Friday, 26 August 2016

Arsenal Line Up Two Players For €60 Million

It's been a long hard summer for Arsenal fans as they have waited in vain for the signings the club needed to strengthen a team who finished second in the Premier League last season. Granit Xhaka arrived what seemed like an age ago and there have been a few low key signings who are earmarked as "ones for the future". Among those low key signings was Rob Holding who has been called into action early in the first two league games this season as injuries forced Arsene Wenger's hand.

It looks like the elusive centre back is finally on the way though with reports coming out of Spain that Arsenal have finally agreed a price with Valencia for German international Shkodran Mustafi. The fee being bandied about is somewhere around the €40 million mark and it's an awful lot to pay for a defender. Unfortunately the transfer market has gone mad this summer and it's the going rate for a player of his ability and standing.

With both Per Merresacker and Gabriel Paulista injured the need for a central defender was pressing and hopefully it will be money well spent. He should make himself a first choice in the team alongside Laurent Koscielny and it's a signing which was needed whether Mertesacker and Gabriel were injured or not. Mertesacker is nearing the end of his career and the jury is still out on Gabriel, so the imminent arrival of Mustafi has to be welcomed.

With the central defensive issue finally looking solved the club seem to be moving quickly to bring in a striker. Reports from Spain again would seem to suggest Arsenal have jumped ahead of Everton in the queue and are about to wrap up the signing of Lucas Perez from Deportivo La Coruna. He's not exactly the international superstar we were clambering for, but needs must and there aren't too many strikers out there who are available.

With Danny Welbeck out until the new year and Theo Walcott looking like anything but a striker the only option besides Olivier Giroud is Chuba Akpom and the manager clearly doesn't fancy him just yet at least. I can't say I'm over impressed by Perez's scoring record to date, but he made a pretty good fist of it last season with just short of a goal every two games. He's had his fair share of clubs for a 27 year old and not all of them have worked out, but we have to hope we have signed him just as he's about the make his career breakthrough.

He's not going to be first choice of course with Giroud still occupying that role, but he will get to fill in for him at times or maybe come off the bench to replace him. There's also the possibility of the two of them playing together if the boss decides to change his tactics or we're chasing a game. Like any new player he has to be given a chance to settle in and hopefully the current atmosphere won't affect him or any of the other players for that matter. 

I know neither of these players are actually signed yet and everything I have just written could be to no avail, but it does look like they are going to happen. With the close of the transfer window still nearly a week away it's very early for Arsenal to tie down these deals, but I'm certainly not complaining about that. There's still the possibility of more players arriving, but I would be very surprised if we see any more arrivals. 

I would imagine the boss will have to sit down and take a deep breath if he has indeed brought his summer spending to €100 million. These two players might not have been our first choices at the start of the summer, but I think Mustafi in particular looks like he could be a great addition to the team. I doubt if anything will be tied up in time for us to see them play at Watford on Saturday, but they should be raring to go after the international break as long as we do actually sign them.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Predictions For Premier League Gameweek Three

It's that time of the week again when I attempt to predict the outcomes of the upcoming Premier League games. I didn't do too well last week with only four correct outcomes and six incorrect. Those poor results saw me fall from grace at the top of my predictions league and I'm not even in the top five as you can see from the table below.

BadgesThis WeekPTS
 1 (2)  Karl-Yngve Lund +85165
 2 (6)  Rutland Gooner +65105
 2 (5)  @ iWelloo +45105
 4 (7) goonerdhanesh +90100
 5 (3) sensisoccerworld +2095

Saturday August 27

Tottenham Hotspur v Liverpool 

12.30pm BST, White Hart Lane, London 

Spurs left it late last week, but they managed to beat Palace 1-0. They have taken four points from their first two games to keep themselves close to the early pacesetters. A win in this game would be a huge boost for Spurs and their chances could depend on which Liverpool team show up.

Eric Lamela and Harry Kane look the most likely Spurs players to perform for fantasy managers at the moment. 

Liverpool lost 2-0 away to Burnley last week after winning away to Arsenal the previous week. Their inconsistency was a huge problem last season and it looks like it could be again this season. This is their third away game in a row to start the season and it could be the toughest of the three for them.

When Liverpool are at their best players like Phillippe Coutinho, Roberto Friminio and Daniel Sturridge can do really well for fantasy managers.

This is a game which could go either way and I have a feeling it will end in a draw.

Prediction: 2-2

Chelsea v Burnley 

3pm BST, Stamford Bridge, London

Chelsea have come from behind to win their first two games and get off to the perfect start to the season. They have been fortunate that Diego Costa wasn't sent off in both games and surely he can't continue to ride his luck. A home game against a newly promoted team gives them the ideal opportunity to continue their perfect start to the season.

If Costa can control himself he's a good choice for fantasy managers and Eden Hazard has started the season well too.

Burnley got a great win at home to Liverpool last week after losing their opening game at home to Swansea. Their sole aim this season has to be to avoid relegation and the points they took from Liverpool were very welcome and most unexpected too. A trip to Chelsea is going to be a tough task for them, but they might just have a chance if they can show the form they showed against Liverpool.

Andre Gray looked good against Liverpool last week and he could just be the Burnley player to have for fantasy managers.

I can't see anything other than a Chelsea win in this game.

Prediction: 2-0

Crystal Palace v Bournemouth 

3pm BST, Selhurst Park, London

Palace have lost their opening two games without scoring a goal and they struggled to score last season too. The arrival of Christian Benteke could be what they need to rediscover their goalscoring form. A home game against Bournemouth must give them a great chance to get their first win of the season, but a defeat would leave some serious questions to be answered.

At the moment Palace players aren't doing enough to warrant interest from fantasy managers, but that might change if Benteke can have an impact.

Bournemouth have had a tough start to their season and lost their opening two games against United and West Ham. They did very well to stay in the Premier League last season and that has to be their aim again this season. If they're going to do that this is the type of game they need to get some points from.

I thought Callum Wilson might do well for fantasy managers this season, but that faith is fading fast.

I think this will be a close game and a draw is the most likely result.

Prediction: 1-1

Everton v Stoke City

3pm BST, Goodison Park, Liverpool

Everton came from behind to win away to West Brom last week and they have four points from their first two games. Their home form was very disappointing last season and it needs to be a lot better this season. They will feel they have every chance of winning this game and going into the international break on seven points from three games.

Ross Barkley has started well for Everton and my hunch he could thrive under Ronald Koeman might just be right.

Stoke conceded four goals at home to City last week, but they won't have to face an attack like that every week. They're still waiting for their first win after drawing away to Boro in their first game and they won't find it easy to get that win in this game. Everton still have a few injuries though and that might just give Stoke some hope of getting something from the game.

I'm not sure if any of the Stoke players will do the business for fantasy managers this season.

Stoke won't make it easy for Everton, but I think Everton will take the three points.

Prediction: 2-1

Leicester City v Swansea City

3pm BST, King Power Stadium, Leicester 

Leicester are the reigning champions, but they have only taken one point from their first two games. Their home record was excellent last season and it will have to be again this season if they are to get anywhere near where they did last season. A home game against Swansea is surely the ideal chance for them to get their first win of the season.

Riyad Mahrez is the Leicester player most likely to perform for fantasy managers while Jamie Vardy should come good too.

Swansea won away to Burnley in their opening game, but they lost at home to Hull last week. They came a little too close to the relegation zone for comfort last season and this season could be even tougher for them. A trip to the reigning champions is a hard task for them, but they do have the capability to get a result against almost any team.

Gylfi Sigurdsson is the Swansea player most likely to make a difference for fantasy managers.

I think Leicester should get their first win of the season with a couple of goals to spare.

Prediction: 2-0

Southampton v Sunderland 

3pm BST, St. Mary's Stadium, Southampton

Southampton played well enough away to United last week, but ended up losing 2-0. They haven't got a win yet, but they are a tough team to beat on their home patch. A home game against one of last season's strugglers who have lost their first two games this season must give them a great chance of getting that first win.

I still think Dusan Tadij could do very well for fantasy managers this season.

Sunderland have lost their opening two games and it looks like they will face another season struggling at the wrong end of the table. They had a very bad record on the road last season and there's no reason to suggest that will change this season. They came close to getting a point away to City in their first game though and that might just give them some hope.

Jermain Defoe is the Sunderland player who might get points for fantasy managers, but it's difficult to pick Sunderland players.

I think Southampton should have enough to get the better of Sunderland and get their first win of the season.

Prediction: 2-1

Watford v Arsenal

3pm BST, Vicarage Road, Watford

Watford came so close to beating Chelsea last week, but they ended up losing 2-1. They finished last season badly and this season hasn't started too well either. They could have a relegation fight on their hands and any points they could get from this game would be very welcome.

Etienne Capoue has done very well in the first two games for Watford, but he might not be fit to play this game.

Arsenal have only one point from their first two games, but at least the point away to Leicester last week was better than the defeat at home to Liverpool. They came second last season, but they will find it hard to match that considering how much some of the other contenders have strengthened. They need to get their first win of the season and a trip to Watford affords them the opportunity to do so.

With Mesut Ozil back he looks like a good choice for fantasy managers along with Alexis Sanchez and the Arsenal defence.

I think Arsenal will have too much for Watford and win this game by a couple of goals.

Prediction: 1-3

Hull City v Manchester United

5.30pm BST, KC Stadium, Hull

Hull have started the season far better than anyone could have imagined with six points from their first two games. They still have huge problems to deal with, but they have certainly given themselves a head start in the fight to avoid the drop. They have beaten Leicester and Hull already, but United could be a different proposition.

Eldin Jakupovic has done well in goals so far for Hull and is available at a very good price.

United have won their first two games too and they're living up to their billing as one of the favourites to win the league. They haven't been pushed too hard yet and they struggled on the road last season. If they are to genuinely challenge for the title they need to win games like this away to teams who will ultimately struggle at the wrong end of the table.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic has already made himself a must have for fantasy managers while Anthony Martial and Luke Shaw look pretty good too.

Hull will be no pushovers, but I think United will do enough to continue their 100% start to the season.

Prediction: 1-2

Sunday August 28

West Bromwich Albion v Middlesbrough 

1.30pm BST, The Hawthors, Birmingham 

West Brom won away to Palace in their first game and led at home to Everton last week, but ended up losing 2-1. They struggled to score goals last season, but they're not an easy team to score against either. They will fancy their chances at home to a newly promoted side, but Boro certainly won't make it easy for them.

Boro won away to Sunderland last week and they have started their return to the Premier League very well. They're unbeaten in their two games and look more than capable of steering clear of the bottom three. They are more than capable of getting a result against a West Brom team who don't concede too many goals.

Alvaro Negredo is living up to my expectations for him this season while Christhian Stuani looked very good against Sunderland too.

This has the makings of a very close game and I can see the spoils being shared.

Prediction: 1-1

Manchester City v West Ham United

4pm BST, Etihad Stadium, Manchester

City have won their first two games and scored six goals in the process. They weren't playing any of the league's better teams though and they didn't manage a clean sheet in either game. With Champions League qualification wrapped up they should be ready to have a real go at West Ham before the players head off to play for their countries.

Sergio Aguero is a must for fantasy managers while players like Kevin de Bruyne, David Silva and Nolito all look pretty good too.

West Ham just about managed to beat Bournemouth last week to win their first league game on their new ground. They will hope to match their high finish of last season and they won't have pesky Europa League action to distract them after going out on Thursday night. They put it up to a lot of the big boys at times last season, but they might not find it easy to do so again this time around.

If he's fit Dimitri Payet is the West Ham player most likely to succeed for fantasy managers.

I think City's firepower should be strong enough to see them win this game.

Finally it's still not too late to join my Fantasy League and my Predictions League for the new season. There's a €50 prize for the fantasy league and it's open to anyone to join.

To join my fantasy league go to the official site and set up your team after entering your details. Once you've set up your team go to the league's option and join a private league. The code for my league (Ever Arsenal league) is 64693-22498 and there's already well over 1,000 teams in it.

For my predictions league go to the official site and make your forecasts and then go to the mini leagues option. Go to the join a mini league option (invitation code) and use the code for my league FD6F8-HYH to sign up. After that you can join in the fun of predicting every single game left to play this season.

Prediction: 3-1

That's it for this week.

See you next week.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Arsenal Go From One Extreme To Another

After last week's 4-3 defeat at home to Liverpool I complained of Arsenal's defensive deficiencies and I was more than a little surprised that the makeshift attack managed to score three goals. That attack improved when Santi Cazorla and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain came on and I hoped their inclusions for the injured Aaron Ramsey and Alex Iwobi would be a good thing. The other changes against Leicester were not enforced by injuries with Laurent Koscielny and Granit Xhaka coming in for Calum Chambers and Mohamed Elneny.

From a defensive point of view it was a much better performance after the horror show against Liverpool and the return of Koscielny was the main factor in that improvement. With Per Mertesacker and Gabriel Paulista injured his return was a real boost to the team and they managed to keep Leicester at bay for most of the game. Unfortunately the defensive improvement was matched by a complete lack of creativity at the other end.

Quite often after Arsenal have shipped too many goals they become more defensive as a team and they end up struggling to score goals. We all thought Liverpool looked so good against us, but their 2-0 defeat at Burnley puts our defeat to them in a different light. We scored three goals against Liverpool because they appear to be even worse in defence than we are and a reasonable Leicester defence were rarely troubled by Arsenal.

Things did improve when Mesut Ozil came on and his inclusion from the start can only make us much stronger in attack. We still haven't signed the striker he deserves to compliment the most creative player in world football and I can only imagine that he feels the same frustration that us fans do too. There's still just over a week to go before the transfer window closes and the likleyhood of that much fabled striker arriving decreases by the day.

For me the experiment of playing Alexis Sanchez as the central striker just isn't working and he has to be moved back to a wide role. Our striking problems cannot be cured from within as far as I can see it and we need to spend some of the lovely lolly we are stock piling. The only actual striker we have available besides Olivier Giroud is Chuba Akpom and it's pretty clear he's not going to get much of a chance. I can only imagine Arsene Wenger doesn't fancy him in that role because he has been prepared to put the even less experienced Rob Holding in for both games so far. 

We are still waiting to see the Xhaka and Elneny partnership in midfield and again it's hard to understand why they aren't getting a chance together. Even when Francis Coquelin was running a very thin line on Saturday it was Xhaka who ended up making way in midfield. I'm sure the boss thinks he owes some sort of loyalty to Coquelin, but there has to come a time when we get to see the Xhaka and Elbeny partnership take root.

One point from the first two games is not a good return, but the calibre of the opposition was always going to make those games less than easy. The game next Saturday is away to Watford and it will be followed by an international break and it's a game we just have to win. If we can't beat Watford and go into a two week break without a win I can only imagine the reaction of some fans on social media in particular. It will certainly be a stronger Arsenal team in that gave and a lot closer to our best team and for me anything less than three points will be nothing short of a disaster.

That's it for today.

See you tomorrow.

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Arsenal's Trip To Leicester Previewed

A week has passed since I wrote my preview on Arsenal's first league game of the season against Liverpool last week. A week is a long time in the life of an Arsenal fan and an awful lot can change in a week, but obviously not for Arsenal. Well maybe I am a little wrong there because two players who played last week will be unavailable through injury, but that's hardly something new for Arsenal.

The much needed central defender is still a thing of our dreams and our striking options are as limited as they were last week. It seems like as a club we have decided to try to muddle through August as best we can and then concentrate on the season after the transfer window has closed. At this stage I'm not sure we will sign anyone despite having more actual cash available than almost any other club in the world. Arsene Wenger just doesn't seem to understand the frustration of the fans because we are so near and spending some of that money could be what we need to make us genuine contenders.

Of course nothing is guaranteed in football and we could still finish fourth if we spent the money, but we won't know if we don't do it. The sentiments against the manager are growing week by week and he is the only one who can do anything to stop them. There are some fans who want him out no matter what, but the more moderate ones like me can still be won over.

I have noticed a decided increase in anti Wenger sentiment since the season started and quite a of those who are in favour of his exit were previously on the fence. From my perspective the first time I ever thought he should consider his position was after the 8-2 loss against United five years ago, but he held firm and I will always support our manager whoever it might be. His contract is up at the end of this season though and I genuinely believe the club needs to be looking at very real alternatives, but I don't believe for one second that they are.

Anyway, on to Leicester and the team we might see playing away from home to last season's champions. Like Arsenal they lost their opening game and the manner of their defeat would hardly inspire confidence for the new season for them either. A defeat away to a newly promoted team with a temporary manager and only 13 senior players fit is hardly the stuff of champions.

The Arsenal team that shipped four goals at home to Liverpool will probably be very close to the one we see against Leicester. Of course both Alex Iwobi and Aaron Ramsey will miss out because of the injuries they picked up last week. The chances of Laurent Koscielny, Mesut Ozil and Olivier Giroud returning are slim as they all continue to build their fitness after their late returns to pre season. 

If any of them are to play the chances are Koscielny will come in, but he hasn't got even one competitive minute under his belt yet and it would be a risk to play him from the start. Needs must though and I wouldn't be surprised to see him in from the start with the other two possibly coming off the bench with a view to starting against Watford next week. The threat posed to our defence by Jamie Vardy's pace is a very real one and Koscielny is far more likely to be able to deal with it than Calum Chambers or Rob Holding even if he isn't fully match fit.

I think we will see Santi Cazorla and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain come in for Ramsey and Iwobi as they both did well when they came off the bench against Liverpool. That would mean Alexis Sanchez would start as the central striker again and I can't say I'm overly happy with that. I just don't see him as a central striker and I think he's a lot better in a wide role.

If he doesn't play as a striker he has to play in a wide role which would mean either Theo Walcott or Chuba Akpom would play in the centre. For me it has to be Akpom despite his lack of experience at this level because he is the only actual striker we have available. I would be shocked to see Akpom play though and I expect as few changes as possible from last week despite the concession of four goals at home.

Maybe we will see the full debut of Granit Xhaka after he started on the bench last week despite the club shelling out something like £35 million for him. It's a lot of money to pay for a sub and you have to think he will get his chance to start very soon. For me the team would be more balanced with him in midfield alongside Mohamed Elneny which would see Francis Coquelin missing out.

Leicester are no pushovers and they will want to do all they can to defend the title they won so well last season. They have done well to tie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez down to new contracts and they have added to their squad in the summer too. Arsenal inflicted two of their three league defeats on them last season and I have no doubt Leicester will want to take the chance to put that right.

The loss to Liverpool has made the outcome of this game all the more important for Arsenal and three points are almost a must. They can't afford to get too far behind the other teams looking to win the league and they need to get their campaign up and running as soon as possible. It's certainly not too much to imagine the team can win the game, but they have to control the game an awful lot more than they managed to do last week.

I can only imagine the reaction if Arsenal lose again and it's something I would really prefer not to deal with. It's up to the players to make sure that doesn't happen by winning the game or at the very least getting a point from it. 

Finally for today there's still time to join my Fantasy League and my Predictions League for the new season. There's a €50 prize for the fantasy league and it's open to anyone to join.

To join my fantasy league go to the official site and set up your team after entering your details. Once you've set up your team go to the league's option and join a private league. The code for my league (Ever Arsenal league) is 64693-22498 and there's already well over 1,000 teams in it.

For my predictions league go to the official site and make your forecasts and then go to the mini leagues option. Go to the join a mini league option (invitation code) and use the code for my league FD6F8-HYH to sign up. After that you can join in the fun of predicting every single game in the upcoming season.

That's it for this today.

See you tomorrow.