Romagnoli miracle saves AC Milan in frustrating Genoa clash

As I wrote about earlier today, Milan had a golden opportunity against Genoa, potentially climbing to fourth place in the standings. Luckily, they managed to do so, although it took a miracle from Romagnoli. 

Heading into the game, the Rossoneri were forced to face a few issues. With the likes of Biglia, Bonaventura and Calabria not fit for fight, Gattuso decided to switch formation once again, fielding a 3-5-2 with Bakayoko leading the line in the centre. Fortunately, Milan took the lead early on thanks to a brilliant strike from Suso, who’s really been crucial for the team as of late. Continue reading

EPL Weekend Picks – Round 11

Riyad Mahrez

The 11th week of the 2018-19 Premier League season sees Bournemouth take on Manchester United and Liverpool travel to Arsenal. Let’s take a look at some players who you should consider adding to your EPL Fantasy teams before the weekend…

GK – Hugo Lloris (Tottenham)
We’re going to look specifically at high-scoring players who sometimes go under the EPL Fantasy radar in this week’s picks, starting with Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris. The World Cup winner has 21 points this season — only four goalkeepers have more — and he could easily add to that tally against Wolves on Saturday.

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Will Fulham go down as the worst defensive team in Premier League history?

Slavisa Jokanovic

Having conceded an average of one goal per game in the Championship last season, Fulham seemed well-equipped to deal with the defensive demands of the Premier League upon their return to the top flight.

However, 10 games into the 2018-19 season, Slavisa Jokanovic’s side have equalled the record for the most number of goals conceded (28) at this stage of a Premier League campaign.

They began the season in relatively decent form, picking up four points from their first four games, but they have since conceded at least three goals in matches against Manchester City, Everton, Cardiff and Arsenal.

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Solari set for Real Madrid managerial audition


Santiago Solari has reportedly been given the chance to prove himself as the right man to lead Real Madrid out of their La Liga mess over the next few weeks.

Media reports in Spain claim that the former Argentina international has been given four matches to demonstrate his suitability for the role, by club president Florentino Perez.

Solari, who won the Champions League and and two La Liga titles as a player with Real Madrid, was announced as interim manager on Monday, following the sacking of Julen Lopetegui.

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AC Milan need to capitalize on golden opportunity against Genoa

This evening, AC Milan and Gattuso have a great opportunity on their hands, hosting Genoa at the San Siro. The encounter between the two sides was postponed back in August, and thus the Rossoneri could make a leap in the standings with a win. 

Ahead of the game with Sampdoria, Milan were sitting in the lower half of the table with 12 points, in need of a win against Giampaolo’s side. Luckily, although they didn’t make it easy for themselves, the win was a sealed and the three points saw them move to fifth place, just behind Lazio in fourth with 18 points. With that said, the game this evening will be important in many ways for Gattuso’s men. Continue reading

Is it time to trial Alexis Sánchez as Manchester United’s striker?

It is no secret that Romelu Lukaku has struggled in a Manchester United jersey this season. The Belgium centre forward might have four Premier League goals to his name, but he has failed to find the back of the net in his last nine appearances in all competitions.

Lukaku, who enjoyed an astute first season in Manchester last year, has had a lack of confidence in front of goal this campaign so far and looks out of sorts with his overall play. José Mourinho finally made the decision against Lukaku’s former club, Everton, to drop the striker to the bench for the very first time which really sent out a statement to the Belgian. Marcus Rashford took his place leading the line and United’s attack flowed more fluidly when transitioning from defence into attack.

After scoring 27 goals in all competitions and recording nine assists for the Red Devils last year, it was expected that Lukaku would kick on this season and improve on those numbers – especially on his 16 goals in the Premier League. However, for one reason or another, Lukaku’s form has plummeted somewhat and he seldom looks the same striker. As the old saying goes, form is temporary and class is permanent, but it is a cause for concern among the United faithful that their £75 million centre forward is going through such a dry patch.

This has led to discussions regarding who would take his place as the spearhead of United’s attack. Rashford, as he did against the Toffees, is a candidate to lead the line, but his vulnerabilities in a one-on-one situation does not promote belief in the Stretford End.

At this moment in time, and he is only 20-years-old with a lot more experience to be gained, the England international is not clinical in front of goal – he has squandered too many chances and lacks the same edge when faced with a golden opportunity as his team-mate Anthony Martial.

Rashford, under Mourinho, has found himself on the wing more often than not, and he has looked comfortable. Against Chelsea, at Stamford Bridge, Rashford put in his best performance of the season on the right wing, linking up well with Juan Mata in the playmaker’s role and Lukaku.

Similarly to Lukaku, Rashford, though, has had a goal drought at Old Trafford and last found the back of the net at home back in May just before the end of the season. The Englishman also has only scored once in all competitions this season, which does not fill you with the greatest belief that he can be tasked with the opportunity to become the main goalscorer in the team – especially when the club is under pressure.

The other candidate is Alexis Sánchez. The Chilean is currently injured and has not been in the best form since arriving from Arsenal on a free transfer in January, but he returned to goalscoring ways against Newcastle United by finding the winner. When trialled in the centre forward’s role throughout pre-season, Sánchez looked adept and was flourishing running in behind the last man and constantly stretching the opposition’s defence.

With more experience to his name and having done it at Barcelona and Arsenal, Sánchez is capable of leading the line for Manchester United. He will need to rekindle his old scoring ways as he did for the Gunners, but his goal against the Magpies should fill him with confidence. As soon as he returns from injury, it is important to involve him in Cup competitions and give him that opportunity.

While he is not the biggest or tallest, Sánchez possesses raw speed and ingenuity when getting around defenders. Lukaku’s size is constantly talked about a positive, but it can also be a negative due to his clumsiness at times as well as taking him longer to get up to full speed.

With Paul Pogba on the ball in a deeper role in midfield, he will always look for the pass over the defence for the striker to run through on goal. With Lukaku, this rarely comes off, but with Sánchez’s acceleration, it certainly stands more of a chance of happening.

In Sánchez’s 25 games playing as the centre forward for Arsenal throughout the 2016/17 season, the Chile international scored 19 goals and assisted his team-mates 11 times. A whopping 30 goal contributions in 25 matches in all competitions is an unbelievable rate that Manchester United fans will be envious of due to his underwhelming performances so far.

Mourinho has opted for Sánchez on the left wing ever since coming to Old Trafford, but with Martial’s resurgence in form, at no point should the Portuguese continue to play Sánchez there. As seen in majority of the Chilean’s performances, he is continually looking to cut inside and play through the middle, taking on players and finding solutions to get into advantageous areas. Mourinho needs to give him his chance as the club’s centre forward.

There might be a cause for rotation to begin with due to Sánchez and Rashford’s inconsistencies, as well as Lukaku being involved, but Mourinho should seriously consider playing the once prolific Chilean through the middle to add a different dimension to Manchester United’s attack.

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Mark Noble’s suspension could give opportunity to youngsters

Mark Noble

It seems as though West Ham’s squad is getting thinner by the week. There have been numerous absentees in recent times, with Andriy Yarmolenko and Marko Arnautovic among the most recent players to miss matches through injury. The latest man to become unavailable to Manuel Pellegrini is Mark Noble, though that is due to suspension rather than injury.

In the 38th minute of Saturday’s 1-1 draw against Leicester City, the Hammers’ captain was shown a straight red card for a reckless challenge on Wilfried Ndidi. This means he’ll miss three matches: tonight’s Carabao Cup tie against Tottenham Hotspur, followed by league fixtures against Burnley and Huddersfield Town.

This opens up a place in the team for somebody to fill, however the usual suspects aren’t available. In the midfield area alone Manuel Lanzini, Jack Wilshere, Carlos Sanchez and Pedro Obiang are all injured. Therefore, it seems as though either Conor Coventry or Joe Powell could play alongside Robert Snodgrass and fellow academy graduate Declan Rice in West Ham’s midfield three during his absence. Though there is a chance that Obiang will be available against Tottenham and Wilshere could return before the skipper’s ban ends.

Having come through the academy, both 18-year-old Coventry and Powell, who turned 20 yesterday, have only represented West Ham’s first team once, coming on as substitutes during the 8-0 win against Macclesfield Town, which set up tonight’s tie against Tottenham. Republic of Ireland U19 international and Dylan Tombides Award winner Coventry came on at half time and gave an assured performance. Powell replaced Michail Antonio in the 61st minute and provided Grady Diangana (who was also a debutant and has now earned his place in the first team) with two assists.

Another alternative could be Reece Oxford, who has been playing his football with the club’s Under 23s this season. Having impressed on his debut against Arsenal as a 16-year-old in 2015, there were high expectations attached to his name. Since then he has represented the club just 16 more times though, having loan spells with Reading and Borussia Monchengladbach. He is naturally a centre back, but having played in midfield, this could be his best chance of getting back into the first team fold under Pellegrini.

If one of the trio are to be called upon to start matches, tonight’s Carabao Cup tie could be the perfect way to introduce them. There is less pressure on them than in the league, while the club’s rivalry with the opposition and the chance to get a step closer to getting silverware ensures it still holds importance for everyone involved with the club.

Alongside this, there is a chance that Mauricio Pochettino will field a changed side. Tottenham faced Manchester City on Monday and following tonight’s match will play Wolverhampton Wanderers in the league and a must win Champions League game against PSV Eindhoven; all within nine days of Monday’s loss. The Argentinian will be desperate to get a trophy –having failed to do so during his Totenham tenure to date- and so will likely field as strong a side as possible, as was shown by his team selection against Watford in the last round. However, his hand may be forced by the build up of fixtures.

Youngsters Rice and Diangana have both thrived under the tutelage of Pellegrini in recent times, so the Chilean has already shown he is willing to put his faith in youth- even if injuries have contributed to some of the opportunities he’s given. With the number of absentees in midfield, either Coventry, Powell or Oxford could be the next academy player to be given a first team start.


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Arsenal are still burdened with Arsene Wenger’s defence

And so the run stopped at 11. Arsenal had gone two months without dropping points in a competitive fixture, but Crystal Palace found a way to disrupt their momentum, coming from behind to claim a point in a 2-2 draw. It underlined that while the Gunners have made progress this season, there is still a long way to go.

It was probably Arsenal’s worst performance of the season under new manager Unai Emery. The Spaniard has got his ideas across very quickly since replacing Arsene Wenger at the end of last season, turning the Gunners into one of the most dynamic, entertaining sides in the Premier League.

Chelsea 3-2 Arsenal

But while Emery has made some progress in eradicating the culture of mediocrity that had festered towards the end of Wenger’s reign, Arsenal are still burdened with the defence left over from the Frenchman. On Sunday’s evidence, the Gunners won’t reach the top of the English game until something changes at the back.

Emery has started to change the mindset at the Emirates Stadium, exemplified by his comments made after the weekend’s disappointing draw at Selhurst Park. “I think we suffered in the match,” the former Paris Saint-Germain and Sevilla boss said, “but I want to suffer.”

Indeed, Emery has instilled a work ethic in his players that wasn’t there under Wenger. This is evident in the comments of his squad. They speak of intense training sessions which are in stark contrast to what they had become accustomed to in recent years. Wenger made a point of not pushing his players too hard on the training pitch. Emery is the complete opposite.

But it’s not just that Arsenal’s players are now working harder under their new boss, they are a far better organised outfit. Each and every one appears to now know their role. Players like Mesut Ozil and Granit Xhaka, who would drift through games under Wenger, have now been revitalised. This is no coincidence.

At the back, though, it’s a different story. Arsenal are still extremely vulnerable defensively, with their back four lacking any real courage in their convictions. They lack a true leader, someone to see the game ahead of him and let others know. All great teams boast a defensive leader – Liverpool have Virgil Van Dijk, Manchester City have Vincent Kompany – but Arsenal don’t have anyone in that mould.

It’s not just about personnel, though. Arsenal must strengthen their mentality at the back. 2-1 up with just minutes left to play, they should have been able to see out Sunday’s game against Crystal Palace. Instead, they faltered. It was inevitable that they would. That’s what Emery must eradicate – the sense of inevitability that Arsenal will, some way, somehow, falter.

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Poor Recent Performances Worrying For Fiorentina

After a superb start to the season, those who follow Serie A were beginning to discuss Fiorentina as a potential contender for a Champions League spot. A 6-1 win over Chievo Verona in their opening game of the campaign was followed up with three home wins without conceding a goal as the Viola ground out a 1-0 win over Udinese before smashing three past SPAL and two more versus Atalanta.

Away results had been disappointing, but the fixture list had played a big factor, defeats in tough clashes versus Napoli, Inter and Lazio and a draw with Sampdoria understandable for the side with the lowest average age in all of Europe’s top five leagues.

Yet recently, the Tuscan side have struggled to find the back of the net, an unexpected 1-1 home draw versus Cagliari seemingly a blip before they also failed to impress during a result with the same scoreline away to Torino. While there is no doubt that Pioli has done an excellent job so far, these latest setbacks have just started the faintest whispers of discontent towards the Coach from the supporters.

“We brought home a good result, considering we didn’t play well, and that is nothing to be sniffed at,” said Pioli during his post-match comments.“In the second half we actually played better and had the best scoring opportunities. We struggled with their pressing and didn’t move enough off the ball.

 “We can and must work on many situations, but the psychological approach from my players was excellent and a real sign of progress. We suffered for the result and that is important.”

 His statements may well be accurate, but loyalties are all-too often forgotten during a negative run of results, and the boss will have to turn things around so quickly if he is to avert those voices of discontent from gathering weight. This will not be easy with a home game versus AS Roma next on the billing, but – as the man himself professed in his press conference – there are some clear issues that can be worked on in training.

 The most obvious of these is the form of Giovanni Simeone. Travelling to Argentina in consecutive international breaks after he received his maiden start for the Albiceleste in September has clearly caused fatigue, and Pioli responded to his poor performance versus Cagliari by dropping the 23-year-old from the starting XI versus Torino.

He would fail to have a single shot in 86 minutes of action at home to Cagliari, and last Saturday’s match in Turin marked his sixth appearance without a goal. The boss will now have to ascertain whether to persist in the hope he can overcome his barren spell, or whether to give veteran forward Cyril Thereau a go in his place.

 However, the blame does not lie purely on Simeone. In moving Jordan Veretout to a deeper midfield role, the Coach seems to have stifled any creativity in the middle of the park. Perhaps it’s now time to allow the former Aston Villa man to express his clear prowess going forward, instead slotting Bryan Dabo into the holding role. Such a move would surely provide the forwards with more service but – whatever Pioli decides to do – it remains clear that something must be changed in this area if the Viola are to succeed.

 Another complaint voiced by supporters was that Fiorentina are attempting too often to bypass an ineffective midfield by resorting to long balls in order to play in Federico Chiesa. This is putting too much pressure on the 21-year-old to carry the team, a heavy burden for a developing star. This approach is reflected in no less than 68 long balls and only 246 short passes versus Torino, and a poor passing success rate of 49.5% overall this term.

 A win versus Roma will be a tough ask at the weekend, but Pioli must work on the aforementioned issues this week in training, in order that there is at least visible progress being made. At some point, the Coach and his young side will have to stand strong and come through this bad patch, their inexperience no longer a reason to excuse them from a lack of points on the board.

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Allegri and Pjanic talks Scudetto and Matuidi praises Ronaldo


Several players partook to an event in collaboration with Adidas in Milan yesterday and Massimiliano Allegri and Miralem Pjanic talked to the fans and to the press. The coach commented mostly on the Scudetto race: “The credit for the results we obtained so far goes to the footballers who actually play the game. We hope to have few more satisfactions and to reach our goals, we are just at the beginning of the season.”

“Inter and Napoli are our rivals. The Nerazzurri played a great game against Lazio, they took a tumble only against Parma at home, which could happen in Football. They can fight with us and with Napoli, they were built for this purpose. Continue reading