Top Premier League Goalkeepers in 2018/19: Hugo Lloris

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Hugo Lloris completed his seventh season with Tottenham and even though it ended with no trophies there was no denying that his club had had a successful season. In the end Lloris helped Tottenham to a Champions League final, the clubs first final in their history and they also finished 4th in the Premier League and qualified for next years tournament as a result.

Lloris played 33 league games for Spurs and kept 12 clean sheets conceding 33 goals along the way. In the European Fantasy League rankings for the Premier League Lloris finished in 4th place with a total of 60 points. In the end he finished just 2 points behind Chelsea’s world record signing Kepa Arrizabalaga.

While Lloris can look back on the season as a good one it didn’t exactly start off well for him when he was arrested on suspicion of drink driving. He later pleaded guilty to the charge. Whilst this was a down point in Lloris’ season what was positive is that the Frenchman did not feel sorry for himself and quickly battled back to be in the team, missing only five games this season.

Because Tottenham conceded in their first two games of the season it meant that Llois started it with no points. He picked up his first points after the brilliant 3-0 win at Old Trafford against Manchester United. That game ended up being a catalyst for the team to continue their good form and Lloris kept another two clean sheets on a row as Spurs went on to beat Cardiff and West Ham. Llrois’ run ended in the next game when Tottenham were beaten 1-0 by champions Manchester City.

One of the best months for Lloris was in April when he did not concede a goal in the league that month and earned 21 points from 3 games played after Spurs claimed victories over Crystal Palace, Huddersfield and Brighton.

Lloris’ lowest point of the season came against eternal rivals Arsenal, it was a frantic day of football in the north London derby that saw Arsenal come out 4-2 winners. Conceding 4 goals is never good as a goalkeeper and on that day he ended up with -6 points. There was also the defeat against Wolves which ended 3-1 where Llrois ended up with -4 points.

With the season winding down and Tottenham clearly concentrating on the Champions League, so did their club form. Lloris finished his final three games this season earning no points and indeed finished with -2 over that period.

Had Tottenham finished a little stronger there is no doubt that Lloris would have beaten Kepa in the rankings.

Lloris looks set to keep his place at Tottenham for another season and if manager Mauricio Pochettino can identify the clubs problems with some shrewd summer signings this should be able to bolster the clubs fortunes once more and Lloris will be looking to put more clean sheets and more points on the board for next season.

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Top Premier League Defenders in 2018/19 – Trent Alexander-Arnold

Trent Alexander-Arnold

Hard as it may be to believe, Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold (TAA) is still only 20-years-old.

The right-back has already played in two Champions League finals, a World Cup, and been involved in an epic Premier League title race.

TAA was the third-highest scoring defender in 2018/19′s fantasy EPL game, just behind his Reds teammates – Virgil van Dijk and Andy Robertson.

He managed to accumulate 102 EPL fantasy football points from just 27 starts and two substitute appearances for Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool side. Continue reading

Liverpool set for a quiet summer – Forwards

Liverpool forwards

Can Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp go one step better in 2019/20 and win their first league title for 29 years?

Today is the final part of our look at the whole Liverpool squad. We already discussed goalkeepers and defenders and followed that up with a look at The Reds’ midfield department.

Now we’re going to look at Liverpool’s forward line plus their backup strikers.

Forwards

Mohamed Salah – Salah has now spent two seasons at Anfield, scoring a phenomenal 54 league goals in the Liverpool jersey. The Egyptian speedster has also provided 18 Continue reading

8 Premier League players to watch at the Africa Cup of Nations

Mohamed Salah (Egypt)

It is not just because of their status as hosts that Egypt are favourites to win this year’s Africa Cup of Nations. Salah was nowhere near full fitness at the World Cup last summer, which will make him even more determined to fire his country to glory on home soil. The Liverpool forward scored 27 goals in all competitions for his club side in 2018/19, and he is a good bet to finish as top scorer this summer given that Egypt’s attack will be geared towards getting the best out of him. Continue reading

Sarri out, Lampard in but could this be a huge mistake for Chelsea?

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And so it was confirmed over the weekend that Maurizio Sarri has left Chelsea and took the reigns at Italian champions Juventus after just one season. And the favourite a 1/20 bet to take over is Frank Lampard, but could this be a huge mistake from the Europa League cup winners?

Giving Lampard the job actually makes no sense at all, but this isn’t to discredit him in anyway. Lampard is an intelligent person, was a wonderful football player, knows the game inside out and knows how to win as a player. But surely the key factor here is that he used to play for Chelsea and is rightly regarded as a club legend. So with that knowledge, are we to believe that the only reason Lampard looks set for the job at Stamford Bridge is because he is a club legend and ex player. It does seem so.

Sarri was never liked at the club and it is no surprise that he packed his bags. This is unfortunate, he was obviously a good coach for the Blues, winning the Europa League in his debut season, finishing 3rd, losing 2 games at home all season and reaching the Carabao Cup final. Fans complained of his tactics and always selecting Jorginho, who for them was underperforming but always got the chance to play. Scapegoating comes to mind and perhaps Sarri was right to leave after a year if he felt no love.

Lampard will be warmly welcomed there is no doubt about that and everyone will want him to do well. But the fact is that he has just one professional season under his belt and that was in the Championship with Derby. He had some highs with the club reaching the play-off finals but they did not win it and in the league they finished 6th, just like they had the previous season without Lampard.

Perhaps this is all in the timing and no one is suggesting that Lampard is not good enough to coach Chelsea. But he will have a hard ask on his hands. Eden Hazard by far the clubs best player has left for Real Madrid and the club face a two window transfer ban. This could be reduced to one window on appeal but if it is it is still likely to be this summers one that is affected.

It is thought that Lampard has struck a deal where what ever happens he will be in the job for at least 2 years. This seems like fantasy, and if Chelsea have a nightmare first season under him, he could be fired and a bright promising career in management could fizzle out at least if Lampard has dreams of coaching the bigger teams.

Of course one can think back to another club legend taking the coach’s job just a few months ago, that was Thierry Henry at Monaco, and look how that ended, sacked after three months and replaced with the man he had taken the job from.

At the same time look at this from his point of view- he loves Chelsea and if they have come calling for him, that will be too hard to refuse. At the same time does he really want to spend another season in the Championship when he could be in charge of a Premier League club who are also in the Champions League? Of course not, and so unless there are any last minute hitches this will happen and he should be wished good luck.

 

 

Man City mustn’t stand still in this summer’s transfer market

Manchester City have set a new precedent at the top of the English game over the past two seasons, registering a combined 198 points over the 2017/18 and 2018/19 campaigns, collecting two Premier League titles. No team has dominated the English top flight like they have of late.

It’s difficult to envisage how Pep Guardiola’s side can possibly improve on what they have achieved over the past two seasons. And yet there are still some deficiencies to be addressed this summer. In terms of personnel, they could afford to strengthen in some areas before the start of the new season.

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There have been rumours. Atletico Madrid Rodri was deemed to be their number one target. Tanguy Ndombele has also been linked with a move to the Etihad Stadium this summer, although Tottenham Hotspur now seem to have skipped ahead of City in the race to sign the Lyon man.

Ben Chilwell has been mentioned, as has Aaron Wan-Bissaka as doubts around Man City’s current full back options persist. More recently, it has been reported that Joao Felix is edging closer to the Abu Dhabi-owned outfit, with City thought to be willing to loan the teenager back to Benfica for at least one season.

Despite all this speculation Man City have yet to make a single move this summer. The clock is already ticking with the Premier League’s transfer deadline two weeks before the rest of Europe’s. Some have started to suggest that City don’t need to make a signing or two before that deadline passes.

That would be a mistake, though. With Liverpool only getting better with every season under Jurgen Klopp Man City cannot afford to stand still this summer. The Etihad Stadium side have done that before as Premier League champions, both under Roberto Mancini and Manuel Pellegrini, and have been made to pay the price.

It’s not beyond the realms of possibility that history could repeat itself if City start the 2019/20 season with the same squad, especially if Liverpool spend big again this summer. What’s more, Guardiola is still to deliver on the objective he was hired on the basis of on the first place. City are still some way from being European champions.

The best teams always seek to improve on past results no matter how impressive they are. Man City’s results over the past two seasons could barely be more impressive, but that doesn’t mean that they will continue to be impressive indefinitely. City, as they have done in each of the past few years, must spend.

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Why would Mohamed Salah want to leave Liverpool?

There was a time not so long ago when Liverpool couldn’t keep their best players when the big clubs, namely the two Spanish giants, came calling. It happened when Barcelona came calling for Luis Suarez and again when they identified Philippe Coutinho as their top target last January. It even happened as long ago as the early 2000s when Michael Owen was lured to Real Madrid.

A lot has changed since then. Liverpool are European champions after winning their sixth Champions League title earlier this month. Not for decades have things been so bright at Anfield, with Jurgen Klopp taking the Reds back to the top of the sport after a long, long time in the wilderness.

Mohamed Salah

And yet there are still reports that Mohamed Salah, Liverpool’s best player and top goalscorer, is planning a move to Real Madrid, not this summer but the next. The Egyptian is currently under contract until 2023 only signing a new deal with the Anfield club last summer. Liverpool don’t need to sell him.

These reports that Liverpool chiefs have been made aware of Salah’s intentions and are making plans to try and persuade the forward to stay for the long term. But why would he want to leave in the first place? Are Real Madrid really a more attractive proposition than Real Madrid are right now?

The Spanish capital will always be attractive to elite level football players, but Klopp has built something special at Liverpool. They will be at the top of the English and European game for years to come and what’s more, despite their Champions League win this season there is still a sense of unfinished business after their failure to clinch a first ever Premier League title.

Salah is a central part of what Klopp has built. Would he be as integral to things at Real Madrid? Players, even superstars like the Egyptian, are treated as disposal at the Santiago Bernabeu. Just ask Gareth Bale about how difficult it is to satisfy the notoriously difficult Madrid fanbase and media.

Real Madrid isn’t even necessarily a place where Salah would clean up in terms of silverware. They have won just two league titles in the past 11 years compared to the eight Barcelona have swept in the same timeframe. While Liverpool got their hands on the biggest trophy in club football this season, Real Madrid ended up with nothing.

Football moves in cycles and right now Liverpool are at the very least on an equal footing to Real Madrid in the food chain. Not so long ago, Salah’s desire to move to Spain would have been understandable. No longer, though.

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Juventus or Real Madrid? Where will Paul Pogba end up?

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It is no secret that Paul Pogba has not enjoyed the greatest of times at Manchester United and the Frenchman looks set to leave the club this summer, but who for?

Reports have suggested that Fabio Paratici the sporting director of Juventus is in London and having talks with Manchester United representatives about Pogba joining the club. Actually he would be re-joining since United bought Pogba from the Old Lady back in 2016. What has been interesting is that if Juventus do buy Pogba then the player has spent his footballing career switching from these clubs alone, since he started his professional career with United back in 2010.

One wonders if Pogba’s indecisions and playing back and forth for the same clubs sums up his career thus far? The midfielder remains an enigma- a delightful player to watch on the ball and fearsome coming forward but his total inconsistency marks him out to be a player that may well end his footballing career as simply a footnote in the history of the game.

Alongside Juventus’ interest seems to be another and that is Real Madrid who are rebuilding this season after a chaotic last one. Los Blancos have already spent near to £300m on acquiring five players including Eden Hazard and it is thought that coach Zinedine Zidane would love to work with Pogba. Pogba himself may feel that a fresh change is needed from returning to Italy again. One thing is clear and that is United could do with offloading a player that they already know could fetch the club upwards of £100m and release funds to invest in players that want to play for the club and manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Keeping with United they have upscaled their interest in Crystal Palace player Aaron Wan-Bissaka who impressed this past season as the Eagles finished strongly. But the talking price seems to be spiralling out of control and one figure has the Palace player at £70m. For now he is on top of Solskjaer’s list and United agree to that sum it seems highly unlikely that they won’t get their man.

West Ham raised eyebrows by purchasing the exciting 23 year old Pablo Fornals. The attacking midfielder cost the Hammers just £24m which is seen as a bargain in today’s football. He comes from Villarreal and even though he had an average last season he is seen as a very good prospect and will add attacking flair to West Ham’s forward line.

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Pablo Fornals: Lowdown on West Ham’s latest signing who is more than ready for English football

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Over the past few seasons, it’s been quite easy for a young individual to announce himself as a player with an immense career ahead of him and be regarded as the next big talent. However, the situation has quietly been different for Pablo Fornals, someone who was a regular starter in midfield and was a key player for La Liga side Villarreal. However, the club and player did not have a solid season as per their normal standards, as the lack of consistency and squad quality became concerning month by month.

Fornals only returned to Villarreal in the summer of 2017 after spending five beneficial seasons in Malaga’s first team as well as their reserve team, and was recently linked with a £24million move to Premier League’s West Ham United. With the deal now becoming official yesterday, it would mean that Villarreal would be making an estimate profit of around £15million and potentially any add-ons or bonuses, which is quite good for a player that was seriously looking for a move since the January transfer window.

Before West Ham smartly snapped him up, both Arsenal and Napoli were interested in the Spaniard a couple of week ago, but were no longer looking at the player and have moved onto the other midfield targets they have in mind. The Yellow Submarines have not seen many major departures so far this summer, but it has shockingly began with Pablo Fornals moving from sunny Spain to rainy England.

It’s time to look at everything you will want to know about the 23-year-old…

Villarreal background

Over the last 10 to 15 years, Villarreal have been recognised for the types of centre-backs and central-midfielders they have purchased for quite a bargain, before going on to developing and nurturing them into top quality players. The likes of Giuseppe Rossi, Joan Capdevila, Marcos Senna, Ruben Cani and currently Bruno Soriano have played for this beautiful and passionate club, individuals who have given their all on the pitch whilst becoming fan favourites during their good moments and bad moments.

The current Villarreal squad is still blessed with quite a number of individuals that are born and raised in Spain, including the experienced Santi Cazorla, captain Bruno Soriano, the calm and collected Vicente Iborra and Gerard Moreno, someone who has not had the best of seasons in front of goal but will always be a huge aerial threat, as long as the crossing is effective from the flanks.

Which world-class central-midfielder is he similar to…

It’s still early days for Fornals to be dubbed or regarded as the next Cesc Fabregas or Koke, however, his style of play is very similar to team-mate Santi Cazorla, who once upon a time was a crucial player for Arsenal and was seen as one of the most underrated players in England. With his constant knack for wanting the ball and his ability to dominate it whilst being seen as the focal point of the midfield, he is able to avoid the press with his dribbling skill as well as his intelligent movement.

On top of that, he is more than capable of producing a large number of perfectly-timed passed thanks to his range of passes and his sharp vision to even attempt, which is something that many central-midfielders don’t take the risk to complete. The style of play of both himself and Cazorla is something to admire, given that the latter flourished in the Premier League and the former will without a doubt, do the same as long as a system is in place and the team is built around him, and no one else.

Strengths

Complete midfielder. Not many players within La Liga, especially from outside of Atletico Madrid, Barcelona and Real Madrid, can boast about playing in a number of tactical roles within midfield whilst dominating the match and the opposition. Due to this natural blessing, Fornals’ quality has always been undervalued, purely because of the other talented midfielders and attacking-minded players produced within Spain.

Being a player that does not rely on pace or physicality, the Castellon-born midfielder has proven himself to be dominant on both sides of the pitch. From completing the second most key passes (42) and fourth most successful dribbles (39) when compared to the rest of the squad, he has actually achieved more than expected as the side have recently not been known as a possession-based team. Thanks to his intelligence and positive thinking on the ball, he is able to work really well within tight areas and has the actual ability to get past one or two defenders or midfielders without even trying.

Weaknesses

Although it will be his range of passing as well as his rising quality to get the best out of the midfield that may be what the West Ham supporters will be looking forward to the most. However, Fornals’ has had a bit of a consistency to give away cheap fouls and also in a number of dangerous positions. Unfortunately for him, the Premier League referees will not be be too lenient and inconsistent like the ones in La Liga.

On the other hand, it is ideal and useful to have a player that is quite stocky, aggressive and is willing to go into the much needed tackles and tactical fouls. With a number of players that come to play in England from other European countries, they tend to lack the defensive duties or the mentality to help the team to retrieve possession, which will surely not be a problem for Pablo Fornals at all, as he always puts the team before him.

How would he fit into West Ham?

Fornals could potentially play alongside Mark Noble and just ahead of defensive-midfielder Declan Rice in 4-1-4-1 formation, which is a system that manager Manuel Pellegrini has used time and time again, that has allowed the Hammers to play with the ball confidently and also more productively.

Given that Jack Wilshere has become unreliable and is still battling his own injury issues whilst both Mark Noble and Robert Snodgrass are starting to age and decline, it makes sense Pellegrini’s side to continue to play their football in a 4-1-4-1 setup, providing more space and time for Fornals to pull the strings deep in midfield or to advance up the pitch in possession to create chances for his team-mates or for himself.

With a lot of things spicing up for West Ham, including the fact that they have been scouting and recruiting players effectively for the last couple of seasons. It wouldn’t be a total surprise to see them aiming for a Europa League spot finish for the upcoming campaign, despite the competition from the likes of Everton, Leicester and Wolves.

On the other hand, the budding transfer of Fornals and Celta Vigo’s Maxi Gomez could prove to be perfect signings in the long run, and only if the East London side go on to finish within the top seven, especially in what could potentially be a really competitive season. Now that the deal is official, the Spanish international will certainly be regarded as one of the best signings of the summer window and also for such a really low fee.

Tottenham’s Harry Kane could burn out if he doesn’t protect himself

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It was unfortunate to see such a lethargic display from Harry Kane in the Champions League final after the Tottenham striker returned from injury and was immediately put into the first team. Kane is one of the very best prospects in England but the player needs to be protected and mainly from himself.

We do not have to doubt Kane’s goal scoring abilities and his eye for goal and work rate in the area is brilliant. He is so precise and if anyone does want to doubt Kane’s abilities as a striker then his 164 goals in 253 appearances for Tottenham should put that to bed.

But here’s the problem and it cuts both ways with coaches and Kane himself- he needs to know and they need to know when the player needs rest.

Before the Champions League final Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino was asked why he brought Kane straight back into the team forcing Lucas Moura the hat trick hero in the semi-final win over Ajax to be dropped to the bench? Pochettino reacted as if the interviewer was pulling his leg, such is Kane’s importance to the team, but it was arguably wrong to think that and it was a genuine question. Had Moura been returning from injury, he still would have started the final from the bench, and yet Kane was brought in. True he is special to the club but he was still slightly rusty after having missed almost the last two months of football. It was the wrong choice to start him.

That was proven in a game where Kane was almost invisible. Again not his fault, this was the final and he wasn’t about to miss it but Kane’s inclusion actually helped Liverpool, because it felt for the most part that Tottenham were playing with 10 men, he was that quiet.

A few days later England were playing the Netherlands in the UEFA Nations Cup and England manager Gareth Southgate absolutely did the right thing in not starting Kane but bringing him on later in the game. No matter if England eventually lost the match, Kane’s presence or not wouldn’t have made the difference as he is still clearly recovering.

The problem was that after the game Kane was interviewed where he remained positive and upbeat and told journalists that he would get right back to fitness, go for a run on the beach and hit the gym.

Whilst Kane’s words would seem normal to any day footballer who is 25 remember the problem is that Kane doesn’t seem to be listening to his own body. He missed two chunks of the season because of injury and his quality is such that Tottenham cannot really afford to be without him for long periods. And when he gets injured his willingness to get fit quicker than expected seems to hamper his recovery time. So when he is ready to return, he actually really isn’t.

Southgate did the right thing Pochettino to a lesser extent didn’t. But Kane also needs to listen to his own body, the last thing anyone wants to see is a career where he keeps picking up injuries here and there and doesn’t get a good run of games under his belt. He is a special talent and he needs to be looked after.