Is Aaron Ramsey Juventus’ Missing Piece?

Earlier this month it was announced that Juventus secured Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey on a free transfer at the end of the season. The Welshman’s arrival isn’t the bianconeri’s first bosman dealing, and has come to be a defining feature of the club on the transfer market in recent times. In the past, Juventus signed the likes of Andrea Pirlo, Kingsley Coman, Paul Pogba  and most recently Emre Can among others.

While in the past these transfers helped the Italian giants boost their depth, Ramsey’s signing represents something entirely different. This time around, Juventus are turning to Ramsey to complete their midfield ranks and to give them some much needed creativity and drive from deep. But does the 28-year-old fit the bill?

Since breaking onto the scene with Arsenal, a defining characteristic of Ramsey’s game has been his ability to get forward and create space for himself in the opposition’s box. Last season, the player made the most of his chances in close and registered seven goals and eight assists. Juventus are expecting him to bring this aspect of his game to Turin and take some creative burden off Miralem Pjanic in the midfield. You could even argue Juventus haven’t had a player with Ramsey’s characteristics since Pogba. As of right now, Allegri’s side don’t have a single midfielder with more than two goals, and could use some production from deep.

In Pjanic and Rodrigo Bentancur, the bianconeri have two deep-lying playmakers with a pass-first mentality. In Matuidi and Can, Allegri finds the defensive responsibility he seeks without compromising his team’s balance. With Sami Khedira’s output dropping significantly, it’s normal Juventus are in the market for a progressive midfielder; someone to pick up the slack and drive the team forward in tight affairs. Ramsey is different to what Juventus already have, and will act as an ideal foil alongside Pjanic and Matuidi.

Capable of playing anywhere down the middle, Ramsey’s versatility will undoubtedly be a welcomed addition in Allegri’s setup. However, expect him to make the mezz’ala spot – outside of the midfield three – his own rather quickly upon his arrival. With Pjanic pulling the strings from deep and Matuidi doing much of the dirty work, Ramsey will have the freedom he seeks to push forward.

While the Welsh international, at times, has held onto the ball for too long, expect this to change quickly in Juventus’ extremely structured setup. Simply put, he won’t be afforded minutes if this persists. That being said, over the years the bianconeri have demonstrated an uncanny ability to iron out a player’s weaknesses and quickly turn them into strengths.

Despite arriving on a free transfer, Ramsey is expected to make around £300,000-a-week; a wage typically given to top players. Moreover, his salary indicates that he’s likely going to be Juventus’ only midfield reinforcement in the upcoming summer as it would simply be unfeasible to commit similar money to another player. Given his increased wage and Juventus’ desire to get the deal done as quickly as possible, it highlights the club’s belief in the player.

Over his Arsenal career, Ramsey has polarized opinion, especially in his early days, but has since established himself as a fan favourite. At Juventus, the 28-year-old will be armed with both the proper coaching, a clear system and the teammates to take his game to the next level, competing for Europe’s top honours in the process. This on its own should motivate Ramsey to succeed and hit the ground running upon his arrival.

Juventus are putting many of their eggs in one basket with this investment, but Ramsey will prove to be the midfielder the club are missing. For one, he’s got all the characteristics they’re looking for and have lacked since Khedira’s drop. Secondly, considering Juventus’ rigorous system, Ramsey’s job will be clear. While this signing has all the makings of a good one, only time will tell if Ramsey will be the man to finally solve Juventus’ midfield conundrum.

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Samir Nasri’s brilliant start to life at West Ham United


There were mixed reactions to the initial news that West Ham United were signing Samir Nasri. Having been banned for doping he began training with the Hammers towards the end of 2018 to earn a contract, with it being announced he had successfully done so at the very beginning of January. Many felt that he wouldn’t be up to the standard after his extended period out of the game. However, Manuel Pellegrini clearly saw enough in him during those training sessions to offer him a contract. His early performances have begun to get the supporters on side as well.

He was on left on the bench against Brighton & Hove Albion –the first game after he was signed- before making his debut in the FA Cup Third Round match against Birmingham City. He played 58 minutes in the 2-0 win, showing the technical ability that had led to him being held in such high esteem during his prime years. There were some touches of true class from the Frenchman during the game, with a pinpoint pass to Marko Arnautovic on the edge of the box after the ball had popped up being a prime example.

Nasri also worked hard throughout his time on the pitch, though it seemed he tired after half time before being brought off. However, even after the training he’s undertaken it would have been a big ask to expect the Frenchman to last the entirety of the game.His creative contributions certainly helped In the time he did play, as the Hammers booked their place in the next round.

His performance impressed the manager enough to earn him a spot in the starting line up for the next game. This meant his first game back in the Premier League would be against Arsenal. It was the perfect setting for his comeback: playing against the club who have loathed him so heavily ever since he left them to join Manchester City.

The Arsenal supporters may have been charged up in the stands, but Nasri remained composed on the pitch. A moment which epitomises this is when he had the ball near the edge of the box and was being put under pressure by the Arsenal defence. Rather than panic and try to get a snap shot off, he patiently waited for Felipe Anderson to arrive before laying it off to the Brazilian for a first time shot. The effort may not have gone in, but that alongside other forms of link up play showed that he will be a creative and threatening attacking presence in West Ham’s side.

His most important contribution came in the 48th minute, when Granit Xhaka’s weak defensive header fell to his feet in the box. He took one touch out of his feet, saw Declan Rice and played the ball to the 19-year-old, setting the youngster up for his first ever senior goal. What made the moment even sweeter is that this was the only goal of the game and handed the Hammers the win.

The Frenchman and his team mates will now be looking to build on these victories. West Ham’s next match will be against AFC Bournemouth, with a win potentially taking them up to seventh.


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Same old Arsenal as season is unravelling for the Gunners


Arsenal dropped more points at the weekend when they went to West Ham and lost 1-0 and quite frankly this season is looking just like any other under Arsene Wenger.

That isn’t to say that new coach Unai Emery hasn’t stamped his presence on the team, because he has and the Gunners in general have been more willing to attack and take chances especially away from home. But one glance at the league table and after 22 games Arsenal just aren’t bringing anything fresh to the table or their season.

Not too much criticism should be put upon Emery- coming into a side that have been so used to having Wenger in charge for more than two decades, a change takes some doing and it isn’t going to happen quickly. Having said that Emery will be under more pressure next season.

This latest loss though means that Manchester United have been able to catch up to them. Just before Christmas they were a good 8 points adrift, so it just underline how very average the Gunners have been lately.

The defeat against West Ham also means that they have slipped 6 points behind a top 4 finish, and with United right on top of them it means that Arsenal now have to challenge both Chelsea and possibly a resurgent United for that top four place. In short it looks as it Arsenal will miss out on a Champions League place for the 2nd time in a row.

Because of this we can say that Emery has failed in his objectives this season which must have been to put Arsenal back into Europe’s elite competition, right now that looks like a distant dream. Emery’s salvation could come by way of the FA Cup, a competition the Gunners have won 3 times from the last four years.

There is also of course the Europa League where Arsenal have made it to the knockout stages. If they win that then they will qualify for the Champions League, so not everything is at a dead end for them. However fans will be alarmed at some of the clubs latest stats.

Emery’s team have just one win in their past four and on form the club would not be in 5th place but in 10th. And maybe no fans want to hear this but this time last season Arsenal had 39 points, there really is nothing in it between Wenger’s last season and Emery’s first.

We can say that on the face of it Arsenal have not got any worse, but neither have they got any better. That doesn’t mean the future isn’t bright with Emery in the hot seat but it is clear that he will need a big budget this summer in order to compete at the top.

Aaron Ramsey should join Juventus if he wants to become a complete player


It’s not everyday that Juventus come calling for you, and what will end up being Arsenal’s loss and Juventus’ gain could well happen this summer when the Arsenal playmaker Aaron Ramsey becomes a free agent.

Arsenal seem to have made a faux pas in letting Ramsey wind down his career, only last season he was voted as the best Arsenal player by the fans which was the 2nd time he had won it. Ramsey is a player that in todays market could fetch anywhere between £40-£60m but in the summer he will be leaving for absolutely nothing.

The reasoning seems to be down to new manager Unai Emery who just can’t fit him into his system and it is the reason that Ramsey has had to start games from the bench. At 28 the Welshman seems to be getting better and better in his role, but it is clear that role is not with Arsenal anymore.

But with Juventus calling Ramsey needs to make the jump to them or any other big continental club. It might be that the likes of Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea could throw in their interest, but staying in the Premier League would not be a good move for the player.

Just take a look at his Wales teammate Gareth Bale for evidence. Bale has been utterly brilliant for Real Madrid, and has on the face of it become the greatest British import of all time. It isn’t the fact that Bale has won numerous trophies in his time in Spain, although that does help. But also Bale has grown as a player and reached the potential of his footballing capabilities, few football players ever get to that level but when Bale made that decision to go to Spain he opened the door.

If Ramsey does join Juventus he will be bathed in a rich history of a team that accept nothing more than winning. He will have Cristiano Ronaldo as a teammate and will be most likely be setting him for chances.

It would be a massive move for the player and the obvious obstacles would be the new culture and change of language, but surely that is worth the pay off? Footballers are immensely lucky in the fact that when they move to a foreign land they are instantly looked after and respected, and the Italian game may just suit Ramsey’s one down to a tea, or an Italian cappuccino.

Is it time for West Ham’s Jack Wilshere to retire?


It may feel like an awful thing to say or even think, that is to suggest a professional player should retire before their playing years are done and dusted. But one wonders if retiring now would actually benefit West Ham’s Jack Wilshere.

Wilshere has been dogged with injury his whole career and signed for West Ham this summer, although he has only played 5 games this season and has been out injured with an ankle injury for over four months. There is no update on when the player will return although it was first announced that he would be back in Manuel Pellegrini’s team in November and that just got delayed week by week and day by day. As we enter into 2019 there is still no sign of him.

Wilshere has played in 10 previous football seasons with his most games played in season 2010/11 where he played 35 times from 38. However unfortunately since then the most games he has been able to play is  27 games which was a couple of seasons ago when he was on loan at Bournemouth.

The truth is though from 470 possible games that he could play, he has only appeared in 171 games. That works out at less than 35% of games he has been available in. It is nothing short of a tragic story.

And tragic it is because Wilshere is a top player and a great midfielder, who distributes the ball so well, can stand up when being counted and tries always to win and be a very difficult opponent. We haven’t even talked about some of his silky skills too so it is worrying and a real loss to football that Wilshire has been injured so many times in his career.

The ex Arsenal player is only 27 years old and if he was to retire it would be seen as a shock. The good news is he would be backed up, a career in punditry and some other form of media would be a given. But there are also many coaching roles he could take on, it’s not the same scenario it was for some footballers in the 1970s and 1980s where early retirement could signal problems in their personal lives.

Hopefully Wilshere can recover and get a few more seasons in and win some trophies but surely all of these mounting injuries cannot be doing his body any good long term, and one can wonder if he will have problems health wise in the future.

For now the best of luck must be shown Wilshere’s way for a full recovery even if history says otherwise. Right now West Ham could do with his influential style and performances.


Is Franck Passi about to take Thierry Henry’s job at Monaco?


Since Thierry Henry took over as coach of Monaco it has been a nightmare in the south of France which has seen the team stuck in the bottom two of Ligue 1. One wonders if Henry’s role with the club is coming to an end with the announcement that Franck Passi has been drafted into the team as assistant.

Passi is well known in Ligue 1 as the ‘fixer’. He has done commendable caretaker jobs at clubs such as Marseille and Lille he is if you like the man who stabilises a club before a bigger name replaces him. The worry is that Henry already knows this and may just not get on with that idea. Time is certainly ticking for the ex Arsenal legend.

One of the biggest problems for Henry has been his attitude as seen through the French media who have reported that he seems disinterested at times, easily wound up and very moody on the touchline. In an era where it is difficult to criticise the modern day footballer- see Jose Mourinho for that, Henry continues to do so and when the team make mistakes he makes it very known. For some media they see Henry as a dead man walking at the club.

It has, for sure been incredibly hard for him. Henry has lost 9 games from the 14 managed at the club with a win rate of 21%. Just before the Ligue 1 season wrapped up for Christmas Monaco had to play Guingamp at home a game seen as one that should be three points, given that Guingamp have been ever poorer than Henry’s side this season. What followed was a 2-0 defeat and more misery for Henry. What was depressing is that Monaco had just 2 shots on target against the bottom club.

They are now 4 points from safety and yet with a decent run there is every chance that Monaco will not be relegated to Ligue 2. It is true that this isn’t all Henry’s fault but he was the wrong person to bring in only having some experience as an assistant with the Belgium national team beforehand. Most of the blame must go to the owners who have constantly sold their best players that now run into double figures in the last few seasons alone. That is the real reason that the 2017 champions could be relegated this season.

Ligue 1 kicks off again for Monaco on January 13th and it doesn’t get any easier for Monaco and Henry with an away trip to Marseille. Could a heavy defeat at Stade Velodrome signal the end for Henry?


Can Manchester United still finish in a Champions League position?


And the good times keep rolling at Manchester United under new boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer who after 3 games in charge has three wins. Not only that United are playing their best football since Sir Alex Ferguson retired and have scored 12 goals in those three victories. Having had their chances of a top four place and automatic qualification for the Champions League ruled out some time ago, is it now possible that the Red Devils under Solskjaer’s guiding hand can actually achieve it?

What has been remarkable is how United have closed the gap to Arsenal, just a few weeks back it stood at 9 points now it is just 3 after Arsenal were thumped 5-1 by Liverpool and have themselves been in poor form.

Of course Arsenal are in 5th place and if United want that Champions League spot they will have bigger fish to fry. It does seem very likely of course that the top 3 places will be taken by in any order- Manchester City, Liverpool and Tottenham. Currently Tottenham are in 3rd place and are 10 points ahead of United that doesn’t seem like changing anytime soon.

So the target is Chelsea in 4th place. United are 8 points shy of them, it seems like a points to make up, but it is just possible. United still have to play Chelsea at Old Trafford and it will only take a few points dropped from the Blues, even draws will count to start getting worried about United. The team have progressed so well under Solskjaer that it has been quite incredible.

The one worry that United will have is how long will the honeymoon period last? For now the players seem 100% behind their manager and clearly respect him, and he has warmed to them, everyone has seen the difference in the team since he took over. But one wonders if there will be a period between now and the end of the season when the matches become a little harder a little grittier when confidence wanes more and questions are asked. Don’t be fooled, the modern day football player is a sensitive one that only reacts to positive words and not criticism.

For now United are on top of the world and are playing so well with so much confidence and energy you feel that they could be playing any team in the world and would beat them. But catching Chelsea is very realistic and United only have one real major test in playing Tottenham before the Champions League restarts so anything is possible.

Liverpool are sensing their first league title since 1990


And then there was one- that’s right just a few weeks ago the Premier League had turned into a two horse race between Liverpool and Manchester City, but since then City have looked like a shadow of themselves losing a staggering 3 games in their last four which has set Liverpool free.

The Reds have continued to win games and at the halfway point are still unbeaten. Liverpool currently have 51 points and have pulled 7 points clear of the current champions who are of course Manchester City. Perhaps a new rival in Tottenham has emerged as their great form has seen them move past City and into 2nd place on 45 points. But Liverpool still have a big 6 point gap.

Liverpool have incredibly never won the league since it’s been known as the Premier League which was established for the beginning of the 1992-93 season. Their last title was in 1990 and so winning the league is the main priority this season above everything else. It would be absolutely huge for the club, fans and city if they were to do it and they do look like they are in pole position. For now City look like they have imploded, as for Tottenham history says that as good as the team have become they usually do not have the staying power.

The excitement then is brewing on Merseyside but maybe that kettle needs to wait to be poured as Liverpool have some tough games coming up and plenty of tests. It starts this weekend when they will take on Arsenal. Although they will be at home and be clear favourites. But Arsenal have the team to force a draw at least and they did so earlier in the season. Next week is the huge game against Manchester City and they will be away for that fixture. Let’s be honest these two matches will be very interesting to watch and if Liverpool got maximum points from these games we have to seriously start thinking that they can win the league.

Jurgen Klopp’s team will also have the FA Cup and Champions League to contend with in between but after those two very dangerous fixtures Liverpool will not face a top 6 rival until the end of February when they will take on Manchester United at Old Trafford.

It is going to be a fascinating season that is for sure and even though Liverpool are not over the line, and we have to remind ourselves we are only at the halfway point of the season they are looking like the strongest team in England right now.

In football everything can change so quickly, just ask Pep Guardiola and Manchester City.


Is Jamie Vardy one of the best strikers in Premier League history?


Look at a Leicester result from the past 3 years and one player always seems to be banging in the goals for them, one Jamie Vardy. The same player who just a few years ago was plying his trade in non-league football. But the England international doesn’t seem to get the attention that should be afforded to him, why is that?

Vardy remains a consistent and very important player for Leicester who of course infamously won the Premier League in 2016 in what has to be hailed as not only one of the greatest achievements in modern day football but also as a huge shock, especially given todays money in the game where the football elite always seem to rise to the top.

Even after all the celebrations died down and Leicester got on with the following seasons, finishing in mid table or having a decent run in the league and always still upsetting the odds ( see Leicester’s latest win against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge) there has been Vardy still getting the goals. One could ask is Vardy amongst the very best strikers the Premier League has been fortunate to have?

Statistically the answer would be no. After all Vardy only has 68 goals in his five seasons so far. He would need 150 just to break into the top 10, with age against him he might not get to that figure. But with Vardy it is more than just goals and his worth to the Foxes in general that has set him apart from just being another ‘fox in the box’. He assists, encourages players and is very loyal to his club. It was Vardy of course that turned his head at a big money move to Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal after Leicester had won the league.

The move to Arsenal was supposed to be Vardy’s gift for all of his hard work, but he wasn’t interested. Perhaps he could see that under Wenger Arsenal were on the decline and if a new coach had come in like Emery Vardy could quickly be resigned to the subs bench where his career would have stalled. At least staying at Leicester he has the respect of the fans and will surely go down as one of the genuine club legends at the King Power Stadium once his career comes to an end.

So Vardy may not be amongst the very best strikers to have graced the Premier League, but make no mistake he keeps popping those goals in and keeps turning up at just the right time to make defenders life’s hell. For that he must surely be one of the most important strikers and for a former non-league player that isn’t bad going at all.

Son continues to shine for Tottenham but does he get enough recognition?


Son Heung-Min wasn’t even 10 years old when South Korea reached the World Cup semi finals on home soil in 2002, and it was that very competition, seeing for himself the magic and hope that surrounds football that made Son pursue his own dreams.

After spells with FC Seoul in his youth years he had a huge cultural change ahead of him when he joined Hamburg in the Bundesliga in 2010. His potential was then snapped up by Bayer Leverkusen before Tottenham came calling in 2015.

Son has been ever reliable for the Premier League team, setting up goals, scoring them and always getting those important ones. He has been an integral part of the side even if he has started some games from the bench, he is as important as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was to Manchester United in the late 1990s and early 2000s. But arguably one could question if Son is not getting enough media treatment and enough appreciation. In a side who continue to be touted as amongst the favourites to win trophies, Son is just as an important as Harry Kane, and has ended up being a superb purchase for the club.

Whilst it’s true that Son is not scoring as many goals as Kane, it is what he does on the pitch too. Drawing defenders out, using neat tricks and his pace to create space and he is very popular with the players and fans. One has to wonder if Son is one of the best Asian players to grace the league.

There have in the past been quality like Tim Cahill of Everton, or Shinji Kagawa who had a few seasons at Manchester United. The one player that really sticks out though is Park Ji-Sung, who won over 10 trophies for Manchester United. Though Park was used mainly as a super sub there is no question of his quality and his influence over the Red Devils in the games that mattered, culminating in winning the Champions League in 2008 in all an English final against Chelsea.

But that is in the past and this is the present and Son continues to shine. He recently won the goal of the month for his superb solo effort against Chelsea. A goal that helped Tottenham to win the game 3-1 and inflict Chelsea’s first defeat of the season.

He has had a memorable week too- scoring at the Emirates as Spurs knocked out Arsenal in the Carabao Cup and then scoring a brace against Everton this weekend in a rousing 6-2 victory. The media pages need to be filled a little less with the brilliant Kane, and a little more with the also very brilliant Son, who may just be warming up to be one of the best Asian players to grace his name in the major European leagues.