Is racism growing in the Premier League?

Many people would call the Premier League the best in the world but the league has been hit hard this season and in recent weeks for racist chanting amongst a minority of fans who have spoiled great occasions and overshadowed matches.

In truth it was thought that before the season started that racist chanting was resigned to Eastern European countries and in Serie A in Italy they have also had their fair share with ex Premier League player Mario Balotelli facing the brunt of so called fans’ actions. But it is easy to point at other countries and other fans, less easy to admit that there is a much bigger problem in England and the Premier League than there was first thought.

There have been countless incidents this season and it really does feel that sadly racism is growing in the league. Manchester United’s Paul Pogba was subjected to racism earlier in the season for missing a penalty. Marcus Rashford then came to his defence and he was subjected to the same vile chants. Again at Manchester United a fan had to be ejected for his actions in the massive game against Liverpool seen by millions of people around the world.

In the Manchester derby a fan had to be arrested after his actions towards certain players and the game had to be stopped as a consequence. Most recently in the Tottenham and Chelsea London derby clash the game had to be interrupted no less than three times to remind fans to stop alledged monkey chanting. Some of these seemed to be aimed at Chelsea’s Antonio Rudiger although police later said that there was no evidence of an attack on the player. Stlll if true there were plenty of unsavoury moments.

The Premier League has been excellent in leading the charge to kick racism out of the game. A hint of it and actions have been taken and other leagues can still learn from this zero tolerance attitude. But it is still a worry that some fans turn up to the game not to watch it but to vent their hate for another player based on the colour of their skin.

The Premier League has issued statements and will enforce bans and this is very good and the right steps to make. But this season has clearly been a step back into a time that no one wants to remember and a big wake up call that the Premier League has a huge racism issue that perhaps the people running the league did not think was the case before.

The good news is that punishments are being handed out which normally means an arrest and being banned from football for life. But one senses that more education is needed on the topic, it is just sad that we are still talking about divides amongst people in 2020.

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Perin headed to Genoa, Raiola dishes on De Ligt and Kean

After a season and a half in Turin, Mattia Perin will leave on a temporary basis. The goalkeeper, who joined in the summer 2018 from Genoa, has already taken medicals with his former club, where he will return on a six-month loan to help them avoid relegation. Perin played nine times in the previous campaign, conceding eight goals before suffering a shoulder injury in April. Once the Old Lady brought back Gianluigi Buffon in a back-up role, he was supposed to move to Benfica, but the deal fell through due to the recovery from surgery. Continue reading

A resurgent Paul Pogba can fire Manchester United into the top 4, if he wants too

How will Paul Pogba be remembered at Manchester United and on the bigger picture how will he be remembered in world football, if for example, he was to stop playing this second?

Obviously Pogba is a world class player, you don’t win the World Cup and play for Juventus and Manchester United. But at the same time it does feel as if Pogba at times has not given everything to the cause. Was he ever 100% committed when he played for Juventus? His time at Manchester United in reality will be remembered for magical moments, bursts of inspiration and some great goals, but it will also be remembered for confrontations with managers especially Jose Mourinho and niggling injuries.

Pogba can still change that attitude and end the season on a high and it was telling how good Pogba looked when he made his return against Watford a week ago. True United in United fashion this decade lost the game, and against the bottom side but Pogba came on from the bench and in the 30 minutes he had changed the way United were playing. He was fearless in his attacks from midfield and his pace and vision were also superb. We were seeing the very best of Pogba, the same version of Pogba we saw at the 2018 World Cup where his performances especially in the knock out rounds were superb. There is no doubt that when Pogba wants it, Pogba is a wonderful player to witness.

It should have come to no surprise then that in United’s next game against Newcastle they would win 4-1 with an outstanding performance and another confident game for the Frenchman. So now one wonders if United has a chance to finish in the top 4?

At this moment Chelsea are making it rather easier for them than it should be. The gap to 4th should be and could have been 15 points at least instead it is just 4 points and United do have a genuine chance to make a top 4 challenge. Of course other teams have bunched up in the league because of Chelsea’s bad form and United are in 8th place.

Wolves, Tottenham and Sheffield United stand between Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team and 4th. But United do have fire in their belly and before the Watford loss there is no doubt that the club had found their form again and we were seeing a United side who looked the business when Solskjaer first took over from a sacked Jose Mourinho a year ago.

United though need Pogba to be on his game if they are going to challenge for a top 4 spot. Sure form came to the club when Pogba was ironically injured and on the sidelines for a few weeks. But now he is fit he will play and if he doesn’t find consistency then that will be an extra ‘ghost’ player on the field for the club which will help no one.

Does Pogba want to be mentioned in the same breath as some of the United greats? He could be and still has the time to be. Now much like he did with France in that glorious World Cup win he needs to drag his team across that line, or he may just forever be known as a player that could have instead of something that did.

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Why Paul Pogba’s return is needed badly for both Man Utd and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

Ole Gunnar Solskajer’s Manchester United are not enjoying a good season at all so far this term, as they currently sit in tenth place and are nine full points away from the top four spots. Despite the arrivals of Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Daniel James and Harry Maguire, the side have seen quite a few players leave Old Trafford too, which leaves the squad lacking the quality and the ideal depth.

Twelve games into the season, the Red Devils have been unable to find the required form and consistency to help them fight for a Champions League position, with the likes of Chelsea, Leicester City and Sheffield United being more dominant and proactive. Both Liverpool and Manchester City have not been mentioned in comparison to any other team in the league let alone in regards to United, as the pair have enough quality and individual brilliance to guide them to the league title.

Focusing back on United, they will need to start picking up their performances and most importantly their win ratio once the international break is over, or they will fall far behind from the rest, as sides such as Arsenal, Spurs and Wolves are yet to hit their ruthless streak. With the team having eight league games to play from now till the end of the year, there are still a lot of points available to be won and lost, before the league positions shape up and become more clear of who will finish where.

However, for Solskjaer and United, the return of Paul Pogba will be badly required if they aim to dominate matches on a regular basis and are hoping to pick up three points week in and out. The Frenchman hasn’t played a match since the 1-1 draw against Arsenal at the end of September, as he has been on the sidelines with an ankle/foot injury that has kept him unavailable from playing.

Without his presence in midfield and in the team, the side’s best chances of creating and scoring happen to come on the counter-attack, which does not come quite often when playing against an opposition that prefer to sit deep and are not attacking-minded. Not only that, a midfield duo of Fred and Scott McTominay is not good enough when it comes to playing against one of the top-six sides, as an extra bit of pure quality and spark is needed from the players in the middle of the pitch.

Not only that, the other midfielders within the squad are not capable of producing the range and types of passes that Pogba is able to complete without any effort. Also, he is the type of individual that boasts with a positive mentality and does not hide or ghost away through the match, as he likes to be at the centre of each attacking movement and is always spreading out the ball with urgency, something that cannot be easily stated for the likes of Fred, Andreas Pereira or Nemanja Matic.

Also, he is the one that is coming up with the high number of goals and assists from the midfield department, completing 13 goals and nine assists as well as a number of Man of the Match awards last season, whilst the other midfielders were unable to score or assist on more than five occasions.

In the end, United have always been more dangerous and on the front foot when Pogba is in the team, and they will want him back at least before the December fixtures kick in. Whether his mind is on joining either Juventus or Real Madrid, he has always remained as a true professional and gives his all when stepping onto Old Trafford, so his intentions and mindset cannot be questioned at all.

The Red Devils will be facing Everton, Man City and Tottenham as well as a difficult away trip to Burnley next month, which means that Solskjaer will not be able to think about giving Pogba enough time to get to full fitness or perfect condition. Given the side’s current league position and recent form, the 45-year-old Norwegian will be doing everything to turn the season around sooner rather than later, or he could be sacked by the board and Ed Woodward before the campaign is over.

Predicted lineups for round 4 of the Premier League season

It’s time for gameweek four 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 Manchester United

Southampton XI: Gunn, Valery, Bednarek, Vestergaard, Danso, Romeu, Hojbjerg, Boufal, Ward-Prowse, Adams, Ings

Manchester United XI: De Gea, Wan-Bissaka, Lindelof, Maguire, Young, Pogba, McTominay, James, Mata, Rashford, Greenwood

Questionable: Bertrand, Redmond, Obafemi (Southampton); Martial, Sanchez (Manchester United) Continue reading

Van de Beek would fit Real Madrid’s new policy better than Pogba

It has been one of the transfer sagas of the summer, but the closer the deadline looms the less likely it appears that Paul Pogba will become a Real Madrid player. Zinedine Zidane has spoken warmly about the Frenchman, the player himself has made clear his desire to join, but Manchester United have refused to budge.

Indeed, the Old Trafford outfit’s valuation of Pogba – around £150 million according to reports – has priced Real Madrid out of a move in a summer window in which they have already splurged £300 million on new players. This has led them to reportedly look at other midfield options.

Donny Van de Beek is one of those options. He was one of the breakthrough stars of Ajax’s run to the semi finals of the Champions League last season, turning in a particularly impressive performance against Real Madrid in the round of 16. Maybe it was then that Zidane first thought about the prospect of the Dutchman in his team.

With Pogba out of reach, at least for this summer, Real Madrid are treating Van de Beek as their secondary target. However, the 22-year-old would arguably fit their new transfer strategy better than Pogba. If the Spanish giants are building for the future then Van de Beek represents this better than the Frenchman.

Of course, the signing of Eden Hazard from Chelsea is something of an outlier here. The Belgian is 28 and in his peak years. Looking past Hazard, though, Real Madrid have prioritised the targeting of young players who have yet to reach their peak. Eder Militao, Ferland Mendy, Luka Jovic, Rodrygo… the strategy has been clear.

Van de Beek would fit into this.. At 22 years old, he is already considered one of the best central midfielders in the game. Real Madrid could build around him for years to come, especially with Toni Kroos and Luka Modric seemingly fading as forces at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Pogba is a different sort of player to Van de Beek. Jose Mourinho wanted him to be an anchoring midfielder when Pogba has always found his best form further up the pitch. Would Zidane liberate him in this way or make the same mistakes Mourinho did during his time at Manchester United?

It feels like Real Madrid have one last big signing in them this summer. Some will see their failure to land Pogba as an embarrassment, such is their status as the ‘Galacticos,’ but Van de Beek might actually turn out to be a better option, but in the short and the long term.

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Christian Eriksen could become Real Madrid’s Philippe Coutinho

Real Madrid aren’t always the most discreet in their transfer business. When they want a player, the world tends to know about it. Take their pursuit of Eden Hazard over a number of years, for instance. There was no element of surprise left by the time the Belgian actually completed a move to the Spanish capital this summer.

Their pursuit of Paul Pogba is another saga which has played out in front of everyone, with Manchester United still holding firm in their £150 million valuation of the player. Real Madrid, according to reports, are unwilling and unable to pay that amount for the French midfielder and so it’s becoming increasingly likely Pogba will stay where he is for at least another season.

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For a long time, it has been presumed that Christian Eriksen would be Real Madrid’s alternative to Pogba. The Dane has already confessed his desire to leave Tottenham Hotspur this summer and the Santiago Bernabeu outfit are believed to be long term admirers. Rumours continue to swirl.

But where would Eriksen fit in at Real Madrid? He is a very different type of player to Pogba. It’s easy to see where the Frenchman could be accommodated in Zinedine Zidane’s side – on the left side of a midfield three – but Eriksen isn’t someone who likes to drive forward with the ball. Instead, he is the player who picks the final pass.

He usually does this from a position on the left side. Sure, he drifts into the middle, sometimes dropping back into the centre of midfield, but his position as it reads on the team sheet is on the left wing. He might not be a winger in the traditional sense, but that is his best place.

Real Madrid don’t have room for another left-sided attacker. They were already well-stocked for options (Vinicius Junior, Marco Asensio, Lucas Vazquez) before this summer and now they have added Hazard to their squad. How would Zidane possibly fit Hazard and Eriksen into the same side without moving one of them out of position?

Eriksen would be a signing for the sake of a signing much like Philippe Coutinho was for Barcelona 18 months. The Brazilian arrived at Camp Nou without an obvious role to play, with Coutinho now likely to be sold this summer after failing to make much of an impression. Eriksen could become Real Madrid’s very own Coutinho should he leave Spurs for the Santiago Bernabeu.

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Manchester United aren’t doing enough to sell wantaway star Paul Pogba

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And so with just over a month to go until the transfer window closes firmly shut Manchester United still have Paul Pogba on their books, and the question has to be why?

Pogba has seemingly always had that link with United starting off his early career at the club only to be sold onto Juventus and then brought back by Jose Mourinho for a reported £80m. Pogba’s career simply has not taken off at United despite the odd game of brilliance, he has never brought consistency to his game, quite simply Pogba and United do not fit.

And yet when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took over from the sacked Jose Mourinho in December it really did seem like a connection had been made and that Pogba would be able to stay with the club. His performances completely turned around and he started to become the star of the team that everyone had hoped for when he first signed. Alas that ended when United started losing again and then Solskjaer started criticising and that was it, Pogba, the professional reverted back into his woe is me shell.

The biggest surprise is that United have not sold him yet. Why is this? Even Pogba wants to leave. One reason is probably that they want their money back at least on a player that cost a kings ransom. That isn’t happening and United will have to accept that Pogba’s value has gone down alongside his poor form, and he is a year older, all that combined means that Juventus who will probably take him back will not want to shell out more than 60m for his services. Juventus themselves are locked in talks with Ajax wonderkid Matthjis de Ligt and he could cost the old lady upwards of 70m, and so budgets are budgets, and they won’t be able to afford to pay too much for Pogba.

The hype surrounding Pogba is a strange one then, what is it that attracts big clubs to him? One answer could be his pace, his strength and his confidence- he lights up a team and the dressing room. But his technical skill for a player that commands such huge transfer fees and attention is a quite shocking.

The solution is simple Pogba needs to be sold, and if United want to talk to him and try to convince him to stay with the club they would be taking a step backwards. United are a proud club and if one of your players doesn’t want to play for you you need to act quickly and sell. For now it feels that United are dragging their feet over this- accept the price cut and move on.

Juventus Turn to Bosmans to Shore up the Midfield

Following a poor season, the Juventus brass identified the midfield as a problem area and immediately snapped up Aaron Ramsey on a free transfer. Since Arturo Vidal’s departure, Juventus have lacked enterprise in the middle of the park and have been crying for help. Realizing the Welshman alone wasn’t enough, Juventus turned to Lazio’s Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, and Paul Pogba. Both midfielders are reportedly willing to join the bianconeri, but their astronomical price-tags are proving to be major obstacles as of right now.

As a result, Juventus have since turned their attention to Paris Saint-Germain’s Adrien Rabiot. The Frenchman’s contract is set to expire, and will shortly join the Italian champions on a five-year deal. Since breaking onto the scene in Paris, Rabiot has established himself as one of the most highly-rated talents in football, and will offer some much needed technique to Juventus’ stuttering midfield. However, the only concern with the Frenchman have been some recurring disciplinary issues that have kept him out of the side.

Equally capable of playing in front of the defence, or on the left of a midfield three, Rabiot will slot in nicely alongside Miralem Pjanic, and Ramsey. At just 24 years old, the Frenchman will only improve, and will get to work under Maurizio Sarri, a manager notorious for his ability to get the most out of technically-gifted midfielders. Under the former Napoli tactician, expect Rabiot to play higher up the pitch, near the opposition’s box.

This past season, Massimiliano Allegri often fielded Blaise Matuidi and Emre Can alongside Pjanic, and it often lead to uninspiring displays from the Italian giants. While both are accomplished professionals and offer something in their own right, neither has the ability to progress the ball in the final third and are limited as creators. The addition of Rabiot and Ramsey will go a long way in the final third without sacrificing defensive solidity, and is a good first step at rectifying the midfield.

Without counting excessive signing-on fees and agent bonuses involved in these deals, their acquisitions don’t take away from Juve’s existing budget, allowing them to bolster their side further. In recent times, Juventus have emerged as front-runners for Ajax captain Matthijs de Ligt, and are ready to table a 70 million euros bid for the defender. In addition, they are also offering the Dutchman 12 million euros a season, in order to fend off interest from PSG and Barcelona.

While de Ligt’s signing may not be directly linked to Rabiot and Ramsey’s arrivals, these free transfers definitely allowed Juventus to reallocate their budget towards the Dutchman and make him a priority once the opportunity presented itself.

Considering Manchester United are demanding upwards of 120 million euros for Pogba, and Lotito is playing hard-ball over the Serbian international, adding Rabiot on a bosman may prove to be the injection Juve needed in the midfield. After all, if it means they can also sign de Ligt, one of Europe’s elite defenders in addition to two midfielders, who says no?

It appears that Juventus, for the first time in four years, will be able to field a complete midfield capable of going toe-to-toe with Europe’s elite. And if de Ligt just happens to be behind them, all the better for Sarri and co.

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If Real Madrid can make one more big signing, who should they target?

Real Madrid have wasted little time in overhauling their squad this summer. It became apparent fairly early on last season that fundamental change was required at the Santiago Bernabeu and so this transfer window has been a long time in the planning. Nonetheless, the speed at which Real Madrid have acted in signing players has been remarkable.

The calendar hasn’t even crossed over into July yet and Real Madrid have already spent close to £300 million on new players. They signed Eder Militao from Porto and left back Ferland Mendy from Lyon. Teenage forward Rodrygo was signed from Santos with Luka Jovic also added to the squad after a sensational season with Eintracht Frankfurt. And, of course, they finally managed to lure Eden Hazard, a long term target, from Chelsea.

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Despite all this, Real Madrid don’t appear done. The Spanish giants continue to be linked with a number of high profile targets, with a new name added to the list on a weekly basis. Financial Fair Play (FFP) means Real Madrid cannot spend much more, but there is a belief that they have room for one more big name, big money addition. So with that in mind, who should they target?

Zinedine Zidane’s most pressing need would seem to be in the centre of midfield. One of Casemiro, Toni Kroos or Luka Modric is expected to leave the Spanish capital this summer with Kroos and Modric in particular starting to fade. The latter has been frequently linked with a move to Inter Milan while the former has attracted Premier League clubs. Marcos Llorente has already been sold to Atletico Madrid.

This has led to links with Paul Pogba, a player Zidane has openly admitted to being a fan of. The Frenchman wants out of Manchester United this summer, but with the Old Trafford outfit reportedly demanding £160 million for their prize asset he could be out of Real Madrid’s reach. Christian Eriksen is another option. He too wants to leave the Premier League.

Real Madrid could instead choose to strengthen their defensive line even further, with Sergio Ramos’ future still up in the air. Kalidou Koulibaly has been mentioned as a potential target, although most intriguingly the Santiago Bernabeu club have apparently entered the race as late suitors for Matthijs de Ligt.

Of course, there are other matters for Zidane and Florentino Perez to attend to before the start of the new season. Gareth Bale, for instance, has become a thorn in their side, particularly with the Welsh winger unwilling to leave on loan. Kroos and Modric’s futures have also to be resolved. Marcelo could also leave.

But if Real Madrid do truly have the money to make one more big addition this summer, they must plot carefully. Pogba would fit the bill, but they may have to move on quickly given the price tag hanging around his neck. It might not about who would be best for Real Madrid, but who they can get.

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