swans

In 2011, Swansea City became the first Welsh club to play in the Premier League. Judging by their efforts this season and with Cardiff City struggling at the bottom end of the Championship, it may be a while before we see any Welsh club in the Premier League after this season.

An opening day win after spending five consecutive seasons in the Premier League looked like business as usual for Swansea. After four solid showings, and never finishing below twelfth in the league, they are really struggling this season and are without a win since that opening day win away to Burnley. Leroy Fer, who scored the winner on that day, remains in reasonable form and has chipped in with four goals this season, but a leaky inconsistent defence has cost them dearly.

They now sit second bottom of the table with five points from their opening eight matches, and a drastic improvement is needed. After selling top scorer Wilfried Bony two seasons ago to Manchester City, again they sold their top scorer last season (Andre Ayew) this time to West Ham United.

They are still showing signs of a recovery and a 0-0 draw at the weekend at home to Watford may have instilled some confidence into that shaky defence. They have pushed Arsenal (going down 3-2), Liverpool (losing 2-1) and Manchester City (3-1) hard this season, but ultimately, still cannot find the winning formula.

With Manchester United, Everton, Crystal Palace and Tottenham all looming on the horizon, they wont have much time to find their form and after that run of games they may become adrift at the bottom of the table, alongside Sunderland of course.

Sunderland, still without a win after nine matches showed some signs of improvement at the weekend and looked like picking up a point against a West Ham side that have struggled in recent weeks. However, switching off in the 93rd minute is never a good idea and Winston Reid took advantage to score his first goal of the season and give West Ham a much need three points. With Middlesbrough and Stoke both picking up points, Sunderland now find themselves five points off seventeenth place which assures Premier League football next season.

So, although it’s still relatively early in the season, it is looking more and more like it’s going to be a real struggle for both Swansea and Sunderland.

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A wealth of creatively talented midfielders grace the English Premier League

Euro 2016

Evident so far in this season’s English Premier League, has been that the division’s twenty teams each possess a wonderfully talented creative midfielder, blessed with great technical ability.

Such players are blessed with the awareness, skill, touch and vision to excite supporters, whilst orchestrating their respective team’s attacks in an elegant and stylish way.

Although in some instances it is difficult to identify just one creatively skilled playmaker from each of the twenty English Premier League squads, the following list aims to do just that, whilst also drawing attention to similarly gifted players, who contribute positively to their team’s overall performance.

Creatively gifted player makers club-by-club 

Arsenal – Mesut Ozil – Now in his fourth season with Arsenal, the 28-year-old German midfielder has scored six goals in eight appearances, including a hat-trick, which was the first of his professional career, as Arsene Wenger’s side beat FC Ludogrets 6-0.

Whilst Ozil has delivered several outstanding performances this season, with his display during Arsenal’s 3-0 league win over Chelsea being particularly impressive, so too has Santi Cazorla.

After missing much of last season due to injury, the former Villareal attacking midfielder has regained full fitness and started this campaign in a similarly positive manner to that of Ozil.

Bournemouth – Jack Wilshere – For the first time since September 2014, when he scored to help his parent club Arsenal draw 2-2 with Manchester City, Wilshere completed 90 minutes in Bournemouth’s last league match against Tottenham.

In addition to playing with great determination and drive, Wilshere was a chief architect of most of his team’s best attacking moves, as he steadily progressing back towards rediscovering his best form.

Burnley – Steven Defour – Although Defour missed Burnley’s 2-1 victory over Everton due to an injury which he sustained in his team’s previous game against Southampton the 28-year-old has shown great adaptability to adjust to playing in the English Premier League.

As a result of his fine early season form, with the accuracy and range of his passing adding an important dimension to Burnley’s play, Defour has established himself as an important member of Roberto Martinez’s Belgium squad for the 2018 World Cup Qualifying campaign.

Chelsea – Eden Hazard An ever present for Chelsea in the English Premier League so far this season, Hazard has scored four goals in nine appearances. 

In doing so the former Lille player has showcased wonderful technical ability, whilst also adjusting brilliantly to the high intensity and pressing style of play which Chelsea manager Antonio Conte demands his team to play.

Despite only being 25-year-old, Hazard has already played 411 senior club games and been capped 74 times by Belgium, with that level of activity testifies his superb level of fitness.

Crystal Palace – Yohan Cabaye – Whilst competition for places to play in Crystal Palace’s central midfield is fierce, with quality players such as Mathieu Flamini, Joe Ledley, James McArthur and Jordan Mutch among Alan Pardew’s squad, the 30-year-old Frenchman consistently proves himself to be one of his club’s most outstanding performers by displaying his superb vision and wonderful ball control.

Everton – Gerard Delofeu – In addition to being a proficient right winger, who has a direct style of play with a real desire and willingness to purposefully take on opponents, the 22-year-old is also equally adept at playing in a forward position, similar to the way in which his talented English teammate Ross Barkely is.

Due to the quality of offensively minded players at Everton manager Ronald Koeman’s disposal, Delofeu is not guaranteed a starting place in the Dutchman’s side.  Nevertheless on each of Delofeu’s appearances this season, he has performed very positively.

Hull – Ryan Mason – Equally adept at playing as either a support striker or attacking midfielder which is the role he is currently performing for Hull, Mason has scored two goals in seven appearances since joining the club from Tottenham.  In doing so the 25-year-old has become the fulcrum of his team’s attack and possesses the potential to help Hull end their run of six successive league defeats.

Leicester City – Riyad Mahrez – Last season PFA Players’ Player of the Year has delivered a series of polished performances in the Champions League, as Leicester have won three successive games in European football’s premier club competition.

In addition to scoring twice against Club Bruges as Leicester won 3-0 on their Champions League debut, Mahrez provided the assist for Islam Slimani’s winning goal as Leicester beat FC Porto 1-0.

Furthermore the forward duo combined brilliantly once again during Leicester’s 1-0 win over FC Copenhagen, with Slimani reciprocating Mahrez’s assist, as the 25-year-old Algerian steered home the game’s only goal.

Liverpool – Phillipe Coutinho As a wonderfully versatile and technically gifted offensive minded player, Coutinho performs consistently well as either a winger or attacking midfielder, although he is currently prospering in a central role for Liverpool.

Whilst blessed with wonderful balance, dribbling skills and pace, Coutinho strikes the ball superbly well from distance, with the 24-year-old Brazilian having scored five goals in nine appearances this season.

Manchester City – David Silva – Ever since joining Manchester City in the summer of 2010, Silva has been one of the club’s best performers and has featured prominently in the success which they have enjoyed during that period.

Whilst blessed with many outstanding attributes, Silva’s ability to drift intelligently into space from which he can create goal – scoring opportunities characterises his game.

As did each of his predecessors as Manchester City manager, Pep Guardiola has afforded Silva a free role, within which the 30-year-old Spaniard expresses his prodigious technical talent.

Manchester United – Juan Mata – As a wonderful passer, blessed with great technique, Mata is highly accustomed at creating opportunities for teammates to score, whilst another of the 28-year-old’s chief attributes is his excellent close control.

In seven English Premier League appearances this season Mata has scored two goals, whilst he possesses the potential to improve upon that due to the manner in which he combines his ability to quietly drift into goal – scoring positions with confident and on occasion improvised finishing.

A prime example of that was when he scored twice as Manchester United beat Liverpool 2-1 at Anfield in March 2014.

Middlesbrough – Gaston Ramirez – The 25-year-old Uruguayan has struck up a good understanding with Alvaro Negredo this season, whilst also being a chief architect of much of Middlesbrough’s fine counter-attacking play, with Ramirez excelling in his team’s recent 0-0 draw with Arsenal.

Southampton – Dusan Tadic – The 27-year-old Serbian has an ability to effortlessly dictate Southampton’s play, since Tadic is supremely comfortable in possession.

Furthermore his outstanding special awareness and vision enables him to roam around the pitch, as he forms an efficient link between his team’s midfield and attack.

Stoke – Xherdan Shaqiri – Despite missing six weeks of this season due to a calf injury, in five appearances Shaqiri has scored three goals, including a superb double as Stoke beat Hull 2-0.

Not only is the 25-year-old Swiss internationalist a dead ball specialist, as proven by the wonderful free-kicks he has scored this season against Middlesbrough and Hull, but he plays with a refreshing air of unpredictability, which enables him to trick opponents, whilst clever inventiveness is another key aspect of Shaqiri’s game.

Swansea – Gylfi Sigurdsson – Athletic, energetic and skillful, Sigurdsson is also blessed with great touch and vision, as he glides around the pitch, with great elegance and grace.

Although Swansea’s start to the season has been disappointing, the 27-year-old Icelandic internationalist has still delivered a series of polished performances, as a means of continuing the fine form he produced for his country at Euro 2016.

Sunderland – Adnan Januzaj – Although great potential exists for the 21-year-old Belgian to improve as a player, with him often too easily surrendering possession and playing in an overly zealous manner as was the case when he was sent off against Tottenham earlier this season, Januzaj’s is an exciting young talent courtesy of his dribbling ability, enthusiasm and positivity.

Tottenham – Delle Alli By the age of just 19, Alli had already made 84 senior appearances for MK Dons, with that experience preparing him well to play in the English Premier League with Tottenham.

After scoring ten goals in 33 appearances for the North London club during his debut season, Alli was named the PFA Young Player of the Year.  Subsequently he has helped his club embark upon an unbeaten start to the current campaign.

As an extremely committed, driven and powerful player, Alli channels his aggression and desire in a mature way, to pass with composure and stride purposefully around the pitch, whilst taking up excellent goal-scoring positions.

Watford – Roberto Pereyra – The 25-year-old Argentinean has seamlessly settled into Walter Mazzari’s side, since joining Watford from Juventus in the summer, with Pereyra vividly portraying that his dynamic, quick and industrious style of play is ideally suited to the English Premier League.

Although each of his Watford performances have been impressive, he was particularly influence as the club secured their first league win of the season with a 4-2 victory over West Ham, whereby Pereyra

West Brom – Nacer Chadli – In just five league appearances for West Brom, since joining the club from Tottenham, Chadli has scored four goals, whilst displaying his ambidexterity and attacking versatility, to quickly become a key member of Tony Pulis’ side.

It is testament to the quality of the offensive minded players at Mauricio Pochettino’s disposal, that the Tottenham manager enabled Chadli to leave the club.

West Ham – Dimitri Payet – One of the most outstanding performers at Euro 2016, Payet endured a difficult start to this season as he struggled to recuperate from his summer exploits for France.

Nevertheless after scoring a sublime solo goal to earn West Ham a 1-1 draw at home to Middlesbrough, as the 29-year-old slalomed past several defenders before producing a precise finish, Payet has regained his confidence to help his team to two successive 1-0 victories.

Creative talents enhance quality of English Premier League

Each of the aforementioned creative midfielders each plays extremely important roles for their respective teams, by consistently showcasing the technical ability with which they are blessed in the English Premier League to improve the overall quality of the division.

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Liverpool and Chelsea are this weekends only winners at the top.

pedro

In what may prove to have been a crucial weekend in the Premier League, only Liverpool and Chelsea came away with wins, with Manchester City, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur all playing out draws. There is now just one point between the top five with Manchester City still leading the way, thanks to a goal difference of one better than Arsenal and two better than Liverpool.

Tottenham kicked off the weekend action and blew a great chance to move to the top of the table. If they harbour any hopes of winning the title this season, these are the kind of matches they should be collecting three points from. Bournemouth proved to be a hurdle they couldn’t overcome and most sides may find it difficult to win at a venue on Manchester united have won at so far this season.

Arsenal were next up at 15:00 and as they lined up to face Middlesbrough at home, they must have thought the three points that would see them open a gap at the top of the table would be a shoe-in. They, like Tottenham, struggled in front of goal and spurned a few chances to take the three points.

No doubt buoyed by their rivals failure to pick up maximum points, Liverpool took to the field against West Brom in the evening kick off and made no mistake as they raced to a 2-0 half time lead with goals through Sadio Mane and Philipe Coutinho. Although Gareth McCauley pulled one back for the visitors, Liverpool emerged as winners in this one.

Sunday’s action would see both Manchester clubs in action as Manchest City took on Southampton in the first match. With City woefully out of form and without a win in their last five matches, things went from bad to worse for the home side as Nathan Redmond fired Southampton into the lead after 35 minutes. Kelechi Iheanacho pulled one back for the Citizens, but it wasn’t enough to get the much-needed win.

The curtain came down on an exciting, but rather low-scoring weekend in the Premier League with Jose Mourinho making a return to his old stomping ground with Manchester United. Things were looking better for United after a decent showing in the Europa League and a 4-1 win over Fenerbache. This didn’t last long as Pedro scored in the first minute to fire Chelsea ahead. They ran out eventual 4-0 winners. closing the gap at the top to just one point and leaving Mourinho with a severe headache.

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Milan’s resurgence under Montella continues

Euro 2016

AC Milan successfully passed their toughest test of the season so far by beating Juventus 1-0 at the San Siro, as the Rossoneri’s resurgence under Vicenzo Montella continued.

With the game evenly poised midway through the second half, 18-year-old central midfielder Manuel Locatelli scored with a fine strike, as Milan defeated La Vecchia Signori for the first time since November 2012.

In doing so Milan played with great commitment, determination and drive, as they extended their unbeaten run in Serie A to six games.

In pursuit of Juventus

At present, as proven by their performance against Juventus, Milan are a team of players high in belief and confidence, which has not been the case for the Rossoneri during recent seasons, as they have failed to perform consistently well.

Not since season 2012-2013 have Milan finished in the top three of Italian’s football’s top flight, although on the basis of their extremely impressive current form, they possess the capability to emulate that achievement and potentially challenge to end Juventus’ recent monopolisation of winning Serie A.

For five successive years Juve have won the Scudetto, with their current title defence having started strongly.  Despite their defeat to Milan, which was their second in the Italian capital this season after having previously lost 2-1 to Inter, Juventus remain top of Serie A.

Montella masterminds upturn in Milan’s fortunes

Nevertheless they are now just two points ahead of Milan, who Montella is diligently moulding into a fine collective unit, after enduring a difficult start to his managerial reign.

After suffering defeat in two of his first three games as Milan manager, Montella has galvanised his players to win five and draw one of their last six games.

Indicative of the fine work being undertaken by Montella is that the 42-year-old manager’s squad of players is largely the same as those which laboured to a 7th place Serie A finish last season.  Although Montella recruited Gustavo Gomez, Gianluca Lapadula, Jose Sosa and Leonel Vangioni during this summer’s transfer window, none of the quartet has featured regularly for Milan this season.

Instead Montella has developed a side from the group of experienced and youthful players which he inherited from his successor Christian Brocchi.

Youthfulness permeates Milan’s team

Whilst the 17-year-old goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnaruma has taken the opportunity to play his first series of senior competitive game by performing with maturity and reliability, Montella has also been repaid for placing great faith in other talented youngsters.

Specifically Mattia De Sciglio Manual Locatelli Alessio Romagnoli and Suso have each contributed positively to Milan’s fine early season form, with that being powered by a strong team effort expertly engineered by Montella.

Start of Montella’s managerial era coincides with creation of a bright new outlook for Milan

Subsequently given the enterprise and vibrancy with which Milan are consistently playing, combined with their excellent results, a fresh wave of optimism is currently sweeping through the club’s support, as indicated by the manner in which they vociferously backed their team as they beat Juventus.

Whilst that represented a great result for Milan, so too did their previous home win as they showed great strength of character and resolve to recover from 3-1 down to beat Sassuolo 4-3, with the winning goal being scored by the former Parma defender Gabriel Paletta.

Therefore several aspects of the Rossoneri’s resurgence under Montella are continuing to gather momentum, since in addition to embarking upon such a superb run of form they have regained the belief and trust of their supporters.

As such Milan’s outlook for the season ahead is extremely bright, as Montella aspires to ensure that his team build a sustained title challenge.

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Frustration for North London duo as Stoke and West Ham revivals

Euro 2016

For the first time this season Tottenham failed to score in an English Premier League game, as they and their North London rivals Arsenal were held to goalless draws.

Bournemouth and Boro earn valuable points

In an evenly contested game Tottenham drew 0-0 with Bournemouth, as both teams’ goalkeepers produced a number of excellent saves.

Whilst Artur Boruc kept a second successive home clean sheet for Bournemouth, his Spurs counterpart Hugo Lloris showcased his fantastic agility and reactions on several occasions, just as he did during his side’s recent Champions League stalemate with Bayer Leverkusen.

Just as Tottenham were frustrated in their efforts to beat Bournemouth, Arsenal failed to break down a resolute Middlesbrough rear guard action, as Aitor Karanka’s side earned a valuable point to ensure they remained one position above the relegation zone.

Despite being dominated by Arsenal in terms of possession, Middlesbrough created better chances during an entertaining game.  Their draw ended a run of seven successive wins for Arsenal, although Arsene Wenger’s team are now unbeaten in all competitions since losing 4-3 to Liverpool on the first day of the league season.  Ironically by drawing against Middlesbrough, Arsenal moved top of the Premier League on goal difference ahead of Liverpool, with Jurgen Klopp’s side beating West Brom 2-1.

Liverpool climb to second

Despite taking a 2-0 half time lead courtesy of goals from Phillipe Coutinho and Sadio Mane, Liverpool were made to work extremely hard for their victory, as Gareth McAuley scored for West Brom to set up a tense finale.  Nevertheless Liverpool deservedly secured three points and are now unbeaten in seven league games.

Hull in freefall whilst Stoke’s fine form continues

In contrast to Arsenal’s fine run of form, Middlesbrough has now not won in seven league games, as they moved level on seven points with Hull City, who lost 2-0 at home to Stoke City.

After scoring with a superb 25-yard shot midway through the first half, Xherdan Shaqiri then secured a second successive 2-0 win for Mark Hughes’ team with an expertly taken free-kick.  As such whereas Stoke’s recent revival continued, whereby they are now unbeaten in four games, Hull have lost six consecutive league games to drop into the relegation zone.  In their last five games, Hull’s defence has been extremely fragile with them conceding 19 goals.  Subsequently they have the worst defensive record in the Premier League, conceding 22 times in total.

In a similar way to which Stoke’s form has remarkably improved over recent weeks, so too has West Ham’s.

Moyes still in search of first league win as Sunderland manager

For a second successive league game, they won 1-0 with Winston Reid scoring an injury time goal to consign bottom side Sunderland to their worst ever start to a season.  Of their opening nine games Sunderland have drawn two and lost seven, as David Moyes continues to seek a maiden league win as the club’s manager.

Therefore following their defeat to West Ham they became just the second side in the history of English football’s top flight to fail to win any of their first nine league matches, with the other team being Bury in 1905 and 1906.

Burnley strike late to beat Everton

Whilst West Ham scored a late winning goal, so too did Burnley, as Sean Dyche’s side won for the third time this season by beating Everton 2-1.  After Sam Vokes put Burnley ahead with his third goal of the season, Yannick Bolasie equalised for Everton, with the 27-year-old DR Congo internationalist scoring his first goal since joining the club in August.  However with the game set to finish in a draw, Scott Arfield’s instinctive 90th minute strike earned Burnley a second successive home win, since in the previous game at Turf Moor they beat Watford.

Positives for Swansea despite a continuation of their winless run

Since that defeat Walter Mazzari’s side have not lost as they extended their unbeaten run by drawing 0-0 with Swansea, as Michael Bradley awaits his first win as manager of the Welsh club since being appointed earlier this month.

Nevertheless Swansea delivered an encouraging performance for their American to collect their first point in five games, although they remain 19th, having now not won since the first day of the season.

English Premier League remains rich in competitiveness

Therefore Swansea now have a platform upon which to build an improved run of form, as their closely contested draw with Watford, characterised the intense competitiveness which defined the ninth Saturday of the 2016-2017 English Premier League season.