This Week’s Definition of the Premier League’s Big Five (Gameweek 2)

It’s a late post that describes how the big guys fared in the second MatchDay of the 2017/2018 Premier League season. Scoring 8 goals and conceding 3 among them, I continue from where I stopped last week by reviewing the performances of Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United.

Premier League (Gameweek 2)

 

Arsenal: Sloppy and Standing Still

I have chosen to use the words of Steven Gerrard and some other pundit whose name I either missed out on or I’m forgetting to remember. Sounds harsh? Considering the way Xhaka gave the ball away in the build up to the Stoke City goal and how the Gooners failed to convert those chances, maybe not.

The inclusion of Welbeck by Wenger is still a mystery. Playing three at the back (most of which were full backs) is another mystery too. Selling Gabriel to Valencia? I’ll rather not talk about it. Since a defeat in the first game of the season was avoided, I thought it’d probably come later. Now that one L is on the books, hopefully Liverpool won’t rub salt on their injury this coming weekend.

Chelsea: Still a Team to be Feared

In his post-match analysis, Thierry Henry said, “There was something about Chelsea today. We asked them questions, and they answered.” He said this while he was talking about the way David Luiz took the ball off of Wanyama and started off the move that saw Marcos Alonso grab his second of the day.

Yes, there may be some arguments about Tottenham playing on “unfamiliar grounds.” But after losing to Burnley, Antonio Conte seemed to find a way to revamp his side psychologically. While most thought the Burnley loss was the beginning of the end, Conte found his way around and surprised all, me inclusive.

Yes, I expected Spurs to put the final nail in the blue coffin but the champ has refused to die that easily. I’ll pretend I didn’t see that Batshuayi own goal.

Liverpool: Well MANEd

Just like in their game against Hoffenheim where Mane was at the centre of everything that the Reds had going for them, Mane was the centre of attraction in the game against Crystal Palace.

The difference between the two sides was crystal clear as chance after chance fell to names like Firmino, Salah and Sturridge. Maybe they should have been more clinical than they were but they weren’t wasteful.

Yes, before I forget, there’s the argument that they’re missing Coutinho. Maybe in the game against Watford but not against Benteke and co. Mane proved Liverpool are more than just Coutinho.

 

Manchester City: Great but can be Better

Right after the game against Everton, I mentioned something about how Pep Guardiola’s side and Manchester United were the most deadly sides in the Premier League. And one reason why City appears on the list is this: the number of chances they create in games is mind blowing.

See the number of shots? The last time I saw Manchester City this rampant was they played FC Barcelona and Luis Enrique quipped, “City pressed us to the stands.

For the most part of the game, City dominated but were wasteful – a problem that just won’t go away. The Kyle Walker red seemed to wake the sleeping giant as they played like a side on fire. Sterling, Bernardo Silva and De Bruyne were all amazing.

Yes, they survived the first home game of the 2017/2018 Premier League season with a draw. But some other teams won’t balk like Everton did when they come visiting. They will make Pep pay for making that wrong selection.

Manchester United: On the Rampage

Eight goals in the first two games is not a number to overlook. When you consider the fact that Mourinho’s side have not conceded any goals this season, those numbers carry even more weight.

While the Swans were able to keep the Red Devils at bay for the most part of the first half, they weren’t able to complete the job. One way or the other, Man. Utd managed to score 4 goals on the day – 3 inside the final 10 minutes of the game.

Leicester City must be wondering how to stop them from scoring because this Red Devil is one on a rampage!

 

About Author

Rotimi Daramola is a freelance football writer, football analyst and football content creator that is in love with the beautiful game. You can keep up with all of his writing and also engage with him on Twitter @rotdav

 

This Week’s Definition of the Premier League’s Big Five

With all the frenzy that the transfer market brought with it this season and the many moves we saw before the season began, it was hard to not anticipate the new Premier League. With banters going on before, player comparisons here and there, you could smell the excitement from miles away.

Add to that the fact that football fans had literally endured – well, let’s just say I’m speaking for myself here – the summer break, then you’ll fully understand the frenzy that gripped most social media channels on Friday as the kick-off between Arsenal and Leicester drew nigh.

A new Premier League season is upon us

10 games, 31 goals and three days later, the football world is still trying to recover from an “Opening Day Experience” like no other the Premier League has ever experienced. From the first class treat at the Emirates to debut goals littering the weekend and of course, the Chelsea loss, it was a season opener to remember.

While fans around the world are already looking forward to Gameweek 2 – and I’m already dreading those international breaks – I introduce to you the first of a series you can look forward to seeing on this blog at the end of every Gameweek.

This Week’s Definition of the Premier League’s Big Five will focus on the weekly performances of Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United.

I would have increased the number of teams to focus on especially with a name like Tottenham begging to become the sixth team. But the keyword there is big. Is Tottenham a side big enough to be ranked alongside those clubs listed above? You can resist the temptation to talk about Liverpool and just let me know what you think by leaving me a comment.

After the opening day of the new Premier League season, how did the PL’s Big 5 fare?

Giroud celebrates winner against Leicester City. Phot credit: Telegraph

  1. Arsenal: Game Chasers (Changers too!)

Arsenal and Leicester played the first game of the 2017/2018 Premier League. And they put on quite the show.  7-goal thriller proved again to me the current Arsenal side has not changed much from last season and here’s why.

Typical of Arsenal is the habit of conceding the game’s first goal and then using all that genius and creativity in the squad to chase the game. First, they had to make sure that the scores going into the dressing room at half-time was even.

Then in the second half, they picked up from where they stopped in the first, conceding first, then giving Arsenal fans the usual “high blood pressure treat” before going on to win the game 4-3. Arsenal’s struggle to defend set pieces was pretty evident but more obvious was the impact of the substitutes depth of the Arsenal squad.

Kudos to the Gunners for turning the game around – the banters were already lurking in the corner – but imagine if all that genius was used to dictate the pace of the game instead of having to chase the game the whole 90 minutes.

Premier League MatchDay 1 results

  1. Chelsea: Beaten

In a way, the word “beaten” in football is relative. A team could be thrashed 6-0 while another can lose a game by just a lone goal.

Antonio Conte’s men started the defense of their Premier League title by first conceding 3 first half goals, having two players sent off – Gary Cahill and Cesc Fabregas – and then practically chasing the game the whole second half. It was a mixed display, even for a neutral like me.

But, in all fairness to both teams, the Chelsea side seemed set up for a defeat, especially with their toothless striker up front and the very weak bench Conte named on the day. The absence of Matic was hugely felt and you begin to wonder how they’ll cope against Tottenham in their next game.

The argument that most of Conte’s regulars were either injured or suspended holds water, in a way. But there’s no denying the obvious: zero points, a goal difference of -1 and a trip to Tottenham’s new home to face a rival that will be SPURred on by the opportunity to make life even more miserable for Chelsea.

Salah celebrates scoring against Watford

  1. Liverpool: Bruised

For all the fuss about Liverpool’s fast and dangerous frontline, you would have been right to see Marcus Silva start his reign as Watford coach with a loss. But, as Premier League fans had found out in the #ARSLEI game the day before, the football gods in charge of the Premier League kind of changed their script writers.

Team Watford started like a team on fire, exhibiting that strange trait that saw Hull beat some top sides last term. Names like Okaka, Amrabat and Doucoure made life difficult for Henderson, Emre Can and Moreno. They dominated the midfield and weren’t afraid to bully the Reds in the entire first half. Did I mention Chalobah?

Klopp’s pep talk during the half time break worked like magic as Liverpool turned the tables around. Salah and Mane woke up from their slumber in time to put Liverpool in front – Firmino was still AWOL at the time – for the most part of the second half… until a lack of a “proper defender” saw them concede a 95th minute goal and share the spoils.

Lessons learnt? Coutinho was sorely missed and a very fine defender is needed. Bruised but unscathed, I look forward to the coming games and how Klopp’s army will cope.

  1. Manchester City: Strange

It’s like the start of last season all over again. Manchester City faithfuls were treated to yet another surprise team set-up and the very strange way the Cityzens played against newly promoted Brighton and Hove Albion.

Pep’s 3-5-2 formation was unmistakable from the blast of the ref’s whistle. I guess it was the one formation that could comfortably accommodate both of his South American strikers. But it meant they had to play through the middle, a path Brighton had already crammed full of players, players whose roles were hard to define.

Sometimes they were four players at the back. At other times, there were six, all moving in a form of synchronization that will make the Chinese army jealous. It was a water-tight defense system set up by a coach who seemed to want to catch Pep’s men on the counter.

But a Sergio Aguero goal and an own goal was enough to separate both sides. City won the game but left most football fans wondering how many versions of Guardiola’s team will be seen this season.

Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku celebrate against West Ham

  1. Manchester United: Dominant

I was aware of the project that Jose Mourinho was looking to show off to the world with his moves for Romelu Lukaku and Matic. His team needed reinforcements and reinforce it he did. The unknown was how his team will fare, especially after losing to Real Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup.

So, you can understand the surprise of many – even Manchester United faithfuls – when Lukaku grabbed two goals, Matic put on a Man-of-the-Match show which gave Pogba the freedom to roam forward and wreck havoc and Marcus Rashford put on quite the performance.

The West Ham players were overwhelmed by the 7-star performance of Mourinho’s men. Simply put, they stood no chance. And that was because every department of the Manchester United team was functioning so well.

It’s only Gameweek 1 and, like the general consensus states, it’s too early to make any calls. That being said, it was a season-opening weekend that won’t be forgotten in a hurry. And now, we can’t wait for the next Gameweek.

 

 

[BANTER] 6 Talking Points From the Opening Weekend of the Premier League

Banter is a supple term used to describe activities or a chat that is playful, intelligent and original. It is one of the key ingredients for communication amongst rival fans. We all love some good banter, don’t we?

Fantastic Banter

Fantastic Banter

However, just like it is much more pleasurable to give than to receive and not forgetting that givers never lack, I’ve applied same when it comes to banter. One sure thing is that everybody gets a turn and in this article, I take a look at some of those “talking points” from the weekend:

1. Wenger Out?
It can be argued that if the Arsenal team put in the same effort the Arsenal supporters put in during their #WengerOut campaigns, they’d win the league every year. Seven minutes was the time it took from Jamie Vardy’s first and Leicester’s second goal of the night to get #WengerOut trending on twitter barely just 30 minutes to the start of the new season.

After an extraordinary comeback (Arsenal being very good at comebacks don’t mean much), the #WengerOut band would have been delighted again with their manager (except Piers Morgan).

In what could be “their year”, the Arsenal supporters would be happy to finish in the top four, I really mean to win the FA cup and move on.
2. Liverpool Can’t Defend Corners
History merchants couldn’t do the job away at Watford in a display that typifies the club. They conceded after eight minutes from a Stefano Okaka header and conceded the equalizer in added time via a corner.

With the focus being Phil Coutinho’s transfer request, it seems that Liverpool are in need of a Van Dijk (no apologies). Saido Mane says ‘we’ll work harder’ and I’ll say maybe, just maybe next year.

Premier League MatchDay 1 results

Premier League MatchDay 1 results

3. Conte Kante
That would be my answer if you asked me if Antonio Conte could lead Chelsea to a defense of their League title. And with a thin squad and European commitments this season it seems like Chelsea might not enjoy this season.

 

A 2-3 loss to Burnley FC in which captain Gary Cahill and midfielder Cesc Fabregas were given their marching orders and Twitter striker Michy Batshuayi had no impact in the game and was substituted for 70m summer signing Alvaro Morata who immediately helped Chelsea at least finish with some dignity ensured the season started on the right note for Chelsea’s rivals.

With Hazard still not due from injury and suspensions to Cahill, Fabregas and a trip to Tottenham next, one would wonder how much weight Conte would lose.

4. It was just Brighton and Hove Albion
Former Arsenal fans, – sorry I mean Man City fans – shouldn’t get too excited as nobody expected the world’s third most-expensive defense to be breached by Brighton and Hove Albion. It would have been utterly ridiculous and Pep would have been called a fraud. There was nothing to laugh about in their dominant display and maybe the next match against Everton could bring some joy.

5. Mr. Dele
Bantering Tottenham is usually difficult. Not because they are quite exceptional, but you’d have to find their fans first and then get them to speak about any trophy they have won or nearly won or maybe a match day DVD would do then.

On the opening weekend, the verdict is banter postponed, many thanks in part to Jonjo Shelvey as he had to get himself sent off. Dele Alli delivered the first goal after getting on the end of a Christian Eriksen cross in a combination we will see many times this season.

Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku celebrate against West Ham

Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku celebrate against West Ham.

6. Anti-Mourinho United Display
After all summer signings scored on their debuts one would think Romelu Lukaku would feel some pressure. But there was nothing like that as he debuted in red with a brace. In what can be described as an exciting display by Manchester United, fellow new boy Nemaja Matic was equally impressive as Paul Pogba shone against West Ham in a 4-0 victory.

It seemed like an uncharacteristic pattern for Mourinho’s United charges – United under Mourinho have never won 4-0 in the Premier League and the last time they scored four was against Leicester City 4-1 at home last season. There would be plenty of time to laugh and call Pogba a “dabbing Mulumbu” but this week’s banter has been postponed.

Author

Awolope Kolawole

Video: The Goal That Broke Judas’ Heart Side Comments (#CHEMNU)

So many words, I’m speechless. You caption this .

It’s unsure what to have expected at the Stamford Bridge on Monday night with a depleted Manchester United side facing a full fledged Chelsea side.

That was a joke. Everyone expected Jose Mourinho to suffer not only boos from Chelsea fans, but also a loss to Conte’s men because of his lack of strikers.

The game ended 1-0 in favour of Chelsea who ran the Red Devils ragged for the most part of the game. Just in case you missed the solitary goal scored by Kante, see it below:

The sending off of Herrera was a game killer. Please don’t ask me if it was worth a red card as I’m still unsure of why a player’s first two tackles in a game will earn him two yellow cards.

Maybe I’ll have time to do a comprehensive analysis of the quarter finals of the FA Cup and an analysis of the things to come in the semi-finals later in the week.

Just maybe.

That being said, you can add this other name to Jose Mourinho’s long list of names: Jose ‘Judas’ Mourinho. Nice one Blues! Thanks for giving us something to talk about throughout this week.

Judas!

Have I mentioned how Hazard was unplayable, Rojo’s Man-of-the-Match performance, Valencia, Diego Costa’s new ‘acting role‘ and The Touchline Bust up?

 
About Author

Rotimi Daramola is a freelance football writer, football analyst and football content creator that is in love with the beautiful game. You can keep up with all of his writing and also engage with him on twitter @rotdav

There is Something Mysterious About the 2016/2017 Premier League Season

Enigma!

Enigma!

The Premier League, on any good day, is an interesting league, one of the most exciting (if not the most exciting one). One moment, you know what’s coming. The next, you’re left in awe of what just happened.

The Premier League is majorly a standout league for one reason: any club in the league, size and league table position regardless, can come visiting and steal 3 points from right under your nose, sometimes effortlessly, sometimes with the last kick of the game.

This, and not the famous English Fourth Estate (they play their part too) is what makes the league notoriously exciting. But the 2016/2017 season has been different.

No, I’m not talking about that 5000/1 kind of different. I’m talking about the 6th-position-for-months, Conte-nious-table-topping-performances, Pep-ppered-on-all-sides-by-Everton-and-Bravo kind of different.

Chelsea’s rise, Pep’s choice of Bravo despite those dangerously negative statiatics, Arsenal’s ‘upandan‘ season, Spurs, the Leicester blow-up, to mention but a few, have been mysterious and unexplainable!

There’s “almost” been more than enough excitement this season (enigma too!). Every week and matchday seems to have it’s own special surprise for all and sundry.

And in this article, I’ll be focusing on this week’s episode of mysteries served up by a mysterious season.

1. KARMA

It is believed that the world is run by a set of people, that keep the world in balance to prevent her from shutting down. For every good, there must be a bad, For every bad? A good. Its what keeps the world okay. It may seem a farce but, it is a reality which Jose Mourinho must come to terms with.

The 54-year old stormed out of his post-match TV interview apparently disgusted at the result, but it was one which had his own blueprint. Hull sat deep, refused to be bullied and had answers to all the questions United asked of them.

It was a classic Mourinho print, one reminiscent of his Inter days. He shouldn’t have been angry. He was simply being paid with his own kind of coin. His team had done the same earlier this season at Anfield.

Often times, snatching a win could be the sweetest thing in football but you being the victim? Leaves scars. However, it wasn’t the case here. Maybe Mourinho should applaud Hull’s resilience and be proud of them than putting up hypocritical behavior.

Mysterious Record: Welcome to a weird Premier League season

Mysterious Record: Welcome to a weird Premier League season

Have I mentioned the 6th place mystery? It’s been so enigmatic that I’ll just let this infographic emphasize how deep this mystery is.

 

Pep's Strongest Manchester City side yet?

Pep’s Strongest Manchester City side yet?

2. SANE, WILLY & JESUS, Guardiola’s Saviour

It doesn’t come everyday, the chance to say how much a goalkeeper saved Pep Guardiola on a Matchday. It’s usually the Spaniard’s frontment wrecking all the havoc and breaking down barriers.

But in recent times, just like a wardrobe malfunction, a “goalkeeping malfunction” has not saved Pep. It has made him look surprisingly terrible. Don’t get me wrong. The tacts have been fine.

Jesus comes from Brazil, gets a goal, an assist, runs away with the Man of The Match award and comfortably fills in the shoes left by Kun Aguero’s absence – all on his first Premier League start.

Sane’s trickery, run-ins, innovation and youth makes Man. City look alive again! I mean, Sterling is being greatly helped by the young German.

So, It’s obvious the Pep Tacts are intact. But no team can hide, for long, the pain of a bad (actually, terrible’s the word) goalkeeper.
And the Philosopher had been suffering this pain for some time. So, he decides to take a pill to alleviate his pain by replacing Claudio Bravo with Willy Caballero. The result?

Manchester City beat West Ham 0-4! No goals were conceded. Mysterious treatment of that “goalkeeping headache.”


3. THEIR OWN WORST ENEMY

Man is often said to be his own worst enemy. The architect of his downfall. And Arsenal are edging towards that spectrum.

Disastrous decision making in the stands courtesy Arsene Wenger, moments of naivety courtesy the Arsenal defence and a twirl of fate all combined to perfection against Watford. They lost the game

Being Arsenal, a loss to Watford may not entirely be a mystery. But, isn’t the mystery of CONSISTENTLY losing the “title ambitions” steam around this time of the year mysterious enough?

Season after season, the story has been the same: September to November, an Arsenal side that’ll kill all in sight. From Santa’s arrival, to his departure and the first month of the new year inclusive, you have an Arsenal side that just can’t help themselves from caving in.

They often play as if they are scared to win and while they have scored the most late goals this season, they must realize fortune will only favour the brave. It won’t hurt if they grow more cajones and played like champions. They already have the core!


4. ThE OTHER MYSTERIES

Chelsea fans have to forgive me for adding your beloved club to this list, instead of making it a point on it’s own.

Well, it seems no one else is interested in catching up. Since that unbeaten run, the only thing that can be a mystery is Chelsea losing. I’ve adjusted to this “type” of Chelsea. Nothing new to see – erm, can I mention that mysterious David Luiz goal?

Mysteriously, Liverpool were able to slow down that Chelsea train whose next stop sems to be the Premier League title. Mane is back. As such, the poor run of form should stop now.

Peter Crouch is still a prolific scorer. Scoring 100 Premier League goals is a mystery because not many made it that far. But Crouch did and celebrated the feat with his famous Robot Celebration.

Leicester’s season has been so confusing. It’s like the force of overcoming a 5000/1 odds is still with them, but this time, in a negative form.

The relegation cloud is hovering dangerously and that, my friends, is a mystery for a club that is the reigning champ.
Did I omit any other “mysteries”? Do you have some of yours? Please let me know by leaving a comment below. I’d love to talk football with you. 😉
About Author

Rotimi Daramola is a freelance football writer, football analyst and football content creator that is in love with the beautiful game. You can keep up with all of his writing and also engage with him on Twitter @rotdav

The Best 16 Footballers of 2016 (9-4)

#Salute: To the Ones that mesmerized us and left us wondering...

#Salute: To the Ones that mesmerized us and left us wondering…

The countdown continues as we look back at the year 2016 and review the football players who took our breaths away with their sterling performances. Just in case you missed the first post, you can catch up here. When you’re done, we’ll be here waiting for you… 😉

9. Mesut Ozil (Arsenal FC & Germany)

Picture Perfect, Award Worthy: Mesut Ozil finds his way past Ludogorets goalkeeper in a UEFA Champions League match during the year.

Picture Perfect, Award Worthy: Mesut Ozil finds his way past Ludogorets goalkeeper in a UEFA Champions League match during the year.

Jose Mourinho once admitted that anytime Mesut Ozil struck the ball, it made a different sound. It was another pitch, a note no one else could hit. At a time, there was an meme which had the magical German which and a line which read, ‘I WILL FIND YOU AND GIVE YOU AN ASSIST’.

In a world where it’s all about the goals, hardly would one see someone so dedicated to setting them up. Step in Mesut Ozil. The German creates goals with relative ease. It took him just 11minutes to create his first Arsenal goal and it is that kind of class that separates him from other Trequartistas in football.

He knows how to pick out the perfect pass, be it the arching pass that Bastian Schweinsteiger buried at the Euros or the looping corners into the box or the passes on a silver platter for Arsenal’s goal-shy forwards; with Mesut, the supply never stops.

He is gradually taking matters into his own hands, and the second half of 2016 has seen him evolve into the goal-scorer. He creates his moments and he decides what is best for himself, be it the mazy Puskas-worthy goal against Ludogorets, or the smash-ins or his tap-ins. He is gradually becoming ‘THE FOOTBALLER’.

He is already the specialist, and 2016 was the year he realized he was just more than a supplier; it was a year when the supplier became the executioner. And it won’t take long before the net starts making a different sound when he scores.

8. Paul Labile Pogba (Manchester United & France)

The Most-Talked-About One: Paul Pogba, back in a Manchester United shirt.

The Most-Talked-About One: Paul Pogba, back in a Manchester United shirt.

An obvious selection, for obvious reasons. Three years after leaving Manchester United for greener pastures in Juventus for a measly compensation fee, Paul Pogba returned to his boyhood club this year amidst a world record transfer fee. He was the most talked-about footballer this year, again, for obvious reasons.

The 23-year-old French midfielder started the year with the Old Lady, as they continued their fine form from 2015 to run unchallenged at the Scudetto. Pogba was an integral part of the team, with his lung-busting runs from deep, long-range stunners, fancy footwork and immense strength in the middle of the park all proving to be important tools in making him one of the finest midfielders in the world.

Shortly after the Scudetto glory, Pogba was a part of the French squad that performed admirably at the Euros 2016 but fell short of expectations by losing to Portugal in the final match. Paul himself was not at his dominant best for the national team but this can be attributed to the more defensive role he was asked to play by his national coach.

Fast forward over the summer and he now plies his trade in the Red half of Manchester once again. And while his performances have been far from bad, the tag of the world’s most expensive player on his head has seen many football fans calling for more consistency from the young midfielder.

Pogba can go on to be the best midfielder on the world, such is his potential and it is safe to say we expect him to justify this fact in the near future. He was nominated for the Ballon d’Or 2016 too by the way, which is the least that should be expected from a player of his quality.

7. Riyad Mahrez (Leicester City & Algeria)

Player of the Year: Riyad Mahrez poses with the BBC African Footballer of the Year award

Player of the Year: Riyad Mahrez poses with the BBC African Footballer of the Year award

Well what can I say? Riyad Mahrez’s meteoric rise to prominence is nothing short of phenomenal and is worthy of the pages of a Hollywood script. The tricky winger, signed dirt cheap by Leicester from Le Havre about three seasons ago, will surely go down in his club’s history as their biggest bargain signing of the Premier League era.

After taking a season to settle into England, Mahrez absolutely burst to life in his second season, grabbing double figures in goals and assists, an incredible feat for any PL player, talk less of one playing for a team like Leicester City. From the beginning of this year, Mahrez was part of a fairytale run to the end of the season that ensured that Leicester would finish league leaders and he was arguably their most exciting and outstanding player.

Later in the year, Mahrez was named BBC’s African Footballer of the Year, and was part of the shortlisted three up for the CAF Player of the Year award. He also found his way into the list of nominees for the Ballon d’Or award, alongside fellow revelation of the season, teammate Jamie Vardy. Could he possibly need to do more to grab a spot in this list? I think not.

6. Alexis Sanchez (Arsenal & Chile)

Another Copa: Sanchez gives the #Copa100 trophy a kiss

Another Copa: Sanchez gives the #Copa100 trophy a kiss

Unbelievable. That is one word that describes this man’s form this year. 2016 has been a very good year for Chilean ace, Alexis Sanchez. The versatile forward was the Premier League’s best rated player, according to WhoScored, achieving an average rating of 7.81 out of a possible 10.

In the calendar year, he grabbed 19 goals and 9 assists, more than any other player in the league. In a club that has countless talent going forward, it is impressive that Alexis is considered to be the best player, and he has justified this sentiment, helping Arsenal to finish second in the league in May.

Fast forward to the Copa America and Alexis was once again influential, contributing goals and assists in Chile’s run to the final and proving key as they beat Argentina once again to win the cup.He was named player of the tournament, despite not being the highest goal scorer or assist king. Such is the influence he had on the team’s success.

Fast forward again to the new season and Alexis has not slowed down one bit. Deployed as the main striker, he has rewarded coach Arsene Wenger’s faith with a return of 12 goals (second best in the league as at time of writing). His pace, trickery, shot power, intelligence and surprising “Hulk” strength despite his diminutive stature is a constant terror for opposition and his inclusion in our end-of-the-year list is well justified.

5. Luis Alberto Suárez Díaz (FC Barcelona & Uruguay)

Highest Goal-scoring Father: Luis Suarez poses with the European Golden boot alongside his kids

Highest Goal-scoring Father: Luis Suarez poses with the European Golden boot alongside his kids

Messi and Ronaldo are regarded as superhumans because they score goals like no one can. But how do you class a player that can score more? There was a popular belief that no Barcelona striker could score too much with Messi around (maybe Zlatan wasn’t Zlatan then). But the Uruguayan, since joining the Catalan giants, has added more bite to that Barcelona attack.

That’s why there was utter disappointment when he wasn’t named in the top three best players of the year 2016 because he actually was one of them. Doing everything right, and having the right names around him, Suarez won the Pichichi crown as the top goal scorer in the La Liga 2016/2016 season.

Fiery: Suarez made goal-scoring look like nothing over the year

Fiery: Suarez made goal-scoring look like nothing over the year

He didn’t stop there as he went on to win the European Golden Boot. He has become a part of a deadly trio, the MSN, whose joy is to terrorize defenders and rattle the onion bag as often as possible. Stopping Suarez and his cohorts will take a miracle and at that they’ll almost always find a way in the end.

With his wife and children cheering their hero from the sidelines in a culture similar to his own, Luis finally has found that psychological balance to enjoy his football. The ghosts of 2014 are long gone now. Suarez bites with his boots now. He’s been the best in the world in every position he has played in this year and that is subject to no argument.

4. Neymar Jr (Brazil & FC Barcelona)

Golden Boy: Neymar spent the year nutmegging his opponents and, ah yes, helping Brazil win that elusive Olympic gold medal in Men's Football

Golden Boy: Neymar spent the year nutmegging his opponents and, ah yes, helping Brazil win that elusive Olympic gold medal in Men’s Football

If Neymar Jr was a punching bag, he would be bruised, battered and almost useless at this point, giving the kind of year he had. The 24-year old had to deal with accusations of his involvement in his own transfer move which has been stylishly called all names but fraudulent.

He was made to choose between the devil and the deep blue sea by his club when they informed him he couldn’t play at two international events in the space of three months. It was a daunting year but one that seems to be worth it. Many would make a case that he shouldn’t make the list. But for a player whose is a high-functioning part of the world’s deadliest trio, that would be injustice.

From the Copa del Rey final to the Olympic games final and those times when Messi and Suarez were out injured, Neymar Jr rose to the occasion. He has his detractors, those feel he is to fanciful, but for a player who believes in the ‘Zinga’, the Samba and whose trademark is to show off like a peacock, you can’t blame him for being the closest thing to fun that football has seen since Ronaldinho gaucho.

And even though he doesn’t possess the free flowing hair of his counterpart, he does possess his skills and seeing him enjoy himself is beauty to football in itself. It is this flair that influences his passion, one characterized by his tears as he struck the penalty that brought Olympic Glory to the Seleccao after several years of agony.

He has suffered his worst drought in front of goal already but it’s all an indication that he is growing and if 2016 brought joy and agony simultaneously, 2017 can only get better for the purist’s golden boy.

Photo credits: Twitter

What do you think about the list? Is there a footballer “wrongly” placed above or below another? Or have we committed an unforgivable mistake by completely omitting a certain name? Let us know in the comments section below. We’ll like to hear from you.

This Week’s Definition Of the EPL’s Big Five

This Premier League weekend had too much to offer in terms of action. It was almost impossible to keep up with actions and reactions the world over. How about the big five?

Arsenal: Vintage
The Arsenal win over Chelsea was the classic case of being run over by the better team on the day. Arsenal simply ran Chelsea over, scored those goals via running faster than the sluggish Blues and ran away with the win. You can now understand how the Gunners scored 3 against a Chelsea side, in 45 minutes.

Special Credit to Mesut Ozil (for losing Kante) and Alexis Sanchez for that third goal. Even more special credit to Mustafi and Koscielny for giving it their all to keep a clean sheet. It was an amazing performance which made Conte look so ordinary and sent Kante disappearing. Speaking of Chelsea…

Chelsea: Sixes and Sevens
The last time I saw a Chelsea defense this confused was against PSG. Any Conte-led side is usually known for their water-tight defense. But this side seemed to let open the floodgates between the 10th and the 15th minutes of the first half.

Looking past Cahill’s gift, how about this for a full comprehension of the disarray in the side:

You’ll be wondering what those three Chelsea players were doing attacking just one player in the upper part of that image. You must also be wondering how Chelsea just caved in dramatically, right? I think I’ve got some suggestions.

One: Maybe it’s because Michael Jackson is now the HNIC, not Antonio Conte.

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Two: Maybe because Chelsea, according to Sky Sports, have lost 38% of their games in which John Terry did not play. Or maybe, according to Ivanovic, it was because the players failed to follow the manager’s instructions. Who knows!

Liverpool: Five Star
It’s been said that a team has to make mistakes or errors before the other can win. But what happens when the opposition is just more than you can handle? We’ll have to know what exactly can be too much for a Premier League side to handle. To do that, let’s see the Match Stats via BBC:

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A 74% ball possession by the other team is already headache enough. You can’t do much without the ball. Add to that 32 shots, (the highest total by any side, in a game, in the Premier League this season), and you can already see the big picture! In addition, according to Mirror, Liverpool created 24 chances during the game. Rampant doesn’t get any better than that!

Manchester City: Unfamiliar
Fans of Manchester City must have had a pretty battle on their hands so far, as regards getting to fully understand their new gaffer and his methods so far. Pep has turned City inside out. And this has rattled all sides they’ve played against so far this season. Except Swansea.

Playing against them midweek seemed to give them this strange courage to go all out against the Cityzens. They were bold enough to come back from conceding an early goal, by scoring one of theirs almost immediately. Guardiola’s men were obviously rattled! They looked forlorn. Even though they eventually won, it may just be the beginning of things to come, with Spurs up next weekend and Kevin de Bruyne picking an injury.

Manchester United: Pogba + 4 In One Half
How else do you silence your critics? Those loud bags who have been running their mouth about your bad patch of form? Well, if you’re Jose Mourinho, you just make one hell of a tactical change to your team. Bench your captain then ask the rest of the team to score 4 unreplied goals, in the first half, against the current league champs.

What if you’re a certain Paul Pogba, who has been called just an expensive Seyi Olofinjana? Whose goals seem to have deserted him? Well, you just bully your way through the opposition’s defense, connect your head with your teammate’s corner kick and score your first English Premier League goal via a header. Then you run off to the corner flag, confused at first, on which celebrations to display, before choosing to just stare down those haters.

Then of course, share a dab with a teammate.

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About Author
Rotimi Daramola is a freelance football writer, football analyst and football content creator that is in love with the beautiful game. You can keep up with all of his writing and also engage with him on Twitter @rotdav

Pogba: The Football Anonymous

Balon d’OR or Salon d’OR: Paul Pogba is in the eye of the storm after failing to live up to expectations. Photo creds: Twitter

Imagine a field full of footballers. Now, instead of a ball, there is a microphone and, like an Aa (alcoholic anonymous) meeting, each player has to introduce himself before he talks.

Pogba is up. He starts by saying, “Hi, my name is Paul Pogba. I’m a footballer.” You get the drift? 

Midfield players, in times past, have been compared to almost anything in sight. You name it! As a midfielder, you could be a rock (Makalele Kante), a Bentley (well Bentley) or even a magician (Ronaldinho, Zidane).

Speaking of midfielders being magicians,  apparently, there appears to be a new breed of magicians. I’m not talking pulling a rabbit out of a hat or some fancy trick that captivates the audience. I’m talking the disappearing acts, mastery of illusion type of thing, the “now you see me, now you don’t” type of magic.

In the famous words of a wise old professor (ahem Wenger), if you cost 100million, you better be able to play the value. Has Pogba shown the value, even in flashes? NO? If you’re a player bought for a world record fee, you better play like Ronaldo or, at least win two Champions League trophies in three years. 

You better settle in and don’t be a source of joy to opposition fans. You better score week in week out and not have more hairstyles than goals. You had better help the team win and not be compared to a dabbing Seyi Olofinjana. You’d better be on course to be the world’s best and not the world’s most expensive joke. You’d better help your team win and not be missing in matches.

You can’t cost 6 Eric Diers, 8 Charlie Austins, 4.5 Gundogans, 186 Riyad Mahrezs’, 14 Casemieros, 4 Toni Kroos, 8 Nampalys Mendys, a hundred Jamie Vardys’, 3 N’golo Kantes and still not be able to lace Joe Allen’s boot at the moment… It’s preposterous. It’s disgraceful. It’s abysmal!
You are the world most expensive player, the button of jokes. You become anonymous in games and have no meaningful impact whatsoever. The only real contribution is the amount you have made for United in short sales. That’s Pogba.

Juventus must be very happy with this piece of business, and this is what I call the real Italian job. Replacing Pogba with a player that has already scored 3 goals in 3 games (Higuain if you’re wondering).

I love football. No I’m not a United fan but, when a player is valued a hundred million, he better make me feel privileged to watch football, lucky to be alive to watch him play. Sadly, Pogba has insulted all these. He might get better but, as a Liverpool fan, I hope not. 

Cheers!

This Week’s Definition Of the EPL’s Big Five

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It’s not very often that derbies, in any football league, end without a trace of controversy in sight after the game. Well, whatever controversy there could be was quashed by the way Pep Guardiola’s men played the first half and how Jose Mourinho’s army responded in the second.

Even though there were more than enough talking points this weekend (the referees stole the show), yes, I had to start with the biggest game of the weekend. The big one.

Liverpool and both Manchester clubs impressed. Arsenal and Chelsea struggled. Now let’s take an in-depth look at each club’s performnaces over the weekend.

Arsenal: Intensive
I think the saying that, “you play at the level of your opponent,” has an iota of truth in it. Southampton came to the Emirates with a fast game plan. Redmond, Jay Rodriguez and Virgil were the fast guys.

The only way to counter them was simple: Play faster… and intensely! The intensity of the Gunners was needed to cope with the pressure of the Saints and also create something going forward. Even though a 93rd-minute penalty was needed to win the game, the Gunners gave the fans an intense display.

Chelsea: Latecomers
And for the umpteenth time this season, the Blues needed an 80-somethingth minute goal to garner points. Let’s just say it’s becoming a habit for Antonio Conte’s men. Maybe it’s some sort of game plan. Who knows!

Yes, the fans had legitimate cries as regards the officiating of this match and the performance of some of their players. That FERocious kick (okay maybe more glaring than ferocious) on Cahill? The dilemna of a bicycle kick to the head of a defender before a goal? What was Courtois thinking? But I’m sure most of them will be happy they’ve got Cesc Fabregas on whom they can always call on.

Liverpool: Spot On
I’m not sure what it is about this Klopp side but, when they turn the switch on, every other thing must bow. Yep, that’s right. I was expecting a tight game against Leicester. But the Reds had other ideas.

Yes I’ll admit I didn’t see the wide margin coming. Firmino, Lallana did run riot. There was the slight case of Sturridge but it didn’t hurt them too much this time around. Hopefully, they won’t be brought back down to earth by another shock away loss next weekend.

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Manchester City: Tireless
The first half of the Manchester derby was entirely dominated by Guardiola’s men. The domination was so severe that the Red Devils needed a Bravo fumble to score. This domination looked simple on T.V.

But no domination comes just like that. Domination of a game this big involves a whole lot of running, (off and on the ball). And Pep’s men did this so effortlessly.Two men in particular gave the game their all: Kevin de Bruyne and Otamendi. Tireless attacking by the former which won a half, tireless defending by the latter which saved the other half.

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Manchester United: Half-Beaten
While the world showers Guardiola with all the praise for beating Mourinho in yet another derby, a Jose Mourinho commendation is due. How he and his boys managed to survive that first half is still a mystery.

His selection let him down the entire first half and he was bold to make changes that paid off immediately in the second half. Rashford’s introduction swung the game’s pendulum in United’s favour. City may have won the game but, Manchester United won the second half by a large margin, even though they still ended the game pointless. Fair or not?

About Author
Rotimi Daramola is a freelance football writer, football analyst and football content creator that is in love with the beautiful game. You can keep up with all of his writing and also engage with him on Twitter @rotdav and on LinkedIn

Manchester United vs Manchester City: What The World Is Saying About The Manchester Derby

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This season’s Manchester derby has been called all kinds of names already. From the “Monster Derby” to the “Mother of all clashes,” the first Mancunian derby of the 2016/2017 English Premier League season has been the talk of the town.

And why not? Any game that involves Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola locking horns is one that gets a lot of people talking. Throw a Zlatan-like spanner into the mix and you have a “Manchester Derby Fever.”

To be honest, it already feels like another El Clasico game with a red card lurking somewhere in the corner for one of Jose’s men (remember those days).

Jose and Pep have stolen the headlines (forcing Ibrahimovic to come up with an advertorial just to get some of the spotlight on himself). Everybody is talking about what who will do to outsmart the other, and win.

And so, for this post, I have searched through the internet to find out what people are saying in anticipation of the almighty Manchester derby. Here’s some of what I found out

“For me, the big games are the ones that trigger you. They’re the games everyone speaks about. I have played in many derby games, I’ve played in El Clasico, the Inter-Milan derby, Ajax and Feyenoord, which was the big one there, and PSG-Marseille. I have played in all of them, the only one I missed was this one. This is coming on Saturday and I am very well prepared, confident and focused, and there is a lot of hard work behind that. We are prepared and we are ready. We just wait for the game now.” – Zlatan Ibrahimovic

“They must have studied every move and it’s going to be a beautiful show on the touchline, the pitch, everywhere. City will base their game on possession even though Guardiola has not been there for too long. Mourinho will be more practical. It’s going to be beautiful to watch, and I’ll watch it too.” – Luca Toni via Express

“We talked about it before, if City play with a false nine and that player is dropping, Pogba will have that false nine behind him, so how do you cope with that ball always going behind you? The two centre-backs won’t be able to come, because the two wingers might be inside the centre-back and the full-back. So if they put the ball in behind, you’re going to have to drop.” – Thierry Henry via SkySports

“Sergio Aguero is obviously a massive miss for City and his suspension tips the balance in United’s favour. Kelechi Iheanacho is rumoured to be replacing him and I’m sure he is capable of performing on the big stage but nobody can replace Aguero really.” – Harry Redknapp

“If any player is to score in Saturday’s
Manchester derby, it’ll be him,” said the former City midfielder. He’s a big game player and Jose Mourinho is the reason that he is at Old Trafford. As a player, Ibra oozes confidence, and Mourinho will big him up so much that he will enter the pitch on derby day feeling 15 feet tall.”
– Didi Hamann

“The height and power of United striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic will make Saturday a big test for City’s entire defence, not just their keeper. As I said in my analysis on The Premier League Show, United under Mourinho get the ball into the box far earlier and far more often than they were doing last season. This season they have already made 53 crosses from open play, compared to 29 in the final three games of last season. The reason they are doing that is their aerial threat, not just through Ibrahimovic but also the physical prowess of Paul Pogba and Marouane Fellaini when balls are delivered into the box. They will play the same way against City – looking to get the ball out wide and then crossing it into the danger areas for someone to put their head on it.” – Alan Shearer via BBC

“Let’s try not to derive too much meaning from this encounter. It’s just too early, not only in the season as a while, but also the new managers’ Mancunian history, to take any sign as symbolic of either’s spell in their new surroundings. Both stories of José and Pep in the north west of England are unwritten, not even in progress, so it’s impossible to take out any judgment from this game as definitive.” – Tancredi Palmeri via WhoScored

Well, I think I saved the best quote for last! Regardless of the hype that has gone on before this game (round of applause for the English media please), both managers, Mourinho and Guardiola, have only started a very long journey.

No, I’m not trying to take anything away from this derby. A derby will always remain one: bragging rights are always at stake! Plus, this time around, the chance to have the pendulum swing heavily towards your direction, in terms of winning the league.

But this derby is only the fourth game of a young season. As much as a lot is being expected, the season has only just started, this time, with a bang.

All that being said, what do you think? Who will win this derby? Mourinho’s army? Guardiola’s Philosophers? Or, will both teams settle for a point each, while leaving the remaining point for the ref? Leave your comments below and let me know what you think?

About Author
Rotimi Daramola is a freelance football writer, football analyst and football content creator that is in love with the beautiful game. You can keep up with all of his writing and also engage with him on Twitter @rotdav and on LinkedIn