A Liverpool Fan’s Transfer Wishlist

With the release of the fixtures for the 2017/18 on June 14, 2017, the season has officially commenced. As a Kop, the permutation for next season regarding the expected points per month has commenced. However, the club has not been active on the transfer market where the required tools are expected to be procured for the new season. While other clubs such as Manchester City, Manchester United, and even Arsenal have commenced signing of players for next season, Liverpool can only boast of Dominic Solanke, a free buy from Chelsea. From the reports in the newspaper, players have shown their preference in signing, but there is something still missing from the deals being concluded.

A review of the club performances last season revealed that there was a need for a Top 4 finish. A section of the fans are of the opinion that the club should have ended in a better position than the fourth position if Jurgen Klopp, the club manager had recruited from the January transfer window and there are clear facts to back this position. As at Dec 31, 2016, Liverpool was sitting in the second place with only 6 points away from leaders and eventually winner Chelsea. These set of fans including this writer believed that the coach should have beefed up the squad for the league challenge during the January window, but the manager thought otherwise. The consequence was the collapse of the title challenge as the club amassed only 6 points for the next six games between Dec 2016 and Feb 2017. By Feb 28, 2017, the club occupied the 5th position on the log with a massive 11 points from Chelsea, the table leader. The remaining weeks till May was used for the fourth-place struggle which was achieved by one point above Arsenal in fifth position.

Because of the above issues, the fans believe the club should have learned its lessons and as such have concrete plans for the summer transfer market. The fans are optimistic of a busy transfer more so after Jurgen Klopp’s comment after Middlesbrough’s game that the club has completed the preliminary discussions with the identified targets. Based on the current happenings as of today, this assertion by Klopp appears untrue, or maybe there are circumstances beyond the manager’s control. One of such circumstances is the ridiculous issue surrounding the Virgil van Dijk (VVD) approach and the subsequent apology from the club to Southampton. This incident not only embarrassed the club and its fans but has extinguished the faint hope of this writer in any major transfer coup considering Klopp’s known approach in the transfer market. From previously bookmarking sites for the latest information regarding the club activities in the market to adopting a siddon-look approach after the VVD transfer issues.

As the official transfer market opens on the first day of July, the fans including this writer hope and pray that the club pursues the transfer targets mentioned below. The club needs urgent reinforcement in some key areas, and there is a need for the right players to be signed at the right time as preseason is expected to commence early July. The names linked with the club were reviewed based on the current situation of things in the club.  As shown from last season performance, the club needs depth in the squad, and this should include quality signings, not average players that have donned the color of the club in recent years. Below is this fan’s wishlist from the transfer market:

GOALKEEPING: Last season, the club struggled in this department until February when there was some improvement from Mignolet and Karius. Also, Danny Ward, a loanee to Huddersfield Town continued to demonstrate his potential over the years, helping the club to the Premier League. However, his future is yet to be decided as at the time of this article.

Joe Hart and Jordan Pickford were named earlier as been linked to the club, but with the current situation regarding Pickford (agreed terms with Everton) only Hart remains in the hat. Taking into consideration his performance at Hampden Park last weekend, one would prefer status quo than the addition of ‘calamity Joe.’

DEFENSE:  There is no club with the ambition of winning titles that can do so with the current defensive set up in Liverpool. The club conceded 42 goals last season, and as such, there is a need for reinforcement. The requirement includes a left full back and two central defenders if Mamadou Sakho is sold as its being speculated. The club realized this fact, and this can be one of the reason for their desperation for VVD signature. With VVD out of the equation as stated in the apology tendered by the club (though there are rumour that the player is still insisting on leaving Southampton for Liverpool), other names mentioned include Stefan De Vrij of Lazio, Faouzi Ghoulam (Napoli), Andy Robertson (Hull City), Ben Gibson (Middlesbrough), Michael Keane (Burnley), Kalidou Koulibaly (Napoli), Ryan Bertrand (Southampton) and Ryan Sessegnon (Fulham). As a Kop, one would expect the club to review the VVD issue and pursue it if there is any meaningful lead. Starting with the left full-back, Ryan Sessegnon is a good prospect for the position. He has the age on his side, and there is no need for him to adapt to the language and culture of the country as he currently plies his trade with Fulham in the lower division. Though the club appears to have cooled off their interest due to Spurs pursuit of the same player but happenings in recent days indicates that there is a need for a renewed approach for the player. The second option for the left fullback position should be the Algerian Faouzi Ghoulam. As for the central defenders, VVD remain the number one option while Kalidou Koulibaly and Stefan De Vrij appear decent alternatives. For a club of Liverpool’s ambition for next season and with due respect to these players, Micheal Keane, Andy Robertson, Ryan Bertrand and Steve Gibson are average players that cannot fit into the requirements at this level.

MIDFIELD:  Currently, the club has enough players in this department but would require depth as the club campaign in all fronts next season including the Champions League. Also, the event of Jan/Feb 2017 has shown that most of the players in this department are prone to injuries. According to transfer rumors, the club is still dilly dallying with AS Roma for the purchase of Mohammed Salah. For me, Salah would fit perfectly into Klopp plans and we, the fans are looking forward to the prospect of having Salah and Mane operating in wide areas; William Carvalho (Sporting Lisbon), Sergej Milinkovic (SS Lazio), Alex Oxlade Chamberlain, Demarai Garay (Leicester City) and Gelson Martins (Sporting Lisbon) can be considered as alternative additions for central midfield and the wings as well. From these lots, the club needs two players, and this includes a defensive midfielder (if the contract issue with Emre Can remains unsolved).

For the defensive midfield role, the club should pursue Willam Carvalho if and only if we lose both Emre Can and Lucas Leiva. If the club loses Lucas Leiva as its being speculated, a younger player from the youth team can be promoted, e.g., Kevin Stewart or Pedro Chirivella The second option in this regard should be Sergej Milinkovic. As for the other midfielder/winger, Salah appears 80% done, but if we are unable to get him (with Liverpool in the transfer market anything can happen)

ATTACK: Dominic Solanke is confirmed as a Liverpool player for next season, and with his exploits at the FIFA U20 World Cup, expectations are high from the fans. However, if the club is serious about its ambition next season, then Solanke cannot deliver the goals. For me, Solanke is a younger version of Divork Origi. As a fan, the club should resolve the Daniel Sturridge situation in time, however, with or without Sturridge, the club needs two quality strikers with proven records. Lacazette and Keita fit this description perfectly. To be frank, this is the department that the club needs to break the bank to match their ambition

As a fan, Alexander Lacazette perfectly fits this role. Though I would have preferred Pierre Aubameyang but with PSG in the picture for his signature, realistically it would be a mountain too much to climb with these American owners. The same applies to the rumor linking us with Kylian Mbappe. As a fan, this would be a perfect signing for us but with Real Madrid and Manchester City as part of his suitors, the same verdict as that of Aubameyang as far as this writer is concerned. If these transfers happen as I pray so, it would be a major coup. Maybe, we can erase some of the embarrassment caused by the VVD saga.

Of all the names linked with the club which include Dusan Tadic (Southampton, our ‘feeder team’), Marco Asensio (Real Madrid) and Keita Balde (SS Lazio), I would prefer Alexander Lacazette and Keita Balde. These players are within our reach, and as a serious club that we should be, we have to go for them with all seriousness. For me, Tadic is too average while Asensio won’t leave Real Madrid as he already stated in one of his recent interviews leaving only Lacazette and Keita. Lacazette first choice is Atletico Madrid but the FIFA transfer ban makes that unlikely; we should then compete with Arsenal for the player. Arsenal playing in the Europa League should be an advantage for us if we can put our act together. As for Keita, Sadio Mane influence can be exploited, marched with proper negotiations by the Liverpool team.

Finally, it is important to note that next season should be tagged the season of reckoning for Jurgen Klopp and as such he needs to get his acts together. As stated during his presentation ceremony after signing for the club in October 2016, Jurgen Klopp promised to deliver the long awaited EPL title within three years and next season would be a season close to the promised date. As a fan, I am of the opinion that the club especially the newly appointed CEO Peter Moore should use the remainder of this transfer window to atone for the VVD sin. The club needs to make a major statement in the transfer market only then can we hope for a title push next season.

 

DREAM TEAM FOR NEXT SEASON:

Goalkeeper:                  Mignolet / Karius

Right Full Back:          Clyne / Trent / (Joe Gomez)

Left Full Back:             Sessagnon** / Moreno (Milner)/ Joe Gomez

Central Defence:        Matip / VVD** Sakho (Koulibaly**)/Lovren

Defensive Midfield:   Emre Can / William Carvalho** / Lucas Leiva / Pedro Chrivaella

Central Midfield:       Henderson / Wijnaldum / Milner) / Stewart / Milinkovic**

Attacking Midfield/Wingers: Mane /Coutinho/Firmino/Sallah**

Strikers/Centre Forward:   Lacazette**/ Keita**/ Strurridge / Solanke / Origi / Ings

** players on the wishlist

 

 

TRANSFER SEASON: A MANCHESTER UNITED FAN WISHLIST

Although not officially open, the transfer window is in full swing with teams across Europe already splashing the cash in preparation for the upcoming season. The Premier League resumes in two months, but teams like Manchester City have already spent big on players like Bernardo Silva from Monaco and Brazilian goalkeeper Ederson in a World record fee with Benjamin Mendy and Kyle Walker still on their wish-list. For the Champions Chelsea, it is expected that they will bring in a new striker after Diego Costa revealed he had been informed by the manager Antonio Conte that he was no longer in his plans for the coming season. Arsenal have secured the signing of Schalke’s promising defender Sead Kolasinac on a free transfer whilst keeping hold of Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil remains Wenger’s major task going into the new season. A lot of activities will still take place till the very last day when we experience the usual deadline day rush but from a Manchester United fan’s perspective, which players will you like to see unveiled as the team makes a four pronged title approach next season.

MANCHESTER UNITED: United have already secured a deal to sign Swedish International and former Benfica Player Victor Lindelof subject to medicals and work permit, this looks like a good deal as United struggled to cope with injuries and loss of form in the defense with only new signing Eric Bailey covering himself in some form of glory, but outside Lindelof, the team needs more and with names like Gareth Bale, Donnarumma, James Rodriguez, Alvaro Morata and many more linked to United, who else should be on Jose’s four man wish list given to Ed Woodward and which positions should the team be looking to strengthen?

Gareth Bale/ Douglas Costa: Jose Mourinho usually fancies a lone striker and with the likes of Martial, Rashford and Lingard failing to contribute as much goals to support Ibrahimovic’s numbers, the team fell short when Zlatan wasn’t scoring. That is one area that needs to change and Gareth Bale would be an obvious fit at United. Despite injuries limiting his performances at Madrid in the just ended season, Bale running at any defender with his shooting prowess and aerial strength will be a valuable asset to any top team. Aside also being a statement of real intent, he has always been linked with a return to England with United top of the list. Out of favor at Bayern Munich, Douglas Costa is my second option if we don’t get Bale as United will present him a chance to revive his career and with his pace and skills, the Premier League may just suit his style well.

Alvaro Morata: If the rumor mill is to be believed, Morata to United will be a done deal in the coming days, it’s no secret that following the release of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, United needs at least one top striker to lead the lines next season and initially the talk was on Antoinne Griezmann joining the team but following Atletico’s transfer ban, he has decided to stay with the team for at least one more season, so attention has now been shifted to Spain forward Alvaro Morata who despite scoring a total of 22 goals for Madrid in a double winning season, he is still second place to Benzema and has been quoted as seeking more regular playing time even if he has to leave Madrid again after only one season. At 24, he is quite experienced and is even yet to fully hit his prime which he may achieve at United.

Fabinho/ Any good DM: Last season, Jose allowed Bastian and Schneiderlin leave, which he later admitted regretting, the team ended up with Tuanzebe drafted into the midfield role towards the end of the season, Michael Carrick who recently had his testimonial and got rewarded with a new contract will be 36 next season, United fans have never fancied Fellaini leaving Ander Herrera and Paul Pogba as the only dependable midfielders going into the new season, United needs a holding midfielder who can give Pogba the freedom to bloom like Carrick did, Fabinho did this pretty well combining with Bakayoko at Monaco and will be interesting to see if he can replicate a similar partnership with Herrera.

A left Back: Left back is also one area where United struggled all through the last season with Matteo Darmian who is a right back playing in that position at crucial stages of the season, Luke Shaw has well-documented injury concerns and may not just be able to hit the levels he once did at Southampton, Daley Blind is quite useful to the team for his versatility but his lack of pace has seen him struggle at the left back role, clearly Marcos Rojo is a better option at Center back and despite improvising decently when called upon, Darmian is not a left back, it is quite a difficult role to fill but it is one that Jose needs to pay attention to. Someone in the likes of Danny Rose maybe.

 

Henry Onyekuru to Arsenal: The Pros and Cons

The rumors have been flying for quite some days now but it eventually took flesh when according to Sky Sources, Arsenal have agreed a 6.8 million Pounds deal with Belgian club KAS Eupen for kid sensation Henry Onyekuru with personal terms yet to be reached. The 19 year old who is a product of the Aspire foundation recently made his ‘debut’ for the Super Eagles in a ‘practice’ game against Corsica and is in the squad to play Togo. Onyekuru’s invite to the Super Eagles is very refreshing especially as the duo of Iheanacho and Iwobi who led the forward lines in our last qualifiers have since suffered familiar fates and lost their places in their teams, hence the need for someone who is actually getting game time and scoring goals which the 19 year old fully fits the bill, Onyekuru is fast, has good movements and finishes quite well with 20 goals in the Jupiler league.

At first look, the deal to Arsenal sounds juicy especially as it sees a Nigerian player yet again featuring for a top side in Europe and will provide more opportunities to be seen and monitored by his Nigerian fans who are largely followers of the English league, but critically, is this the deal that the lad needs at this point especially with interest from the likes of Celtic, Club Brugges and Anderlecht? Arsenal recently gave their manager Arsene Wenger a new two year deal after a turbulent season and many are of the opinion that this may well be his final two years in charge of the gunners. The team despite winning 3 FA cup finals in the last four years are without a Premier League trophy in 13 years and miss out on the Champions league for the first time under the French man, the Wenger Out campaign hit its highest levels this season and it is rumored that the board have mandated the Manager to be more ruthless in his transfer dealings and in a season where Manchester City have already signed Bernado Silva, agreed a fee for Benfica goalkeeper Ederson and are strongly linked to the likes of Kyle Walker, in a window where United are being linked with names like Griezmann, Aubameyang, Perisic, is Henry Onyekuru the type of signing that will bring excitement to the Arsenal Fans? Will Arsene be patient enough with the young talent who clearly still has a lot to learn amidst pressure?

The demands of expectation at the Emirates will be at its peak this season, will Henry be able to thrive under that atmosphere where he will be expected to deliver week in, week out. Is he exactly a step up when compared to Giroud or Danny Welbeck, this is a major leap for the young lad and whilst many may be quick to point to how Arsene Wenger helped Kanu Nwankwo blossom, albeit under different circumstances, the times have changed, the Gunners have succinctly gone beyond their ‘building the young’ policy and have splashed the cash in recent years, instant success is required and how much of a chance will Henry be given to find his feet when the next year could actually be key to his development and staking his place in the Eagles as major competitions draw near. Much is left to be seen of this deal, will Henry Onyekuru end up as another Ahmed Musa or a Brown Ideye, only time will tell.

FIVE THINGS TO LOOK OUT FOR THIS WEEKEND ACROSS THE WORLD OF FOOTBALL

The ‘bread and butter’ of league football that has kept our weekends alive and our eyes glued to the TV screens providing sensational entertainment reaches its climax as major leagues across Europe enters its final stretch this weekend. For most of these leagues like The Premier League, Bundesliga, Ligue 1, the winners have already been sorted but the La Liga is going down the wire whilst Juventus can add the Serie A title to the Coppa Italia they won midweek with a game to spare. Here are five things to expect from the weekend action across the league with the NPFL also making a return.

The NPFL returns: After an extended break that saw all outstanding matches settled, the NPFL resumes this weekend but this time only on the pitches and not on our screens, the LMC are yet to sort out the issue of live broadcasting of games (this has to be resolved sooner rather than later) but the league still has to go on. League leaders Plateau United will be hoping to continue their strong hold at the top of the table away at Katsina United. 2nd on the log MFM could go top at the end of the day as they host 5th place Akwa United whilst defending champions Rangers of Enugu who are witnessing some rejuvenation welcome Gombe United. It is a reversal of the last round of fixtures from the last day of the first half of the league, here is the full list of Match-day 20 games;

Sunshine Stars VS Lobi Stars

Shooting Stars VS FC Ifeanyi Ubah

ABS F.C VS El-Kanemi Warriors

Rivers United FC VS Nasarawa United

MFM VS Akwa United

Remo Stars VS Enyimba

Enugu Rangers VS Gombe United

Wikki Tourists FC VS Abia Warriors

Katsina United VS Plateau United

Kano Pillars VS Niger Tornadoes

Madrid on the verge: Just a point separates Zinedine Zidane’s team from clinching a first league title in 5 years, Real Madrid are away at Malaga with Barcelona hosting Eibar. The Los Blancos secured a 4-1 victory over Celta Vigo midweek placing them firmly on top of the table with 3 points ahead of Barcelona and needing just a point from their final game of the season to clinch the league. Apparently in a game that promises many twists, a prominent one has been noises especially from the Barcelona supporters that Malaga who really have nothing to play are supposedly not going to be putting up much of a fight due to a clause in midfielder Isco’s contract when he was signed for Madrid which will see Malaga getting up-to 1 Million Euros in variables if the midfielder helped Madrid win a league title in his first five seasons. Even without this twist, Madrid have done enough to deservedly win the league having won the most games, lost the fewest number of games and second only in goals total to Barcelona and with the run in hitting top form yet again, goals are bound to rain in this one. Atletico Madrid who have secured third place host Athletic Bilbao whilst Villarreal are way at Valencia.

Photo finish for the Top Four in England: Tottenham Hotspurs routed Leicester City on Thursday night to rubber stamp their 2nd place finish on the table, putting gloss on what has been a fine season for the London side, Harry Kane grabbed four goals to put some gap at the race for the golden boot with 26 goals, but all eyes this weekend will be at the Emirates where Sanchez on 23 goals leads the gunners against Lukaku’s Everton with the Belgian on 24 goals, the game however has an higher stake as the gunners hope they can somehow still secure a top four finish at the end of this weekend’s round of fixtures. The matter is however out of their hands as Liverpool who are ahead of the gunners by a point are home to West Ham, Jurgen Klopp’s men have struggled at Anfield recently with the last being a goalless draw with Southampton but should do enough to get past the finish line. For Manchester City, a draw away at Watford is enough to secure Pep Guardiola’s men their place in the Champions League next year and paper what has generally been a disappointing season for the team. I expect the three teams to all secure the much needed victories with Arsenal losing out at the end of the day and settling for the Europa League.

Juventus to clinch the Serie A at home?: This is the penultimate weekend to the end of the Serie A but defending Champions, Coppa Italia winners and Champions League finalist Juventus could clinch their sixth consecutive Scudetto and the second title of their treble hunt with a win over visiting Crotone, Max Allegri’s side have one job and they will be looking at getting this job done in time to focus on the Champions league final with Real Madrid, win and you are Champions but the job may not be as easy as it looks as they are up against an inform Crotone who have picked up 17 points from their last seven games and are a point behind Empoli in 18th position as they struggle to avoid the drop. Roma and Napoli who have secured their automatic places in next year’s Champions league are up against Chievo Verona and Fiorentina respectively with Lazio hosting Inter the other key fixture this weekend in Italy.

Another Hamburger escape? Is this the season that Hamburg SV finally gets relegated from the Bundesliga? The team which since the creation of the league in 1963, have never tasted football outside the top division having survived three playoffs in their last three seasons may finally have their luck run out when they play Wolfsburg who are a position ahead and also fighting relegation. With one game to go, Hamburg lie 16th on the log, two points from safety but are without a win from their last five games,  if you consider that they are finding scoring goals difficult to come by and have recently lost to Darmstadt and Augsburg, then this may just be fourth time unlucky. Another battle in the Bundesliga is that of the final automatic Champions league position as Borussia Dortmund who lies third are tied on points with fourth place Hoffenheim, both teams are at home this weekend as Dortmund host 8th place Werder Bremen (who have done really well this season) with 14th place Augsburg visiting Hoffenheim. Bayer Leverkusen who can yet be dragged in the relegation battle following a run of uninspiring performances are away at Hertha Berlin.

5 THINGS TO EXPECT THIS WEEKEND IN THE PREMIER LEAGUE

The Premier league is gradually coming to an end and whilst the league title and Champions League places are being won at one end of the table, fans of teams like Sunderland and Middlesbrough have to deal with anguish, tears and regrets following their relegation to the lower league. But just before we will be left with boring weekends with nothing but the Confederation Cup and World Cup qualifiers to stand in gap, here are 5 things to expect from the weekend’s action in The Premier League.

The Relegation Battle continues: The relegation dogfight resumes this weekend and although two teams have already been relegated, Sunderland and Middlesbrough, but with two games left, one of three teams remain in danger of being relegated, Hull City who suffered a rare home defeat last week to Sunderland are occupying the final relegation spot with 34 points are away on Sunday to Crystal Palace who despite a glorious winning run weeks ago have lost their last three games and lie 16th on the log, with just four points above the relegation zone needing at least a draw to secure their place in the league. Hull are yet to win away from home under Marco Silva and Sam Allardyce sure knows how to get the required result to beat the drop, I expect Palace to get something out of this tie, even if not a win. Paul Clement’s Swansea secured a moral boosting win over Everton last week to move out of the relegation zone for the first time in five weeks and a victory away at already relegated Sunderland will ensure that the Welsh side stay another season in the Premier League. With Sigurdsson, Llorente and Ki putting in the shift, they should be able to get one over David Moyes men.

Chelsea may be crowned Champions today: Friday night games used to be a rarity in the Premier League but tonight features two matches, league leaders Chelsea are away at the Hawthorns where they face a lackluster West Brom, Tony Pulis men have switched off since hitting the forty point mark and have only secured two points from 18 since their win over Arsenal in March. Following Tottenham’s defeat to West Ham, the Blues took full opportunity routing Middlesbrough and confirming their relegation to the lower decision and now Antonio Conte’s men have an opportunity to end whatever is left of the title race before Spurs kick another ball. For Tony Pulis, it is really weird at how he has failed to hit the 50 point mark with the various teams he has coached despite been able to organize his team in the early half of the season, the players look uninspired and their minds already on holiday and with the efficiency Chelsea have shown in getting the job done this season and Conte barking orders down the touchline not giving room for his players to down tools, there is only one result possible here and it is a Chelsea win and a second title in three season for the Londoners. The other Friday night game sees Everton host Watford.

 

Liverpool on the edge?: Surely Jurgen Klopp’s men can’t afford to let this slip, another goalless draw at home to Southampton last time around making it three home games at Anfield without a win and four games this season against the Saints without a goal threw panic in the air once again at Liverpool. They are up against West Ham who created something of an upset with their win over Tottenham Hotspurs last weekend with Manuel Lanzini getting the solitary strike. West Ham are safe on 42 points and really have nothing to play for, though a chance to finish in the top half of the table and get extra revenue will be a motivation alongside getting a win in their final home game of the season. For Liverpool however, they cannot afford to drop points again, Manchester City lie a point below them having played a game less, same as Arsenal who are four points behind but with a game less. Liverpool are without star forwards Sadio Mane and Divok Origi but with Firminho, Coutinho and Sturridge, there is enough firepower to down the hammers but which Liverpool side will turn up? The one that has played some expansive and thrilling football at some point this season or the one that has struggled with disappointing results on occasions, there is little margin for error and if Klopp wants to make any success out of his first full season at Liverpool, he has to get a result and ensure that his team doesn’t lose this with two games to go.

Top Four battle for Manchester City and Arsenal: Back to back victories against Manchester United and Southampton have revived the hopes of a top four finish for Arsenal fans, top four has always been a guarantee under Arsene Wenger so a late surge has calmed the #WengerOut banners at least for now. Whilst a top four finish is not totally in their hands anymore, 9 points from their final 3 games is what the fans demand. They are up against Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium come Saturday evening, and just like Chelsea, a switch to a back three seems to be working for Arsene’s men but on a ground where they have not won since 2010, this is another encounter where the full strength of the gunners will have to be on display and anything short of a win may just be goodbye to their Champions League hunt.

For Manchester City, a 5-0 mauling of Crystal Palace sets the perfect tone for the visit of outgoing Champions Leicester City, last time both sides met in the league at this ground, Riyadh Mahrez led his side to a stunning victory as they made their way to winning the league title. This season has however seen a twist of fortunes for both side, but following Ranieri’s sack, Leicester City have been rejuvenated under Craig Shakespeare and have moved from flirting close to the relegation zone to the top half of the table, sitting 9th on the log. Leicester will look at soaking up pressure and capitalizing on the pace of Jamie Vardy, with Wilfred Ndidi expected to play a crucial role in the midfield battle with Yaya Toure, David Silva was menacing against Palace and his trickery will be required again as a win for Manchester City all but confirms a top four finish this season.

Tottenham Hotspur VS Manchester United: By the time, this game kicks off on Sunday, it is almost certain that Chelsea will have secured the title and Spurs will have nothing to play for as even defeats in two of their last three games will not see them fall below the second position on the log, the young side have given it their all yet again this season but have fallen short at crucial moments. White Hart Lane sees its final home game with Spurs moving to Wembley stadium next season as work continues on their new ground and no bigger way to draw the curtains on what has been an eventful campaign than against Manchester United, the Red Devils on Thursday night secured their place in the Europa league final with a hard fought victory over Celta Vigo and with a thin squad due to injuries and suspension, Jose Mourinho is expected to ring a lot of changes to his starting XI, Manchester United are yet to record an away goal against any of the top four side, the last being a drab goalless draw at neighbors City. It is a game where nothing much outside pride and a proper farewell is at stake, Spurs will however want this more and I expect them to get something from this tie.

 

Halftimeng Premier League Team of Week 36

Chelsea could be crowned Champions of England by as early as Friday this week; after a devastating performance at the Bridge against relegation bound Middlesborough and considering Tottenham Hotspurs dropped points in the London derby against West Ham earlier on Friday night; all eyes will be at the Hawthorns as the Champions elect proceed to their coronation event which includes a Ninety minutes confrontation with Tony Pulis’ West Brom.

In terms of stand out performances; the Etihad was the ideal location for probably the best display of attacking football you would see from a Pep Guardiola coached side. The Citizens were fluid, expressive and quite dynamic to the point that their two center backs chipped in with goals.

At the Emirates; Arsene Wenger finally got the better of Jose Mourinho in a competitive game and I must say it seems Alex 0xlade Chamberlain has developed a knack for finding his best form when faced with Manchester United.  At Anfield, the gift that keeps giving Liverpool continued their Robin Hood acts as Southampton got a well deserved nil-nil draw especially after the penalty save by Fraser Forster.

Here’s the compilation of my team of the week in a 4-4-2 formation:

 

Halftimeng Premier League Team of Week 35

I am not sure there as ever been a time where we have had a midfield in our selection that’s dominated by Defensive midfielders; is it a sign of the fact that the season is gradually coming to an end? Well; let me first and foremost apologize for  the late compilation of our weekly team; its been one hell of a start to the week.

If you are a punter; I am sure Saturday would have been one of your worst days betting on the Premier League; only four goals were scored on Saturday and fifteen goals in total if you add Sunday; even if you include Monday Night Football; a grand total of Sixteen goals were scored. That’s what happens when you have 2 scoreless draws; 3 one-nil scorelines; a one all draw and the excitement seemed to be reserved for the latter part of Sunday with four goals at the Riverside; Three at Goodisson and Two at White Hart Lane.

This week’s selection has a Nigerian make the list coming so many weeks after the likes of Victor Anichebe and Victor Moses made the cut. So with no further ado; here’s my selection in a 3-4-3 formation:

FOOTBALL MID-WEEK REVIEW featuring the Manchester Derby

As the leagues in Europe begin to hit home stretch, we have been served with top and feisty matches across the top leagues, there is still a lot to fight for especially in Spain and England where the battle for the winners is not yet done and dusted, the DFB cup was in the forefront in Germany whilst France saw the clash of the best two teams in the land, here is a review of all that happened across Europe in the last few days alongside the preview of the Manchester Derby coming up tonight at the Etihad.

Barcelona and Madrid secure big wins: After the El Classico over the weekend which saw Barcelona edge Madrid at the top of the log on head to head basis, though Madrid still have a game in hand, both teams featured in mid week fixtures as they continue their chase for the La Liga title.  As expected, Barcelona thrashed visiting Osasuna by 7 goals to one confirming the team to relegation after just one year of returning to the elite division with the highlight of the game being Javier Mascherano’s first goal in his 319th appearance for Barcelona, Madrid however faced a tricky tie away at Deportivo La Coruna and when the team-list was released with the likes of Ronaldo, Benzema and Toni Kroos absent, many feared manager Zinedine Zidane may have taken the gamble a bit too far, but all that was erased barely a minute into the game as Morata opened the scoring in what turned out to be a easy 6- 2 win with Isco starring as the main man yet again. Granada suffered their third defeat with new manager Tony Adams whilst Leganes halted an 8 game streak without a win with a 3-0 victory over Las Palmas to boost their survival chances.

NFF and AITEO 2.5Bn deal: The NFF yesterday announced a 5 year partnership contract worth 500 million Naira per year with oil and Gas Company Aiteo as Official Optimum partner of the football body, the deal primarily ensures that payment of all national team coaches and technical partnership of the national teams are duly covered over the year.

Big results in Cup games: In Germany, something of an upset was witnessed as Borussia Dortmund stunned Bayern Munich by 3 goals to 2 to secure their place in the DFB Cup final for the fourth straight time, Bayern Munich had led by 2 goals to one at a certain stage but two goals in five minutes from Pierre- Emerick Aubameyang and teen sensation Ousmane Dembele ensured that the Bavarians will not be winning a double this season, Dortmund will now face Eintracht Frankfurt in the final. In France, Monaco featured a much changed team and were thoroughly routed by PSG as the boys from Paris scored 5 unreplied goals to secure a final berth with Angers.

The Premier League: Arsenal earned a hard fought 1 nil victory over defending champions Leicester City courtesy a late minute Robert Huth own goal to win back to back games for the first time since February and maintain their hunt for a champions league place, Christian Eriksen’s belter at Crystal Palace also ensured that the North Londoners remain just four points behind league leaders Chelsea who put up a commanding performance in their 4-2 victory over Southampton, Sunderland are all but confirmed for relegation after suffering yet another defeat in the hands of fellow strugglers Middlesbrough.

The Manchester Derby: All eyes will at the Etihad tonight as the two Manchester teams go head to head in a battle not for the title but for a top four place. A win for Manchester United will see them in the top four for the first time this year and they will be jointly tied on 66 points with Liverpool despite having played a game less, for Pep Guardiola, his first season has not exactly gone according to plans as the team will be finishing the season without a silverware and a top four position is paramount to his plans of restructuring the team come next season. Both sides have injury worries as Jose Mourinho has confirmed that 89M signing Paul Pogba will be missing after he picked up an injury in their last game, he joins Zlatan Ibrahimovic who has also been ruled out for the season and Marcos Rojo on the sidelines, for City, David Silva remains a doubt but Sergio Aguero is in contention alongside Gabriel Jesus to feature in tonight’s game. It’s Pep Guardiola against Jose Mourinho yet again, many will be curious to see how tactics are deployed in this game following how United approached their last big game against Chelsea, It’s a game that could be a decider to either teams fortunes as we hit the end of the season and whilst a draw may not be bad for both sides, the likes of Liverpool and Arsenal will be wishing that one of the sides, especially United drop all three points to enhance their Champions League place. The two sides have met twice already this season, City won the first leg of their Premier League fixture whilst United emerged victorious in the EFL cup, this is their third and final meeting of the season and whilst a top four place may be the ultimate prize, the bragging rights for who owns Manchester is also an appeal as two of the best managers in the world seek to make the most of what has been a below par season in comparison with the standards they have set in their careers.

Halftimeng Alternate PFA 2016/17 Best Eleven

As always, when the end of the season nears; award and selection fever grips the entire Football fan base; of course we are never able to agree on a selection or awardee that makes everyone happy; it is the nature of us as humans to agree to disagree. Yesterday, The Professional Footballers Association in England released its selection of the stand out players for the ongoing season as voted by the players themselves. As always annually; some players were interestingly left out. One that compounds all human reasoning is Sergio Aguero; how in all the time he has been in the Premier League,he keeps been over looked is quite remarkable. Another has to be Toby Alderweireld; the Spurs defender as been solid and resolute all season; yes Chelsea have had a really good season especially David Luiz, who seems to have finally tracked down the kid with the Play-station pad and has turned out to be a defender reborn (ignore the performance at Old Trafford though).

How was Alexis Sanchez left out this year; despite his Nineteen Goals for Arsenal and been the Gunners best player all year. Please take a look at the PFA Selection (courtesy The Sun) below:

How Sadio Mane makes this list amazes me as well as the two Spurs full backs; don’t get me wrong they have had good seasons; but can you honestly say that Mane has had a better season than Alexis Sanchez or has Walker been better than Antonio Valencia?

How Gary Cahill makes this list has to be one of the wonders of the world; especially considering the likes of Jan Vertonghen and Virgil Van Dijk have had stellar seasons. Well just as the players are entitled to make their own selection; I have decided to come up with an alternative selection of my own.

In comparison to the PFA selection; only one man is constant and he has my vote anytime and any day to be the PFA Player of the year; he is none other than N’Golo Kante. Here’s my alternative PFA Best Eleven:

 

So what do you think? If you disagree with my selection; hit me up in the comments section with your alternate line up and lets have some fun with it.

Halftimeng Premier League Muppets of Week 33

What is always amazing in selecting the top performers of the week along with the Muppets of the week is the chance of been a top performer this week to been a Muppet the following week. Yes there are some players who have made it a weekly affair to produce poor displays. The player of interest this week is Fraser Forster of Southampton; top performer last week; absolute Muppet this past weekend. The selection this week has some unusual names; never would I have thought the day would come that Eden Hazard, probably the best player in the Premier League along with one of the best Marksmen in the League; Diego Costa would find their way into the Muppets list.

Eden Hazard’s performance of content, surprised many pundits as he just seemed to accept he wasn’t going to get the better of Ander Herrera; which for a player who wants to be considered among the top five players in the world is not good enough. The likes of Nacer Chadli, Marc Pugh, Lee Cattermole also join the Muppets list for this week.

The biggest Muppet of them all has to be Middlesbrough’s Adama Traore; for the love of God, who is his hairstylist? How do you feel comfortable leaving your house with that Mop on your head. The former Barcelona Academy player continues to show why he couldn’t make the grade at the Nou Camp; as far as I am concerned he put every foot wrong as the North East side tried in vain to level matters against visiting Arsenal.

Here’s my selection for Muppets of the week for Week 33 in the Premier League in a 4-5-1 formation: