Serie A Fantasy Preview – Round Four

Juventus-Verona: the Old Lady had a subpar performance in Florence but obviously will be in a much better spot this week at home against a relegation struggler. Cristiano Ronaldo usually does not go scoreless for long and Gonzalo Higuain is not a bad pick either, as for now the coach has refrained from using Paulo Dybala there. Douglas Costa, who was their go-to-guy so far, will miss time, so Federico Bernardeschi and Juan Cuadrado will return to prominence. Until the coach entrusts one of the newcomers, Aaron Ramsey in particular, Sami Khedira remains the most appealing midfielder for his offensive dexterity. Their defenders are surely worth consideration. Continue reading

EPL Best XI – Week 27

zahaWith the title race continuing to hot up, this weekend’s Premier League action saw contenders Liverpool going toe-to-toe with rivals Manchester United, while champions Manchester City took the weekend off from league action to battle Chelsea in Sunday’s Carabao Cup Final. At the lower end of the table, Newcastle hosted Huddersfield in what could be described as a relegation six-pointer. With that said, let us take a look at which players performed the best for their clubs over the past few days.

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Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s form key to Arsenal’s top-four chances

Tottenham Hotspur v Arsenal - Premier League

For most strikers, failing to score in three consecutive games wouldn’t be a cause for concern. For £56 million Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, however, it had a visible effect on his confidence.

In Arsenal’s first three Premier League games of the season — the defeats to Chelsea and Manchester City and win against 17th-placed West Ham United — he looked isolated, with his involvement limited. For the most part, he couldn’t be blamed for his lack of active contribution, though, with the new managed Unai Emery then figuring his best formation and lineup out. Continue reading

Was Jose Mourinho right about Henrikh Mkhitaryan?

Many believed that Arsenal had got the better of the deal. That Manchester United, in their desperation to get one over rivals Manchester City by signing Alexis Sanchez, failed to take stock of what they were actually agreeing. Some thought Arsenal had actually pulled one out of the bag.

While Sanchez headed to Old Trafford, Henrikh Mkhitaryan made the switch in the opposition direction to Arsenal. Given that Sanchez was in the final six months of his contract, set to leave for nothing at all in the summer, it didn’t look to be the worst of deals for the Gunners. They might not have got a fee, but Mkhitaryan was deemed to be worth around £30 million on the open market.

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Jose Mourinho was glad to see the back of the Armenian. Signed in the summer of 2016, the former Borussia Dortmund playmaker had been a disappointment at Old Trafford. There had been glimpses of his brilliance, most notably in Man Utd’s 2016/17 Europa League run, but Mkhitaryan never quite blossomed into the maestro so many thought he would be.

But it wasn’t just Mkhitaryan’s on-field performances that irked Mourinho. The Portuguese was unconvinced by his mentality, particularly on the big occasion. Arsenal believed that they could address this, that they could spark a renaissance in their new signing, returning him to the sort of level he frequently reached in Germany.

So far, though, the Gunners have been wrong in this assumption. Mkhitaryan, picking up where he left off for United, was impressive for Arsenal in the Europa League last season, but has generally failed to make his mark on a team that is in desperate need of leadership and direction.

Against both Manchester City and Chelsea, Mkhitaryan was largely missing in action. Arsenal needed players that would impose themselves on the opposition, but the Armenian was extremely passive. Even against West Ham last weekend, when the absence of Mesut Ozil opened up more space for Mkhitaryan, he struggled.

Quite simply, Arsenal need more from their January acquisition. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, another player signed in the mid-season window, has settled in quickly at the Emirates Stadium, even if he has drawn a blank over his first three appearances of the new season. He showed enough in the second half of last season to suggest he will come good again.

But his partner in crime, the player who did so much to provide him with the right service earlier in his career at Dortmund, has still to reach the same heights. What’s worrying for the Gunners is that Mkhitaryan is showing many of the same traits he demonstrated in his short time at Man Utd. So was Mourinho right about him all along? At a difficult time for the Portuguese, can he at least claim to some foresight on that one?

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EPL Best XI – Week 2

James Milner

The second week of the Premier League season featured 35 goals and plenty of drama, with Manchester City winning 6-1 against Huddersfield, Manchester United losing 3-2 at Brighton and Chelsea edging a five-goal thriller against Arsenal. But which players stood out to make the EPL Best XI of the Weekend?

GK: Neil Etheridge, Cardiff City – seven points
Two weeks into the season, Neil Etheridge is proving to be an absolute steal at 1.50m. The Cardiff goalkeeper saved a last-minute penalty from Kenedy in Saturday’s 0-0 draw with Newcastle, earning an impressive seven points.

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EPL Game of the Weekend – Chelsea 3-2 Arsenal

Chelsea

The most exciting match from the second week of the 2018-19 Premier League season saw Chelsea defeat Arsenal 3-2 at Stamford Bridge, with Maurizio Sarri’s side surrendering a two-goal lead before striking late on through Marcos Alonso to pick up their second win in as many games.

Both teams put away chances in the first half, with Pedro and Alvaro Morata scoring for the hosts before quickfire goals from Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Alex Iwobi for the Gunners to level things up just before half-time, but it was the 2016-17 champions who earned the early-season bragging rights in this London derby.

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EPL Weekend Picks – Round 3

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Time now to look ahead at this weekend’s Premier League action, and see which players will be worth keeping a keen eye on. Some of these players will be included based on their fine form so far this season, while others maybe have an opportunity to get their season going after perhaps a stuttering start. We will be playing a 4-4-2 this week.

Goalkeeper – Alisson Becker (Liverpool)
The former world’s most expensive goalkeeper, Alisson  is now the only custodian yet to concede a goal this season. He has a solid defence in front of him, but the visit of Brighton – who beat Man Utd last weekend – will be another testing fixture.

Defender – Steve Cook (Bournemouth)
Former Brighton defender Cook has impressed so far this season, with the Cherries having only conceded one goal in their opening two games. Everton are this weekend’s guests, and so fans will be after a real confidence-boosting performance.

Defender - Cédric Soares (Southampton)
Soares  has had a dodgy time of things last weekend against Everton, being booked as Saints conceded two. This weekend sees Leicester arrive at St. Mary’s, and while that is a tough game it is one Mark Hughes’ men must look towards to get something. 

Defender – Marcos Alonso (Chelsea)
The Spaniard’s improved valuation of 8.5m (over last season’s 2.5m) means he will likely not be picked by as many fantasy league managers this term, but having earned five points from each of Chelsea’s first two games he seems in fine fettle.

Defender - José Holebas (Watford)
Holebas’ season started with a bang as he provided both assits in the Hornet’s 2-0 win over Brighton, but he was almost anonymous in their 3-1 win at Burnley a week later. They welcome Crystal Palace to Vicarage Road this weekend.

Midfielder – Roberto Pereyra (Watford)
The second Watford player in a row, Pereyra’s story is much like that of team-mate Holebas. 10 points on the opening weekend had people waxing lyrical, but a quiet game against Burnley dampened things. He too will want something from the Palace game.

Midfielder – Paul Pogba (Man Utd)
The Frenchman will be after a good performance and result when United take on Tottenham at Old Trafford on Monday night. Pogba was vocal about his disappointment with the Red Devils’ performance against Brighton, and should lead by example here.

Midfielder – Henrikh Mkhitaryan (Arsenal)
Arsenal midfielder Mkhitaryan  will want to be the engine to get the Gunners moving this season after defeat in their opening two games. Those two were horrific first fixtures admittedly, but Unai Emery will want the likes of the Armenian to produce the goods.

Midfielder - Rúben Neves (Wolves)
Neves was vital in Wolves’ opening day draw with Everton, but failed to do anything of note when they were beaten at Leicester a week later. Wolves welcome champions Man City to Molineux this weekend, giving the Portuguese star a chance to shine.

Attacker – Sergio Aguero (Man City)
The Argentinian striker hit a hattrick in the Citizens’ 6-1 win over Huddersfield last weekend, and all eyes will be on whether Aguero can replicate that clinical finishing at Wolves.

Attacker - Harry Kane (Tottenham)
Kane finally ended his August hoodoo with his goal against Fulham last weekend, and may well feel the match at Old Trafford against Man Utd on Monday evening could be the perfect platform to really get up and running this season.

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Unai Emery’s Arsenal lose again but performance gives fans cause for optimism

Chelsea 3-2 Arsenal

Arsenal succumbed to their second consecutive Premier League loss on Saturday evening at Stamford Bridge. With the 3-2 loss, they remain one of the four teams to have collected no point at all. However, the level of their performances in either loss has been good enough to suggest the Gunners will find themselves challenging for Champions League positions this season. Continue reading

Is the change incoming at Arsenal?

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Last two weeks have been terrible for Arsenal fans. First, they lost to Swedish minnows Ostersunds in an embarrassing manner in a home game in Europa League.

Then on Sunday, the Gunners came undone in the Carabao Cup final against Manchester City. The North London side had won three cup finals at Wembley in last four years, and they were hoping to add another trophy on the weekend. Continue reading

Can New Additions Spring Arsenal Into Champions League Contention?

The 2017-18 Arsenal campaign has been an uneven one to this point. Arsene Wenger’s side has not shown the consistency that we’ve seen over the last few years, and, as a result, they’re currently on the outside looking in on the Premier League’s top-four. Entering Week 27, the Gunners sit sixth on 45 points, 5 points behind fourth place Chelsea. 

After failing to make any significant changes other than signing striker Alexandre Lacazette over the summer, Arsenal’s shaky start led to an active January transfer window. Alexis Sanchez was shipped to Manchester United in a deal that landed out-of-favor midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan in North London. The Gunners also sold Olivier Giroud to rivals Chelsea, but they managed to upgrade their attack by bringing in Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang from Borussia Dortmund. Mesut Ozil, who has spent the majority of the season in contract limbo, put pen to paper to a new deal that will keep him in England through 2021. Continue reading