There is quite a bit of Premier League football to see this week, with games every day bar Thursday. For the purposes of this week’s list we will be looking more at the matches taking place between Friday 5th and Monday 8th, so Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s fixtures won’t be considered too heavily here. Friday sees Southampton hosting Liverpool in what should be an entertaining game, while Saturday’s best match sees Newcastle welcoming Crystal Palace to Tyneside. On Sunday, Arsenal travel to the blue half of Merseyside to do battle with Everton, and Chelsea host West Ham on Monday. With that in mind, let’s adopt a 4-3-3 formation this time around and look into our crystal balls to see which players could be worth your consideration.
Let’s go back to last summer when France won the World Cup for the second time in their history. It was historic for them and historic for football and it was richly deserved. But one player did not feel convinced that he had played a great tournament, that player was French striker Olivier Giroud.
Despite playing every game Giroud failed to score for the French at the World Cup, and missed some real sitters. At the same time many critics pointed out his unique role in the team deployed by Didier Deschamps which was to play as a false no.9. and bring other players into the game. Since France won the World Cup it is hard to argue with Deschamps tactics and Giroud’s lack of goals.
But still as a forward it was only natural that Giroud would start doubting himself, it was clear that goals had dried up. His stats are still poor for a forward where he has scored just 4 goals from 34 games, but his game has certainly changed for the Blues since the arrival of Gonzalo Higuaín from Juventus.
Higuaín has done what Giroud usually does and brought others into the game, it means less chances for the Argentinian and it is unclear if this was the initial plan, but Giroud has become a beneficiary from the new roles. He has really shined in the Europa League where Chelsea remain one of the favourites to win the competition after reaching the quarter finals. His goal scoring stats in the Europa League have been phenomenal where he has scored 9 goals from 9 games- now that is the perfect way to answer your critics.
Fittingly Giroud is the top goal scorer in the Europa League- who could have seen that coming at the beginning of the competition? But his new found confidence has also seen him scoring for France once more. Since the end of the World Cup he has scored 6 goals in the last 6 internationals including his latest one in a 4-0 win over Iceland.
A striker’s confidence is all about goals, and it is nice to see Giroud get that at Chelsea and see it spread into the national team. His latest batch of goals for France has seen Giroud rise to 3rd place in the all time France national team goal scorers record. If he scores 7 more goals he will overtake Michel Platini.
Higuaín may be feeling the pressure of perhaps not scoring regularly for Chelsea just yet, but he has at least helped Giroud to nurture, grow and get that goal scoring feeling back which is quite unique given how Giroud’s 2018 had finished.
Olivier Giroud’s main reason for leaving Arsenal in 2018 was that he wasn’t happy with the lack of game time he was getting in North London. Though a year on he’s in a pretty similar position, just in Chelsea’s blue rather than red and white.
Having scored a hat trick against Dynamo Kyiv on Thursday, he was put back on Chelsea’s bench for today’s 2-0 loss against Everton. He’s the highest scorer in the Europa League but hasn’t started a single league game in 2019. This all comes after he was laughed at by many for not getting a shot on target during the 2018 World Cup, despite being one of the most influential players in France’s winning squad. He also had impressive link up play with Eden Hazard in the early stages of this season.
He has started just six Premier League matches in the current campaign. The fact that he is in his current position after numerous important contributions feeds into the idea that he is currently being under appreciated and underplayed at club level. Though he has managed to keep his place in France’s national team, as he was called up for their imminent Euro 2020 qualifiers against Moldova and Iceland.
Chelsea have had their fair share of striker troubles since Diego Costa’s departure in 2017. This makes it even more surprising that Giroud has been given so few chances to establish himself as Chelsea’s first choice striker. Maurizio Sarri has even brought Gonzalo Higuain in on loan and put him straight into the team ahead of the Frenchman.
He’s arguably not had the desired impact, as his only goals in the 10 games he’s played in Chelsea’s blue came against Huddersfield Town and Fulham- who are both in the relegation zone. Giroud has started just five matches in the same amount of time but has hit the back of the net five times.
Chelsea have had a kind run in the Europa League, which has arguably helped Giroud’s record in the competition. His team mates Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ruben Loftus-Cheek have also impressed on the European stage this season. This hasn’t been enough for any of the three to be given regular time in the league though.
The January transfer window saw questions begin to circulate as to whether Hudson-Odoi would look to go elsewhere, with Bayern Munich showing interest. There have been indications that a similar situation could occur with Giroud, as the striker recently said there was “no chance” he’ll except his role as a bit part player going forward.
At 32-years-old, Giroud is beginning to approach the latter stages of his career. If he is to get more playing time at the highest level then he will likely have to do so soon. If Higuain continues to fail to hit the back of the net then Giroud should be given the chance to step in. Meanwhile, he will continue to the lead the line in the Europa League, with the next game in the competition coming against Slavia Praha on April 11th.
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With a reduced run of fixtures in the Premier League this coming weekend owing to FA Cup Sixth Round action, there are only ten teams from which to take this week’s weekend picks. The pick of the upcoming fixtures is arguably Everton hosting Chelsea in the 4.30pm kickoff on Sunday, while Bournemouth host in-form Newcastle on Saturday. Burnley do battle with Leicester and West Ham take on Huddersfield in Saturday’s other games, while Sunday’s earlier game sees Fulham welcome Liverpool to Craven Cottage. Taking all of that into account, let’s adopt a 4-3-3 this time and see which players could be set to work their way into fantasy management consideration.
It has been a turbulent few weeks for Chelsea, but fans of the club will hope that Saturday’s 5-0 demolition of Huddersfield Town proves to be a turning point in their season. Maurizio Sarri had come under intense scrutiny following last week’s 4-0 thumping by Bournemouth, a result which allowed Arsenal and Manchester United to move closer to the final Champions League qualification spot, but the manner of their victory at Stamford Bridge has relieved the pressure on the Italian – at least for now.
With the January transfer window coming to an end, it will surely not be one for the Premier League experts and pundits to constantly talk about, especially when you see that only most of the teams in the bottom half of the league brought two or more players compared to the sides in the top half.
The main loan deals in Denis Suarez to Arsenal, Youri Tielemans to Leicester City and the deadline-day move of Chelsea’s Michy Batshuayi to Crystal Palace stole most of the headlines within the English media. However, there were a couple of moves that have gone completely off the radar, which will allow the players to adapt to life in English football before kicking off at their new club.
With no further ado, it is time to look at the three January additions to importantly look out for…
Gonzalo Higuain (Chelsea)
After scoring a brace in his first Premier League match at Stamford Bridge, Gonzalo Higuain will have won over majority of the Chelsea supporters as they regain their position in the top four once again. Although some will feel that it is only one good performance and against a poor Huddersfield side, his movement on and off the ball was top notch as well as his clever linkup play with Eden Hazard.
Remembering Maurizio Sarri’s men are still in the Europa League and the FA Cup, having a striker like the former Napoli and Real Madrid forward is the perfect option to have, given that Alvaro Morata and Olivier Giroud have been unconvincing over the last couple of months. In the end, if Higuain exceeds all expectations, he could become Sarri’s main number nine for the next few years.
Miguel Almiron (Newcastle United)
As Newcastle United are sitting uncomfortably above the relegation zone by two points, they will be more than happy with the arrivals of central-midfielder Miguel Almiron and left-back Antonio Barreca on a loan deal. Focusing more on the newest club-record signing, he was closely linked with the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur before his move to St James Park was official.
During his two incredible seasons at Atlanta United in the MLS, Almiron showed the capability and intelligence to play in any of the areas within midfield, from the number ten role behind the centre-forward to either flanks. Not only that, the Paraguayan international has proven himself to be useful in terms of retrieving the ball for his side, through his work rate and ability to press when required.
Samir Nasri (West Ham United)
Samir Nasri is no stranger when it comes to English football, having already spent three seasons at Arsenal before going on to play for Manchester City for five years. Although he had tried to revive his career with a loan move to Sevilla and then a permanent transfer to Turkish side Antalyaspor, things went from bad to worse, as he received an 18-month ban from the UEFA for doping illegally.
However, he has received a second chance in his professional career and at West Ham United, where he will be looking to play regularly and hope to become one of Manuel Pellegrini’s important starters within the line-up. Despite the fact that he is currently on the sidelines with a minor knock and is expected to return next week, he will aim to see out the remainder of the season on a high note, and then see if the Hammers are willing to offer him a two or three-year contract deal.
In the end, the decisive goal came from the boot of a defender. After Eric Dier and Lucas Moura had failed to convert from 12 yards, it was down to David Luiz to score the winning penalty in Thursday night’s shoot-out against Tottenham Hotspur. The Brazilian made no mistake, slotting home the final spot-kick to book Chelsea’s spot in the final of the League Cup at their expense of their London rivals.
The transfer market finally heated up this week as Milan replaced Gonzalo Higuain, who flew to Chelsea via Juventus, with Krzysztof Piatek. An unpleasant surprise hit fantasy managers on Monday, as Kevin-Prince Boateng moved to Barcelona. The ex-Milan man had success as false-nine this season at Sassuolo, before missing a chunck of the season with a pelvic injury. He has scored four times in 11 appearances and was a precious asset since he was listed as midfielder.
It took him three separate stints at Las Palmas, Eintracht Frankfurt and Sassuolo, but he managed to return in a big-time club after his time at Milan. He first played in this new position in La Liga. Continue reading
Alvaro Morata’s move to La Liga title challengers Atletico Madrid is yet to be completed, with both sides saying they are still some way off an agreement for the 26 year-old.
The Spanish international looks certain to end his stay in West London, but time is running out ahead of the closing of winter transfer window at the end of January.
Atletico have confirmed that they are interested in bringing Morata back to Madrid, where he spent five years at rivals Real Madrid, across two separate spells, however manager Diego Simeone confirmed that nothing is yet agreed between them.
The squad might be pretty short-handed in Rome, as Miralem Pjanic and Joao Cancelo are dealing with calf ailments. Pjanic got hurt in Jeddah and was suspended for the previous match. They both practiced partially in the last couple of days, like Sami Khedira, who got good news from the check-up on his knee as the issue is minor, but he is most likely out for the upcoming fixture.
Giorgio Chiellini brought the eight Supercuppa in the Juventus museum yesterday and commented to the club’s TV: “We are happy for starting off the year in this fashion. Our goal is to keep winning, but in the meantime we are satisfied with this trophy, which we earned.” Continue reading