Cast your votes for this weeks ‘BELLEND OF THE WEEK’ – nominations on the SSN podcast!

This weeks nominations are as follow…

Harry’s Nomination: Co-host of the Harry & Alavi show, Mr Alavi himself.

Reason: For saying in last weeks podcast that ‘Juventus are top of La Liga’ – incredible statement from a man running a football podcast!

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Alavi’s Nomination:  Andy Caroll, West Ham Utd Striker.

Reason: Awful clearance/bit of skill, just awful piece of play in West Ham’s defeat at Watford

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Get over to our Twitter page to register your vote! Link below.

 

Unbeaten in 10, Spurs march on! – De Luca’s report on the win over Aston Villa.

10 games unbeaten in the league for Spurs now as they eventually saw off a poor but gritty Aston Villa at the Lane last night.

Moussa Dembele who has looked a player rejuvenated in recent weeks powered through off the left to finish smartly and give Spurs the lead inside 3 minutes.

You might have thought that would be the first of many, but as the clock ticked towards half time Spurs had not added to their tally despite the dominant nature of their display. Kane and Rose going close with efforts as Spurs looked to add to the opener. Only a Scott Sinclair effort after a jinking run was worthy of the highlight reel from a Villa perspective.

Just before stoppage time though the crucial second goal came, Dele Alli held his run before chesting down a lose ball and guiding a finish into the bottom corner. It was just what Tottenham and Alli, who was to take home the man of the match champagne, deserved.

If someone said at half time Spurs would need an injury time winner to be sure of victory you would have laughed. Or cried maybe. But Spurs do have previous in the department of throwing away victories.

This game had been far to easy you sense Spurs were enjoying their stroll towards full time far too much to bother killing the game off.

Villa out of nothing sparked into life for the last 20 minutes, which co-incided with the removal of Dembele.
Every season there is one player who unexpectedly emerges as the man who becomes the difference in your side. I think that will be Dembele for Spurs this season. The power and composure he demonstrates on a good day is something not in the armoury of the other midfielders on the Spurs roster. At times he can be unplayable.

Bacuna hit a curling effort which bounced off the foot of the post and whilst Lloris might think he had it covered it was too close for comfort and this buoyed Villa on, within minutes they had a goal back after a big deflection from Ayew’s long range strike. Suddenly Villa were in the game. Lloris came charging out for a cross that he could never possibly claim and Gestede somehow nodded wide when anything on target was 2-2.

The remainder of this match had the feel of the Stoke game in August when Spurs last threw away a two goal lead to draw a seemingly already won match. Drawing this would have been more criminal.
Ayew smashed one narrowly over as Villa got closer to an unlikely equaliser.

Fairplay to them, they were pushing forward and had Spurs penned in, but as time was looking like it was beating them the killer blow was delivered by Kane, brilliantly finishing a flowing team move in the break.
This had been Harry’s worst performance this season in my opinion, his all round display not as impressive as they had been today,
Plays well doesn’t score, plays badly knocks in his best finish of the season so far. There’s only one thing that people count when you’re a striker.

Another 3 points for Spurs, and a 10th league game unbeaten. Next stop the Emirates. Never confident but always hopeful, and why not? This is shaping up to be a very good season.

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Daniel De Luca (SPURS FAN)

Bayern Munich vs Arsenal Preview – from Kyri Christodoulou

Arsenal travel to the Bavaria on Wednesday night in very good form, Arsenal have won 5 out off the last 6 in all competitions including a 2-0 win over Bayern Munich at the Emirates last month.

Both teams had very good spells in the game at the Emirates and the game could have gone either way really.

Just like at the Emirates last month Arsenal have to accept that Bayern will dominate possession for most of the game and Arsenal will have to be well organised and have a good shape off the ball just like they did against the Germans in London.

Petr Cech had to make 2 top saves from Bayern’s Thiago and Robert Lewandowski in each half, Arsenal dug in and took their chance with Giroud’s goal coming from an unusual Manuel Neuer blunder.

Football - Arsenal v Bayern Munich - UEFA Champions League Group Stage - Group F - Emirates Stadium, London, England - 20/10/15 Mesut Ozil celebrates with manager Arsene Wenger after scoring the second goal for Arsenal Action Images via Reuters / Tony O'Brien

Arsenal went on to win 2-0 in the end with Mesut Ozil’s effort crossing the line in injury time despite Neuer’s efforts to stop it crossing the line.

Maybe what helped Arsenal is the fact they had to beat Bayern or it was curtains as far as the Champions League is concerned…similar situation in Munich this week.

I still feel if Arsenal loose in Munich they could still scrape through but what a difference a point or even 3 would make for the Gunners.

Even though Bayern are arguably the best team in the world at the moment Arsenal shouldn’t go to Germany with any fear, or what would be the point?

Why bother being in the Champions League if your going to fear Europe’s elite (your in the Champions League to play these teams). Bayern Munich will want to make a statement in the Allianz Arena after getting beat in London.

Arsenal’s record in Munich stretching back as far as 2001 is P4 W1 D1 L2 but the 2 defeats coming at the old Olympic stadium, Arsenal have played twice at the Allianz Arena and have won and drawn but you could argue both them games were in the 2nd legs of knockout ties and both were probably over after the 1st game.

Arsenal’s record in Germany since 2006 has seen them play there 6 times and lose just the once to Dortmund last season. So if you believe in records, Arsenal stand a chance on Wednesday. The German teams have done better against Arsenal in North London though.

I’ve seen Arsenal play against some top teams domestically and in Europe, home and away but the 2nd best team I’ve seen at Arsenal (After Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona team) was Jupp Heynckes Bayern Munich who came to the Emirates in February 2013. In that first half they absolutely played Arsenal off the park and it was fantastic football to watch I have to admit. They ended up beating us 3-1 on the night and that side went on to win the treble so they were pretty good.

Bayern Munich’s start to their season has been ridiculously good they set a new Bundesliga record by winning their first 9 league games in a row including two 5-1 home wins against a high flying Dortmund and a very good Wolfsburg side who’ve shown what they can do to good teams in their own back yard. Also beating Wolfsburg 3-1 away at the Volkswagen Arena, a place they don’t loose very often in the DFB-Pokal Cup (Wolfsburg a team that finished 2nd in the Bundesliga behind Bayern last season.)

They did however drop their first domestic points of the season on Friday being held to a surprise 0-0 draw against Eintracht Frankfurt.

Bayern had a starting eleven off Neuer, Rafinha, Boateng, Benatia, Alaba, Lahm, Thiago, Robben, Muller, Costa, Lewandowski.

Robben is back from injury and it will be interesting to see if Guardiola starts the Dutchman after coming back from injury only a week ago.

Bayern still have Ribery and Goetze on the sidelines but have Badstuber back in the squad with Arsenal still missing Arteta, Ox, Walcott, Ramsey, Ospina, Rosicky, Wilshere, Welbeck so the squad is a little thin currently and may have to play the same team that started at Swansea on Saturday.

This is the third time in 4 years the two sides have met in this competition and as a Gooner I’m sick off playing Bayern Munich, mainly because they have beaten us over two legs in the last two meetings. Having said that they have always been great games for the neutrals to watch including the game at the Emirates two weeks ago.

After Arsenal’s first two group games this season in the Champions League it looked like we were heading into the Europa League after two shocking defeats and we still might do but beating Bayern at the Emirates has given the Gunners a chance and a victory in Munich on Wednesday and Arsenal somehow have a chance of winning the group stranger things have happened in football.

If Arsenal have a chance off getting a result in Munich then Wenger has to get his team and tactics spot on like he did at the Emirates.
It’s going to be tough considering what he will have on his bench on Wednesday night so we can’t afford any more injuries or tired legs.

Arsenal need to put in a proper European performance and you can’t play a pressing game away to a team like Bayern Munich because they have the ability and quality to drag you out off position open up gaps and pass rings round you, Arsenal will have to sit back in a shape and be organised without the ball and play on the break.

The players that worry me are Robert Lewandowski he’s gone two games without a goal (that’s his longest goal drought this season). Douglas Costa who has settled into that Bayern team from day one this season and gave Hector Bellerin a hard time in the first half at the Emirates, obviously Thomas Muller and Thiago who’s a very good technical player with quick feet, them three are probably the key three to try and keep quite but with Xavi Alonso and Arturo Vidal in midfield it shows the Bayern team is just full of fantastic players.

I think it’s going to be another fantastic game to watch for the neutrals and even though Arsenal are capable off pulling off great European nights every now and then Arsenal will be facing an angry Bayern Munich side who will want to make a statement . My gut says to me Bayern Munich will edge a close game 2-1 but I do predict Arsenal to get through the group by the skin off their teeth.

Thanks for reading @kyrigooner #UTA

Kyri sent us in this piece on his way home from Swansea…Read his thoughts on Arsenal’s win at the Liberty Stadium.

When the gunners go on a good run and then loose a game like they did at Sheffield Wednesday on Tuesday night it usually disrupts the momentum and rhythm that’s why I was worried heading to Swansea on Saturday.

A hard enough game anyway away from home at any time off the season let alone after being dumped out the cup in the week and having to travel away to a team that done a league double over us last season with 8 players missing.

I didn’t have the best off feelings going into the game.

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Arsenal’s win at the Liberty stadium on Saturday was impressive, a very big 3 points. Arsenal travelled to South Wales with 8 players missing from the squad and gave a Premier League debut to Joel Campbell who had a poor game on Tuesday night against Sheffield Wednesday.

It was a poor first half from the gunners who couldn’t keep the ball, the play with it was very slow with very little movement off the ball, to be fair what didn’t help was Swansea committing several fouls in the 1st half and surprisingly didn’t manage to pick up a booking until the 57th minute.

Swansea played a high tempo pressing game in the first half and didn’t let Arsenal settle and it worked.

That’s one off the things that worry me with Arsenal is when teams press against us we really struggle.

Petr Cech and Koscienly were Arsenal’s two best players in the 1st half and goalkeeper Cech who’s kept 7 clean sheets in Arsenal’s first 11 games has made a massive difference at Arsenal so far this campaign.

Cech showed an example off his quality when Jonjo Shelvey put a great ball through to Gomis who was 1 on 1 with Cech and the keeper kept his cool and made his goal look very small, Gomis tried to round the keeper but eventually Bellerin who had to sprint back from the Swansea half to put it out for a corner.

At that moment I accepted that Swansea would go 1-0 up.

In the past had Arsenal had a goalkeeper like szsceny been in between the sticks Swansea would off had a penalty and Arsenal would have been down to 10 men.

Also in the 1st half Arsenal escaped with a Per Mertasacker hand ball from Sigurdsson’s free kick which was a stone wall penalty and the referee missed it, you sometimes need that bit off luck to go your way.

The 2nd half was a lot different, with Arsenal scoring early in the 2nd half the game changed and what was surprising is Giroud’s header came from Ozil’s corner because The Gunners scoring from a set piece is very rare.

After the deadlock was broken Swansea committed men forward looking for the equaliser as Arsenal sat with numbers behind the ball in a good organised shape and picked Swansea off on the break with quick passing and movement and ended up scoring a 2nd goal through Laurent Koscienly which could also have been chalked off when Koscienly and Giroud jumped with goalkeeper Fabianski for the ball but to be fair it was never a foul on the goalkeeper.

After the 2nd goal the confidence and momentum was with Arsenal and it was like a training session and the football was fantastic to watch.

Mesut Ozil has got a bit off stick in his career at Arsenal but he’s a joy to watch with his control, passing, dribbling with the ball at his feet and creating space for himself off the ball it wasn’t any different against Swansea the German ran the show in the 2nd half at the Liberty by creating 2 off Arsenal’s 3 goals. Anybody who doesn’t appreciate or see what Mesut Ozil brings to Arsenal or any team he’s played in just look at his stats.

I felt sorry for Alexis Sanchez at times yesterday far from his best performance in an Arsenal shirt but he worked really hard and was desperate to score you could tell by his temper and his reactions every time he wanted the ball returned to him after a pass or an opportunity missed he wasn’t happy.

Back to the game and Joel Campbell added a 3rd with a cool finish from Mesut Ozil’s pass across the box and the points were heading back down the M4 to North London.

Not many Gooners seem convinced with Campbell but yesterday put in a very good performance, working very hard on the right hand side tracking back helping Bellerin at right back and showing quick feet at the other end and a cool finish to score Arsenal’s 3rd in the 3-0 win.

That 2nd half performance from Arsenal was fantastic and a very impressive result away at a very tough place to go and win. Lucky not to go in at half time a goal down but if your going to have a chance of winning this league you definitely need the rub off the green on your side and you need to win a tough places like Swansea.

On to Bayern Munich now, that should be easy.

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Kyri Christodoulou (AFC Fan)

Chelsea 1-3 Liverpool – Alavi’s Analysis

First of all you’re probably wondering why the picture below is my sky box paused at the point of the opening Chelsea goal. There is some method behind the madness- take a close look and I’ll reveal at the end of the review. For me, the key in this game were the tactics employed by Klopp. But let’s start with the game itself.

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Review:

Philippe Coutinho scored twice as Liverpool recovered from an early deficit to beat struggling Premier League champions Chelsea 3-1 at Stamford Bridge on Saturday and pile more pressure on Blues manager Jose Mourinho. Ramires headed Chelsea in front after four minutes but Mourinho’s side looked woefully short of confidence as Liverpool hit back to claim an emphatic win first league win for new boss Juergen Klopp. Just four minutes had elapsed when the hosts opened the scoring as Ramires planted a downward header into the back of the net from Cesar Azpilicueata’s centre. However, Philippe Coutinho drew the Reds level on the stroke of half-time, cutting inside the Chelsea goalscorer and curling a magnificent left-footed effort into the corner from outside the area. The equaliser marked an impressive recovery by curling in an equaliser in the third minute of first-half stoppage time. Liverpool had dominated for long spells after falling behind and their pressure told on 74 minutes as the Brazilian worked his magic once again. Collecting substitute Christian Benteke’s knockdown, Coutinho worked himself a yard of space inside the area before driving home via the aid of a deflection.It was to get even better for the Reds, too, as Benteke made certain of the outcome when he benefited from Lallana’s step-over by firing across goal and into the corner to put the seal on a fantastic afternoon’s work for Klopp and his team With Mourinho standing glumly on the touchline, Liverpool fans chanted: “You’re getting sacked in the morning”. Chelsea had already made the worst start to a season for Premier League champions and now have only 11 points from 11 games played, leaving them in 15th place

Klopp

Firstly, I want to caveat the following with the fact that I am by no means hailing Klopp as a tactical genius that can never be beaten. On the other hand, I don’t think there are too many managers who would get the tactics as spot on as he did on Saturday. Klopp showed ability to work out his opponent’s weaknesses, and to change the flow of the game with his substitutions.

Roberto Firmino, fresh from an encouraging midweek performance, would be the man asked to play furthest forward, supported by Adam Lallana and Philippe Coutinho.

It is tempting to view that as a negative move by Klopp – though Benteke’s ongoing knee issue is clearly one which will require careful management – but the presence of Firmino, Lallana and Coutinho enabled Liverpool both to press from the front effectively, and to work the ball between Chelsea’s lines with regularity. To play without a recognised number 9 is, of course, a risk. But it can help confuse a defence. If Benteke has played- Cahill and Terry would have quickly decided between them “You stick on him, I’ll sweep up anything that comes through”. When you have a your “number 9” instead playing in an additional free role then you can drift the opposition everywhere- too deep for the Chelsea Central defenders yet too advanced for the defending holding Midfielders. And that’s what Firmino did. Yes, you sacrifice rarely being in a position to get shots away, but he kept Terry and co occupied, and was a willing recipient for passes in and around the box, in a way that, say, Divock Origi may not have been. The first goal is an example of being able to bringing Coutinho into the game. In essence, Firmino became an unmarked number 10.

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The substitution was another tactical mastermind. Off went Milner, who had been sloppy, and on came Benteke, with Firmino dropping back on the right-hand side. The last thing a tired defence really needs is a power-house like Benteke coming at you. This was what Liverpool had planned for, a second-half burst from their No.9, at a time when the game was there for the taking. Benteke’s first act was to flatten Kurt Zouma in an aerial challenge, and within 10 minutes he had set up the game’s decisive goal. It was a strike which showcased both sides of what Klopp is after at Liverpool. A spell of controlled possession, followed by a quick switch of play (a nice way of saying long ball) from Sakho, Benteke, pulling away onto the smaller Cesar Azpilicueta, wins the ball and Liverpool have two men, Lallana and Coutinho, gambling on the knock down. Lallana didn’t make it, but Coutinho did – 2-1, and Klopp’s substitution pays off handsomely. 2 very different goals. Great teams often have both options. Am I suggesting Benteke doesn’t start ? Absolutely not. A different way of playing when he doesn’t? For sure.

So to the picture……………for Chelsea’s opening goal you have all 11 liverpool players defending. Yes, they conceded, but the dedication to Klopp’s counter pressing was already evident.

Klopp, clearly, is desperate for them to move the ball quicker, and to stretch the game at every opportunity. The all-action, high tempo, high pressure tactic was once justified by Klopp as “the best moment to win the ball back is immediately after the team has lost it. The opponent is still looking for orientation where to pass the ball.”

You catch the opponent in transition and their defensive shape will not be as it should. They don’t have enough time to set up properly. If every single player presses then the swarm effect forces opposition to make errors. Now here is the difference between Klopp and the Barcelona way. The Barca high press is designed to retain possession. Once the ball is obtained it is passed around to tire the opposition. Klopp’s version is basically all-out attach- the ball always goes forward. When defending from say a goal kick, the players are tight to the opposition players they believe will receive the all and zonally mark the area which a player can pass into. This forces the player on the ball to make a pass they don’t really want to. The attacking players win the ball and burst into life, which is why they close down closely together. One to win the ball and the other to take advantage of the loose ball, link up play and counter attack. There are flaws in the system. It won’t always work. Unfortunately, for Chelsea, Saturday was not one of those days.

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ALAVI

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Swansea City 0-3 Arsenal – Joel gets his Goal as Gunners secure vital away win.

Much of the talk in the build up to Arsenal’s game at Swansea was around the Costa Rican Joel Campbell. With injuries to Walcott, the Ox and Aaron Ramsey the options on the right hand side for Mr Wenger were limited. I did mention in my previous article that I was disappointed in Joel’s midweek display at Hillsborough & having looked at various pieces on social media many people were suggesting reshuffling the pack to fill that spot.

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Credit to the boss for believing in Campbell and giving him that opportunity because he stepped up and grabbed it with both hands. Many will look at the result and say ‘Wenger picked him & he scored” but it was much more than just the goal. From the very start of the game Joel was constantly involved in the play and had a fairly early attempt at goal curling a shot high and wide of the target. Also worth mentioning the Costa Rican’s incredible work rate and thankfully he got his reward by netting the third to seal the victory for the Gunners.

We always carried a threat on the break & were always going to make chances in this game & Giroud had a great chance in the first half to fire us in front. Unfortunately the Frenchmen couldn’t keep his effort down and sent it flying over the bar. That however, wasn’t before Swansea striker Gomis missed arguably the best chance of the game. He somehow beat the offside trap and seemed to have an age in front of the Arsenal goal with just Petr Cech to beat. The striker hesitated and Hector Bellerin’s rapid pace allowed him to chase back and make the crucial tackle.

So how did Gomis not score? I put it down to the fantastic goal keeping of Petr Cech. Gomis was clean through with lots of time and space and as he approached the goal the big keeper stepped out to confront the striker. Since his arrival at Arsenal he’s received a lot of praise for his presence, calm head and the fact that he gives his defence that sense of belief.

As well as all of those things I’ve personally been really impressed with how he deals with one on ones & yesterday confirmed what I already knew. This was the perfect example. As the striker rushed through Cech was out to confront the forward very calmly and making himself as big as possible. The key factor for me is that he stayed on his feet, it was like a stand off between the big keeper and the striker. By not going down to Gomis’ feet early he caused the striker to hesitate and that moment of uncertainty he caused the striker to have meant that Bellerin was able to get back in and win the ball.

So when people say a good goalkeeper can earn you points, that’s exactly what they mean. At a crucial moment in the game we were still level thanks to the big man. Some people may look at it on match of the day and just say ‘Gomis should have scored’ but I cannot stress enough what a massive role the keeper played in that staying out.

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The second half began and our attacking threat began to grow. Don’t be fooled though Swansea were also causing us plenty of problems and Laurent Koscielny in particular was outstanding at the back. One constant problem that the Swans were causing us was coming in our right back area and guess who it was, again! Jefferson Montero, the tricky winger who terrorised Callum Chambers last season was giving Hector Bellerin a hard time from the first minute right up until the last.

Bellerin in my view is a very good prospect and is developing into a fine player. In recent weeks I have been full of praise for the young defender and I do believe he will be in that ‘world class’ bracket we all love to talk about. He’s also blessed with incredible pace and a lot of the time this gets him out of some sticky situations. However, when you come up against a very tricky winger who’s also got a rocket up his ass, only then are we able to judge Bellerin’s positional play and decision making properly. It wasn’t all bad and I’m sure the young full back learnt a lot from this game – all part of the developing process. At times though, there is no doubt his positional sense and decision making were found wanting.

In terms of the goals, Olivier Giroud popped up with another header to fire us into the lead. He got away from his marker and smartly headed the ball into the ground towards the bottom right corner and gave Fabianski no chance. Some will argue the second goal was against the run of play & maybe at that moment in the game it was. But up stepped Laurent Koscielny to grab the second after a mishap from the ex Arsenal goal keeper. At first there were claims of a foul on the keeper but having seen it again and again the defender just stood his ground and was able to roll the ball into the net when the keeper couldn’t keep hold of it. That’s 2 goals in 2 league games for the centre half, maybe he’s been asked to cover for Theo in the coming weeks! Haha.

during the Barclays Premier League match between XXX and XXX at Liberty Stadium on October 31, 2015 in Swansea, Wales.

Although the game was pretty much wrapped up at this point, the final goal was the one that put the biggest grin on my face. After working very hard all game the ball kindly fell to Joel Campbell to finish with his favoured left foot into the far corner and top off a brilliant Arsenal win. I literally couldn’t be happier for him! A huge confidence boost and hopefully he can push on and make that spot his own for the coming weeks. Other good individual performances I wanted to mention were those of Mesut Ozil, he continued his brilliant form and once again was the assist king at the Liberty stadium & Alexis Sanchez was again fantastic despite not getting on the scoresheet. Overall great team performance and the good run continues. Bring on Bayern!!!

Don’t forget to listen in to the weekly ‘Sofa Sports News Podcast’ featuring myself and Alavi. Now available on Soundcloud & ITunes!

Harry Symeou (AFC FAN)

SSN – PL PREDICTOR COMPETITION!

Have a go at our Premier league predictor this weekend… The winner will be rewarded with a small prize and will be congratulated on next weeks podcast!

Here are all of this weeks Premier League Fixtures – simply enter by listing your predictions in the comments section (that’s on this webpage – NOT Facebook) below in the following format:

e.g. Chelsea win

Arsenal vs Swansea Draw etc

Please leave your name and email address so you can be contacted to be given your prize!

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Good Luck All!

Crystal Palace vs Man Utd – Apostolos Preview.

Predicted XI | MUFC vs. Crystal Palace (31/10/2015)

GOAL | David de Gea
Romero did well during the Capital One cup defeat at home to ‘Boro, making a couple of exceptional saves, but there was no doubt it was a one-off selection from van Gaal. A shame really that the cup run ended so unexpectedly as you feel these games will be the only opportunity the Argentinian, who many expected would be United’s no.1 when he was brought in during the “de Gea to Real Madrid” rumours, will get in the first team.

DEFENCE | Matteo Darmian, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Marcos Rojo
Valencia, who has started United’s last three games at right-back, is injured so Darmian will replace him. Jones and Smalling appear to be an immovable force at the moment, while Rojo has done really well since returning from injury and replacing Blind/Shaw at left back. Our defence has become a nice, simple selection for van Gaal; the man who, this time last season, had already experimented with no less than 14 players at the back (although these were of course the dark days of playing five at the back).

MIDFIELD | Juan Mata, Michael Carrick, Ander Herrera, Morgan Schneiderlin, Anthony Martial
Another fairly straight forward choice for LVG. Mata was an unused sub during the week, so will return on the right for the trip to Palace, while he ensured Schneiderlin was kept fresh for the League game by leaving him out of the squad entirely. Carrick and Schweinsteiger appear to be wrestling for that second central-midfield spot at the minute, with the German holding the position for United’s last three league games, but I feel Carrick’s performance in the League Cup was solid enough to keep him in the starting XI this weekend. As for the left slot, as long as van Gaal insists on starting Rooney up front, while Depay continues to fight his way back in the side, then Martial – the man of the moment – will keep his place on the left.

ATTACK | Wayne Rooney
Another poor display by Rooney during the week has been conveniently overlooked thanks to a stupid Middlesbrough fan and his laser pen. However as I said, this incident during the penalty shootout is purely a distraction from yet another dire performance from United’s captain. “When will the manager be brave enough to drop him?” is the question all United fans are currently asking. For me, it should be ASAP, with Martial playing up front and Ashley Young out on the left. However this is the most stubborn manager in the business we’re talking about. So it doesn’t look like he’ll be doing the smart thing any time soon.

Prediction: Crystal Palace 1-2 Manchester United

Apostolos (Man Utd Fan)

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What is your Current Premiership Best XI?

This was a really interesting question sent in to Harry at SSN this morning by Andy Paps.

What would be your current best Premiership XI? BUT you can only use ONE player PER CLUB!

Andy Paps sent in his team today and this is what he went for… It’s worth noting that Paps has gone with the overall quality of player and not just their current form.

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Whereas Harry has gone with a different approach.  “My best Premiership XI is based on the players current form, if I was picking the team for tomorrow based on the rules of this game this is who I would pick”

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Taking into consideration that you can only pick ONE player PER CLUB do you think you can do better?

Use our comments section below to tell us who you would have chosen and why…

Swansea vs Arsenal Preview – Kyri Christodoulou

After what happened on Tuesday night at Hillsborough it’s easy to forget that Arsenal head into Swansea game on Saturday in fine form. Beating Watford, Man Utd, Bayern Munich and Everton shows that Arsenal are in great form.

Tuesday night was just a disaster from start to finish. Firstly, the Ox going off injured and then his replacement Theo Walcott coming off injured shortly after so early on in the game.
I immediately got that feeling that this particular Tuesday night wasn’t going to go so well.

Something seriously has to be looked at when it comes to injuries. Part of the problem is Wenger’s obsession about his team being the fittest team in the league because it can win you games in the last 10-15 minutes. This has happened quite often in the past but our squad has also suffered for it for many seasons as well. The fitter you are the tighter your muscles are and the more likely you are to pick up injuries.

Had Wilshere, Welbeck, Arterta, & Rosicky been available they would have played at Sheffield Wednesday and we probably would have won. But we’ll never know that now. Arsene Wenger didn’t really have a choice but to play the likes off Iwobi, Kamara, Campbell the other night and have a very young and inexperienced bench and we paid the price against a very physical, hard working and organised Sheffield Wednesday side.

The problem we have now is we have Swansea (A) Bayern Munich (A) and the small matter off Tottenham (H) all in 8 days and we need to respond after Tuesday night. We have Wilshere, Welbeck, Arteta, Rosicky, Ramsey, Ox, Walcott, Ospina all on the treatment table. I personal think Arsenal have the starting 11 and the squad to seriously challenge or win the Premier League title this campaign but that’s if we can keep everybody fit. (1st team and squad players). If we can do that we have every chance (but its a big if). If it’s the same old story with injuries again then we’ll finish the season with nothing.

So heading into the game in South Wales on Saturday afternoon we have a big problem who plays on the right hand side.

The options are… I suppose Bellerin can play further forward and play Debuchy at RB, for me I want Debuchy nowhere near the 1st team at the moment. Cazorla, Ozil could play on the left and Alexis Sanchez on the right but who plays the middle? No Ramsey no Wilshere no Arteta, A partnership off Coquelin and Flamini would be to defensive for me. Another option would be to just play Joel Campbell and Alexis Sanchez on either side. It will be interesting to see what Wenger does.

For me Aaron Ramsey is a massive loss for Arsenal people criticise the manager sometimes for playing him wide right and I know it’s not his natural position but I don’t see a problem at all with him on the right. Wenger plays him on the right to accommodate Cazorla, Ozil etc but I don’t see a problem with that. He’s without question the biggest engine and hard worker in the team and tracks back, goes forward, he’s up and down always wants the ball even when he’s having a bad game and you can never fault his commitment.

Ramsey reads the game very well and even though he’s only scored once this season he’s getting himself in the right positions at the right times and that’s no coincidence, the goals will come for him. For me he is the next captain of Arsenal and hopefully he’ll be back in the team after the international break.

The Liberty stadium is a place where Arsenal have had a hard time over the last few seasons it’s never an easy place for a team to go to. Arsenal have won twice and lost twice and drawn 2-2 in an FA cup tie since Swansea got promoted to the premier league.

The two victories for Arsenal in recent seasons were certainly battles. This fixture last season in my option saw Arsenal comment suicide. The Gunners went ahead through Alexis Sanchez and with 15 minutes left Arsenal got caught on the break like they were the team chasing the game and and gave away a free kick which Gylfi Sigurdsson scored, was a cracker to be fair. After that Jefferson Montero who was a massive pain in the back side for the whole game put in a cross for French striker Gomis who scored the winner & Swansea ended up winning 2-1.

In fact the last time Arsenal beat Swansea home or away was in September 2013 at the Liberty stadium, and have played each other 4 times since then, so this is far from a easy game especially with 8 injuries and a poor recent record against the Welsh side. Having said that, Arsenal’s away record is very impressive. And if the Gunners are to be Champions come May, they need to win at places like Swansea throughout the season. So in conclusion a tough test for The Arsenal.

This is the line up I would go with,  the reason I’ve gone with Campbell is because he’s an experienced player and should be able to cope at this level, he has experience of playing at a World Cup and it doesn’t get much better than that.  Hopefully he can produce and take his opportunity in the first team.image

My prediction: “My heart says 2-1 Arsenal but my head says 1-1!”

Kyri Christodoulou
(AFC FAN)

De Luca discusses Liverpool based on the 0-0 draw with Spurs.

The view from the Lane – Spurs 0-0 Liverpool, & why Liverpool can’t finish 4th this season

Tottenham and Liverpool played out a 0-0 draw at the lane, a game where the pre match talk was dominated by the arrival of Jurgen Klopp and the inevitable debate over whether these sides could make the top 4 this season.

I spent a fair portion of last week trying to justify my opinion that Tottenham were better placed than their match day opponents to qualify for one of the coveted 4 spots and the game on Saturday did all the talking for me.

I don’t think either side will make it of course, and despite being largely impressed by the way Tottenham are developing this season as a team, I’ve still not seen enough to change that view.

Let’s make the unlikely assumption though for a second that Chelsea do not turn around their disastrous start to the season, and then don’t spend £274m in January to try and correct their failings, one of these two sides will probably finish 4th this season and there is no way whatsoever it will be Liverpool based on more than this showing.

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Jurgen Klopp will have just realised the size of the job he’s walked into if the fans need him to be the saviour of this football club because he would have seen his new team are light years away from a top 4 finish never mind Liverpool’s first title in over a quarter of a century.

Managers can’t just wave magic wands I’m afraid. Yes, the new manager effect works sometimes, but only when a team are underachieving compared to their current ability. Liverpool are not in a false position. Klopps first task is to consolidate Liverpool’s position in the top 6 for the purpose of his reputation whilst assessing the players he wants to bring with him for the long haul and implementing his style upon his new football club. Time just doesn’t stand still though. All the while the season of transition carries on relentlessly around him as his injured players suffer setbacks and the same ones that contributed to the failed second half of the Rodgers reign put in more ineffective displays. I have a belief based on gut feeling more than anything else that Klopp will improve Liverpool massively over the next two to three years, but anyone expecting anything more than a top 6 finish is wackier than the German himself. Even 5th would be an achievement.

The extra 10% that players mythically put in for a new manager was there on Saturday in all fairness, although it is not supposed to last for just 10% of the match. Even during that opening 10 minutes that Liverpool’s impressive high pressing meant Spurs could not get a foothold, no real bite to Liverpool’s attack could be identified. Injured attackers missing can’t be used as an excuse. The Sturridge problem is going to be recurring throughout this season as well you’d think and Benteke does not add to a sides creativity but more relies on it coming from behind him. After those 10 minutes where the Reds threatened only from set pieces including a scrambled effort away that flirted with the Spurs crossbar, Liverpool offered absolutely nothing. No spark, no creativity, no ideas.

Spurs’s failure to win this game highlights why they too will miss out on the top 4 places, nowhere near clinical enough when dominating several games already this season and up to 10 points wastefully dropped points already that all add up to inevitable shortcomings. Their problems end there though, whereas Liverpool’s are rife right through the spine of there team.

A bad refereeing display and some wasteful Spurs finishing meant Liverpool escaped with a point, and whilst neither of those things are Liverpool’s fault or concern, what will be a concern is the certainty that Manchester City or Arsenal would have dismantled them if they were on the other side of the pitch.

Mingolet had a rare good game at the lane, two or three solid saves kept the score goalless and although neither shot was quite finding the corner, he’s still dealt with them adequately. He’s miles short of the other 5 keepers in the top 6 and over the course of this season that I expect that to be costly.

The two centre halves were dreadful despite their clean sheet, even the experienced Skirtel was outjumped, outfought and outwitted by Kane time and time again. Sakho is an accident waiting to happen. There is no left back, Moreno standing in for injured Gomez was shocking, and whilst I’m a fan of Nathaniel Clyne he can’t save this back 4 from a defensive point of view.

Henderson is a smart player, but with suddenly a huge Steven Gerrard sized armband to fill, and as it took him a year to settle to his step up to Liverpool, I expect a little time too to adjust to his new standing in following the past skippers of this great football club. In James Milner, a player I’m a big fan of by the way, we have a guy who title chasing City saw fit to release last season. We’re hearing talks of ‘returning Liverpool to Glory’ associated with Klopp’s appointment. 30 year old castaways cannot be the answer surely? Players over 30 so rarely work in this league. Milner was so far off the pace committing 3 bookable offences, the 3rd of which was right under the referees nose, so lucky to stay on the field.

In Emre Can and Lallana we saw two of Rodgers’ Suarez signings who I’m afraid just aren’t good enough to win titles. Decent players, yes, no one is saying they’re bad, but they just aren’t good enough to be first team regulars at a side with high aspirations, and need to be ushered out of the first team to support the squad. They offered little in this match where after 10 minutes Hugo Lloris was a virtual spectator. This was the worst display by a travelling side to White Hart Lane this season.

Sturridge aside, Just Coutinho now is up to the standard, and now he knows it the weight is on his shoulders, the expectations are raised. The impact that had on sterling last year was negative and whilst I’m sure Coutinho will have another good season it is a big ask for him to replicate it exactly. With Benteke relying on him for service the stakes are so high if Sturridges injury problems continue. He can be forgiven for his poor display at Tottenham maybe, although with his opponents choosing no natural defensive midfielders you might have expected more than the only highlight being a dive to try to win a late penalty. It’s an example of how the team will struggle when he has an off day, a bit like Spurs with Kane pressure can do funny things and someone needs to step up and share the burden.

So, the ramble and possibly brutal dissection of Liverpool’s starting XI by me comes to an end, and the commencement of Jurgen Klopp’s rebuilding challenge has begun.
I’m excited by some of the players he may bring to League from his past as part of his long term objectives for Liverpool, as much as I am about seeing a lot more of him bringing his style and charisma to one of our country’s most famous clubs. But please please please be realistic if you want him to succeed, because he needs time. The squad he has inherited is not good enough to play champions league football, which is proven by the way they fared in the competition last year if not by my maybe ruthless review above.

He maybe knows after watching his team for the first time quite how big his job is, give him time to do his thing.

Sheffield Weds 3-0 Arsenal – One word to sum it up… Sh*t!

Sheffield Wednesday 3-0 Arsenal – Capital One Cup – 27/10/2015

One word to describe the Arsenal performance… SH*T! Possibly one of the worst performances I’ve seen in recent times from an Arsenal side – maybe not the worst but it was up there! An all round crap night topped off by two injuries to two very important players in our squad. Firstly the injury to the Ox – the old ‘precautionary’ substitution (which normally leads to 3 weeks out with our players). Followed by the bigger blow – the injury to Theo Walcott, the man who’s been bang in form lately.

I think for me the most disappointing thing is the way the Walcott injury happened… Watching it I was fuming because I genuinely believe he sustained that injury because he didn’t warm up properly. I know he didn’t have long but you know what, play with ten for 5 mins until the guys warmed up. The only person to blame here is Theo himself because as a professional you should be warmed up and I’m sure if he had said ‘boss I need a few mins to warm up’ Wenger wouldn’t have gambled with his fitness. Especially having just lost the Ox & Ramsey already on the treatment table.

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(The view from the away end – thanks to Kyri Christodoulou for the photo)

Wenger kind of said after the game that he felt they were not experienced enough and with that I agree 100%. Some of the youngsters in last nights team were well out of their depth and will only learn from this experience. Honestly I wouldn’t have played the first team last night, we have some huge games coming up and I probably would have done the same as Mr Wenger last night. Truth be told I believe that some of his senior ‘squad players’ let him down more than the kids, that ultimately cost us the game.

Gibbs, Debuchy, Chambers, Flamini, Campbell and even Per Mertesacker & Olivier Giroud didn’t perform. Granted the majority of these players are not in the current starting 11, but they’re all members of the first team squad & should have done better. Flamini was hopeless in the middle of the park & having the young Kamara next to him didn’t do him any favours. Calum Chambers is forever showing us that he’s not quite the centre halve we all hoped he would be & in my opinion is not good enough yet to play for the Arsenal.

Gibbs, Mertesacker & Giroud don’t usually perform at that level so I’m putting that down to an off night and in Giroud’s case a lack of service but Debuchy has been poor every time he’s appeared this season & last night was no different. Is he up to the standard of Bellerin? No way! Is he anywhere near the standard required at AFC? On current form no way!

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I suppose for me the most disappointing one was Joel Campbell. After successful loan spells around Europe in recent seasons & a really impressive World Cup with Costa Rica many of us have been waiting to see him get a chance. I thought he was poor, granted he didn’t have the likes of Ozil and Cazorla to supply him but he just seems so wasteful and raw still. I’d imagine his days at Arsenal are numbered.

It will be interesting to see if he gets the opportunity in the league now with Theo, The Ox and Ramsey all out or if Wenger will reshuffle something else. That’s one to keep your eye on, I certainly will be. The selection on Saturday will give us a good indication as to whether Wenger see’s him as having a future at this club.

Huge credit goes to the championship club though, Sheffield Wednesday are something of a sleeping giant. Huge fan base, big old fashioned ground and a club with tradition. It’s refreshing to see these bigger lower division clubs heading in the right direction. They’ve been very difficult to beat this season and have had an encouraging start and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them in the play off mix come May!

Ultimately, last nights result wasn’t the end of the world and I know people have said it before but the capital one cup is definitely not our priority. Do I think that it will effect us going forward this season? Overall probably not but it’s a shame to halt the momentum that we’ve built recently. A good result this weekend and it will all be forgotten, just a distant memory!

Let’s see what happens at Swansea this Saturday – COME ON YOU GUNNERS!

Harry Symeou