Most Underrated Striker in Europe? Champions League Heroes and Zeroes Game week 3

Another week, another great round of Champions League fixtures. Let’s get straight into who has done well this week, and who has failed.

Hero – Edin Dzeko

I don’t know how controversial it is to say this, but Dzeko has been one of the best players in the Champions League since last season. He was excellent in Roma’s surprise semi final finish, scoring 8 in 12 for his side. He has continued his form into the new season, with the ex Manchester City forward already scoring 5 goals in only 3 games. His stats just show how brilliant he has been. In the Champions League, Edin Dzeko has been taking 5 shots, making 1.7 key passes and winning 3.3 aerial duels per game. What make his shot numbers even better are the fact he’s taking 4 of them inside the penalty area, and 0.7 in the 6 yard box. He is getting in very good positions and the chances he is getting are good chances. However my critical side knows that he has played very inferior opponents. I just can’t take that away from him however. A brilliant start for a guy who just doesn’t get enough credit for all the work he does for that side.

Zero – Nemanja Matic

Instead of watching any other game, I decided to support my team and watch our game against our first real European elite since Bayern Munich in 2014. It was a huge test for United and it was a chance to see how much they have developed since that season under Moyes. If referring to how United are under Mourinho, it was a perfect representation. There was a lack of attacking structure, midfielders not given clear roles and instructions, and no sort of plan from Mourinho. While Jose has fallen out publicly with a handful of players, the two players he seems to most get along with, Lukaku and Matic, have been terrible this season. I sympathise with Lukaku. Mourinho just uses him in the wrong way. He isn’t a target man, like Dzeko or Costa, but a poacher (Chicarito with a gym membership would be the best way to describe him). United should build their entire system to give him the ball in the box as much as possible. But because of the pragmatic system that is deployed under Mourinho, Lukaku has to drop deep to receive the ball, to get any involvement in the game. I have no sympathy for Matic however. The Serbian doesn’t offer enough to justify starting him in every single game. The game against Juventus shows this just perfectly. While stats might make it out like he did a good defensive job (he made four tackles in the game), he did not. Many criticised Pogba for being out of position and not giving the defense effective cover. People forget that it was Matic who let Dybala through for the first goal, and failed to track him effectively through out. Every time Matic received the ball, United’s attacks would halt to a stand still, and any motion made, would be gone soon as he would put his foot on the ball. He is the one guy who is holding United back, giving them a weakness in a position that by now, should not be a problem. Matic is by far the biggest loser this week.

Hero – Rafinha

Rafinha was a player I thought I would never see in a Barcelona shirt ever again. That’s not to say he is not a good player. In fact he has shown plenty of promise whenever he has played. However it’s injuries that have held him back. It is the reason why Barca were so adamant to sell him, but no one could agree with their pricing of the Brazilian. He remains and after starting over world cup winner Ousmane Dembele, he has a lot to show, and he did. Rafinha scored the opening goal for Barca against his former side. He played as more of an inverted winger, drifting inside, while Roberto would give the width. He did this excellently, taking 3 shots and getting all of them on target. He also had a 94% pass accuracy , and completed a key pass. He caused Inter plenty of problems in the absence of Messi. I still think Rafinha should be sold, because he isn’t worth the hassle he puts on a side that still has some deadweight, and needs to add players that aren’t plagued with injuries.

Zero – Hugo Lloris

Oh Lloris. I still think nothing highlights Lloris better than captaining his side in the world cup final, to then make a horrible mistake to give Mandzukic a simple finish. I like Lloris and the criticism he’s getting (Henry Winter and Jermaine Jenas I’m referring to) from pundits is a little harsh. While I really do not think he is at the level of De Gea, Ter Stegan or Ederson. He is still a competent goalkeeper, and plays in a position that is very hard to find a replacement for. However I cannot defend what he did against PSV Eindhoven. His sprint outside of the box to intercept the ball, went horribly wrong, and ended with the captain getting his marching orders. What makes this worse is this the second time this season that Lloris has been sent off for the same sort of challenge. It baffles me why he keeps trying these incredible risky challenges. Lloris is the loser for simply not learning from his mistakes, and causing more dilemmas for Pochettino, regarding his goalkeeper situation.

Hero – Fabinho

I wanted Fabinho at United before they signed Matic, but it seemed he would stay at Monaco for another year before joining Liverpool the following summer. I have been an admirer of the Brazilian since his permanent signing at Monaco, where he originally played as a right back. He excelled in that position, but Jardim still decided to move him into midfield, and it was a genius move. Last season, Fabinho was a highlight in an otherwise average Monaco side, putting in incredible tackle and interception numbers, and being arguably one of the best players in Europe at winning aerial duels. Liverpool signed the 25 year old for a bargain £40m, but since his arrival he hasn’t started a game. This is mainly due to the excellent form of Milner, Keita, Henderson and Wijnaldum. This game against Red Star was his first start for the reds, and to say he took it was an understatement. Fabinho was perfect in this game. He won 9 tackles, more than any other player on the pitch, 6 aerial duels (only Van Dijk won more) and was very good on the ball. He completed 80 passes with a 90% accuracy, higher than anyone else on his side. He showed exactly why Liverpool bought him, and has given even more questions for Jürgen Klopp.

Zero – Valencia

With Manchester United losing their fixture against Juventus, Valencia needed to get 3 points against Young Boys if they had any chance of getting out of the group, and making United’s horrible match in Turin even worse for them. Young Boys are the worst side in this group (as seen from José’s United breaking them down easy), but they still seem to have an attack that is threatening. Against Valencia, they did show this, they managed 7 shots on target, bettering Valencia’s 2. What was most impressive was their shot zones. They took 72% of their shots in the 18 yard box, showing that they created very good chances. It was a game where Young Boys deserves all the points, but just couldn’t put the game to bed. Valencia have been so poor this season. While they have remained good defensively, their attack has fallen off a cliff. Valencia were overachieving massively last season when scoring goals. Their three top scorers, Zaza, Mina and Rodrigo, scored 41, but were only expected to score 32. Their numbers seem to have come back to earth this season, with Mina, Rodrigo and Batshuayi (who came in to replace Zaza) have only managed 2 between them. They have all struggled and not having that excellent start, like they did last season, just hasn’t given them a leg to stand on. They are the losers for making an interesting group on paper seem so much more predictable.

Hero – Viewers of Hoffenheim vs Lyon

This was by far the game of the week, with the game ending 3-3. It had everything in an attacking sense. Hoffenheim played their usual extremely direct football, with Szalai winning the second ball, and the players around him receiving it. Lyon played with their incredible young talent, and moved with pace and speed to get in behind a very weak defense. While I’d love to compliment Hoffenheim, their defending in this game was poor beyond description, with Baumann, Vogt and Akpoguma all making mistakes in the three goals they conceded. If it wasn’t for these amateur moments, Hoffenheim would have easily came out of this game as victors, but they only have themselves to blame. Now onto their attack, which was excellent. Their wing backs, Schulz and Kaderabek, advance incredibly high up the pitch, and in this game they made it count. Schulz managed 2 key passes, while Kaderabek managed 6. Kramaric was arguably the man of the match in this game, after his 2 great strikes to give Hoffenheim the lead, and back in the game. Lyon can definitely call themselves lucky. They were falsely denied a penalty, after Denayer’s clear hand ball, and Vogt missed a very good chance to seal it. After Memphis Depay scored what Lyon thought what would be the winner, Joelinton came off the bench and scored the equaliser that got them back in the game, which made this game arguably one of the best games

Zero – Atletico Madrid

While I did say Matic is the loser of the week, Diego Simeone’s side come incredibly close. They lost 4-0 away from home to high flying Borussia Dortmund. The Westfalenstadion is a very difficult ground to visit, with Real Madrid going there back in 2013 and being humiliated. This was actually Atletico Madrid biggest defeat under Diego Simeone, and they definitely deserved to lose this one. It might sound relatively basic, but the effort and energy just wasn’t there from Madrid. Atletico usually put in a high amount of tackles in a game, with them averaging the 3rd most tackles in La Liga this season. However it was Dortmund who put in the most tackles in this game, and Piszczek getting the most with 6. It was the little things like this that made it look like Dortmund wanted it more. The average positioning of Simeone’s side just didn’t make sense either. Koke was the furthest back out of the midfielders, yet started quite advanced. Another thing that was obvious was some of Atletico’s aging squad might be starting to show. 52% of Dortmund’s attacks were down the left side, the same side as Koke, who didn’t help defend that side at all, and Juanfran, who is definitely past the point of playing at the top level. Both Hakimi and Larsson couldn’t be dealt with. Speaking of Hakimi, he was great on the night, finishing the match with 3 assists. His defensive work was next to nothing, but he didn’t have to defend. Juanfran wasn’t offering what he did 5 years ago, and Koke spent the entire game in a central area. He had the freedom of the left side to himself. A great performance from the Real Madrid loanee. It puts Dortmund at a point where they could seriously surprise people in this competition, while Atletico need to get their problems sorted quickly, if they wish to make that huge spending count.

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5 Premier League Teams to Watch Next Season

With the season arriving in less than a month, let’s look at 5 teams that you should just keep your eye on next season.

Chelsea

For the first time since Ancelotti, Chelsea have an attacking manager. This isn’t to take away from Mourinho and Conte, who both had good spells in charge. But they were always so pragmatic with how they set up their teams. Efficient is easily the best compliment that can be given to both of their title winning teams. But now they finally have brought in a manager who is famed for his attacking style. Sarri is one of my favourite managers in Europe. The team he built in Napoli was just so fun to watch. He was able to bring the best out of the players at his disposal. He turns Dries Mertens into a very good false 9, Insigne into one of the best wingers in Europe, and turned Reina from not good enough for Liverpool, to a very solid goalkeeper. He reminds me of Pep, in his ability to bring the best out of what he has. Speaking of Napoli, the signing of Jorginho was just what they needed. The Italian is a very good game controller, which is an area they have been missing since Fabregas began his decline. Sarri teams like to keep hold of the ball, so bringing in a guy who completes nearly 100 passes per game, is just ideal. However there still many issues for the Blues. The futures of Eden Hazard of Thibaut Courtois are all in doubt, with both heavily linked to a move to the Spanish capital. Both are key players and need to be tied down for the future. Hazard is a player who could finally shine, now with a manager who will not limit him. Courtois has also just came back from a golden glove winning world cup, meaning keeping him should be key. Chelsea are also heavily linked to Russian midfielder Oleksandr Golovin, and if they pull that move off, Chelsea’s midfield should be fixed. While they are not currently in the best place, Chelsea are finally in a place of unknown, which makes it so exciting to see where they go from here.

Arsenal

I think the end of Wenger’s reign couldn’t have ended more horribly. Missing out on champions league football for a second time and having an absolutely terrible away record. There were also huge issues with the team, lacking a good centre half, a defensively minded central midfielder, a competent goalkeeper, and a wide player. The appointment of Unai Emery, while not as high profile as everyone wanted, is still a safe and solid choice. He is known to be a great motivator and trains his players very hard. In fact after their last pre season game, his players went straight back to training, showing how much work needs to be done to have them ready for the new season (or maybe the lack of work Wenger was doing). The signings made have also been mostly fine. While both Leno and Papadopoulos aren’t great players, bringing both in for less than £20m is good business, and are improvements on what they already have. While Lichsteiner is the definition of a short term solution, he will give competition to a very inconsistent Bellerin, and offers good delivery in the final third. The best signing however is easily Uruguayan midfielder Lucas Torreira. He had a breakout season for Sampdoria, giving them a real Kante role. He was a player who was excellent at recovering the ball, and also a fine distributer. He will give some real steel to a midfield that lacks a defensive workhorse. It is the first time in so long that Arsenal will finally be different, which is why it’ll be interesting to see how they perform next season.

Liverpool

While it does hurt to admit, Liverpool have easily made the best business of the window. They have fixed all of their key issues and look ready to challenge Manchester City for the title. While their defense was never a huge issue for them in my opinion (mainly because the way they play result in them looking very leaky), they have improved that with the signing of Allison. While they might have overpaid for him, he was easily the best available option for them in this current market. The Brazilian was brilliant for Roma last season, with only De Gea beating him in stopping expected goals. Allison is a great signing, but it’s their improvement in midfield that is most impressive. My issue with Liverpool’s midfield has always been the lack of flexibility. When playing against teams, like Manchester City, they excel because all of their players are great at pressing and do not need the ball. When they play against teams who would rather sit back, they do not have a central midfielder who is able to carry the ball out effectively and dribble through a midfield. They have brought in one of the best box to box midfielders in Naby Keita, and one of the most well rounded defensive midfielders in Fabinho. Keita is just great at everything. He is able to do the defensive work, is an incredible dribbler and is able to score and create. He will add a player who is able to fill in plenty of roles and who will help the reds keep possession more effectively. Fabinho gives them a real defensive midfielder. While Henderson has performed relatively well, he was never a true DM. Fabinho is one of the best defensive midfielders around, putting in over 4 tackles and interceptions per 90, while also helping in moving the ball, with a very solid 1.1 key passes per 90. He also wins 2.9 aerial rules. Which could mean the centre backs do not have to go towards the ball as much as they do, now with a player who is able to win it further up the pitch. This is a huge season for Jürgen Klopp’s side. Progress will need to be seen, and so far it is definitely there.

West Ham

I have always been so critical in how West Ham have signed players over the last year. They were signing the wrong players and their owners were always making these ridiculous promises. However this window has actually seen some real improvement. Gold and Sullivan decided to bring in Manuel Pellegrini to replace David Moyes. The obvious step up aside, it is a real coup for the hammers. They have finally found a manager who will be able to match the owner’s crazy ambition. What has been even better is the signings. Some smart signings were made very early on, like bringing in Ryan Fredericks on a free, and Fabinaski for less than £10m. They have matched these safe signings with some real ambitious ones, like highly rated youngster Issa Diop from Toulouse, finally giving them another option besides the usual James Collins and Winston Reid. While other signings like Yarmolenko and Wilshere are also pretty good, it’s their signing of Lazio winger Felipe Anderson that has really blown me away. The Brazilian was excellent in Serie A last season. In only 9 starts, he scored 4 and assisted 7. His stats also make for a great read, averaging 1.8 key passes and making 3.7 successful dribbles per 90. One thing that has been great to see in the Premier League is every club having a player good enough for the top 6, now West Ham have their man. They still have some key areas to strengthen, mainly in midfield. While Wilshere is a fine enough addition, that midfield is still missing quality. 3 managers have now fielded a Koyate and Noble midfield, and everytime have shown why it doesn’t work. They will hope that Wilshere can stay fit, and that Obiang has a real breakout season, otherwise they could well struggle to protect the defense. It is still a much improved summer for the Irons.

Fulham

As mentioned, I like seeing all teams have a top 6 quality player. It can be debated on whether Sessegnon is at that level. He isn’t at the moment, but he definitely will if he continues on this path. He just needs to improve in the box, mainly with the amount of shots he takes. Fulham did pull off one of the signings of the season in bringing in Jean Michael Seri from Nice for £27m. This is the same player who has been constantly linked with moves to Arsenal and Chelsea, and has ended up in Fulham. I do actually think this is the best for the player. Seri didn’t have a place in one of those sides because they already had good creators. Both of those teams needed something else (which they did get with in Torreira and Jorginho respectively). But Seri does fit right in for Fulham. One huge issue that some teams have when making that step from the Championship to the Premier League is making the right improvements in the side, while also keeping to what worked. Fulham prefer a possession style, favouring short passes. Seri fits that bill, being a player who’s speciality is his ability on the ball. He averages 86 passes with a 90% accuracy, which shows how he is able to help keep possession effectively. He also averages a very good 2.1 key passes, better than captain Tom Cairney’s 1.9. It is clear they have found that extra bit of quality in their team, to help them stay up. At the time of writing, they are also close to signing Andre Schurrle from Dortmund. If they pull that off, then the rest of the league should keep an eye on them.

8 Players Unlucky To Not Be at the 2018 World Cup

With only 23 players available for each squad, it means some players miss out for some particular reason. Whether it’s injury or manager had better options, these are players who would feel a bit unlucky that they won’t be in Russia this summer.

Mauro Icardi

When Sampoali was appointed the manager of Argentina, I thought this would be a chance for change in team selection. While Dybala is finally getting the chance he so rightfully deserves, Icardi is still not getting the same chances. Argentina have the joys of having so many attacking options, in Aguero, Messi and Higuain. It means other players getting a chance can be difficult. Icardi has for 4 years straight, been one of the most consistent strikers in Europe. He is a very good all around finisher, whether it is with his feet or with his head. He was the top scorer of Serie A last season, with 29 goals. It is just so surprising that the top scorer in Italy isn’t going to the world cup. I think he should be going instead of Higuain. Higuain is now 30, and Icardi is 26. Icardi has another world cup left in him. Bringing a much more inform striker, one who is still in his prime. Just makes much more sense.

Philipp Max

While many would say Alex Sandro is unlucky to miss out, it hard to argue when both Marcelo and Felipe Luis were both better last season. However an argument can be made for Philipp Max being taken to the World Cup. The Augsburg full back was easily the best left back last season in the Bundesliga. He averages a solid 3 tackles and interceptions per 90, but that isn’t why you play Max. His creative output is incredible. He averages an outrageous 2.4 key passes per 90. That’s more than David Silva and Paul Pogba. He also averages 3.2 crosses per 90, which is far superior than Plattenhardt’s 1.5. I completely understand that Lowe has a system and certain players he favours, but not taking the most inform German left back in Europe, is a huge mistake.

Radja Nainggolan

Another player who should be rightfully unhappy for not being selected. While Nainggolan did drop off compared to how incredible he was in the 2016/17, he was still very good. He averaged 2 shots per game and 1.9 key passes per 90. He still was more than good for Roma. I myself do not like Roberto Martinez in the slightest. He somehow has got the Belgium job, after 2 11th places with Everton. It doesn’t make any sense to me how a mediocre manager gets rewards with a team full of talented players. Why Nainggolan should feel angry is because Fellaini was chosen instead. My feelings on Fellaini have been made very clear. He is not good enough for the top level and never will be. Nainggolan offers so much more and definitely should have been chosen instead.

Aleksandr Kokorin

The hosts go into this tournament with no sort of expectations, except to make their country proud. Their squad has a serious age problem. The average age for their 23 man squad is 28.4, which is just too old. One big miss for Russia is the Zenit forward Aleksandr Kokorin. He was in outstanding form last season, scoring 16 and assisting 5 in all competitions. He is your classic big striker, winning 1.8 aerial duels per 90. Having such a physical prescence in the opposition box is always a plus. While having Dzyuba and Chalov, both who are also in pretty good form, is still fine, it would have been better to have a guy who has been consistent up until his injury. Kokorin suffered a terrible injury in the Europa league, ruling him out for the entire world cup. It will be a big miss and they hope they will still get through a relatively tough group.

Harry Winks

Another player who is unfortunately missing the world cup through injury. Winks has been a brilliant player to watch grow, from an occasional cameo, to an important squad for Spurs. One of my favourite things about spurs squad is their depth in midfield. Both Dyer and Wanyama can offer a very physical prescence, Sissoko might not have much talent, but does have a lot of energy, and Winks is a great passer of the ball. He has a great 90% pass accuracy, with 3 long balls per game, showing his range of passing. His progression was cut short when he suffered a serious injury early on in the season. His lack of games makes his stats look worse, such as his low 0.5 key passes. This could have been higher if more games were under his belt. I wrote a piece a couple of months ago saying that Winks should have start, but that injury has ruined a chance for him to show England and world that they have a quality player who could be the future for that team for years.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlein

When the Ox signed for Liverpool last season, many questions were asked. During his time in London, he always showed promise, but Wenger constantly played him in multiple positions, which would eventually lead to him wanting to leave the club. He then joined Liverpool, the club he supported as a youth and dreamed of playing for. From then on, he finally hit the heights we all thought he could reach. Oxlade-Chamberlein was brilliant last season, in playing as an energetic midfielder who would help transition by winning the ball back high up the pitch. His contribution of 5 goals and 7 assists really helped Liverpool advance to the champions league final. But when he suffered that ACL injury against Roma, it was not a shame for the Reds, but also for England. England’s midfield is easily their biggest weakness. While I like Henderson and Dier as defensive midfielders, but don’t offer much in an attacking threat, and Delph is a good box to box midfielder. Ox would add a bit of a direct player to that midfield, and help drive England forward up the pitch to speed up transition.

Ruben Neves

Originally I was going to include Neves in my players who could be become superstars, but then I found out he wasn’t even included in the Portugal squad. Neves was by far the best player in the championship last season, and shown why he was bought for £16m from Porto. What has shown him to be a player above the rest is his passing, He ranked 5th in the championship in passes completed. What’s important to note is all the players above are Fulham players, who played 3 extra games since they qualified through the play offs. He also takes 2.2 shots per game from defensive midfield. What’s most impressive is 2.1 of those shots are from outside the box, which resulted in 6 brilliant goals from outside the box. He also averages 4 tackles and interceptions per game, which proves he doesn’t let his defensive work go. He had one brilliant season, which makes it real shame he wasn’t picked.

Fabinho

The final player is a real surprising one. I have a lot of respect for Tite in the aspect of picking players to fit a particular system, but Fabinho should feel a bit hard done by. He had another brilliant season for Monaco. While many of the big stars like Mbappe, Mendy and Silva all left, he stayed, and continued to show his class. He’s averaged 4.7 tackles and interceptions per 90. What makes this even more impressive is his passing numbers. He averaged a good 1.1 key passes per 90 in Ligue 1, and averaged 4.7 long balls per 90, showing his range in passing. He also contributes to 8 goals and 3 assists. While Monaco themselves dropped off compared to their league winning season, Fabinho can be one of the high points. Tite has stuck with the experienced Fernandinho and Paulinho, and the dynamic Fred and Casemiro. Bringing Fabinho might have been too much, but such a good player should feel a bit unfortunate.

4 Teams to watch in the Champions League

With the Champions League underway, let’s look at some teams that may not be favourites for the trophy, but might shock a few fans around Europe.

Napoli

Napoli are easily one of the most enjoyable teams to watch. They have such a balanced midfield with options like Hamsik, Jorginho, Allan, Zielinski and Diawara. They have midfielders who give them different options and are full of energy. They have a good defence too with Koulibaly and Albiol giving them strength at the back. But for Napoli it’s that forward three that is just so exciting. The main three, containing Lorenzo Insigne, Dries Mertens and Jose Callejon, contains speed, intelligence, and a killer instinct. Insigne has been consistently scoring and creating. Last season he scored 18 and assisted 9, while creating 1.7 chances per game. He is a player I am surprised is still at the club. With the numbers he is producing, I am surprised Barcelona didn’t buy him in the summer instead of Dembele. He would of costed less and wouldn’t demand to be a super star. But Insigne isn’t the player many talk about when discussing Napoli. In fact their Belgian winger, Dries Mertens, is the big player in Napoli. I think Mertens should be given a shout for the Balon D’or this year. He has easily been one of the best players in the continent in the past year. He scored 33 goals in the league and champions league last season. It’s almost incredible that a winger turned striker could put out numbers this insane at the first attempt. Callejon actually went under the radar for me, scoring 14 and assisting 12 in the league. All three of these players are similar. They all are incredible on the break and possess so much pace, and all contribute fairly to the team. Their manager Mauricio Sarri, has turned this team into one of the best attacking teams in Europe, and if it wasn’t for a dominant Juventus and drawing Real Madrid in the round of sixteen last season, then Napoli would of gained more credit for how well they play.

Liverpool

Pains me to say it, but Liverpool have such a high chance of causing a few upsets this season. They play in such a threatening and fast way which gives them the chance to beat anyone if they are given the chance to. Last season Liverpool were undefeated against the top 5, getting big wins against Chelsea, Man City, Spurs and Arsenal. Klopp has the ability to get his players motivated for the big games. Their style of play definitely helps them against the big teams. Bigger teams prefer to play higher up the pitch, with their defenders getting a lot of the ball. It’s why Liverpool are able to smash the bigger teams. They like playing without the ball and pressing high lines. It suits them for playing teams like Barcelona, PSG, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid. The only problem with their team is their defence, which doesn’t need to be discussed based on obvious reasons, and their squad depth. They bought well in some areas, with the addition of Salah already showing his worth, and Robertson giving some depth in their weakest position in defence. But they failed to buy in areas they were desperate to improve, being centre back and up front, They were constantly flirting with Van Dijk but it just failed to go through all summer. They tried to get both Lacazette and Aubamayeng, but refused to play the money. Their signing of Nabi Keita was brilliant, but isn’t available till next season. they have plenty of options in midfield but without Coutinho they do not have a match winner. If they have injuries they will struggle to beat anyone, but if they have a full team, I believe they could beat anyone in front of them.

Monaco

Strange to think that a team that reached the semi finals last season to be considered as a surprise package, but after losing Mbappe, Silva, Bakayoko and Mendy to big clubs, casuals will instantly write them off. But when looking at who they bought in and who they kept, it just continues to show why Monaco are one of the best run clubs in Europe. after selling Mbappe, Silva, Mendy and Bakayoko for a combined fee of £300m, and bought in replacements for much cheaper. They signed some good players in Ghezzal on a free from Lyon and Jovetic for £10m, and most importantly they bought some great young players in Keita Balde, Youri Tielemens and Kongolo, all for these players for less than the sale of Mbappe. They sold high and bought low. But the best thing they could do was keep a hold of their best players, Radamel Falcao, Fabinho, Thomas Lemar and Kamel Glik. These were easily Monaco’s best players last season. Falcao is in some incredible form right now, scoring 9 goals already. Keeping Lemar was very important. If they sold both of their superb wide players I think they would of been in trouble. Lemar has an incredible output so Monaco have nothing to worry about. Fabinho was easily their best midfielder last season. He has an incredible ability to control the ball and has a real aerial threat which can neutralise some big players in a game. He made 32 key passes last season which is pretty incredible from a defensive midfield position. Kamel Glik was brilliant and as given them more experience in a team full of young players. It can be argued that Monaco have actually improved, but that’s yet to see. But what we know is they still have a chance to surprise some teams.

RB Leipzig 

Now to a team that didn’t even exist 10 years ago. Leipzig surprised many by finishing second in their first season. They had players who were just so good and seriously helped them out last season, referring to Timo Werner, Naby Keita and Emile Forsberg. Timo Werner proved many wrong by scoring 21 goals and just proved he is one of the best young talents around. He’s fast. strong is incredibly accurate, with a shot accuracy of 61%. It goes to show how he scores with limited chances. Naby Keita is just incredible. He is one of those midfielders who can just do everything. He averaged 4 defensive actions from midfield last season and most importantly, completed 2.7 dribbles per game, only Ousmane Dembele completed more than him (3.2). The fact that Leipzig didn’t get bullied into selling him tells a lot about their ambitions. They want to be taken seriously. One player i’m surprised that wasn’t rumoured to move anywhere in the summer was Emile Forsberg. He topped the Bundesliga’s assist charts last season, beating Dembele and Thomas Muller. He has an amazing ability in his movement and how he picks out his passes. One of the greatest moments of last season was his back heel volley assist. It was incredible moment of magic that just showed his confidence. They’ve kept hold of these brilliant players and will be relying on them to get them threw the tough games they will face. Their sporting director Ralf Rangnick deserves so much credit for his recruitment this year, bringing in Augustin from PSG, Kevin Kampl to improve the midfield, and Bruma to add some pace to the team. All these players are under 24 so it goes to show how smart they are buying, without the need to sell. Let’s hope Leipzig can continue where they left off last season and continue to challenge the top.

 

Analysing the latest Manchester United transfer rumours

As the summer transfer window now has begun, now is the best time to look at 4 players who have been linked constantly to the club, with the first two actually happening. So let’s see

Victor Lindelof

The first signing of the summer! This guy never left the gossip in January, but it turns out we never approached him and was all coming from the Portuguese press. So all united fans that was the end of it. But his name started coming up again, so it gave me the desire to look him up and see how he is, and he’s good, but I don’t know about great. I look at him and Bailly, the presumed partnership next season, to see what is different between them and there is a clear distinction between both. Bailly is a very aggressive defender who leads our defenders in tackles and interceptions. Lindelof’s number aren’t close to Bailly’s, but there is one stat that seperates them completely. Lindelof has completed 1990 passes in Portugal, that is 1000 more passes than Bailly. It’s clear that Mourinho wants better distribution from the back, with Rojo being out injured for months. It seems Mourinho wants Bailly to act as the more aggressive defender, making more tackles, like a Chiellini or Vidic, and wants Lindelof to act as the sweeper and distributer, similar to Bonucci, Ferdinand and David Luiz. On appearance Lindelof is perfect for a defender. He’s tall, strong and versitile, being able to play at right back. And of course he’s young. Ensuring him and Bailly could become partners for years to come, and hopefully Lindelof turns out a great signing.

Alvaro Morata

This name came out of nowhere. With Lukaku, Belotti and Griezmann constantly linked throughout the season. We all assumed one of them would be coming to Manchester this summer. But with Atletico Madrid having a transfer ban, Lukaku going to Chelsea and Belotti being way too expensive, Morata seems like the most likely player to arrive, and I’m very pleased. United’s biggest issue, as you should know by now, and Morata was a machine last season, becoming Madrid’s second top scorer behind Ronaldo. He’s tall, can header the ball, and most of all, he’s a deadly finisher. United need a man to keep scoring , and  Morata seems like the guy. Most importantly to me, he had battered the smaller teams in Spain. United haven’t demolished the smaller teams this season and need to not give them a chance. Morata has been playing for team that destroyed teams all season. We are paying a lot for the guy, but I hope he turns out good, and scores a number of goals.

Ivan Perisic

Another one that came out of nowhere but makes sense. Perisic is a good player who contributes greatly from out wide. An issue last season for the red devils was a player outwide who could hold on to his position. Martial was very inconsistent, Mhikitaryan didn’t start till November and only occasionally showed his quality and Mata wasn’t quick enough to damage Fullbacks. It resulted in Mourinho playing Rashford and even Rooney outwide to add something. It’s a position we need to fix desperately. We can’t be relying on Morata and Rashford to score all the goals. Perisic had a very good season, scoring 11 and assisting 8 in a team that was very poor expect Icardi. Perisic will give us a reliable player who can be relied on to score, ensuring that we won’t be seeing draws at home again.

Fabinho

And last but not least is another play we’ve been linked to for a long time. Besides Pogba and Herrera, we don’t have much depth in midfield. Fellaini has played well occasionally but isn’t suited for every game and Carrick is aging. Fabinho will add a player to give Pogba and Herrera less restriction. He’s a player who reads the game very well and spread the ball across the pitch. He’s usually the player to start attacks for Monaco, giving the ball to the creative players to open up space. Fabinho used to play right back for Madrid and occasionally for Monaco, which could allow Valencia to roam further forward. Fabinho would add some steel and creativity to the midfield, to give us one of the deadliest midfields in Europe

Manchester City 5:3 Monaco Match Review

What a brilliant game of football this was! As I mentioned in my preview this game could either way, and for the most part it did. Manchester City started off very well, with Sane having a great time on that left side, and using a great piece of skill to set up Raheem Sterling’s goal. But it didn’t take long for Monaco to get back in the game. One ball from Fabinho (who had a great first half) and a header from Falcao put Monaco back in it. A common outlet for Monaco were their Fullbacks, Mendy and Sidibe. For the majority of the game they were phenomenal, Sidibe especially, his role was to get as many balls in the box as possible. It causes City’s back 4 to panick constantly. It seems as if those defenders can’t mark, because there were so many chances where Otamendi and Sagna just let a man slip right past them. All of those defenders were very poor in the game. They looked lazy and showed their age and in John Stones case, his inexperiene. Monaco’s second goal was another forward ball from Fabinho, and finished beautifully by the young Mbappe. This was another goal which just showed how poor City’s defending were throughout the game. There was no one even looking at Mbappe and just gave him the chance to make a run and have an opportunity at goal. It then took a bit of magic from Aguero to put them back in the game, as he’s done multiple times for City. We then City and especially Pep’s strength turn to his weakness. It only took Falcao to put Stones under pressure and take the ball from him and chip the keeper beautifully, putting Monaco back in the lead. But now we see a collapse from the French side. The lack of experience in that team came back to punish them. A lot of those players lost their heads near the end of the game, where we see City’s biggest players pull them out of a home loss, with Stones redeeming himself after a poor defensive display by scoring a goal past the keeper, Aguero smashing a volley in the back of the net from a corner, and Sane given a tap in to finish the game off. This isn’t the end of the fixture. Monaco still have a chance to win this game but it would take a total collapse from City from not just their defence. Monaco’s biggest enemies were themselves and set pieces. Two of Manchester City’s goals came from corners. If you want to get far in this competition you need to be solid in every aspect. They can’t give players like Aguero space. This was a brilliant game of football though, with both teams attacking quickly and with numbers through out the game. As a neutral, I hope to see a similar in France as we all saw in the first leg in Manchester.