Arsenal destroyed in Europa League final by Chelsea and Eden Hazard

skynews-chelsea-europa-league_4681740(1)

Usually same country finals can be incredibly close affairs. Look at when AC Milan and Juventus battled for 120 minutes in the 2003 Champions League final and still the game ended 0-0 and needed to go to penalties. Chelsea and Manchester United in the 2008 final ended 1-1 and Bayern Munich squeezed past Borussia Dortmund in the 2013 final. Close and tense, and for the first half this Europa League final was just that, until Chelsea moved up a gear.

In the end this wasn’t a beating that Arsenal took but a total battering, and this was against a Chelsea side who aren’t even at their strongest if we compare the team from a few seasons ago. But the natural reserve and quality in the team was simply too much for the Gunners to handle.

Once the second half got under way there was only one team in it and it was evident that Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri had got the desired affect in the dressing room at half time. Chelsea came charging out of the blocks and were 1-0 up within five minutes of the re start. It came from Olivier Giroud the ex Arsenal player and it was a simply stunning goal, a header from 20 yards out that caught out Petr Cech in goal. The goals followed which included a brace from Eden Hazard far and away Chelsea’s best player of the decade if not the Premier League’s. This will have surely been his last game for the Blues before his expected move to Real Madrid in the summer.

Ex Arsenal player Martin Keown seemed to sum it all up by saying Chelsea have Hazard and Arsenal have Mesut Ozil, and it was hard to argue with him. Ozil’s time at Arsenal will not be remembered and for whatever reason the playmaker has been a huge failure at the club only showing slight glimpses of what he is capable of. He has cut a frustrated figure at Arsenal for years now and surely enough is enough and he will not be back in an Arsenal shirt- if anything both parties need a change.

This match simply showed the gulf between the two clubs even if their league finish was close in the end. When it all really mattered Arsenal simply didn’t have it. And yet in Alex Iwobi’s consolation goal they probably got the best one of the night.

Petr Cech played his final professional game and how ironic it was against the team that made his career. He will now join Chelsea as a goalkeeping coach for next season. It is also ironic that even though Arsenal conceded 4 goals that Cech actually had a decent game and he kept the score more respectable because it could have been 7 or 8 in the end. Every time Chelsea went forward in the 2nd half it looked like they were going to score.

Sarri has been proven right and it will be interesting to see if he will stay with the club or leave and join up with Juventus? There must be a huge temptation to go to Juventus given that Chelsea could be banned from buying any players this summer and their play maker Hazard is leaving, why should Sarri stay?

His opposite number Unai Emery cut a sad figure. It felt as if he couldn’t believe that he wasn’t going to win a 4th Europa League trophy after his successes with Sevilla earlier in the decade. At times he looked bitter and angry and perhaps the realisation of the job at his hands has been laid bare.

Emery has had a decent season in some ways. Reaching a European final in his debut year was very good. But at the same time his appointment was all about moving on from Arsene Wenger, which hasn’t happened and now Arsenal will have to play in the Europa League next season as well. His real judgment needs to be delayed until next season and it will be interesting to see who he sells and who he brings in the summer, it is a big season for Emery, who knows he won’t be afforded the time that Wenger had.

As for Chelsea a huge congratulations to them for winning the London final. That is the clubs 3rd European trophy in 8 seasons and even though they have had their up and down moments they have had a strong few years in England and in Europe.

EPL: Premier League Predictions for Week 37

gettyimages-916580534(1)

There are just 2 games left in the Premier League and all options are open. Who will win the league? Manchester City or Liverpool? City lead by just 1 point and the answer looks like it’s going down to the final game. Both have of course qualified for the Champions League.

However 3rd and 4th is still up for grabs, and Tottenham, Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United will do battle for those places. Then there is the curious place of relegation. The final place is down to Cardiff and Brighton, one of them will be going down- more will be revealed this weekend.

Below we take a look at the fixtures for this weekend and predictions.

Everton v Burnley

Everton have been in good form for the last 2 months now and at home they have won their last 3 games in a row and unbeaten in 4. Burnley have also been in good form, but they should be outclassed for this game. Gylfi Sigurdsson has been brilliant this season for the club and he could get on the score sheet. Everton to beat Burnley

Bournemouth v Tottenham

Tottenham will start as favourites but they lost against Ajax in midweek in the Champions League, and their focus will be on the 2nd leg. If they are not on the ball they could lose this game the good news is that Bournemouth’s form has collapsed and they have been very poor. Tottenham to beat Bournemouth

West Ham v Southampton

West Ham have gone their last two matches unbeaten and last week they became the first ever team to beat Tottenham at their new stadium. Southampton are safe and have lost just one game in their past four. Shane Long can give the Hammers a lot of problems and we are expecting the spoils to be shared here. Draw

Wolves v Fulham

How ironic that Fulham have been brilliant since they have got relegated and have won their last 3 games in a row. This game though is a big stretch for them away to Wolves. Wolves are going for a 7th place finish and the likes of Diogo Jota could be the difference. This has the potential to be a big score for the home team. Wolves to beat Fulham

Cardiff v Crystal Palace

This is it for Cardiff, they must win this match. They are at least at home, and they have had a mixture of being unlucky and poor in recent months. If Cardiff lose they will be going down. As for Palace they have won 4 of their last 5 away games and just look like quality. Cardiff have not beaten Palace since 2012, this might be a very close match. Cardiff to beat Crystal Palace

Newcastle v Liverpool

Liverpool have a terrible record at St James’ Park at the same time if they lose or even draw this game their league title will be in jeopardy. Newcastle are safe and in decent form, winning 4 of their last 5 games at home. Liverpool are in brilliant form, but will have the 2nd leg of their Champions League game against Barcelona on their mind too. Rafa Benitez obviously loves his former club- and they have the better quality at the end of the day. New PFA player of he year Virgi van Dijk will also want to put in a performance. Liverpool to beat Newcastle

Chelsea v Watford

Chelsea’s major criticism in the second half of the season has been focus because they have the quality. If they don’t focus here they give up a top 4 place. Of course a few days later they have the Europa League. Players such as Gonzalo Higuaín and Olivier Giroud have to step up. Chelsea to beat Watford

Huddersfield v Manchester United

Manchester United look like they will miss out on a top 4 place after their poor form of the last month. Having said that playing Huddersfield represents the perfect chance for them to win and score goals and reinstall confidence. Paul Pogba has been under a lot of criticism lately he should try and relish this opportunity to score and help his team in what should be an easy victory for the club. Manchester United to beat Huddersfield

Arsenal v Brighton

This game will be attack v defence and even though Arsenal come here having lost their last 3 games in a row we expect Unai Emery’s side to get back on track and win this match. Arsenal still remain a very strong side at home with just 2 defeats all season, but this match could be settled by one piece of magic. Mesut Ozil to step up? Arsenal to beat Burnley

Manchester City v Leicester

If Liverpool beat Newcastle they will be 2 points clear at the top for the whole weekend as this match takes place on Monday evening. Leicester under Claude Puel beat City earlier in the season, but now City are at home and will be massive favourites to get all three points. They are sure to start quick and Sergio Aguero will be a danger throughout. Manchester City to beat Leicester

Play the newest EPL fantasy game here https://epl-fantasy.com

 

 

 

 

 

Arsenal should use Mesut Ozil as a transfer makeweight this summer

It’s the saga that, more than once, has threatened to completely overshadow Arsenal’s season. Nobody at Arsenal seems sure what to do with Mesut Ozil. On the basis of his talent alone, he is one of the very best, if not the best, currently at the Emirates Stadium. And yet for reasons that have never been fully disclosed, his future there is under question.

Unai Emery has sent mixed messages. Ozil has been left out of the Arsenal team, and sometimes out of the squad entirely, many times, but he has also been drafted in as captain more than once. The smoke signals suggest that the German playmaker could be sold at the end of the season, though.

Mesut Ozil

Recent reports claim that intermediaries have already been deployed to find a buyer, with Ozil being touted around Europe. There will surely be some interest, although the German’s £350,000-a-week wage might prove to be a stumbling block that prevents a bidding war for the player this summer.

The loss of Ozil at the same time as Aaron Ramsey’s move to Juventus as a free agent will be taken by some as a statement of where Arsenal are as a club right now. Indeed, the optics won’t be good, particularly taking into account the exit of Sven Mislintat, the man hired to overhaul the club’s transfer dealings.

Arsenal should at least attempt to use the situation concerning Ozil’s future to their advantage, though. In the German, they have a valuable asset tied to a long term contract, signed just one year ago. If the budget for the summer is limited, they should use Ozil as a makeweight to get the players they want.

Take Ivan Perisic, for example. The Gunners are believed to be admirers of the Croatian winger, but have so far been frustrated in their efforts to prise him from Inter Milan’s grips. The dangling of Ozil as part of any deal might be enough to convince the Serie A side to part with Perisic, though.

Some will, rightfully, argue that Ozil is worth more than Perisic, but the current situation concerning the former isn’t benefiting Arsenal in any way, so they might as well use him to capture a player Emery can, and is willing to, use.

Of course, Arsenal did something similar with Alexis Sanchez, using the Chilean to sign Henrikh Mkhitaryan from Manchester United. Ozil could allow them to make an even bigger signing that they otherwise wouldn’t have the funds to sanction. They can turn a negative into a positive with the right strategy.

How well do you know European Football? Want to challenge the best English Fantasy Managers? Play www.epl-fantasy.com now.

Arsenal don’t want Mesut Ozil anymore as PSG loan deal falls through

oioi(1)

When PSG reportedly came in for Arsenal playmaker Mesut Ozil to take on loan until the end of the season, whisper it but The Gunners and in particular head coach Unai Emery would have been delighted, but Ozil turned down the chance to play for the Ligue 1 champions.

It is clear that Emery does not feel the need to keep Ozil and the ex German international who quit the national team has played just 13 games in the league this season. Ozil simply doesn’t work in an Emery team and it seems only a matter of time before Ozil is put up for sale, Arsenal want rid, but therein lies the problem.

Just how can Arsenal shift Ozil who is on a whopping £350,000 a week? Former manager Arsene Wenger made an error it seems in giving Ozil a new contract a few months before he retired, the result is that Ozil is tied to the club until 2021. Why would Ozil leave knowing that most clubs will not match his wages?

Having said that it does feel that Ozil has made an error not accepting to play for PSG until at least the end of the season. He would have been playing more regular time as Neymar is side lined until at least March and he would have won his first league title. PSG are currently 13 points clear at the top with 2 games in hand. So it does seem odd that Ozil didn’t join up with PSG. If the worst came to the worst, he could go back to Arsenal for the beginning of next season.

For Arsenal this is a frustrating time. On one hand they can’t justify paying a player that much money when he sits on the bench, on the other they have to respect the manager who doesn’t see Ozil in his long term plans. The PSG loan deal falling through is a bitter blow to The Gunners. Had Ozil played and shined, interest would have been rekindled in the player and perhaps a transfer to PSG or another European club could have been completed this summer. Instead Ozil won’t go and Arsenal do not want to fully admit that he isn’t needed with the club.

Ozil’s best years are past him, and whilst he is an incredibly talented player, he never really reached his own personal achievements. Bottom line is that he won’t be thought of as one of the Arsenal legends, sorry Mesut but a statue outside the Emirates will not be forthcoming.

For now Emery and Ozil cannot be parted, but one senses that one will be gone in the summer, and it won’t be the Spaniard.

Unai Emery should be praised for his flexibility, not criticised for it

As soon as Mesut Ozil was spotted on the Arsenal bench for the weekend’s away day at Bournemouth, there was gossiping. Was this a sign that the German no longer had a place at the North London club? Or that there had been an argument between the playmaker and Unai Emery? Would he be off in the January transfer window?

As it turned out Emery had an explanation for Ozil’s omission from the Arsenal team. “We thought about how we can be better in the match today, with a very demanding match physically with their intensity against us and we decided,” the Spaniard said after the 2-1 win on the south coast.

skysports-unai-emery-mesut-ozil_4389637

In essence, Emery opted for a more physical style to combat what Bournemouth would throw at his team. In the end, it was a strategy that worked well, as Arsenal claimed all three points to edge them closer to the Premier League’s top four places, just a single point behind Chelsea.

Rather than being criticised for his flexibility, Emery should be praised for it. For years under Arsene Wenger, Arsenal were typecast, with good reason, as a team that would play one, and only one, way. It didn’t matter the opposition or the situation, Wenger’s side would attempt to impose their natural game.

Of course, that didn’t always work and Arsenal suffered for it. Now, Emery is taking measures to be more pragmatic, to make better use of the squad he has, and against Bournemouth it worked. The Gunners didn’t need Ozil to grind out the win over Bournemouth and as manager Emery was entitled to take the decision he did.

Increasingly in the modern game, it’s assumed that every top player will play every minute of every match. We perhaps have Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo to thank for this zeitgeist, such is their superhuman drive to do exactly that – play every minute of every match. It should, however, be entirely normal for a manager to alter his team depending on the task at hand.

There have been suggestions that Emery and Ozil don’t always see eye to eye, that the two figures clashed earlier in the season. If that is truly the case, it’s unlikely the German will have been enamoured with the decision to leave him out of the team on Sunday, even if Emery could offer vindication.

In so many ways, Emery is the manager Arsenal have needed for years. He is in the antidote to the latter part of the Wenger era, and his versatility and pragmatism is just another aspect of that. Dropping Ozil, just as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was benched for a spell earlier in the season, demonstrates this. Let’s move on from the hysteria of the Spaniard’s decision on Sunday.

How well do you know European Football? Want to challenge the best English Fantasy Managers? Play www.epl-fantasy.com now.

EPL Weekend Picks – Round 10

aubameyang lacazette

The 10th week of the 2018-19 Premier League season sees Liverpool face Cardiff, Arsenal travel to Crystal Palace and Tottenham host Manchester City. Let’s take a look at some of the players who you should consider adding to your EPL Fantasy team before the weekend.

GK – Alisson (Liverpool)
With six clean sheets from nine matches, Alisson’s points total of 42 has only been bettered this season by Manchester City’s Ederson. The Liverpool goalkeeper, valued at 10.00m, is likely to add to his tally against Cardiff on Saturday.

Continue reading

Is Mesut Ozil becoming this Arsenal team’s leader?

Everyone has an opinion on Mesut Ozil. He is the most talked about player in the Premier League, with some believing him to be the embodiment of everything that’s been wrong with Arsenal in recent years and others arguing that without him the Gunners would be in even worse shape.

But regardless of your position on Ozil, the German’s performance in Arsenal’s 3-1 win over Leicester City on Monday night was sparkling. It was a reminder of the playmaker’s quality, a reminder of why his signing in the first place five years ago was considered a landmark moment for Arsenal.

skysports-unai-emery-mesut-ozil_4389637

Of course, this display came just a few weeks after Ozil was dropped by new Arsenal manager Unai Emery for a game against West Ham. That led to suggestions that the pair had fallen out, with some even questioning whether the German would have a place in the Gunners side going forward.

Those suggestions look a little foolish now, particularly with Ozil handed the captain’s armband for the home clash against Leicester earlier this week. It was with the captaincy that Ozil thrived, not leading by being a vocal, animated figure, because that’s not his style, but leading by example.

Indeed, against Leicester City Arsenal were a team that revolved around Ozil as was always intended. This is what Gunners fans have wanted from the playmaker for years. This is the player he was for Real Madrid all those years ago, and for Germany as they won the World Cup in 2014.

Some of the criticism Ozil has faced over the years has been grossly unfair, but some of it has been justified. For all that there have been moments of brilliance, consistency has been a problem for the 30-year-old. Now, with Arsenal in the midst of a 10-game winning run in all competitions, he might finally have found that.

Ozil has forged an understanding with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang since his arrival from Borussia Dortmund in the January transfer window, with Alexandre Lacazette also benefiting from the German playmaker’s impressive run of form of late. Those three are forging quite the trio and could see Arsenal join Manchester City and Liverpool as the most exciting attacking unit in the Premier League this season.

However, with Ozil now playing as a true number 10 again, rather than as a wide playmaker as was frequently the case under Arsene Wenger, that could spell bad news for Aaron Ramsey, who all of a sudden doesn’t seem to have a place at the Emirates Stadium any longer. His contract is up at the end of the season and Ozil’s performance on Monday shows they might be better off without the Welshman.

Arsenal have enjoyed a resurgence in recent weeks, now sitting just two points adrift of top spot in the Premier League table. Ozil has been central to that resurgence and perhaps for the first time since he arrived in England, his role in the future of the Gunners is clear. The captain’s armband he now wears represents something.

How well do you know European Football? Want to challenge the best English Fantasy Managers? Play www.epl-fantasy.com now.

EPL Best XI – Mesut Ozil stars

Mesut Ozil

Manchester City and Liverpool have 23 points after nine games of the 2018-19 Premier League season, while Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham trail them by just two points following another incident-filled weekend in England’s top flight. Let’s take a look at which players made our Best XI from the last three days…

GK: Jordan Pickford, Everton – seven points
Jordan Pickford has recovered from a slow start to the season to pick up 14 points in two of his last three games. He earned another seven in Sunday’s 2-0 win over Crystal Palace – a match in which he also saved a penalty.

Continue reading

EPL Best XI – Sturridge joins Kane in attack

Daniel Sturridge

Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea maintained their unbeaten starts in Week 7 of the 2018-19 season, while Manchester United’s poor run continued with a 3-1 loss at West Ham. Let’s take a look at the top players from the weekend’s games…

GK: Jordan Pickford, Everton – seven points
It’s been a tough start to the season for Jordan Pickford but he finally got his first clean sheet in the 3-0 win over Fulham at Goodison Park, earning himself seven points. He is still on minus points (-3) overall, but this is a start!

Continue reading

5 wins in a row for Arsenal but stronger tests await Emery

skysports-unai-emery-mesut-ozil_4389637

It’s been a long time since Arsenal felt this good, at least 10 years and every fan will be lapping this up and praising Unai Emery as Arsenal have now won 5 Premier League games in a row. Once we count their Carabao Cup and Europa League match wins that figure turns to 7 games in a row.

There is no question that after losing their first two games of the season against Manchester City and Chelsea respectively that the feel good factor is here and Emery is slowing turning Arsenal’s fortunes around. Players are now responding to what he wants, to play the ball out from the back, have a high line and attack without fear and the constant winning will be leading some fans to wonder who Arsene Wenger was- well at least the last 10 years of his tenure there.

And yet of course Arsenal still have many sterner tests ahead of them. For Emery the board have made it clear that they expect the Gunners back in the Champions League – so that means a top 4 finish. A long run in the cups would be to an advantage but if Arsenal end up with no silverware this season but get the top 4 many will be satisfied with that in Emery’s debut season.

However are Arsenal selling themselves a little short? Look at Chelsea who are clearly going for the league title under new manager Maurizio Sarri. Arsenal have been very positive so far this season but have still come up short in the two real tests that they have had to encounter against Sarri’s Chelsea and also to Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City. However it seems that this was more of a timing problem than the opposition in question. It’s quite difficult in your first game in England to have to face the champions of the country.

Arsenal look to have a nice path of fixtures for October where they will play Fulham, Leicester and Crystal Palace all matches where we could expect the Gunners to get maximum points or at the very least 7 from 9. Their next big test won’t come until the beginning of November when they will play Liverpool but even that game will be at home. With a good run Arsenal could easily be in the top 3 come the beginning of December and whilst a league challenge does not seem realistic this season, with Emery steering the ship the club look like they are going in the right direction.