Mane returns after week of misery for Liverpool

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The season was once promising for Liverpool but then they lost three matches at home in eight days. It was the end of a horrible week for the team with a difference of 10 points with the lead in the Premier League and they have been submissively knocked out of two cups.

The results have been bad enough for the team but the matter of concern is their poor performances. This is a hard time for Liverpool and another enervated performance has eliminated them from the FA cup by the Championship strugglers Wolverhampton Wanderers on Saturday.

The results might look like rock bottom but things might turn difficult for Jurgen Klopp and his feeble squad with Chelsea heading to Merseyside on Tuesday. Antonio Conte’s league leaders are in a good form and they have won 16 out of their last 18 games in all the competitions. They are the polar opposite of the struggling team of Liverpool presently.

This game would have been a nail biting one with the bearing that who would be the champion some time ago. But now it looks like another match for Chelsea on their way to the Title. Football is not very predictable though and it can be seen from Liverpool’s past week’s event show.

Klopp’s selection of team against Wolve has got what it deserved but there was also good news on Saturday. Sadio Mane missed his penalty in an African Nations Cup quarter final shootout against Cameroon which resulted in the exit of Senegal from the tournament.

Mane left a vote of confidence for his squad before departing for the tournament. He wished them good luck and said that the team will perform even better without him. They will cope as Philippe Coutinho and Joel Matip will come back. Daniel Sturridge is already back.

Mane must feel like a parent who left his kids to take care of the house but when he returns from the trip the house has burned down already. When he was leaving, the team had been chasing silverware on three fronts. But now they have been knocked out of two cups and desperately fighting to be on top four in the league.

Liverpool is frantically waiting for Mane to take over the team from where he left off. He might be in need of rest when he returns but the Kopites hope that this is not the case and Mane return with the spark that has been missing in past few weeks and which is required for Liverpool right now.

The last three defeats have caused a great damage to Liverpool but the biggest obstacle that is needed to be rectified now is the breakdown in their form. Klopp and his players need to focus on their upcoming games and forget everything that has happened in the past weeks. Wins against Chelsea and Hull next week can be a great turning point for the team.

It seems unlikely but even the three Anfield defeats in a weak were unexpected given the fact that Liverpool hadn’t lost any game at home for one year. Mane has returned, Matip is also available and Coutinho is now fit which gives Klopp a full-strength squad to perform. They just need to go out and win some matches for the club now.

 

Departure of Nathan Ake created a breach in Cherries defence

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Bournemouth will be playing against Crystal Palace on January 31st and it is going to be a tricky match. Crystal Palace haven’t won since December 3rd but it is seen that they struggle to get the motivation for the sides they should be beating.

Eddie Howe’s style of attacking while trying to keep maximum possession is well known. They have gone for a number of 9,508 passes this season along with an average possession of 51 percent. They sit on the Eighth place of passing and possession league rankings. The current top six sides in the division stand on top of them along with midtable Southampton.

Everton may not have a good score on these specifics but they are still on top of Bournemouth in the ranking. The statistics prove that Howe’s possession football is more likely to earn points and that has been proved already.

Nathan Ake has been an integral part of the club’s fruitful style of football. His passing accuracy was 88 percent and this was the highest among all the players in the club. The drop in the results is partly because of his exit.

Howe’s philosophy demands a certain type of player but it is difficult for a club like Bournemouth to find a player like Ake repeatedly. The initial short term benefits can lead to long term damage that is seen with Ake’s departure. The early recall of Chelsea has left an irreparable hole in Bournemouth’s team presently.

Simon Francis is playing for the centre-back currently as the team is being forced into playing him with little option in hand. He is a limited defender and not very suitable for Howe’s philosophy.

Howe needs to make some tactical adjustments in order to make up for the early departure of the 21 year old. The one consistent thing about Bournemouth has been Junior Stanislas’ free-kicks which have also resulted in five goals this season.

Another idea to explore is by fielding Harry Arter in a more defensive midfield role along with Dn Gosling. They compromise 14 shot per game on an average but with the duo of Arter and Gosling it might reduce.

The chances of any new player coming in the team are unlikely and according to Howe the summer window has more value. Bournemouth have 26 points and 16 games to go which makes them almost definitely safe. There is not much difference in finishing 11th or 12th and thus the players have very less to aim for. Paying a high price seems unnecessary right now.

But for further succession they should have their eyes on the next season. They should seize the chance of configuring a new system or integrate new players in the final five months. Mings has been in the team for quite some time without featuring and he hasn’t played well which adds signing of a new defender in their to-do list.

A few weeks ago, a home fixture would have meant a certain victory for Bournemouth. But they have slipped into patchiness and it will be a tough task for Howe to ensure that the back end of the season is as flourishing as the first one.

Premier League’s biggest transfers so far

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The transfer window of January has been little quiet this time in Premier League terms as most of the managers are content with their squads. But there have been some interesting moves among the clubs.

Gabriel Jesus- Palmeiras to Manchest City

Gabriel Jesus, the name has been lingering around the background of the club in the entire first half of the season under Pep Guardiola and his transfer was arranged in summer. But it was completed last week. He made his debut of 13 minutes in the 2-2 draw with Tottenham. The potential of the 19-year old player was seen and it is believed that he can be a real deal in the game.

The legendary Brazil striker Romario said that he is likely to become Brazil’s next great number nine. City had very few options to back up Sergio Aguero. Jesus has the ability, pace and he can score goals with his clever movement. City is in need of someone who can get this season going again and Jesus might be their saviour.

Tom Carroll- Tottenham to Swansea

The Tottenham fans may not agree with the fact that Carroll has the potential of an excellent footballer. He has plenty of footballing intelligence but his only difficulty at Tottenham was that he found the wrong skillset for the style promoted by Pochettino.

They are based on physicality and players who are good runners but pure ball players like Carroll cannot shine in the midfield. Swansea is the correct place for Carroll and he is returning to his familiar territory. They appreciate technical talents and must give Carroll some time to evolve as a player.

Nathan Ake- Bournemouth to Chelsea

Nathan Ake is not being transferred to Chelsea but returning from a loan spell at Bournemouth. But it is definitely one of the exciting moves in January’s transfer window.

The majority of youngsters that Chelsea send out on loan have very little chance to return back and there are 35 players out on loan. Ake was specially beckoned by Antonio Conte due to his extremely impressive performances on the south coast. Last season he was performing extremely well from the left-back and this season he seems more comfortable in the middle at centre-back.

That makes him the perfect player for the left-sided slot in Conte’s back three and might take Chelsea’s game to the next level. He could prove to be very useful in Chelsea’s title charge.

Morgan Schneiderlin- Manchester United to Everton

It is difficult to understand why it did not work out for Morgan Schneiderling at Manchester United. He was the most effective defensive midfielder in the final season with Southampton. But he looked restrained and lacked technical sense under both Louis Van Gaal and Jose Mourinho.

Everton might be a better match for him than Manchester United. Ronald Koemen, the manager of Everton was in charge of Schneiderlin at Southampton and Koemen might set him free to play more of an all-action role.

Jeffrey Schlupp, Leicester City to Crystal Palace

Schlupp did not adjust with the system created by Claudio Ranieri for playing. His defence was well organised and slender whereas Schlupp is an attack-minded player who pushed ahead whenever it was required.

The slot provided to him on the left-sided midfield didn’t suit him. He is one of the forgotten players of Leicester’s title winning season and he was also voted Players’ Player of the Year in 2014-15 for his brilliant performance down the left.

 

Tottenham’s best need not leave the club for title glory

Tottenham Hotspur's Harry Kane celebrates scoring his side's first goal of the game during the Barclays Premier League match at White Hart Lane, London.

If there were any suggestions made that the Hotspur’s best players need not to leave the club in search of glory in the Premier League era and the period back to the departure of Bill Nicholson in 1974, it would have been considered as unintelligent.

Spurs have been at a loss in the last 10 years as they have lost the likes of Gareth Bale, Dimitar Berbatov, Michael Carrick and Luka Modric both at home and outside the country.

But with the transfer window being shut, their major asset has made an announcement this January saying that anyone who wants to leave the White Heart now will be stupid to do so and it’s hard to disagree.

Harry kane said that he would be surprised to see any of his team mates leave right now as something is happening in the club currently. They just need to take the final step of winning trophies.

They have got one of the best coaches in the world. They are also going to have a new stadium soon and the future looks bright. The stadium will give a lift to Tottenham and boost their confidence like the English Clubs to start every season with the belief that they can win the title.

The prices of the corporate and VIP facilities will make the ordinary season tickets look like pocket money treats. But money is not the most important thing. It is all about having a good team and Tottenham have one. Most of them have signed new contracts. Europe’s best goalkeeper, Hugo Lloris along with Dele Alli, Eric Dier and Christian Eriksen, all of them are staying in the team. The jewel in the crown, Harry Kane is signed up until 2022.

They have Mauricio Pochettino as their manager. Pochettino gave chance to Roberto Soldado, Paulinho and Emmanuel Adebayor to prove themselves and when they failed to meet his standards, he gave chance to the youngsters.  It took a lot of courage but now he has built a team that understands their responsibilities as players. Their hard work paid off against Manchester City earlier in the season and they were breathtaking against West Bromwich Albion a fortnight ago.

They have a considerable distance to cover and it was seen in their Champions league exit and the run of one win in 10 alongside Kane’s absence due to his injury. Arsenal can flip between Alexis Sanchez and Olivier Giroud up front and Manchester City have Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus. For Chelsea there are Diego Costa and Eden Hazard while Zlatan and Marcus Rashford are there for Manchester United. But the Spurs are beholden to Kane as Vincent Janssen has been disappointing in the up front.

There are fears that Pochettino might leave the club and he might be lured back to Spain by Barcelona or Real Madrid. But he declared last week that he could stay in England for another 20 years. He might be able to build the club in his own image like Arsene Wenger did.

Pochettino has the chance to follow those achievements. It is not going to be easy and there is a huge gap between potential and reality but the obstacles are not there anymore which were holding back his predecessors. The team is strong and the facilities are good. The stadium will generate huge revenues and their most important player has declared that if you are looking for success then there is no need to leave Tottenham.

Revived Hazard has impressed but has more levels to reach

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Eden hazard is definitely having an excellent season. During Chelsea’s 2014-15 title winning campaign Hazard created fear into Premier League defences.  He disappeared in the last season but returned with his playful style across England. He bagged nine goals in 21 Premier League matches and out of which four were from the whole of last season. The statistics show the Belgian’s transformation.

The slender tally of three assists officially attributed him by the Premier League which was pretty surprising. But he has had an enormous impact on the Chelsea team given his involvement in almost every attacking move. His influence cannot be measured by conventional metrics. His tricks for Chelsea to win a game consist of his movement off the ball, little flicks around the corner, one-twos with team members in tough situations and his ability to command the attention of many opponents to free up space for others. These tricks cannot be put on a stat sheet but they are as important as they are unplayable.

But the feeling that there is a lot more to come from Hazard still remains. In his player of the year campaign in 2014-15, he virtually dominated all the 38 games that he had started.  He was the crucial component of Chelsea when the team was feasting on their opponents before Christmas. Hazard was also the driving force behind the team’s grind to the title in the New Year.

Although in the final few months at the club, Hazard had eventually fallen out with Jose Mourinho. Mourinho relied upon him more than any other player due to his knack for turning games in Chelsea’s favour.

Hazard has showed some mesmerising performance this season. He helped Antonio Conte with some dizzying attacking play that many of the teams found difficult to live with. But in few games he fell short of the standards he created for himself. But even the greatest football players have seen their off days.

Hazard has not been very effective in the meantime. In the 3-0 win at Leicester he played as a false nine and played an integral role in dismantling the defence of the reigning Premier League Champions. But it all got lost between the less impactful displays at Tottenham in the 2-0 loss and last Saturday’s 2-0 win where there was a lot of jinking and darting runs from him but very little end product.

Hazard will not be staying out of the limelight for too long. The 26 year old has rarely been out of his form in the present times. In the course of his five seasons in the club he had his points of lull but they were all considered as the calm before the storm. He suffered a slight dip at the beginning with no sores at all but then he came back with five nets in his next four games. The next two League fixtures of Chelsea are potentially crucial contests against Arsenal and Liverpool. This is the perfect time for Hazard to show his potentials and get back with his goal scoring groove.