Arsenal destroyed in Europa League final by Chelsea and Eden Hazard

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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 Week 33

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With just over a month to go until the Premier League wraps up the two horse race between Manchester City and Liverpool continues, there is just 1 point in it and this battle looks sure to go down to the wire. Champions League places are also up for grabs. Fulham and Huddersfield have been relegated but there is still one more place to decide although it looks likely that could be Cardiff who need to start picking up the points.

Below we take a look at the games ahead of the weekend and predict who we think will come out on top.

Southampton v Liverpool

Liverpool need all three points but Southampton will be a difficult opponent at St Mary’s when the two teams go head to head on Friday night. Goals have dried up for Mohamed Salah but Sadio Mane has been on fire and Liverpool will be the odds on favourites to win this game. When they are not playing well they are getting just the right amount of luck and look unstoppable. Liverpool to beat Southampton

Bournemouth v Burnley

Bournemouth have been in poor form but at the same time they are safe and have won just 1 game in the last five. Burnley can really turn the screw on 18th placed Cardiff with a win here and go further clear which could virtually secure their status in the Premier League. The boost for them is that they have just beaten Wolves and ended a 4 game losing streak. Draw

Huddersfield v Leicester

Now that Huddersfield are down they might just be able to relax and enjoy their football. Leicester are trying to be the best of the rest and finish in 7th place and are in very good form now under new coach Brendan Rodgers and Jamie Vardy will be hoping to get back on the score sheet. Leicester to beat Huddersfield

Newcastle v Crystal Palace

The teams come into this game with the same form and Palace are just 1 point above Newcastle. Newcastle’s form is spectacular at home where they have won their last 5 games in a row and they should have too much for Palace. Newcastle to beat Crystal Palace

Everton v Arsenal

Can Everton win 3 games in a row? They will face  a difficult team in Arsenal and the Gunners are in very good form. Arsenal are looking good for 3rd place and have more quality than  Everton. Pierre Emerick Aubameyang is in good form and they have plenty of goals in their team. Arsenal to beat Everton

Chelsea v West Ham

West Ham have had some poor results lately and even the games they have been winning they haven’t been very convincing. Chelsea at home have been superb this season and Olivier Giroud has finally found his goal scoring boots. Chelsea to beat West Ham

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Gonzalo Higuain joining Chelsea has fired up Olivier Giroud

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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.

EPL: Premier League Predictions for the Weekend

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The Premier League is back this weekend after the international break and we will predict what we think will happen below. The title contest is closely contested between Liverpool and Manchester City, places for the Champions League are still up for grabs and the relegation battle has not been quite decided yet. Let’s dive in!

Fulham v Manchester City

Manchester City will be the massive favourites to beat Fulham who are in theory almost relegated. Fulham will be at home and will defend deep in numbers but the quality of City’s players should shine through. City are 2 points behind Liverpool and need this win and Raheem Sterling is in the form of his life for Pep Guardiola’s team. Manchester City to beat Fulham

Brighton v Southampton

Brighton were in freefall but have found some form, winning their last 2 games in a row. Southampton’s form has been patchy and this could be a difficult match for the Saints away from home, we expect to see goals in this game and will opt for the home side. Brighton to beat Southampton 

Burnley v Wolves

There is a real chance that Sean Dyche’s Burnley could be relegated and they come into this game having lost 4 matches in a row. Wolves on the other hand are proving to be the best pound for pound team in the Premier League. Raul Jimenez for Wolves is scoring goals for fun lately. Wolves to beat Burnley

Crystal Palace v Huddersfield

Palace have really lost their way in the past few games and with 33 points they are only 5 points clear of the bottom three. This is an excellent chance for the club to pull clear. Huddersfield battled well in their last game which ended in a 4-3 loss to West Ham, we think they can play well again and could get a point from this game. Draw.

Leicester v Bournemouth

Leicester have won 3 of their last 4 games and the appointment of Brendan Rodgers has been effective for the Foxes. Bournemouth could join them on the same points (41) if they can win, but this looks too difficult for them and we expect Leicester to ease to a win. Jamie Vardy just keeps on banging in the goals and he could be the difference once more. Leicester to beat Bournemouth.

Manchester United v Watford

Manchester United finally confirmed Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as the clubs permanent boss and he has signed a 3 year deal. If the mood in the camp wasn’t already full of positive vibes it is now. The club have the chance to score a few goals at the weekend and bring Watford back down to Earth. Romelu Lukaku has also found his scoring boots. Manchester United to beat Watford.

West Ham v Everton

Two sides who are very equal who perform much better at home. Everton will be buoyed with their 2-0 win against Chelsea but they have lost 8 times away from home. The Hammers have won 3 home games in a row and are unbeaten at home in 2019. Everton have not won at West Ham since 2015. Everton to beat West Ham

Cardiff v Chelsea

There is a big gulf in quality between the two sides and this should be a very entertaining game as Cardiff need the win for survival and Chelsea need it to keep a top 4 place realistic. We think Chelsea can just get all three points in a very close game and we should keep an eye out for Olivier Giroud who has really sparked into life up front. Chelsea to beat Cardiff

Liverpool v Tottenham

Easily the game of the weekend in the Premier League. Liverpool are in great form and when they play this game it is likely that they will be one point behind Manchester City, so the motivation to win will be huge. Tottenham have a feel good factor with their new stadium opening. But they aren’t their yet and this trip to Anfield could be a very difficult one. They do possess the quality to frustrate the Reds though. Draw.

Arsenal v Newcastle

Arsenal are in great form and this is always a difficult trip for Newcastle. Mesut Ozil has been given more chances recently and has scored goals too. There are goals everywhere in this Arsenal side who are undefeated in the league at home since August. Newcastle have no away wins in 2019. Arsenal to beat Newcastle.

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Olivier Giroud is being under appreciated at Chelsea

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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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Three Quality Chelsea players to include in your Fantasy Team

One of the most important things to consider when compiling your fantasy team is which big club players you are going to include. These are players which come with higher price tags than most and thus reduce your spending power. This is why it is crucial that you include only those players which you feel will yield the maximum possible points per round.

It is even better if you include players from top clubs which you feel have lower price tags than they should. In this case you profit on the same player twice. First by bringing him in to your team and then by paying less than his real value.

There is a similar concept in football betting and it is called a value bet. This is a bet which you feel certain about, but the bookmaker, for reasons only known to him, has given it much higher odds than he should have.

We will try to do something similar in this article as we will try to find the best value players for your fantasy team playing for Chelsea. These are players who don’t come with overinflated price tags, but still manage to yield quite a lot of points per round.

Antonio Rüdiger

Antonio Rüdiger is probably the last name that you think of when it comes to including someone from Chelsea’s back four. This is because Marcos Alonso scores a lot of goals and provides lots of assists, Azpilicueta pitches in with an assist here and there, and David Luiz puts in a lot of quality balls in the opposition box which might also result in an assist. On top of that, all of them get additional points for keeping clean sheets.

However, out of all of these four players, Rüdiger comes with the lowest price tag and has decent points output as well. He is regularly involved with corners and free kicks and he is Chelsea’s main threat in dead ball situations, which translates to more goals. Furthermore, he is much fitter than Luiz which means that he will start more matches than the Brazilian.

Ross Barkley

Snapping Barkley before the season started was the smartest thing that you could have done. However, you probably didn’t, and now you can hope for the next best thing and that is to snap him as soon as possible.

The talented box-to-box midfielder has been going from strength to strength and you get the feeling that with each next match his numbers will get even better.

Olivier Giroud

Picking Giroud is somewhat of a wild card, especially as Sarri seems to prefer Morata. However, Morata’s consistency has often been a problem and sooner or later he will start misfiring again.

When this time comes, it will be the much cheaper Olivier Giroud who will take his place, and unlike Morata, he doesn’t needed to be cuddled and comforted to score. In fact, he has shown that even when everybody thinks that he is past it, he can still produce the necessary assist or goal.

Can Chelsea win the Premier League title without a goalscoring centre-forward?

As Saturday’s game against Manchester United ticked into second-half injury time, Chelsea seemed to be on the verge of their first defeat of the season. Two goals from Anthony Martial after the break had turned the match on its head after Antonio Rudiger’s deadlock-breaking header in the 21st minute, and the Blues appeared to have run out of ideas as they pushed for a late leveller.

Continue reading

Should Chelsea bin Morata?

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It took an absolute age to arrive, but Alvaro Morata’s goal against Vidi in Chelsea’s midweek Europa League game will be welcomed by player and club alike.

The pressure that had been on the Spaniard’s shoulders was evident as the tears flowed, the monkey finally off of his back.

Maurizio Sarri was more than happy with such emotion, suggesting he’d like to see more of it if it meant the centre-forward was amongst the goals more often. Continue reading

Why the Premier League could possibly go to Liverpool or Chelsea

Last Sunday’s display from Chelsea and Liverpool could be christened as the best game so far this season. Both teams exhibited creativity in attack and resilience at the back. The season is still young, but on the evidence of what we witnessed could any of these two beat City to the league title this season?

Liverpool probably made the best recruits in the English Premier league this summer, bolstering their midfield with Naby Keita and Fabinho and another creative option in Xherdan Shaqiri. The Merseysiders have a world class goalkeeper in Allison Becker, who continue to provide great reflexes in the post. Liverpool have enough quality to compete against anyone for the league title this season and they’ve shown that in their last seven league games.

We saw how they conquered Tottenham Hotspurs at Wembley. It wasn’t just about the results, but the football on display has been mesmerizing. And talk of performance their 3-2 victory over Paris Saint Germain was a testament of their mental fortitude.

Not only have Jurgen Klopp reinvigorated the side that lost to Real Madrid in the Champions League finals last season, there seems to be an oomph about them this season. Established players James Milner, Georginio Wijnaldum, Roberto Firmino, and Jordan Henderson et al are playing at a level a notch higher that we saw in the previous campaign.

This season Mohammed Salah is not showing the same sophistication with opportunities that have come his way. The Egyptian has scored three goals from a total of 20 shots on target. But Sadio Mane seems to have taken much of the responsibility when it comes to goals. So far adorning the number 10 jersey has yielded four, with Roberto Firmino on two.

James Milner has proven that he still cut it for the premier league with his tireless work in midfield, but Gini Widnaldum is currently Liverpool’s most improved player so far this season. The Netherlands international is playing with a lot confidence, hardly giving the ball away. And guess what, he doesn’t look flustered by the presence of Naby Keita on the bench.

The decision to bring Daniel Sturridge back from loan has proven to be an astute one. In the absence of Roberto Firmino, Sturridge can step up and play an important part in Liverpool’s campaign this season as we’ve seen him score vital goals against PSG in the Champions League and Chelsea in the league.

One significant decision by Kloop, is the center back partnership between Van Dyke and Gomes. The pair have started all seven of Liverpool league games and have conceded just three so far. They share the tag of the best defense with the league leaders, Manchester City.

Chelsea

The great thing about Chelsea this season is the arrival of Mauricio Sarri. His style of play is one that Eden Hazard thrives in, and the Belgian is currently in red hot form as he is beginning to replicate his 2015 performance that won him the PFA player of the year. Also, Hazard is buoyed up his inclusion in the FIFPro World Eleven. The Chelsea forward had a great World Cup tournament with his country, winning the bronze medal.

Chelsea meanwhile occasionally telegraphs fear at the back as Antonio Rudiger and David Luis sometimes struggle against quicker attackers. But in midfield enforcer Jorginho, Matteo Kovacic and Ngolo Kante, Chelsea should be able to dominate and control games. There are still concerns about how Sarri is using a Kante’ in midfield. Despite the French man’s reputation as being destructive, the Italian manager prefers a ball playing holding midfielder in Jorginho who currently top the charts for the number of passes in the league and the most in a game.

Willian and Pedro are great attacking outlets for Chelsea. The Spanish forward has found the net three times while the Brazilian ability to carve open compact defense is proving crucial for Chelsea in when in search of a goal. Chelsea do not boost a striker with the quality of Sergio Aguero as both Alvaro Morata and Olivier Giroud are not quite reliable. Sarri may require a proven goal scorer in the January transfer window.

Manchester City are favorite based on their performance last season and Pep Guadiola’s reputation for winning back to back league titles, but the Citizens look beatable this season and it’s hard to envisage them go on a winning run as we saw last season. It will take a Miracle for Manchester United to win the league this season as tensions between Mourinho and Pogba is beginning to have a debilitating effect on the other players. The red devils will probably be fighting a Champions League spot.

Meanwhile Arsenal seems to have turned the corner after their earlier struggles, but despite winning their last four games are not convincing given the defensive vulnerabilities and how wasteful they can be in th attack. Tottenham Hotspur will be hoping to maintain fourth spot by the end of the season.

As it stands Chelsea and Liverpool look set to deny Manchester city a second straight league cup.

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Sarri’s Blue Belgian Puts Cardiff to the Sword

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After an exceedingly exciting weekend in the Premier League, only Chelsea remain as unmatched as Liverpool. But while the ladder faced a tough away match at Wembley, the former enjoyed a day out in the sun at Stamford Bridge tearing Cardiff City apart.

Maurizio Sarri’s front three of Willian and Eden Hazard led by Olivier Giroud  all finished the game with success, but it was the Belgian who claimed our Player of the Weekend – finishing with Man of the Match and a tidy hat-trick. Continue reading