Tag Archives: Arsenal

Is Willian’s Transfer to Arsenal a Costly Gamble or a Smart Piece of Business?

Arsenal have signed Willian from Chelsea on a free transfer. However, details have emerged that the Gunners will be potentially paying Willian a staggering £35 million if the Brazilian sees out his three-year contract with the club. Even though Willian would be earning a base weekly salary of £100,000, which is slightly lower than the £120K he earned at Chelsea, Arsenal have offered him a colossal signing-on fee on top of the appearance fees and loyalty bonuses he will receive. It makes the Brazilian the second-highest earner at the club, only behind Mesut Özil.

The move has left me feeling divided.

On one hand, Willian is a fantastic Premier League player who will add value to any Premier League team. Why? He is both a clinical finisher and a creative influence for setting up chances. Last season, the winger scored 11 goals and made 9 assists in all competitions for the Blues. Let’s put that in perspective. Only Tammy Abraham has scored more goals (18), and Christian Pulisic has made more assists (10) than the Brazilian. Also, 9 of his goals and 7 of his assists came in the Premier League, indicating that Willian still has a juice in his tank to play in the English top-flight despite turning 32 years old five days ago, on the 9th of August (coincidentally, Singapore’s National Day). Which sort of brings me to my other point…

I’m not at all convinced that a 3-year deal was best for a player who’s best days might soon be behind him. Of course, I may be wrong, and Willian would go on to become an even better player. In this day and age, footballers are breaking boundaries, and several stars are still playing at the highest level well into their mid-thirties. However, other issues make me apprehensive about this move.

The biggest one is probably the fact that Arsenal have recently let go of 55 members of their staff so that they can open the door for squad development after a “significant” loss in match-day revenue. Neil Humphreys from The New Paper says it really well: “Arsenal’s job cuts simplified matters. Their priorities are clear. It really is about the money.” I agree with him. Arsenal’s actions are a disgrace, and Stan Kroenke should be ashamed of himself. Don’t get me wrong. If the Arsenal board believe that Willian deserves £35 million, I have no qualms that they paid him that amount. What i take issue with is that he was acquired at the expense of the full-time jobs of 55 people.

Besides the moral and ethical principles behind this deal, there is also the question of where will Arteta deploy Willian. The Brazilian is most effective if he plays down the right flank. Despite a shaky start, Nicholas Pépé has blossomed in the right-wing role towards the end of the season. Even though he has not replicated his goal-scoring form at Lille, the Ivorian has been an outstanding player for the Gunners overall. His displays in the latter stages of the FA Cup have shed light as to why Arsenal shelled out a club-record £72 million for his signature. The Ivorian can play as a left-winger, but his playing style has always been one where he cuts in and unleashes powerful shots with his preferred left foot. If Willian comes on board, would he be content to play as a left-winger?

If Willian can indeed be an effective left-winger, then Arsenal would have solved a huge issue. Arsenal currently only have Saka who is good enough to play on the left. However, I think Saka plays better as an attacking left-back rather than a winger. Saka and Willian on the left flank is a scintillating prospect for Gooners and a frightening one for the opposition defenders.

That, unfortunately, raises another question: where does that leave Kieran Tierney? Yes, Injuries are inevitable and chances will be aplenty since last season’s FA Cup triumph means that Arsenal will be in next season’s Europa League. Yet, Tierney and Saka are at a ripe age where regular first-team football is necessary for them to develop and fulfill their potential.

If Arsenal are bringing Willian as a backup option, then this would not be a huge issue, but it is clear that he is not a bench warmer. On paper, Willian left Chelsea because they were unwilling to meet his demands of a 3-year contract. Let’s be real, though. That was not the only reason why. With the signing of Hakim Ziyech, Willian was more or less replaced before he left.

On top of that, Chelsea are currently overloaded with attacking options. Currently, Chelsea have Christian Pulisic, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Timo Werner, Tammy Abraham, Mason Mount, Olivier Giroud, and Michy Batshuayi. Add Hakim Ziyech, and potential new arrival Kai Havertz to the mix and that’s 9 players to occupy the attacking berths in the formation.

Yes, I am well aware that only Hakim Ziyech is a natural right winger of the lot. However, Lampard tends to start matches with a 4-3-3 formation. With only 3 to 4 starting places (RW, LW, CAM, ST) up for grab, Lampard may have to field some players out of position to placate their needs for playing time. Hudson-Odoi was fielded as a right midfielder in the recent Champions League tie with Bayern Munich. We could see Tammy Abraham deployed there as well since Werner will most likely play as the starting forward.

I think signing Willian on a short-term deal would have been the best move. Willian still has at least another good season left in him and he is an excellent addition for the gunners for the 2020/21 campaign. However, he is not a long-term option for Arteta and the Spaniard needs players who can be part of a long-term rebuild of the club. Willian’s impact is likely to be a short term one but I think it is more important that the club use Willian’s acquisition to buy some time in finding the right kind of winger to lead the club forward for the next few years. I still think it’s appalling that Arsenal dished out that much on Willian after laying off 55 members of their staff, especially since it would only cost a fraction of Willian’s wages to keep them on board.

Featured Image by patrick Blaise from Pixabay

Goodbye Alexis Sánchez. I’m Genuinely Sorry It Didn’t Work Out

It would seem that Alexis Sánchez’s time with the Red Devils is finally coming to a close. After a two and a half year “association” with the club, Internazionale look to make his season-long loan move into a permanent one. Quite honestly, it is a move that suits all parties: Inter would not pay a transfer fee for the Chilean international, Manchester United would save tens of millions in wages, and Sanchez gets to continue his fine form with the Serie A giants.

Yet, I can’t help but wonder what in the world went wrong.

On January 22, 2018, Manchester United announced the signing of Alexis Sánchez from Arsenal in a swap deal that saw Henrikh Mkhitaryan move the opposite way. At the time, I believed it was a brilliant move for all parties involved. Sánchez was running down the final 6 months of his contract, looking for a move away from the Emirates, and Arsenal did not want to lose the winger on a free. Manchester United wanted to offload Mkhitaryan, who, while he did not want to leave Old Trafford, was in need of regular playing time. That was my assessment then. Oh boy, how wrong I was.

In the history of swap deals that have transpired in the footballing world, the Sánchez-Mkhitaryan swap is by far one of the worst ones. Both players failed to live up to expectations and coincidentally find themselves on loan to Serie A clubs this past season. Mkhitaryan was loaned to AS Roma.

What I don’t understand is why Sánchez failed at Manchester United. He was a proven Premier League goal scorer and had an excellent track record before his tenure with Arsenal. He was outstanding for FC Barcelona and played well for Udinese. At Arsenal, he was lethal up front. The Chilean made 166 appearances in all competitions for the Gunners and scored an impressive 80 goals. He was supposed to continue his scintillating form at United, and was slated to form a formidable attacking partnership with Lukaku and Rashford.

However, from the get go, Sánchez was off. It wasn’t a case of him being a lazy player or wasn’t hardworking enough. He often ran for the ball when the team lost possession and he would make runs and attempt to link up with the attacking play. However, something never ever clicked during Sanchez’s time at United.

Was it due to Mourinho’s management? One could make a case for this given how the Special One often utilized a defensive (or how some would term “negative”) approach to the game. That could have contributed to why he racked up so few assists and goals. A lot of his teammates, like Rashford and Martial, appeared shackled under Mourinho as well. However, while the rest of the squad prospered after Ole took over, Sánchez still never took off.

Injuries hampered his second season season at United as well, and perhaps it affected the player’s ability to settle in. People often overlook this as a problem when it can actually make or break a players career at a club. The psychological well being of a player is really important, and maybe Sánchez never had the time to properly settle in the club. After all, he was brought mid-way through the season, and adapting to new teammates and tactics in a short span of time is by no means an easy task. That being said, he did have a full preseason with the club to adapt for the following campaign but still fired blanks most of the time.

One also has to look at why he performed so well at Arsenal, and there was one key reason for that: Mesut Özil. At United, Sánchez lacked someone like Özil – someone who was a playmaking maestro. Pogba could have offered what Özil did at Arsenal, but under Mourinho, he rarely featured in that attacking midfield position that the German occupied.

One thing is for certain, Sánchez was expected to come in and produce fireworks immediately. The United hierarchy were so certain that their new number 7 would be off the mark that they provided him with a staggering 500,000 pounds-per-week contract. That really did him more harm than good, and United fans circled the player like vultures whenever he failed to score or make an impact in the game. For 500,000 pounds a week, Sánchez needed to do better. He showed glimpses of his old form in some matches, but they were rare exceptions. He was pocketing a colossal figure weekly for regular sub-par performances and thus became a scapegoat for the club’s struggles. Maybe United fans were too harsh on the player, but time is a luxury in the Premier League, where instant results are demanded.

Sánchez is most certainly departing Manchester, and it makes the most sense for him to join Inter. Since the Serie A’s restart, he has been in fine form, and continuing that momentum with a team and system he is comfortable with makes the most logical sense. Offloading Sánchez also means that more resources become available for a move for Jadon Sancho. If the rumours are true, Sánchez will end his contract voluntarily, and it saves the Red Devils a ton of cash.

To conclude, I want to go over one last point. Some people might attribute Sánchez’s failure to the curse of the number 7. After Cristiano Ronaldo, every Manchester United player to don the (in)famous number has struggled. Memphis Depay, Ángel Di María, and Michael Owen are all amazing players, but they failed to reach the heights they were supposed to at United. Perhaps there is some truth to this “curse.” Not that there is some actual black magic spell put on the number, but rather the weight it carries. Many famous players have donned the number 7 and the expectations are immense. United fans have longed for another star player like George Best, Eric Cantona, and Cristiano Ronaldo.

You might think it’s stupid to blame the failure of a player due to the jersey they wear. It’s just a number on their back, it’s meaningless. Maybe. Yet, at the same time, perhaps we treat players like machines and fail to remember that they are humans which may be the problem. After all, Sánchez had at least a billion United fans expecting him to perform magnificently every game. It is a daunting task for any player to assume the mantle of the number 7 shirt. Maybe, just maybe, Sánchez cracked under the enormous pressure.

Premier League Week in Review

The start of something special for a few teams?

Welcome to the Premier League Week in Review, where we take a look back at everything that has happened in the last week or so in England’s top flight league. We go over our player of the week, name three winners and losers, and discuss what we learned. And man, did we learn quite a bit.

Player of the Week

Bruno Fernandes, Manchester United

What else is there to be said that has not been said already? The Portuguese midfield magician has been a revelation since his arrival in Manchester, becoming United’s most important player and arguably among the best players in his position in the league. In United’s last two games, 3-0 and 5-2 demolitions of Brighton and Bournemouth, respectively, Fernandes was the best player on the pitch, pulling the strings from midfield and acting as the conductor of the terrifying Manchester United attack. His finishing ability and eye for a pass were on full display in both games, amassing three goals and two assists over those two matches. Two incredible performances from one incredible player, his rise to near-world stardom is coinciding with a potential phoenix-like rise of the new Manchester United.

Honorable Mention: Mason Greenwood (Manchester United), Allan Saint-Maximin (Newcastle United), Jarrod Bowen (West Ham United)

Winners of the Week

1.) Manchester United

Yes, the competition was not great, but oh boy did United look good. Yes, there were issues in defense (R.I.P. Harry Maguire’s ankles), but United showed they have enough firepower in attack to be an absolutely terrifying team for the rest of the season and going into next season. The midfield pairing of Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba has been nothing short of outstanding, and Ole has seemingly found a working front three of Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, and Mason Greenwood. The movement of the front three and ability of the midfielders to provide for them and score themselves makes United an incredibly fluid, difficult to predict, and hard to stop team when on the attack. They have the ability to counter with pace through all three of the front players, as well as utilize the creative ability of Pogba and Fernandes to pick apart teams sitting back and defending. This team is on the cusp of title contention, and while they definitely are not there yet, this attack is a major part of the larger solution for Solskjær. I would say United are currently the favorites to finish in the newly formed race for third place between them, Leicester, and Chelsea.

2.) Arsenal

In a similar vein to United, you can sense that the pieces are starting to come together for Mikel Arteta at Arsenal. The Spaniard’s shift to a back three has provided some needed defensive solidity and seemingly brought out a consistently solid David Luiz. The back three has also juiced up the Arsenal attack, adding in the element of attacking wing backs to the equation. The wing backs, Kieran Tierney especially, have shone in the last two games, while Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Eddie Nketiah, Bukayo Saka, and Nicolas Pépé have all put in solid shifts in attack. Granit Xhaka and Dani Ceballos have been solid in midfield, despite some shakiness in the second half against Wolves, and things seem to be progressing on keeping Ceballos in North London for at least one more season. Positive improvement on the pitch sees the Gunners with a solid chance at qualifying for the Europa League next season, which is a massive improvement compared to where they were when the season resumed a few weeks ago. The most important developments have happened off the pitch, though, as the club confirmed new contracts for youngsters Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli, and rumors in the tabloids indicate that there is positive momentum leading toward a contract extension for Aubameyang. For a season that seemed to be falling apart at the seams when the league was suspended, Arsenal and Arteta have done well to not only get back on the rails, but begin building toward something great.

3.) West Ham United

I will not lie, I absolutely did not see West Ham’s win over Chelsea coming, and I know I am not alone in this. The Irons have been largely hapless this season under both Manuel Pellegrini and David Moyes, but when they needed it most, they seemed to pull the rabbit out of the hat here. The Chelsea defense was shockingly poor, having difficulty dealing with the creative ability of Jarrod Bowen and pure dynamic unpredictability of Michail Antonio. It was a match seemingly defined by chaos, with Andriy Yarmolenko’s 89th minute winner the epitome of this, coming on a wild counter after Chelsea were pushing for a winner. It is one of those games that makes you miss having fans in the stands, as the delirium that ensued following Yarmolenko’s goal would have been that much better with fans in attendance at the Olympic Stadium. While their 2-2 draw to Newcastle was disappointing, having conceded twice from winning positions, results around the relegation zone meant that the single point they got at St. James’ Park lifted them to four points above the drop zone with five matches to play. They are not safe by any means, especially since they still must play Norwich, Watford, and Aston Villa, but they get a tiny extra bit of security from the drop. That win over Chelsea may be the reason that the Irons stay up.

Losers of the Week

1.) Norwich City

Norwich continued their trend of looking decent at times in open play but being unable to score, despite the talent they have going forward. A 4-0 demolition at the hands of Arsenal followed by a very disappointing 1-0 loss to Brighton caps off four matches without a point and without a goal since the league season restarted, leaving the Canaries seven points from safety with five matches remaining. While they have matches remaining against Watford and West Ham, they must also face Chelsea and Manchester City, two matches in which they would be very unlikely to pick up any points. It looks like Norwich will be relegated to the Championship. Their season can really be characterized by one lasting image: the shot of midfielder Todd Cantwell slumped onto the pitch following the Brighton loss, a look of defeat and resignation on his face. Despite the talent that Norwich have, including the dynamic, exciting Cantwell, they have never been able to fully figure it all out for an extended run of games.

2.) Sheffield United

Chris Wilder and his merry band of Blades have ran into a serious stumbling block in their hunt for European football next season. Sheffield United had failed to win since the season restarted before a 3-1 win over Spurs this week, but a 1-1 draw to Burnley in the very next match continued this stuttering form that has seen the Blades fall out of the European places into ninth, one point behind Arsenal in seventh with five matches remaining. The European dream is beginning to die for Chris Wilder’s team, and while their next four games (Wolves, Chelsea, Leicester, Everton) can reverse their fortunes completely, it is hard to envision Arsenal’s new form massively slowing down. It feels like it will be either Wolves or Arsenal occupying sixth, with the other occupying seventh. Eighth can be a European place if City’s appeal of their European ban fails, but it is not safe to assume that will be the case. Chris Wilder needs positive results in those four matches to get into Europe, but without that, it will likely be a mid-table finish for the Blades. Mid-table is nothing to scoff at for a newly promoted team, but the knowledge that it could have been much more might be painful for Sheffield United fans to deal with.

3.) Watford

Whatever good form and positive energy existed when Nigel Pearson was hired is now gone. Watford have failed to win a league match since their shock 3-0 win over Liverpool back in March, and that rut in form has dragged them right back into the relegation fight, leaving them clinging onto safety by only a point. The Hornets’ attack has struggled to find their feet since the league season resumed, with Ismaïla Sarr and Abdoulaye Doucouré especially being unable to regain their pre-lockdown form. They still must face Norwich and West Ham, which should allow them to pull away from the relegation places, but with Manchester City and Arsenal as their final two games, there is significant pressure to get positive results in their next three games before that awful finishing duo. Anything less than five points in their next three matches could leave them in serious danger of going down, with at least seven points being the ideal target. Watford are good enough to stay up, but that is the thing about the relegation race this season; you could say that about every team that is fighting the drop.

What we Learned

1.) Arsenal and Man United are building something special

This has been covered in other areas of this post, but it is worth emphasizing again. Both teams began a rebuild this season, and you are beginning to see the image of what these rebuilt giants can become. Manchester United have built a terrifying attack, with really an attacking five that can rival the best in the league. Arsenal have found stability in a back three that is able to get the most out of the players at their disposal. Both are moving toward finishing in a European place this season, which will provide them a solid platform to build on in the coming transfer window. Both have flaws in defense, Arsenal especially, but the vision is there for what Solskjær and Arteta want to create. Next season might be too soon to consider either a true contender, but they are two teams to watch over the next 12 months.

2.) We all aren’t sure what to take from Man City 4-0 Liverpool

Part of me thinks this resounding victory for City was Pep’s men throwing down the gauntlet for the title challenge next season, staking their claim as arguably the best team in England despite their unfortunate season this term. Part of me also thinks this was an über-motivated City team taking advantage of a figuratively, and probably literally, hungover Liverpool team. Part of me wants it to mean everything, and another part of me wants it to mean nothing. That is where I am at. This is a match that served as a good reminder that City are still a very strong, albeit flawed, team that is capable of winning the title and Champions League basically every season. However, the results around this game, mainly City’s losses to Chelsea and Southampton, remind you of the major flaws in this team (notably in defense) and why Liverpool won the title so easily in the first place. City will likely be title contenders next season, as I do not see Liverpool running away with the title again, but they still have things to fix in order for them to fully be in contention again. It is wild that we are saying this about arguably one of the best teams ever assembled in the Premier League era, but here we are. Leroy Sané’s departure will likely hurt the Citizens, but it does provide them with the funds to bring in a much-needed center back partner for Aymeric Laporte. Bringing in help at fullback will also be important, and while the COVID impacted transfer market will likely not hinder City all that much, it is ever more important for them to stay within the UEFA Financial Fair Play rules, since their entire organization now operates under a microscope. So in conclusion, does City thrashing Liverpool mean anything? Not really. Will City be title contenders next season, though? Probably.

3.) One step forward, two steps back for Everton

It was very difficult to find a place in either the winners or losers tab for Everton, despite being a team that we need to discuss. Carlo Ancelotti’s team seemingly took a massive step toward European football with two…let’s call them gritty…wins against Norwich and Leicester, but their drab and uninspiring 1-0 loss to Spurs yesterday acts as a sudden crash back to Earth for the Toffees, seemingly in a way that only Everton can provide. Ancelotti deserves incredible praise for the work he has done so far on Merseyside, guiding a very weird squad to an outside chance at finishing in a European place, seemingly punching above his weight with a thin and not incredibly talented Everton team. Europe was seemingly a bridge too far, however, and unless Everton win their remaining matches and a miracle happens around them, it is unlikely that they will be playing in the Europa League next season. There is definitely an argument that not being in the Europa League, and especially not having to deal with whatever wild schedule comes out for the Europa League qualifying rounds, is a blessing in disguise for an Everton team that is not quite ready for that step up. However, having to deal with their neighbors’ title celebrations must make life especially difficult for Evertonians, who are still frustrated at the apparent lack of progress in their team after all of these years. They are on the right track, but they have a long road ahead of them. Trust the process, Evertonians. Trust the process.

4.) Great week for young English players

This was a momentous week for four young English players in the Premier League: Manchester City’s Phil Foden, Manchester United’s Mason Greenwood, Arsenal’s Bukayo Saka, and Liverpool’s Curtis Jones. Foden started proceedings in City’s 4-0 thumping of Liverpool, scoring and assisting in a fantastic display against a very good side. Greenwood followed suit with three goals in two games, with his second thunderous strike against Bournemouth being the pick of the bunch. The young United striker continues his Wayne Rooney-esque ascendancy to superstardom, while, across the city, Foden demonstrated that he just might be able to live up to his “Stockport Iniesta” nickname. The other two are an interesting pair. Arsenal forward Bukayo Saka and Liverpool midfielder Curtis Jones both signed new deals at their respective clubs this week, with Saka’s coming at a major relief to Arteta and the Arsenal hierarchy. Both are considered to be very promising young players at their clubs, both being academy graduates, and both clubs and managers will likely be overjoyed having them tied down to long-term deals. Both also scored their first Premier League goals this week, both ironically on half-volleys, in Arsenal’s 2-0 win over Wolves and Liverpool’s 2-0 win over Aston Villa, respectively. Both players are very good stories, and seeing them succeed at the top level for their boyhood clubs is heart-warming. If you are English, seeing the progress of these four players has to be exciting, and given the amount of young talent in the England player pool at the moment, one has to think that it is only a matter of time before “football comes home”.

5.) What a goal from Che Adams

Let’s just all take a moment to talk about Che Adams and his goal against Man City. Firstly, if you have not seen it, go watch it. Now that you have, yeah, what a goal. The goal by itself is already quite impressive, having the confidence to chip a keeper as good and athletic as Ederson from that kind of distance as well as having the technical ability to pull it off, is quite remarkable. However, that is not the full story. That goal was Adams’ first ever Premier League goal, having arrived at Southampton from Championship side Birmingham City before the season started. He featured about 30 times for Saints in all competitions, failing to score until this moment. I genuinely cannot think of a more astounding way to score your first Premier League goal, considering the manner the goal was scored, the opponent it came against, and the fact that it was the winning goal. A moment so unique and insane for the young English striker that it deserved its own special shoutout.

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Arsenal’s Guendouzi Situation

On the crossroads facing Arsenal and their young French midfielder, and why the right choice may not be the obvious one…

Mattéo Guendouzi arrived in North London as an unknown, rose to be a promising and exciting young prospect in an Arsenal team with several exciting young talents, but just as quickly as that all happened, he may be on his way out.

For those not caught up with the situation, I will fill you in. Guendouzi was more of a regular fixture in the Arsenal team under the management of Unai Emery, but upon arrival of Mikel Arteta in December, he has seen his role dwindle. Guendouzi has always been a bit of a hothead on the pitch, prone to episodes of frustration and anger that have never completely gotten out of hand, but have came close. The most famous prior example was his rugby tackle on Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha in October, a foul equally born out of tactical necessity and sheer frustration at the situation Arsenal found themselves in. In Arsenal’s match against Brighton last Saturday, however, it seemed to elevate to a step worse than before. Following the Gunners’ frustrating 2-1 loss on the South Coast, Guendouzi was shown grabbing at the throat of Brighton forward Neal Maupay, leading to a scuffle between the two teams. This seemed to be the start and finish of the situation, but Maupay’s interesting post-match interview, seemingly targeted at Guendouzi, hinted at other issues throughout the match. It would come out later that Guendouzi was taunting the Brighton players throughout the match, insulting them and stating that he and his Arsenal teammates will earn more money than they ever will. According to some accounts, this is not the only time that the young Frenchman has engaged in this type of behavior.

Mikel Arteta has responded by dropping Guendouzi from the team. The Frenchman did not feature in the starting XI or on the bench in Arsenal’s league win over Southampton or FA Cup Quarterfinal win over Sheffield United. Arteta probably did this to send a message to the youngster, as well as his whole team, that the behavior Guendouzi displayed against Brighton is immature and unacceptable in his team, but instead of deescalating the situation, things took another turn. According to French outlet L’Équipe, Guendouzi has approached the Arsenal hierarchy and demanded to leave the club, stating that he feels his development as a player has stagnated since Arteta’s arrival. Arteta and the player held private discussions to “clear the air”, but the rumors seemingly have not subsided. In Arteta’s pre-match press conference before their FA Cup tie, he said he only wants players at the club who are fully on board, and anyone who is not is free to leave with his blessing. The fact that this could have been targeted at multiple players is not a great thing for Arsenal fans to think about, but it is likely that one of the main intended recipients of this message was Guendouzi. Arsenal next play on Wednesday, hosting bottom of the league Norwich City, so we will see if Guendouzi is brought back into the fold for that much, but for now, that is all of the developments.

Mattéo Guendouzi is quite an interesting figure. The kid is clearly talented, and he has shown this talent in brilliant flashes while wearing an Arsenal shirt, to the point where it earned him a call-up to the French national team. However, he has also been very inconsistent, at times being just a player who runs everywhere without actually contributing much to the team or, worse, getting into needless trouble with officials or other players. Inconsistency is not unusual for a young player. Development is rarely a straight line, so it is natural for a young player to experience bumps in the road and setbacks. The trouble comes in the environment he has been in. The insanity of Arsenal has probably taken its toll on his development, and Unai Emery did not do a good job at forming an environment and dressing room that is conducive to developing a young player suffering from maturity issues. In the right environment, Guendouzi will likely develop into a fine player and have a great career, but he is at a major crossroads now, with the wrong choice potentially derailing a possibly stunning career.

So what should Guendouzi do? Let us look at the options.

There are three clubs reportedly heavily interested in securing Guendouzi’s signature: Atlético Madrid, Inter Milan, and PSG. Let us weigh up the options, starting with PSG.

Guendouzi hails from Poissy, one of the outer suburbs of Paris, and he began his career with the capital club as a youth player. From age six, he played within the PSG youth system before being released, signing with Lorient in 2014. He has previously talked about the motivation that being released at PSG gave him, and he famously was on the Lorient side that beat PSG in the French u17 Cup Final in 2015. He made it in the Lorient first team before signing with Arsenal, and it appears that the Parisians want their former youth player back. For a player who says he wants to go to a club to continue his development, PSG seems to be the wrong move. There are definitely positives. A move back to his native country might be more comfortable, and the ability to work with and compete against true world-class talent on a regular basis would help Guendouzi grow in training and be mentored by quality senior players. However, there are still significant issues. The Parisians have a notedly poor recent history with developing their young talent, with Presnel Kimpembe being among the few PSG youth products to break into the first team in the last few years. Guendouzi knows this well, having been released by PSG during his youth career, so I question why he would want to return. He has also just seen two players from within or near his age group at PSG, Adil Aouchiche and Tanguy Kouassi, leave the club for developmental reasons. If he wants to develop as a young player, all of the signs seem to say PSG is the wrong choice. He would also start out fairly low in the pecking order for center midfield spots, behind Marco Verratti, Idrissa Gueye, Leandro Paredes, and Ander Herrera. At his age, being at or close to the first team should be the priority, and it is hard to see how he fits in competing with those four for two starting places.

A move to Atlético Madrid or Inter would pose similar issues. Unless some notable departures happen, both sides have set midfields. For Atléti, the trio of Koke, Saúl, and Thomas Partey seem immovable, and the emergence of Marcos Llorente would be another obstacle to the pitch for Guendouzi. At Inter, the trio of Christian Eriksen, Nicolò Barella, and Marcelo Brozović seem to be the set starters, and with the club actively courting Brescia wonderkid Sandro Tonali, very few spaces in the team are left. Inter does have one slight positive, in that outside of those main three, there are very few quality midfield options. Stefano Sensi was very solid prior to dealing with injuries, but Inter could definitely do better than Borja Valero, Roberto Gagliardini, and Mathias Vecino. There is an opportunity there for Guendouzi to be a trusted substitute or rotational piece, but if he is not happy with a similar role at Arsenal, then he will not be happy with the same in Italy.

There have been some reports linking Guendouzi with a move to Manchester United, which I do not completely buy. United’s needs lie elsewhere, and I do not imagine they would pay a high price for Guendouzi when they already have an excessive amount of midfielders. Nothing would surprise me with Ed Woodward’s transfer policy, however, and Guendouzi definitely is not the first Arsenal player with temper issues to move to a Premier League rival. I am more skeptical of the United link than the others and do not think it would be a good move for either party, but hey let us keep it in.

Now, all of these are just rumors, but if there is concrete contact between these clubs and Arsenal, and especially if there is concrete contact between these clubs and Guendouzi’s agent, then it shows evidence of something that I fear with young players. Guendouzi, either through poor advice or immaturity on his part, has decided to leave the most ideal current situation for him and is courting interest from clubs where his development will actually stagnate. Yes, Guendouzi should stay at Arsenal. It seems that the obvious choice is to hop off the sinking ship, but that would probably be the worst thing Guendouzi could do. Although he may not be featuring at the moment, he will likely find significantly more time in the first team next season, considering the questions that still surround the future of Granit Xhaka and Dani Ceballos in North London. At the end of the day, a player at Guendouzi’s stage of his career needs to play. It at least seems that Arsenal have reached a point of tranquility with Arteta as manager, and with a likely rebuild coming, Guendouzi has the chance to be one of the center pieces of this new look Arsenal team, rather than just be a forgettable extra at a bigger club. Arsenal will likely not sell, as they will probably not get that much in return in this COVID-impacted transfer market, but Guendouzi needs to realize that staying in North London is an opportunity, rather than a punishment. Arteta is a great man manager, and as a former Premier League veteran player in a position similar to Guendouzi, he is an ideal mentor for the young Frenchman. Ceballos will likely return to Spain at the end of the season, which allows Guendouzi to step into his preferred midfield position. Yes, Arsenal are not on the same level as those other three clubs, but to be honest, Guendouzi is not yet at that level either. He is not at the level or have the consistency as a player necessary to be a difference maker for a major Champions League side, and while Arsenal are definitely not in a good state, Guendouzi has more opportunities as a player, now working with a competent manager that can build him into a great professional.

This is a major turning point, and a major growing up moment, in Guendouzi’s career. In a team where many key players may have their minds set on moves elsewhere, it is easy for him to begin speculating about a move away from North London. However, there is a very harsh lesson to learn about the grass not always being greener on the other side, and while Arsenal may be on the verge of losing several players, Guendouzi cannot think of himself as one of them. His actions may have caused problems between himself and Arteta, but that relationship is not beyond repair, and there is still time for the youngster to realize that the best place for him to be is exactly where he already is. Guendouzi’s immaturity has cost him on the pitch before, but he cannot let it cost him off the pitch as well.

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Premier League Week In Review

Title Edition… Welcome back to the Premier League Week in Review, where we discuss everything that has happened in England’s top flight league. We name our player of the week, our winners and losers, and discuss what we learned. So what has happened? Well, quite a bit… Player of the Week Anthony Martial, Manchester United […]

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Premier League Week In Review

Title Edition…

Welcome back to the Premier League Week in Review, where we discuss everything that has happened in England’s top flight league. We name our player of the week, our winners and losers, and discuss what we learned. So what has happened? Well, quite a bit…

Player of the Week

Anthony Martial, Manchester United (hat trick in 3-0 win over Sheffield United)

In a game where the main talking point was the full debut of the Pogba-Fernandes midfield, Martial grabbed the spotlight with an incredible strikers performance. His movement up top and ability to combine with the midfield and wingers was breath-taking at times, and it really shows that he could be the solution to United’s striker issues now that there is plenty of creativity around him. The Frenchman’s hat trick is not only the first of his professional career, but it also breaks a strange curse for Man United, being their first hat trick since Robin van Persie’s title-winning hat trick against Aston Villa in 2013. Martial has often been a lightning rod for criticism since his arrival in Manchester, but he is quietly having a good season, amassing 19 goals in all competitions. Is he the answer for United as a number nine? Only time will tell…

Honorable Mentions: Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea), Fabinho (Liverpool)

Winners of the Week

1.) Liverpool

Champions of England for the first time in 30 years, earliest title clinch in league history, a litany of accolades and fine performances, capped off by maybe their best performance of the season against Crystal Palace. Yeah, not much else to say, next.

Wait, they are getting the guard of honor away to Man City? Wow, Liverpool fans really must be in dreamland.

2.) Chelsea

Frank Lampard secured a massive win in his young managerial career, beating the previous champions in a match City had to win to keep their slim title hopes alive. The defense held firm for most of the match, with Rüdiger and Christensen playing very well as a center back pairing. They played well on the counter, with Christian Pulisic especially shining as a dynamic winger causing the City back line all sorts of issues. Lampard had a game plan on how to absorb City pressure and push out from it, and it worked like a charm. He also knew how to shut down the Agüero-less City attack, with Raheem Sterling being largely a passenger in the match. Lampard is clearly building something special in West London, and with Leicester’s recent struggles, they look the more likely to finish third this season.

3.) Manchester United

United showed flashes of what they could be against Spurs, but mistakes and flaws in the team, especially the defense and goalkeeper, held them back. Against Sheffield United, they looked much, and I mean much, better. Starting the Bruno-Pogba midfield from minute one, United looked fluid, fast-paced, and terrifying in attack. Anthony Martial put out one of his best displays in a United shirt to get a historic hat trick, and Marcus Rashford also shone despite not getting on the scoresheet. Sheffield United are no slouches, they are in the European hunt for a reason, but United absolutely dismantled them. This is the best United have looked under Ole, and while there is still definitely room to grow, it is hard to not be excited if you are a United fan.

Losers of the Week

1.) Leicester City

Leicester’s grasp on third has slipped away completely, and their hold on the top four is also beginning to fall away. Two draws since the restart has taken them to only one point ahead of Chelsea and only six points ahead of Manchester United, who occupy fourth and fifth, respectively. Those draws were to Watford and Brighton, two struggling teams near the bottom of the table, and Leicester did not look good going forward in either match. The only goal to speak of for the Foxes was Ben Chilwell’s ridiculous strike against Watford, but the likes of Vardy, Maddison, and Ayoze have been largely silent since the season restarted. Their match against Chelsea this weekend will tell us quite a bit about this Leicester team and their ability to finish in the top four. It would be disappointing if this talented and enjoyable team was not in the Champions League next season, but they have to reverse their current fortunes to make it happen.

2.) West Ham

A very talented team on paper, the Irons sure are not living up to that potential. Yes, their two most recent matches were very difficult, but they basically looked lifeless in all areas of the pitch. They have been abysmal going forward, with Pablo Fornals and Felipe Anderson especially failing to impress. They had three combined shots on target in their two games, probably missing the presence of Sébastien Haller up top. Their defense, which has been a massive issue for most of the season, was also not great. They did well to frustrate their opponents for a while, especially Spurs, but the inevitable result still happened. West Ham now find themselves in 17th, level on points with 18th-placed Bournemouth and 19th-placed Aston Villa. They still have to play Watford and Villa before the end of the season, so things are definitely not decided, but relegation to the Championship is very much a possibility, where old rival Millwall might be waiting for them…

3.) Sheffield United

Like Leicester, Sheffield United have restarted the season very poorly, and the Blades’ standing in the table is at great risk because of it. A draw against Villa (that should have been a win), paired with two bad losses to Newcastle and Manchester United, leaves Chris Wilder’s team in eighth, sandwiched between North London rivals Tottenham and Arsenal. They are only a point ahead of Arsenal and two ahead of Crystal Palace in a place that is only a European place should Manchester City’s European ban be upheld. Like Leicester, they need to reverse this current trend and quickly in order to keep their European aspirations alive. Unlike Leicester, they must hunt for a European place, as there is no guarantee that their current position will get them into the Europa League qualifiers. Wilder has done an amazing job to get his team to this point, but he has a long way to go if he wants the Blades to be in Europe next season.

What we Learned

1.) Congratulations to Liverpool, 2019-20 Premier League Champions

It has been a long time coming. Arguably England’s most successful club, suffering from a title drought a generation long, have been crowned champions of England for the 19th time, and they did so in style. Jürgen Klopp built a completely dominant side, with talent all over the pitch, that was able to coast to the title, winning by over 20+ points and in the quickest amount of time of any team in league history. Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané have been two of the best forwards in the league this season, Jordan Henderson and Fabinho have been dominant in midfield all season, and Virgil van Dijk has been the brick wall he always has been. Now, I will be honest here. We are a blog made up of an Everton fan and two Man United fans, so none of us really have many nice things to say about Liverpool. But you have to hand it to them, they were incredible for the whole season, and really for the last three years as well. There is a longer piece that can be devoted to talking about the Liverpool turnaround from failing at the final hurdle under Rodgers in 2014 to finally winning it under Klopp, but that is for another time. For now, I will just say that this is an incredible side fully deserving of the plaudits they are receiving. I will not engage in the “best Premier League team ever” debate here, but they are definitely in that conversation.

Now, for those who love their football pub trivia, remember that there are now seven teams to have won the Premier League, no longer six. Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City, Blackburn Rovers, Leicester City, and now Liverpool are the teams to win the title since the Premier League era began. Make note for future reference.

2.) Chelsea look like they want to be title contenders next season

Covered up by all of the discussion around Liverpool’s title triumph is the fact that the team that secured the title for them, Chelsea, looked pretty darn good in their win against Manchester City. Frank Lampard has really worked some wonders in his first season as Chelsea manager, turning a very young team into a capable, well-rounded side that is able to cause problems for many opponents, including the previous champions. While the talent is not completely there on paper, Lampard has seemingly gotten the best qualities out of all of his players, inspiring a strong defensive performance against the normally potent City attack. On the counterattack, Chelsea’s individual attacking quality shone, with Christian Pulisic being the best performer of the lot. If this trend continues, Chelsea will be the dark horse favorite for the title next season, and even though the gap between Liverpool and the rest is still quite large, that dark horse tag would very much suit Chelsea. With more time and backing from the board, Lampard will turn this team into a regular title contender. The foundation has clearly been laid.

Oh yeah, and this team is adding Hakim Ziyech and Timo Werner next season. Yeah, it is going to be fun to see what happens.

3.) I’m full of crap, the Bruno-Pogba midfield will work

Earlier this month, I wrote a piece about Paul Pogba and how United should proceed given the transfer speculation surrounding him and with the arrival of Bruno Fernandes. I encourage you to give it a read here.

Read it?

Yeah, forget everything I said. This midfield will work. Everything that I said in that article is probably rubbish, because not only would those two work together, I think they work very well together. They are both incredibly talented technical players with fairly similar skillsets, but they are able to play off of each other so well. Their movement and ability to combine with the forwards makes them incredible attacking midfielders, and having them in the same midfield offers a massive defensive issue for basically every team. Yes, a game and a half is not a very large sample size, but in that small period of time they made a massive difference. Pogba coming on in the second half against Spurs changed the game completely, and those two dominated Sheffield United’s midfield from the beginning, being the catalyst for United’s convincing win. Sheffield United definitely are not a bad team, and the shift from the 3-3 draw in this fixture in November to this dominant win in the second half of the season shows the growth of this United team, and this midfield pairing is a large reason for it.

4.) I genuinely have no clue who is going down

Aston Villa, Bournemouth, and West Ham are all level on 27 points, and Watford is barely ahead of them on 28 points. The relegation race will be deciding by a hair-splitting gap, and it is very hard to predict, especially with those four teams still with matches to play against each other. I said in the Premier League returns piece that good teams will be relegated to the Championship this season. While I stand by that sentiment and, yes, on paper, two good teams (relative to usual relegated sides) will go down, but man they are not playing like it. All four teams have not been good since the restart of the season, ranging from the struggling but still trying Aston Villa to the absolutely dire Bournemouth and West Ham. This race has suddenly really steered into the “which two teams will be more awful than the other two” realm, which makes it quite hard to predict, especially with seven games still to play. I have said repeatedly that fast starts are important for teams at both ends of the table in this restarted season, but it seems that every team in the relegation race decided to ignore that suggestion and continue on struggling. Villa have shown the most fight, squeezing out draws against Sheffield United and Newcastle while losing to Chelsea, but with the injury and goalscoring issues they have, I would not necessarily say they are favorites for staying up. I would also not, however, say that any team is a favorite to stay up at this point. A real footballing quandary at the bottom of the table.

5.) The FA Cup is back? The FA Cup is back!

Norwich-Man United on Saturday. Sheffield United-Arsenal, Leicester-Chelsea, and Newcastle-Man City on Sunday. The world’s oldest football cup competition restarts this weekend at the quarterfinal stage, and with some interesting match ups and storylines to go along with it. Silverware would be an important statement for Ole’s Man United and for Lampard’s Chelsea, as a way to track the progress of their rebuild and show the tangible results. Arsenal, desperate for any pathway into Europe, now really see winning the FA Cup as their easiest way into the Europa League next season. Norwich, Sheffield United, and Newcastle all come into this stage as heavy underdogs, but the quite-cliched-but-still-true “Magic of the Cup” could carry them to a historic result at Wembley.

I mean, I distinctly remember watching relegated Wigan beat Man City in the FA Cup Final in 2013, so really anything can happen.

The added wrinkle of the European place being passed down if a top four team wins the FA Cup is even more interesting this season given City’s potential European ban. Normally, if a team in the top five wins the FA Cup, the Europa League qualification that comes with winning the FA Cup is passed along to the next highest placed team in the table. The same applies with the EFL Cup, which was won by Manchester City earlier this season. So normally, a top five team winning both the FA Cup and EFL Cup would mean that sixth place becomes an automatic Europa League place, while seventh guarantees passage to the Europa League second qualifying round. Should the Court for the Arbitration of Sport uphold City’s European ban, then this is all pushed down one. So if a team in the top six were to win the FA Cup, seventh would become a Europa League place and eighth would become a Europa qualifiers place. This would open up a path to Europe potentially to a mid-table side, with the likes of Everton, Crystal Palace, and Burnley being in reach of that eighth position. Another added wrinkle that makes this all much more interesting than before…

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Solving the Almost Impossible Arsenal Puzzle

While I grew up as a United fan, I’ve had a soft spot for Arsenal FC because my father has been a die-hard Gooner. I remember as a child, I asked him why he supported Arsenal and told me that during his National Service, he served as an Artilleryman and since he was a gunner himself, it felt right to support the Gunners.

Replacing a manager who has spent over a decade at a club is by no means an easy feat. Just look at the slew of managers that took charge of Manchester United after Sir Alex’s retirement. However, following Arsene Wenger provides its own unique challenge. It would be fair to say that the Frenchman had lost the plot a few seasons before his departure in 2018. When he left, Unai Emery inherited a squad in shambles. He tried to improve that squad and repair the damage that Wenger had done, but in truth, he needed time to rebuild the team in his image.

This season it became clear that Arsenal cannot rival their opponents in the transfer budget department. While Nicholas Pepe came in for a whopping 72 million pounds, and Gabriel Martinelli seems like an absolute bargain for 6 million pounds, they haven’t done much to address the primary area of concern for the team – the defence. This has been a long-standing issue for Arsenal that stretches back to the early 2010s during the Wenger years. It is surprisingly remarkable that Arsenal have yet to find an effective defence during all those years. I might agree that the Koscielny-Mertesacker pairing was solid, but that partnership was only effective for 4 years. Besides those two players, no one else has stood out for me in the Arsenal backline in the last decade. Sure, Bellerin has exhibited moments of brilliance and Monreal was a reliable squad player, but there were no stand-out performers. The problem is of course that stellar defenders in an already inflated transfer market are expensive, and the club’s owner, Stan Kroenke, doesn’t like to hand his managers a massive transfer budget.

This is the pickle that Mikel Arteta is faced with. In many ways, the circumstances of his return mirror the events that unfolded before he signed with Arsenal in 2011. Just as he was as a player, he joins an Arsenal squad that is in dire straits, albeit in the capacity of a manager. Back then, Wenger scrambled for reinforcements in the final days of the transfer window after a poor start to the league, which included the 8-2 drubbing against Manchester United. Alongside Per Mertesacker and André Santos, Mikel Arteta was brought in on transfer deadline day to bolster the squad, and he did improve the team by bringing in some much-needed stability in midfield. He turned up when it mattered, and Arsenal fans hope he can replicate the impact he had as a player while serving as the club’s head coach.

However, rebuilding Arsenal and moulding them to a formidable team is easier said than done. A club in absolute shambles with a stingy owner who isn’t keen on splurging on new additions means that Arteta needs to be extra creative when solving the club’s multiple issues. There are several ways Arteta can go about fixing the club and here are just a few of them.

Image by Pisut Rakwong from Pixabay

Making Free Smart Transfers to Build The Foundation

Let’s be honest. Most of Arsenal’s signings in recent years have been flops. Indeed, there are exceptions, like Aubemayang and Martinelli, but the point is these players are exceptions. Besides, given Kroenke’s stinginess, it would be wise for Arteta to look at players approaching the end of their contracts instead of dipping his fingers into the transfer market. It is a win-win for both parties. Kroenke saves up a ton of cash and players who can’t perform won’t be expensive flops, just regular ones.

Thiago Silva, Santi Carzola, and Malang Sarr are just three names that could slot directly into that Arsenal team.

Thiago Silva

Signing Thiago Silva could potentially solve a lot of Arsenal’s problems. Arsenal’s defensive woes have stretched back for seasons. Any combination of their back 4 is mediocre at best. Ideally, Arteta should overhaul the entire Arsenal defence and build up from scratch. However, Arsenal clearly don’t have the funds for something like that. Even if they did sell their entire backline, I doubt Kroenke would stream most of that revenue into the transfer market. A free transfer like Thiago Silva, therefore, makes a lot of economic sense. Furthermore, William Saliba needs a reliable centre-back partner and mentor. Thiago Silva would fulfill both roles excellently. Just look at the player Marquinhos has become today.

Santi Carzola

Rumours are circulating that Carzola may return to Arsenal in some form of coaching capacity. However, I feel that the player has at least 1 if not 2 more seasons at the top-flight. This suggestion might surprise you, but I think many of us forget how good Santi Carzola is. Most fans remember a Carzola plagued continuously by injuries, and it became so recurrent that the Spaniard only became a bit-part player at the club towards the end of his Arsenal tenure. Most of us believed that the curtain was closing in on his professional footballing days, and his move to Villareal was a sentimental one – to finish his career at the club where his professional career started.

We couldn’t have been more wrong. Carzola has not only been featuring regularly for the La Liga side since returning 2018 but has miraculously recaptured his fine form this season. In 33 appearances in all competitions, the midfielder has notched in 12 goals and provided 8 assists. When compared to the Arsenal squad this season, in all competitions, only Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has scored more goals (20) and only Bukayo Saka (10) and Nicolas Pépé (8) have supplied more assists. Yes, I agree that merely comparing statistics of players that feature in different leagues and competitions is an unfair comparison, but the point I’m making is that Carzola still has a lot to offer. Arsenal had a glimpse of his exceptional talent during his first season with them. If Arsenal can keep him fit and healthy, Carzola would be a valuable addition to a team that severely lacks quality and experience.

Signing Carzola makes sense for Arteta. Carzola has publicly revealed that he wishes to play one more time at Arsenal before he hangs up his boots and with his contract up at the end of the season, he becomes an ideal candidate. Then again, there is also the prospect of Carzola becoming a coach or sporting director if he returns to the Emirates. However, since it is evident that he still can perform at the highest level, perhaps a player/coach position would be ideal.

Malang Sarr

While Malang Sarr would be free to leave OGC Nice at the end of the season, Arsenal would still have to pay a compensation fee since the defender is under 23 years old. Thankfully for Kroenke, the compensation fee is relatively minuscule, and Arsenal could potentially have their centre-back partnership for the next decade settled with the French duo of Sarr and William Saliba. Sarr comes in as one of the most experienced young players around, amassing nearly 120 appearances for Nice in all competitions at only 21 years of age, including some appearances in the Europa League. For comparison, Arsenal centre-back Rob Holding is 24, three years older than Sarr. He has only made 18 more appearances than the Frenchman in all competitions, which accounts for about half of a league season. He brings a very unique combination of youthful potential and solid first team experience that you do not find with many players of his age, and he would likely slot right into the Arsenal defense from minute one. The main issue with acquiring Sarr is that he is also being courted by other major clubs, including teams in the Champions League, such as RB Leipzig. It might be difficult for Arteta to lure the Frenchman to North London, but it would be an incredible coup for the Gunners if they could get him.

Focusing on Youth Development

Under Wenger, Arsenal had world-class talent in their academy and opportunities galore were presented to these hot prospects. There was a system in place to groom them to reach a certain calibre, if not to their potential. When you think of some of the academy graduates that Arsenal developed, huge names like Serge Gnabry, Wojciech Szczesny, Cesc Fabregas, Hector Bellerin and Ashley Cole spring to mind. The club has also produced decent players like Kieran Gibbs, Francis Coquelin, and Alex Iwobi. Besides Bukayo Saka and maybe Traye Coyle, no one in that academy stands out as a player with a lot of potential.

Arteta needs to steal a page from Guardiola and the Man City management and look to restructure the Arsenal academy to attract top talent globally. Kroenke would invest in youth if it means he could potentially pocket a nifty profit after a couple of years. Arteta has done well to blood in youth players and while that practice should remain, there should be greater emphasis on improving the caliber of the academy prospects.

Clearing out the Deadwood, and Dealing with Auba and Özil

Image by Radoan Tanvir from Pixabay

I’m afraid that Arteta has too many players that are not good enough. These players need to be sold and not be given contracts. David Luiz’s contract extension makes little sense unless he is kept as a back-up player. Even then, his wages are staggeringly high, and such a move makes little financial sense – especially since Arteta is already on a tight budget and possibly needs to cut costs and free up wage space. The same mistake cannot take place with Mustafi and Sokratis because both players have not demonstrated why they warrant a place at the club. Also, it is time for players like Granit Xhaka, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, and Mohamed Elneny to move on from the club. It hasn’t worked out for these players, and they would be better appreciated elsewhere.

Arsenal also can’t afford to take on any more risky gambles as well. Pablo Mari has only played a handful of games, while Cedric Soares has yet to feature for the club at all. Yet, despite this, the Arsenal management have found it appropriate to hand these players lengthy contracts without sufficient merit. Arsenal needs to handle such moves more professionally as these moves cry out sheer desperation from the club.

Then there is the question on the futures of the two best Arsenal players – Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Mesut Özil. It is becoming increasingly likely that Aubemayang will leave at the end of the season so that Arsenal don’t let the Gabonese international leave on a free at the end of the 2020/2021 season. If Arteta can miraculously bring in some top-notch talent, perhaps Auba might stay. Let’s be real though, it’s a tough ask and it would seem that the pacey forward has set his sights on greener pastures elsewhere. Arteta also needs to make a quick decision on Özil. Even though the German is supposedly in Arteta’s plans, he has yet to feature since the restart. When on form, he is arguably one of the best playmakers in the modern game. The problem is that Özil is so inconsistent that we don’t know whether he’ll turn up or not.

Most Importantly, Arteta Needs Time

Arsenal need a serious rebuild, and perhaps a massive overhaul is the way to go for Arteta to shape the club according to his footballing philosophy. Guardiola was handed a more manageable task when he came to Manchester City because they were filled with world-class talent across the board. It took years for City to reach the point they are at right now, and while Guardiola has significantly improved the team, he already had a stable foundation. Arteta, however, has to establish that foundation from scratch.

This means one thing unfortunately for Arsenal fans: Arsenal need to consolidate their resources and focus on rebuilding. Fans need to realize they are nothing more than a mid-table team now. With possibly radical changes happening before next season, it would be sometime before Arsenal make it to the Europa League, let alone the Champions League.

The Arsenal board and fans need to be patient with Arteta. He is tasked with rebuilding the club and leading it to glory once again, which is an impossible feat. Nevertheless, I do believe that, with time, he can pull it off and it’s only a matter of years before Arsenal find themselves back in contention for European spaces. Until then, perhaps Arteta could focus on winning the FA and League Cups as entry points to Europe. Whatever it is, I sincerely do hope Arteta turns things around at Arsenal.

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Arsenal vs Manchester City Match Preview

The English Premier League is back and fans around the world will be treated with a clash between two sides that play attractive football. The resumption of the EPL would mean that Liverpool will most likely win the title with two games to win. However, there is still much to play for even if the title is almost wrapped up. The fourth place is still to play for and the relegation battle is still a close one. After the dreadful results left behind by Emery, Arteta and his team will be looking to turn their fortunes around and fight for the elusive champions league qualification spot. With City, the season is definitely over for them with Liverpool 25 points ahead is poised to win their first ever league title in the Premier League era. The season could turn out worse for City should their two year European ban appeal be denied which could mean that a fifth place finish for any team could mean qualification for the Champions League. That aside, the clash between Arsenal and Manchester City would be an intriguing game by two very offensive sides.

Starting XI

Arsenal’s Predicted Starting Xi

Arsenal’s strongest XI: Leno; Bellerin, Luiz, Mari, Tierney; Xhaka, Torreira; Pepe, Ozil, Aubameyang; Lacazette

A 4-2-3-1 formation has been Arteta’s go-to ever since he took charge of the Gunners. This has been the most popular formation in the Premier League as it gives teams possession and control while being defensively solid. With a double pivot of Xhaka and Torreira, Arteta can let his speedy forward line to penetrate City’s defence.

Manchester City’s Predicted Starting XI

Manchester City’s strongest XI: Ederson; Walker, Otamendi, Laporte, Zinchenko; Rodri, De Bruyne, Gundogan; Bernardo, Aguero, Sterling

Guardiola’s most preferred formation is a 4-3-3. With Aymeric Laporte returning to training, it seems like City would have a full squad for their clash against Arsenal. City would surely be favourites going into this game. With the full squad and a long break, Guardiola’s team will be prepared for the Gunners.

Form

Some Premier League clubs have been setting up friendlies to warm up with the resumption of the EPL in a few days. Arsenal has had two friendlies with Charlton Athletic and Brentford. Both games have been played behind-closed-doors and were not telecasted. Arsenal won 6 – 0 comfortably against Charlton Athletic with Eddie Nketiah scoring a hat-trick, Aubameyang and Lacazette getting on the scoresheet as well. The win against a relegation-threatened team should bring about confidence for the restart of the EPL. However, they were beaten 2 – 3 by promotion-chasing Brentford. It seems like Arteta’s side are still unable to resolve their leaky defence, which is worrying as their next game is against Manchester City.

On the other hand, Manchester City has opted to have friendlies amongst their first-team players. They certainly have enough depth and quality to play friendlies among themselves. The scoreline of the friendly is unknown but it may well look like a tougher friendly Arsenal has had since most of City players can walk into any Premier League teams. Even Mourinho said that Man City’s “B team” could be contenders for the EPL.

Players to Watch

Most of the battle will revolve around the midfield. As both teams like to keep the ball, it would be a mammoth task for Xhaka, Torreira and Ozil to match the quality and intensity of City’s De Bruyne, Rodri and Gundogan. Torreira will be important in breaking up play and disrupting City’s rhythm. Keeping De Bruyne at bay could neutralise an important cog in City’s attack but there are other City players that could change the game on their own such as Bernado Silva. Apart from that, City’s fullbacks have the pace to join in and support the attack. In a counterattack, Walker has the ability to pace down the right side of the field, quickly bringing the ball to the forwards.

On the other hand, it is imperative that Xhaka plays his best game against City. He has the ability to spread the ball well if he is given time and space, neither of which you can get when playing against City. With a calmer head and better coaching from a former Arsenal midfielder in Arteta, Xhaka could play a pivotal role in making the Arsenal midfield click. Apart from Xhaka, Arteta has to deal with Ozil disappearing in games like this. There is no doubt that Ozil is a world class player with an eye for a pass but his nonchalant body language on the field often makes him the scapegoat for his side’s losses. On his day, Ozil can change the face of the game and dismantle City’s defence with his crucial passes.

Master vs Student

There is no doubt that the upcoming match will be a test for Arteta to see if he has the capabilities to be a top-flight manager. Tactically, Arteta is a greenhorn as Arsenal is the first top-flight team he has managed. The lack of experience would surely put Arteta at a disadvantage but he will certainly put up a fight against his former boss on Thursday. The restart of the season would mean both teams have full squads available to choose from and each will be fully prepared. The match will certainly be a tactical battle student and master but Pep has to be ready for any surprises from Arteta as the latter might know of a few weaknesses in Guardiola’s tactics.

Predictions

Everything about Arsenal’s backline screams 2 – 0 down inside 20 minutes. However, I like Arteta’s managerial style and would give him some credit for improving this Arsenal side since his first few games in charge. I do fancy Arteta’s chances for a win given that their defensive frailties have been resolved. However, a rejuvenated Man City after a long break would be difficult to beat. This game would most likely end 2 – 1 with Aguero and Bernado Silva on the scoresheet while Aubameyang would pull one back for the Gunners.

At this stage of the season, a Manchester City win would only delay the inevitable, which is Liverpool lifting the trophy. The Sky Blues second-place finish would see them through an automatic Champions League qualification (should they manage to overturn their Champions League ban). However, this would mean that no EPL team has ever managed to win the Premier League three times in a row other than Sir Alex Ferguson.

A win for Arsenal would bring them closer for a place in the Top Four with Chelsea currently occupying it with 48 points. It would be a mammoth task for Arteta to compete for a Top Four position with the Gunners languishing at 9th, making them dark horses for Champions League qualification.

This game might not be a clash of the titans but both sides will display attacking flair with both managers to challenge one another tactically. This could be a close game with end to end action but a little quality would decide this fixture and it looks like Manchester City will come out on top.

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The Premier League is Back!

The one many of you have been waiting for…

Feature Image by Kelvin Stuttard from Pixabay

The Premier League has returned! Despite all of the questions, doubts, and concerns surrounding Project Restart, it seems that the Premier League (and Championship) season will be completed. But where did we leave off? What are the major stories to follow? Who are the players to watch?

The other major leagues in Europe were or will be welcomed back with a title race, but what about in England? Well…not quite. Liverpool currently sit 25 points clear of Manchester City, on the verge of rounding out a historic season with their first league title in 30 years. They need two more wins, or one win with one Manchester City loss, to clinch the title, so unless a meltdown of equally historic standards takes place, then Liverpool will be champions of England, and it would be absolutely deserved. The talent in basically every position is staggering, and apart from a few bumps in the road, Jürgen Klopp has masterfully managed this team through a nearly unbeaten season. If Arsenal beat Manchester City, then Liverpool have the very unique opportunity of winning the title against derby-rivals Everton. It is not as unique, as there will not be fans present at Goodison Park, but it is still a unique opportunity.

Image by Andreas H. from Pixabay

The real major interest starts with the European races, which remain as wide open as they were months ago. Manchester City seem safely set in second, but Leicester City and Chelsea, who occupy the other top four spots, are not quite as safe. The gap between Leicester, in third, and Wolves, in sixth, is only 10 points with nine games remaining. The gap between fifth, currently Manchester United, and 12th, currently Everton, is only eight points. We have a situation where the teams currently in the Europa League places have the ability to catch the Champions League teams or be overtaken by teams below them. I have said it in every other league returning blog, but a fast start is going to be very important for teams in this race. These leads seem to be large, but with nine matches remaining, a quick start by some teams and slow by others can massively change the outlook of the table in a very short time.

There are quite a few teams to talk about here, so to save time, we will group them together. The three surprise packages, Leicester, Sheffield United, and Wolves, have really taken the top six race by storm. Leicester got there on the back of the Brendan Rodgers revolution, creating a system and style that is able to get the best out of their star-studded midfield and rejuvenate a 33-year-old Jamie Vardy. They are also supported by a strong defense, with the veteran presence of Jonny Evans and Kasper Schmeichel paired with the younger vibrancy of Çaglar Söyüncü, Ben Chilwell, and Ricardo Pereira. Wolves’ continued rise was expected, given how good they were last season, but they are still a fantastic team, especially in attack. The major surprise, however, is Sheffield United. Much was said about their team, and especially their manager Chris Wilder, when they were promoted from the Championship, but they were still largely considered relegation favorites going into the season. However, under the leadership of Wilder and his tactical genius, most notably the overlapping center backs, has allowed United to achieve more than the sum of their parts. Not only have the Blades avoided relegation, but they are firmly in the European fight.

Image by Bernie Varem from Pixabay

Paired with these surprise packages are three of the Big Six sides having disappointing seasons. Manchester United and Arsenal have continued their struggles from last season, and Tottenham have joined them with a season well below their recent standards. United and Arsenal have continued their struggles related to their managers. Ole Gunnar Solskjær has kept his job up to this point at United, but Unai Emery has been sacked at Arsenal, replaced by Mikel Arteta in North London. Both teams have struggled with injuries and had some issues with scoring goals, but Arsenal have had a unique struggle in defense, with a back line that has long since been not good enough for their aspirations. They both had a slight turnaround come January, but each of them find themselves outside of the Champions League places, with Arsenal outside of the Europa League places as well. United will hope that Marcus Rashford can come back healthy into the team, adding to their improved attack spearheaded by new signing Bruno Fernandes. Their new signings have fully meshed in the team, and Harry Maguire and Aaron Wan-Bissaka have added quite a bit to their defensive ability. Arsenal will have to continue riding the goalscoring form of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and the adjusting-but-talented winger Nicolas Pépé. They will also have to rely more on their youth, even outside of Bukayo Saka, in order to deal with the rotation and fitness issues they will face. The task is much more difficult for Arsenal than for United, but both are still in the hunt for Europe. Spurs have also had quite a poor season, especially compared to their top four, Champions League-finalist season last year. Their disappointing season has led to the departure of manager Mauricio Pochettino, replaced by Premier League stalwart Jose Mourinho. Their players on expiring contracts has been a major story for the season, with Christian Eriksen having already departed, but their struggles are not isolated to that. The defense has struggled all season, but the attack has not been up to standard apart from Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son. Spurs find themselves in the same position as Arsenal, on the outside looking in but able to turn things around with a quick start to the season. They will hope that the lay off will allow their injury issues to subside and key players can return to the team.

Further down the table, we have a very interesting relegation race. Norwich City seem set to be relegated, but the other two places are still up for grabs. Four points separates Aston Villa, in 19th with a game in hand, from Brighton, in 15th. Realistically, Villa, Brighton, Bournemouth, Watford, and West Ham are all involved in the relegation fight. Southampton, Newcastle, and Everton, starting comfortably mid-table, run the risk of being dragged into this fight should they start the season in a Schalke-level of a rut. The staggering thing, which has been mentioned by other writers throughout the season, is that each of these teams mentioned are all at least pretty good overall. There will be some good teams relegated this season, better than some of the usual teams that are sent down to the Championship. While there are various things going wrong with each of these teams, too many to go through in one blog, each of these teams has their own amounts of talent on it. Players like Jack Grealish, John McGinn, Felipe Anderson, Callum Wilson, and Abdoulaye Doucouré are on teams involved in this relegation race, genuine talent that are on teams in desperate situations. That is the most interesting part of all of this. There will really be some good teams going down this season, quite a massive difference to other seasons, and in a season where many considered the Premier League to be weaker than usual.

So some players to look out for? Well, you all will know basically all of the big names in the Premier League, playing for the biggest teams, so I will try to highlight some who are not firmly in the spotlight, while also highlighting some who are but deserve their praise. At the top of the table, everyone knows about Liverpool’s incredible front three and very strong defense, but their midfield has been relatively under-appreciated. Club captain Jordan Henderson has put in a stellar season, earning him consideration for PFA Player of the Year, while Brazilian defensive midfielder Fabinho continues to float under the radar despite being one of the best defensive midfielders in Europe at the moment. Manchester City’s team is another known quantity, with Kevin de Bruyne arguably being the best player in the league this season, but we need to appreciate David Silva and Fernandinho, who are both still important contributors, as it will not be long before they are no longer in the Premier League. With Silva, a City legend, leaving at the end of the season and Fernandinho likely leaving in the next few years, it will not be long before these two Premier League stalwarts leave England for good. In the Top Four/Top Six race, much has already been said about Leicester’s phenomenal season, but it is worth highlighting Wilfried Ndidi once again, among the best defensive midfielders in the league this season. He was always very talented, but Leicester’s rise to the top four has allowed him to show this talent to a wider audience. Chelsea’s young core might be broken up by new signings, but center back Fikayo Tomori will be hard to displace. Having nearly been sent out on loan before the season started, Tomori emerged as a surprise star in Frank Lampard’s team and will likely be a fixture in the back line for years to come. For Wolves, Raúl Jiménez has emerged as one of the best strikers in the league. A complete number nine in so many ways, he has the combination of physical and technical skills that make him so difficult to deal with for opposition defenses. Quick enough to get in behind defenses, tall enough to be deadly in the air, and strong enough to hold the ball up for the wingers, Jiménez is truly the complete package. Bruno Fernandes has truly changed the game for Manchester United, acting as a number 10 that can pull the strings in attack, occupy dangerous spaces, and is still a goalscoring threat himself. Sheffield United have several underrated players and are definitely worth a watch, but I will highlight the effect John Lundstram has had on their team, and likely your Fantasy Premier League team. A transition from a struggling center back to a dominant box-to-box midfielder has allowed Lundstram to become a key cog in the Blades’ engine room. The headlines at Arsenal have been dominated by Aubameyang, for multiple reasons, but Bukayo Saka has emerged as the brightest gem of their latest Hale End Academy class. Originally a winger, Saka has deputized at left back as injuries ravaged the Arsenal defense, and he has emerged as one of the league’s rising stars, despite playing in an unnatural position. His assist for Eddie Nketiah’s goal against Everton is quite possibly the highlight of his season, and it poses an interesting question for Arsenal about what to do when Kieran Tierney is fit.

At the bottom end of the table, probably-relegated Norwich still have some young stars in right back Max Aarons and attacking midfielder Todd Cantwell. They will likely be some of the names that other clubs pursue if Norwich do indeed go down. Despite Aston Villa’s struggles, Jack Grealish has been phenomenal this season and will likely earn a move to a Big Six team regardless of whether Villa go down, but John McGinn has gone a bit under-appreciated, possibly because of his injury issues. A complete box-to-box midfielder, McGinn was arguably Villa’s best player earlier in the season, and his injury issues have had a massive impact. West Ham center back Issa Diop has been handed the impossible task of making that Irons defense look good, but despite their defensive struggles, he has shone as an individual player. He is able to combine his large physical frame with an incredible ability to time tackles and position himself well, especially on set-pieces. None of this is an exhaustive list, but just a few names to look out for as the season concludes.

Image by Kelvin Stuttard from Pixabay

So, what is going to happen? Well, Liverpool will be champions, Norwich will go down, but I am not fully sure on the rest. I am somewhat confident in Chelsea and Leicester’s ability to finish in the top four, but the other European places are really up in the air. If Manchester City’s appeal of their UEFA ban is upheld, then fifth would be a Champions League place and eighth would be a Europa League place, which obviously changes everything. Things have changed massively for United since Fernandes arrived at the club, but unless Marcus Rashford is able to come back fully fit, I do not think they will finish fifth over Wolves. I think Arsenal and Spurs both have the ability to make a run for the Europa League places if they come back healthy, and I think Sheffield United are the most precariously placed of all of the teams in the top six. Especially for Spurs, if they are able to get a healthy Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son back, then they are a significantly more dangerous team. Assuming eighth is a European place, I believe both Spurs and Arsenal will make it and Sheffield United will miss out. With relegation, it is all about momentum and quick starts. Watford were riding the momentum they got when Nigel Pearson was hired, but I am worried the hiatus to the season will stifle that. West Ham have also been struggling massively, and the hiatus has not given Aston Villa enough time to recover from their significant injury issues. I think Bournemouth are very precariously placed, and that they will be one of the three that goes down. Eddie Howe has done all he can, but I do not think that team is good enough to stay up. West Ham, despite all of the times they want to sabotage themselves, are still too talented to go down in my mind, and I think Watford will find a way to regain their momentum and stay up. The relegation zone will finish exactly as it is now, with Norwich, Bournemouth, and Villa going down.

Well, the Premier League is back! Slowly but surely, football is returning to our television screens. Despite no title race, there is quite a bit of obscurity with the rest of the table, so it should still be a thrilling finish to the season.

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Where Next for Thiago Silva?

4th October 2011 will be a dark day that Jack Transou will remember for the rest of his life. On that fateful day, Qatari Sports Investment bought Paris Saint-Germain, and it marked a new era of Parisian dominance in French football. While Thiago Motta and Alex arrived in the Winter transfer window, it was the following summer when PSG flexed their financial muscle. Many big names were brought into the club for then-big fees: Ezequiel Lavezzi was brought in for €26.5 million from Napoli, Lucas Moura cost €45 million from Sao Paulo, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic was purchased for €20 million from Milan. Joining him from Milan was none other than Brazilian international Thiago Silva, whose transfer fee was rumoured to be €42 million.

Unlike the other big-name signings who have since left the club or retired, Silva has remained at PSG and, together with Marco Veratti, is the longest-serving player at the club since the Qatari takeover. Well, after spending almost a decade in Paris, it looks like Thiago Silva will finally move on to greener pastures elsewhere after it was announced that PSG were not going to renew his contract. Even though he turns 36 in September, that hasn’t stopped clubs and reportedly, a host of suitors are lining up to acquire his services. If he remains fit, whichever club that buys him would have gained a solid centre-back who not only still has at least 1 to 2 seasons in him, but also a real leader in the dressing room and a great mentor for young defenders.

The question then beckons, what is the next best destination for Thiago Silva?

Reconnecting with Ancelotti at Everton

Image by jorono from Pixabay

Carlo Ancelotti was the man who brought Silva to PSG from Milan, and signing the Brazilian rock at the back would undoubtedly be a real statement of intention for Everton. For several years now, Everton have been trying to break into the top 4 and are aiming to play Champions League football regularly. Yet despite spending loads in the transfer market, things haven’t always gelled well at the club. However, that may change under Ancelotti’s guidance, and he may finally transform the club into a real powerhouse in the Premier League.

This season, Everton have been really leaky at the back, and they lack a real physical presence in the team. Their poor defending was especially evident in their match against Newcastle, when ridiculous defending allowed the Magpies to score 2 goals in the 94th and 95th minute of stoppage time and draw the game, 2-2. Michael Keane had tons of promise when they first arrived at Goodison Park but he haven’t lived up to the hype. Yerry Mina is a decent option but he needs a good partner and that partner isn’t Keane.

Mason Holgate has shown that he has the potential to be an excellent centre-back in the future, but he needs a player who acts as both a reliable partner in defence and a mentor. None are as ideal as Thiago Silva. Just ask Marquinhos at PSG. Sure, the younger Brazilian was brimming with potential and was certainly a gifted footballer when PSG transferred him in. However, it was arguably spending time as Silva’s partner in the heart of defence that helped raise Marquinhos’s game to the next level.

With no transfer fee involved, Everton should be able to afford Silva’s staggering wages. Silva’s arrival could also be beneficial for Mina and Keane, who could benefit from Silva’s presence. More importantly, Silva would help Everton’s lack of depth in centre-backs. Mina, Keane, and Holgate are the only first-team centre-backs currently in the Everton squad, and Silva could provide more cover for that position. Thiago Silva also speaks Italian and he could help rein in Moise Kean.

Overall, a move to Everton would not only be beneficial to Everton but offer a similar kind of challenge for Thiago Silva to the one he had at PSG – helping to transform an above average team into a great one.

Becoming a Locker Room leader at United

Image by Jakub Mularski from Pixabay

For some time now, I have been saying that Manchester United lack experienced heads in the locker room. And I’m not talking about players who’ve racked up hundreds of games. I’m talking about consistent title-winners who know what it takes to win championships and cups regularly. Harry Maguire is a fitting captain for the club, but there still seems to be little locker room leaders at Old Trafford. Thiago Silva’s arrival would surely help plug that lack of leadership. After all, the Brazilian international has been captain for both club and country for several years now.

However, unlike Everton, United do have a wealth of defenders at their disposal. Even if the club does sell Chris Smalling, Marcos Rojo, and Phil Jones, they would still have Victor Lindelöf, Eric Bailly, Axel Tuanzebe, and Timothy Fosu-Mensah. Would it be wise for United to sign Thiago Silva, who would probably play for two seasons max? Such a move would not only alienate either Bailly or Lindelöf but also potentially stunt the development of Tuanzebe.

Furthermore, Silva may not be starting every game for the club. Supposedly, there are plans to partner Tuanzebe and Maguire together. If Thiago Silva is content with being a rotation player at the club, then a move to United might make sense. However, I feel that it would be a shame if he did not start games. Unless the club decides to sell Bailly or Lindelöf, a move to United would not be the most ideal for all parties.

Solving Arsenal’s Defensive Crisis

Image by jorono from Pixabay

For the longest time, Arsenal have had a defender crisis at their hands. Sokratis and Mustafi have failed to convince that they deserve a spot in the starting line-up while David Luiz, Rob Holding, and Callum Chambers have all been mediocre at best. Arsenal have yet to effectively replace the defensive pairing of Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny. There is hope for the future, however, with William Saliba and Konstantinos Mavropanos set to return to the Gunners next season.

In particular, a centre-back partnership of Thiago Silva and William Saliba would sound tantalizing to Arsenal fans. As things stand, Arsenal fans are eagerly waiting to see their new man Saliba in action. Touted as an exciting prospect, he ushers in hope for Gooners, who mostly are fed up with the club’s regular poor defensive displays. Like with Holgate, Silva would be an ideal mentor to a young talented defender like Saliba. Under the Brazilian’s tutelage, he could definitely raise his game to the next level just like Marquinhos and Presnel Kimpembe.

If Arteta feels that Saliba needs to be eased into the Premier League instead, the Spaniard could revive the partnership of David Luiz and Thiago Silva instead. Having played together for PSG and the Brazil National team, both players can top on their shared chemistry and act as a short term fix for Arsenal’s defensive issues. At the same time, Saliba and Mavropanos are groomed to replace them.

Then there’s Pablo Marí who Arteta is looking to sign permanently. A partnership between Marí and Silva could be interesting as well and perhaps better than a pairing of Silva and Luiz. Hence, if Arsenal plan to acquire Silva, they need to clear out the deadwood. Mustafi and Sokratis need to be offloaded while either Chambers or Holding should be sent out on loan. If not, the defence would be cluttered with players.

Short-term Cover for Barcelona

Image by Iwan Bettschen from Pixabay

How has it gone wrong for Samuel Umtiti?

He was supposed to be Gerard Piqué’s successor but hasn’t delivered when it has mattered. Barcelona have reportedly slashed his asking price and it would seem that his days as a Barcelona player are drawing to a close.

If Umtiti does leave, and he probably will, Barcelona are only left with Gerrard Piqué and Clément Lenglet as experienced centre-backs. Yes, it is true that the Catalonians have Todibo next season, who will return from his loan at Schalke, and Barcelona B central defender Ronald Araújo, who has already featured once in the league this campaign. However, these players lack significant experience and are, quite truthfully, still not ready for consistent first-team football just yet. Even then, Barcelona are supposedly looking at selling the Todibo. If Araújo’s debut is anything to go by, he has a lot to learn. The Uruguayan debuted against Sevilla in October 2019, coming off the bench to replace Todibo in the 73rd minute only to be sent off 13 minutes later. The defender was all over Javier Hernandez, who was clear through goal. Even though it seems like Javier Hernandez made the most out of Araújo’s tugging, it is clear that the young Uruguayan does not possess enough experience yet. Hence, brining in a player like Silva makes a lot of sense.

In essence, Barcelona will replace Umtiti with Silva, albeit probably on a short term basis. Regardless of the length of his tenure at Camp Nou, the Brazilian’s arrival helps provide short-term depth in central defence. Besides gaining a mentor for the younger defenders, Silva’s arrival would give time for a young defender like Araújo to grow instead of rushing them into the first team. But Silva’s true purpose would be to buy Barcelona some time so that they can assess long-term options for central defenders instead of panic buying.

For years, Silva has faced Messi either on the cub level or internationally when Brazil and Argentina collide. To see both players on the same team though, now that would be interesting.

Reuniting with Zlatan and reviving Milan

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Zlatan and Thiago Silva were playing together in A.C. Milan before they were both poached by PSG in the 2012 Summer transfer window. They played together in Paris for 4 years before Zlatan made a move to Manchester United in the summer of 2016. It would be the dream of every footballing romanticist to witness the reunion of these two formidable players. Even though they are in their mid to late 30s, both footballers are going strong.

Besides the prospect of playing alongside Zlatan again, what better way to finish off his career than to return to Milan and help them get back to their glory days. Milan today are a real shadow of their past and perhaps Silva’s return could help reinvigorate the club to it’s glory days. A partnership between Thiago Silva and Alessio Romagnoli could see Silva symbolically passing the mantle to the Italian international. Silva’s arrival would be timely given how like other clubs in this list, Milan lack depth in central defence.

A New Challenge in Japan?

Image by Philavert from Pixabay

Instead of a move to the Chinese Super League, which arguably pays more, many stalwarts have looked to Japan as the final destination of their playing career. David Villa, Fernando Torres, and Lukas Podolski have all played in Japan towards the latter stages of their careers. Currently, Andreas Iniesta still plies his trade in Japan and the J1 League has long known to offer a unique challenge for European footballers. After years of domestic triumphs with PSG, Silva has never won a continental competition at the club level. Could he fulfil this dream by joining a J League side and help guide it to an AFC Champions League triumph? Or think about the exciting prospects of Thiago Silva, Andreas Iniesta, and Thomas Vermaelen playing in the same team if the Brazilian joined Vissel Kobe?

Where to then?

Personally, I feel that Silva should make a move to Everton and link up with Carlo Ancelotti once again. Everton have the resources to build a solid team and Silva would definitely improve the current lacklustre defence. Besides linking up with Ancelotti, Everton also offers Silva the chance of regular first-team football – something that other clubs may fail to provide. However, Silva is but one man and for Everton to excel, changes need to happen. Top of that list would be to offload Michael Keane and bring in a new defender. The Merseyside club is rumoured to be after Gabriel Magalhaes of Lille and that would be a fantastic signing. Under Silva’s guidance, perhaps Everton will have a reliable defence in the future with Holgate and Magalhaes at the heart of it.

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