Arsenal record their 13th draw of the season and leave fans very frustrated

Arsenal drew 0-0 away to Burnley to move up from 12th to 10th in the league. It was the clubs 13th draw this season. The Premier League record from 38 games is 17 and the Gunners are well on course to equal or even beat this.

It was another disappointing result for Arsenal who have struggled to win games. Just 2 now from their last 17. Of course it depends on how you view results but new manager Mikel Arteta has oversaw just 1 league win from 7 games. Of course he has only lost one also, which came against Chelsea in a game which could have easily have finished as another draw.

Whilst draws have been the difference between fighting relegation, draws do not challenge for European positions either and this has clearly been Arsenal’s worst season in 35 years. Had those draws been losses Arsenal would currently be in 19th place with 19 points. And, had they been converted to wins they would be in 4th place with 43 points. Truth is though this Arsenal side have been average to poor as we have seen them take the lead in games only to be pegged back.

Against Burnley they couldn’t manage a goal which was unfortunate for the club as they welcomed back prolific striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. The player had missed the last 3 games through suspension after he was sent off earlier in the month.

Whilst Arsenal did show promise against Burnley they only managed 2 shots on target, as did the home side. But this is clearly not the Arsenal of old and one wonders what Arteta will do with much of this squad in the summer? Is it time to sell the bulk of the team? Would that simply be panicking? Or is it true that most of the starting eleven, whilst good players simply can’t cut it at Arsenal who should be a team aiming for at least the top 6. The Gunners have been going back for a few years now and this season looks like the end result.

They will enjoy a two week break now and the luck of the draw means that their next 3 Premier League matches will be at home. They will be against Newcastle, Everton and West Ham. Also the club won’t play a so called big name club again until the end of April when they take on Tottenham in the London derby.

Fans have been left very frustrated and even angry at the clubs results. Arteta needs time and respect but his tenure has hardly started well. Too many draws feel like they are glossing over the bigger picture. The only thing to give the fans hope will be a good end to the season and trying to finish in a respectable place, namely the top 6 has to be Arteta’s objective, they are currently 5 points from that target.

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11 Players to look out for in the FA Cup 4th Round

The Premier League is taking a break this weekend as focus turns its attention to the FA Cup one of the oldest cup competitions in the world. Even though we can’t score points in cup games, how some players perform this weekend can bode well for their form and confidence coming back to Premier League football for next weekend.

Let’s look at some of the players who will try and continue to light up the competition and possibly cause some problems along the way.

Goalkeeper: Adrian- Liverpool

Alisson of course is the main man for Liverpool when it comes to keeping guard in goal for the Reds but Adrian will step in for this game. Adrian has been really impressive when he has had the chance and kept a clean sheet in the last round against a full strength Everton team.

Defender: Kyle Bartley- West Bromwich Albion

Kyle Bartley’s West Bromwich Albion did well in the last round by beating Charlton 1-0 with the defence keeping a clean sheet. They will play West Ham away in the next round and could provide a stern test for the Premier League side who usually struggle in cup games against non top flight teams.

Defender: Isaac Hayden – Newcastle

Isaac Hayden has been in good form for Newcastle lately, and the question will be if manager Steve Bruce selects him for their FA Cup game? The Magpies will be at home to Oxford United and so will be the big favourites to win it and Hayden if he plays could well be part of a defence that keeps a clean sheet.

Defender: Conor Townsend- West Bromwich Albion

Conor Townsend has been one of WBA’s best players this season and is adept at keeping clean sheets. West Ham who the club are playing in the next round are not in great form. Could WBA provide a shock?

Defender: Jordan Orbita- Reading

Jordan Orbita could well be playing in the Premier League soon. He has been impressive for Reading this season and in the last round he scored the winner as the club overcame Blackpool 2-0. Reading will play Cardiff at home in the next round.

Midfielder: Adam Lallana- Liverpool

Adam Lallana is sure to start when Liverpool face Shrewsbury Town away from home. Lallana is a fringe player now at the Reds but does get the nod to start cup games. He was very impressive as Liverpool beat Everton 1-0 in the last round.

Midfielder: Mathieu Smith- Millwall

Mathieu Smith’s future may lie elsewhere than Millwall if he continues to put in good solid performances and the player scored when the London club knocked out Newport County in the last round. He can play as an attacker or just drop down into attacking midfielder and is worth keeping your eye on.

Midfielder: Callum Hudson-Odoi- Chelsea

Another player who can just drop off the strikers. He doesn’t always get regular starts for Chelsea in the league, but he has been picked as first choice for cup matches. He scored a goal in the last round as Chelsea beat Nottingham Forest and he will be tipped to do well when the Blues take on Hull in the 4th round.

Striker: Alexandre Lacazette- Arsenal

Alexandre Lacazette was the hero for Arsenal in the last round against Leeds, and the Gunners will need him to perform when they take on Bournemouth. In part this is because Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will be suspended for this game. Lacazette can hopefully provide the front line that Arsenal need.

Striker: Curtis Jones- Liverpool

Who is Curtis Jones? Well a few weeks ago not many people knew outside of Liverpool football club. But Jones a teenager scored the only goal and a cracking one at that to give the Reds a 1-0 win over their local rivals Everton. Now people know who Jones is and surely Jurgen Klopp will give Jones another opportunity to play and shine when they take on Shrewsbury Town in the 4th round?

Striker: Jay Rodriguez- Burnley

Jay Rodriguez scored in the last round as Burnley overcame Peterborough 4-2 in  an entertaining game. Burnley will now play Norwich at home and will start as favourites to advance to the next round. Rodriguez has every chance of playing and helping his team.

 

Burnley 0-2 Man Utd: The Red Devils continue their fine form with a strong victory over the Clarets

With the main focus of gameweek 20 being on how the Premier League table shapes up on both sides of the division, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United had the great opportunity of pushing towards the top four positions, as they travelled away to Turf Moor to face Sean Dyche’s Burnley.

Ahead of the game, both managers would have looked well into the squad depth and any other individuals available, given the hectic list of fixtures in December and where nearly all the teams in the league are playing in three games in ten days. The Red Devils were looking to start being consistent when it came to victories whilst the Clarets were hoping to pull off a potential upset.

Overall, the visitors had dominated possession effortlessly and were hardly under much pressure, which isn’t a surprise as the hosts are the type of team that prefers to defend in a deep block and take the opposition on with a more direct and long ball approach. However, there were only six shots on target throughout the game, as both sides had lacked the much needed creativity.

The first half was pretty much a snooze fest, with very little happening on both areas of the pitch as a lack of risks and opportunities were actually taken by the influential players. It took until the 44th minute of the game to see the first goal, which was taken by the away side due to a defensive mistake made by Charlie Taylor, as Andreas Pereira latched onto the ball on the right side of the pitch before placing into to the feet of Anthony Martial, who calmly slotted it into the net.

Following the half-time break, the game began to open up for both teams, especially for the hosts as the likes of Ashley Westwood, Dwight McNeil and substitute Aaron Gudmundsson were picking up the ball within the advanced areas of United’s half. Because of this, Solskjaer’s men had to be more compact and proactive on the defensive side, as they have been dominated aerially in recent weeks.

There wasn’t much to go into detail or cover of the second half, until what actually occurred in the final moments of the game. As Burnley won a free-kick in a very dangerous area, which led to a counter-attack for United in a couple of seconds thanks to Daniel James and his burst of pace, and it was just about completed by Marcus Rashford as he went past the keeper and his fortunate touch was able to take the ball away from the Burnley player on the goal line and into the back of the net.

With Manchester United leaving Turf Moor with the much needed three points, it pushes them back to fifth-place and just four points behind fourth-place Chelsea, who have started to become quite inconsistent themselves. Meanwhile for Burnley and Sean Dyche, they have unsurprisingly dropped by one or two spots into 13th place, leaving them with just six points above the relegation zone.

Here are the three valuable factors we learnt from United’s latest league game…

Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford continue to produce the goods

A lot of questions were rightfully asked at the start of the season, on whether the club will regret letting go of both Alexis Sanchez and Romelu Lukaku, especially with no effort being made in replacing the attacking duo. Despite the fact that they were not in Solskjaer’s long-term plans, the side have been better without them, which has to be more down to the brilliance of Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford, who have only started to play again together and have been running riot.

Rashford has been incredible so far this season, having bagged 12 goals and four assists in 20 league appearances, with a number of his goals coming in the crucial matches and he is yet to hit his peak. And with Martial, he has been out with an injury here and there for around two months so far this term and has still managed to hit double figures in goals and assists by the end of December.

Fred has stepped up massively over the last couple of weeks in midfield

When looking at a midfielder like Fred, it’s quite obvious that he doesn’t have the presence or brilliance that makes him to be seen as a standout defensive-midfielder or attacking-midfielder. On the other hand, his personal role is more of making the team tick and being able to break up the opposition’s play to setting the team on the counter, which he is starting to be appreciated for.

Although he needed some time settling into the physicality and high intensity side of the Premier League, the Brazilian international has now gained a better understanding of how everything is set out and what he had to do on his end. Due to his determination and hunger to succeed, he has turned his United career around and has become one of the side’s best players so far this season, having produced some dominant displays against the likes of Brighton, Man City and Spurs.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men picked up a huge victory and have to build on from here

It’s been the side’s second time this season where they have completed back to back victories in the league, which does imply that the ideal consistency is not there in order for the team to convincingly finish in the top four. However, with both Chelsea and Leicester City slipping up slightly in recent weeks, the race for a top four finish could become wide open once the busy fixtures are finally over.

Most importantly, Solskjaer and United will have to focus on their own games and begin to pick up the three points week in and out, and then depend on other results in the league to go their way. If the momentum can shift into their favour and they get down to business in the January transfer window, then the side’s chances of seeing Champions League football next season increases massively, especially when the first half of the campaign has been quite forward and backwards.

Is Manuel Pellgerini’s time up at West Ham?

Ask West Ham fans at the beginning of the season if Manuel Pellegrini was the right man for the job and they would just have stared at you as if you were missing a few brain cells. Of course he was the man.

At that time Pellegrini had just overseen a difficult season with the Hammers finishing in mid table, and having some good spells along the way. But Pellegrini was given a pass by the fans because A- he was likeable and B- they realised that most of the team he wanted to play were out with long term injuries.

In the summer he brought in some prospects like Pablo Fornals from Villarreal and Sebastian Haller up front, who had done so well the season before with German side Eintract Frankfurt. Both have been utterly disappointing. Haller did score a few at the beginning of the season but has gone off the boil and Fornals has been very poor often now starting from the bench and not getting much game time.

But fans have become frustrated with Pellegrini’s tactics, which remain the same no matter which club they play and that means the opposition know exactly how to read them and do so. Some fans have claimed that their club is ‘the gift that keeps on giving’, largely in part due because if your team is in poor form don’t worry you will play and beat West Ham.

Pellegrini has now emerged as one of the favourite managers in the Premier League to be sacked and that was hammered home (pardon the pun) when the club lost 3-0 away to Burnley at the weekend. It all felt so predictable and it is true that very little has changed for the club who look to get between 40-50 points every season.

The Burnley defeat was the clubs 5th of this season and they have only won 3 games. The Hammers have dropped to 16th place and have 13 points and recent form is one of the worst in the league picking up just 1 point from their last available 15.

The problem that West Ham have is firstly if they sack Pellegrini who do you bring in that will improve the club? There doesn’t seem many managers around at this time that can recover the situation for the club. Also what are their ambitions with the players they have this season? Surely an overhaul is needed, and the club don’t seem or don’t want to give much money away. And money is a key issue here given that Pellegrini is the 3rd highest paid manager in the league, that in and of itself feels like a bad joke and he would have to be paid quite a pay off sum.

The future prospects for West Ham look very bleak indeed. Some players will have to step up, but it feels very questionable if they will.

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Predicted lineups for this weekend’s English Premier League fixtures

It’s time for gameweek six of the 2019/20 English Premier League season.

Here’s a look at all the predicted lineups for the ten fixtures over the coming weekend.

Southampton v Bournemouth

Southampton XI: Gunn, Bednarek, Yoshida, Vestergaard, Soares, Romeu, Hojbjerg, Djenepo, Ward-Prowse, Boufal, Adams Continue reading

Manchester City have Sergio Aguero to thank for their Premier League campaign

Sergio aguero

Just how important may Sergio Aguero’s goal against Burnley be for Manchester City come the end of the season. The Argentine’s decisive goal has placed Pep Guardiola’s side back to the summit of the Premier League above Liverpool, with just two games remaining. Continue reading

Chelsea’s top 4 finish is likely over but hope remains for Europa League glory

HAD

If Chelsea do indeed end the Premier League season outside of the top 4 then they went out of the battle with a whimper after a 2-2 draw against Burnley at Stamford Bridge.

It was a game that the Blues fought hard for in the first half as they went behind in the early exchanges and by the 25th minute mark the game had already had 4 goals, echoing the excitement of the recent Champions League fixture between Manchester City and Tottenham. But while both of those teams should finish top 4- City is guaranteed of course, Chelsea look like they have blown that chance.

Chelsea are level with Tottenham on points which is all well and good but Tottenham have a spare game which they will play tonight, at home against the bottom club Huddersfield, in what should be an inevitable, comfortable win. There is also the case of Arsenal making that top 4 charge and it looks like both Chelsea and Manchester United will be the teams to miss out on Champions League football next season.

A win was expected against Sean Dyche’s Burnley and perhaps this match where Chelsea are playing a bottom half team at home summarised the clubs season in that they have stayed within their comfort zone and only looked like the team that coach Maurizio Sarri has a vision for when playing in the Europa League.

The Europa League has clearly become a priority for the club and they have been brilliant in a very tough competition. Beating Slavia Prague and scoring 5 goals past them in both legs was superb given how Prague had knocked out Europa League specialists Sevilla in the previous round.

Winning the competition is one major trophy and it is also a gateway into the Champions League even if the club do finish 5th or 6th, so there is all to play for. Chelsea will meet Germans Eintract Frankfurt, who are superb at home but wasteful away and the Blues will be favourites to advance to the final where they would meet either Valencia or a mouth watering clash against fellow Premier League team and Londoners Arsenal. Perhaps the neutral wants the all English final but football has never been that easy to predict.

As for the league, one wonders if the egos of the club have the fight left in them. Chelsea’s next match is away to Manchester United in another potentially explosive game as both will be rolling the dice, perhaps for the final time to reach a top 4 spot. In between their Europa League semi-final they will play Watford at home and round up the season with an away match against Leicester.

It’s very conceivable that Chelsea won’t win another game this season and it is very clear that all of their eggs are in the Europa League basket.

 

EPL Best XI – Week 34

fosumensah

With the Premier League now very much entering the business end of the season, and with just a few matches remaining to decide the respective fates of several teams, there was a full schedule of games in England’s top-flight this past weekend. Once again, the spread of fixtures was great with Newcastle winning at Leicester on Friday night, six games taking place on Saturday, title challengers Man City and Liverpool winning their respective games on Sunday and Arsenal travelling to Watford on Monday. Results this weekend meant that both City and Liverpool are guaranteed to finish first and second in either combination. With that in mind, let’s take a look and see which players performed the best in their position, using a 4-3-3 formation.

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EPL Weekend Picks – Week 34

wes-morgan

This weekend’s Premier League will see the season continuing to take shape as, with just a few games to go, there is still a wide open title race and only one relegation spot left to fill. Liverpool leapfrogged Man City back into top spot last weekend, but the Citizens have a game in hand – just how much of a say will Chelsea and Crystal Palace have on Sunday against the top two? Palace host City while Chelsea travel to Liverpool and so there could well be more twists and turns in this title race yet. Towards the bottom of the table, already-relegated Huddersfield and Fulham both have tricky fixtures, with the Terriers at Tottenham while Fulham host Everton. Let’s take on a 4-3-3 here and see which players will fancy their chances.

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EPL Best XI – Week 33

chriswood

With another reduced number of teams in Premier League action this weekend due to the ongoing FA Cup competition, there were only a few sides to select from for this week’s “Best XI” – though there has been a nice spread of action, with games on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Everton continued their impressive performances against the big teams this season when they beat Arsenal 1-0 at Goodison Park, while Burnley earned a hugely impressive – and vitally important – away win at Bournemouth. Leicester and Crystal Palace also picked up wins on the road at Huddersfield and Newcastle respectively, while Liverpool’s Friday night trip to Southampton also saw them take the points. Let’s go for a 4-3-3 and see which players performed the best!

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