Monday, October 24


Arsenal Transfer News: Latest Rumours on Santi Cazorla

Juventus reportedly want Arsenal playmaker Santi Cazorla to sign a pre-contract agreement in January, ahead of completing a free transfer move to Turin next summer.

Italian source Calciomercato (h/t Aaron Flanagan of the Daily Mirror) reported how Serie A giants Juve are anxious to get a deal done for the 31-year-old Spaniard. It's a deal Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger should try to avoid, even though rumours of Cazorla's departure have been building recently.

In fact, Italian journalist Enzo Bucchioni stated Cazorla's contract won't be renewed, in an article for TuttoMercatoWeb (h/t Alex Wood of the Daily Star). The reports cited Wenger's reputation for "releasing players – or only offering short-term contracts – once they reach the twilight of their careers."

If one player merits being considered an exception for the policy, it's Cazorla. He's become arguably the Gunners' most influential figure since adapting to a new role during the 2014/15 season.

Originally an advanced schemer, Cazorla dropped deeper in 2014 and began a career transformation. It's an arc that's seen the former Villarreal and Malaga ace become one of the most accomplished deep-lying pass-masters in England's top flight.

Arsenal are a better, more creative attacking team with Cazorla dictating possession from deep. Without him, the Gunners lack pace and imagination in their passing, something they were painfully reminded of when Cazorla missed the recent 0-0 draw with Middlesbrough in the Premier League.

Mohamed Elneny came in for the pocket-edition maestro but couldn't match his vision and technique. After the stalemate, Wenger quickly referenced how much his team missed its Spanish mini marvel, per James Benge of the London Evening Standard: "You always miss Cazorla at home. From deep midfield into the final third his pass is always quick, accurate."

Cazorla's absence is always felt because of the way he mixes keeping possession with using the ball in a progressive way. His forward passes are played swiftly and between the lines.

Cazorla is just as likely to slide a pass through gaps for turbo-heeled forwards Alexis Sanchez and Theo Walcott as he is to lift a ball over the top for Mesut Ozil's runs from midfield.

Actually, it's Cazorla's connection with the stylish Ozil that has really defined Arsenal's game going forward this season, according to Adam Bate of Sky Sports:

It was particularly an issue for Mesut Ozil. His link-up with Cazorla has been a long-time feature of Arsenal at their best. It's perhaps the most effective pass combination in the Premier League. Cazorla looks to feed Ozil regularly, progressing possession and putting Arsenal on the ball in dangerous positions time and time again with that fast pass into feet.

In Arsenal's last away game against Burnley, Cazorla found Ozil on 23 occasions. In the home game prior to that against Chelsea it was 26 times. In the away win at Hull, Ozil received no fewer than 28 passes from his team-mate.

No Cazorla means the pace of the Gunners' passing slows. The ball is often moved sideways instead of between the lines.

Wenger won't find many deep-lying playmakers superior to the Spaniard. He should keep Cazorla beyond this season. However, the Frenchman needs a better plan for when Cazorla isn't fit.
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Life is good for the Liverpool fans in the Transfer Tavern right now, who’ve enjoyed a stunning start to the campaign as the Jurgen Klopp era kicks fully into gear.

Though there’s literally so much attacking enterprise to pour praise on at Anfield right now, reports from Spain have the Reds propping up the bar dreaming in wide-eyed wonderment.

According to AS, the Merseyside titans are willing to smash their transfer record in order to bring Athletic Bilbao forward Inaki Williams to the club.

The 22-year-old has been a fixture in the first-team for much of the past year in the Basque country after breaking into the side, as well as the Spanish U21 squad.

A pacey, technical forward, the youngster penned a new deal with Los Leones earlier this summer and is thought to have a €50m buy-out clause in his contract at the San Mamés.

That roughly equates to £45m and would break the £35m shelled out for Andy Carroll back in 2011.

Do Liverpool really need another striker? Let us know below….
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Antonio Conte's switch to 3-4-3 key to recent run of form, insists Chelsea star

Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois believes manager Antonio Conte’s tactical decision to shift from a 4-2-3-1 to a 3-4-3 system has been crucial to the recent revival in his side’s fortunes.

Chelsea have endured a somewhat indifferent start to the season as the joys of an unbeaten run in August quickly turned sour with consecutive defeats to fellow title challengers Liverpool and Arsenal.

The loss to Arsenal effectively became a turning point of the season for Blues manager Antonio Conte, as he changed from the 4-2-3-1 system that had been preferred up until that point to the 3-4-3 system that has reaped fruitful results since then.

The tactical tweak seems to be working as Chelsea have kept a clean sheet in each of their previous three games. The dominating wins against Hull City and Leicester City preceded their most impressive performance so far this season as they toppled Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United in the Portuguese manager’s return to his old stomping ground.

Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois opined that the decision to play with a three-man defence has worked wonders for the team. He also went on to add that the change in formation has added a sense of defensive security, with the presence of N’Golo Kante and Nemanja Matic in front of the three centre-backs helping the Blues control the game well.

Speaking SFR Sport (h/t ESPN FC) Courtois said, “I think we play well with three at the back, we control things well. Against Leicester and Hull, I didn’t have too many saves to make; I had a few more today, but despite that, we have security, that’s good.”

“That’s our best performance this season,” Courtois continued. “We started very strongly, and kept up that intensity throughout the match. You could see that they didn’t know how to put us under pressure, and we managed to find the gaps, and we scored four goals; that was good.”

On Sunday evening, Chelsea looked peerless in every aspect of the game, with fluid movement up front slicing the frail Manchester United defence wide open and defensive solidity depriving the Red Devils of having any real sniff at Courtois’ goal.

The Belgium international insisted that the win was their standout performance of the season so far as Pedro, Gary Cahill, Eden Hazard and N’Golo Kante grabbed the goals to move Chelsea to within a point off the top of the table.
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Bayern Munich out to stun Man United with £65m Premier League raid - reports

BAYERN MUNICH are reportedly plotting a stunning £65m raid on Everton for star striker Romelu Lukaku.

The big Belgian is one of the most sought-after forwards in world football and Starsport understand Manchester United remain keen on him.

Everton fought hard to keep hold of Lukaku in the last transfer window but they may be forced to let him go in the near future with his ambitions of playing Champions League football.

It is understood United boss Jose Mourinho is keeping a close eye on him and his Toffees team-mate Seamus Coleman ahead of another summer spending spree at the end of the season.

Mourinho sold Lukaku to Everton from Chelsea for £28m in July 2014 after being unconvinced by his talents but the striker’s stunning form in recent seasons has caught the Special One’s eye again.

But United could face competition from German giants Bayern.

The Sun claim that the Bundesliga champions are planning a German record bid for the 23-year-old and their head of recruitment Michael Reschke scouted the striker during Everton’s recent 1-1 draw with Manchester City.

Lukaku netted a fine opener at the Etihad Stadium in front of an impressed Reschke.

The Sun add that Bayern will continue to watch the ex-Anderlecht ace for the rest of the season as they weigh up a mega bid in the summer.

Lukaku, who has three years left on his current contract, has started the new season well, scoring nine goals in 11 appearances for club and country.
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Jose Mourinho To Be Sacked?

Manchester United fans could be forgiven for assuming that the bad times were over when Jose Mourinho was appointed in May of this year. The Portuguese took over after two years of underachievement under Louis van Gaal was finally brought to an end after the club failed to finish in the top four, and thus missed out Champions League qualification for the second time in three seasons, something unthinkable during Sir Alex Ferguson’s reign.

Fans appetites were whetted when Mourinho sanctioned deals for Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Paul Pogba and Henrikh Mhitaryan, who were all voted as the best player in their respective domestic leagues last season whilst purchasing the promising young talent Eric Bailly. It felt like the former Chelsea boss would be able to hit the ground running and cope with the challenge posed by Manchester City and their appointment of Pep Guardiola, and United did win their first three Premier League games without too much fuss. Of course, it hasn’t been plain sailing since then.

Things took a nasty turn during United’s 1-2 derby defeat to City at the start of September, sparking a run of three consecutive defeats. Wins against Northampton Town in the EFL Cup, Leicester City in the league and Zorya Luhansk in the Europa League helped, but after Sunday’s 4-0 demolition at Stamford Bridge by Mourinho’s former side, United have only recorded one win in six league games. Worse still, against City, Liverpool and Chelsea, three teams expected to challenge for the league title, they have scored once and earned just one solitary point.

Many are alreadying calling for his sack. Some United fans on twitter are already mobilizing other fans of the club for a protest to demand the sack of the former Chelsea man.

There is frustration within the club’s fanbase; big-name players are underperforming, the football is far too similar in intensity to the dark days of Van Gaal’s reign and Mourinho hasn’t brought the consistency or solidity that so many fans expected. In short, he and United need to do better, and quickly.

But of course, the Portuguese manager should still be given time. Bad form or not, United haven’t been cut adrift in the Premier League, and have shown encouraging signs on occasion that they are turning into a capable side. Admittedly, those flashes need to happen each week to convince fans that United have truly turned a corner, but Mourinho is still trying to rebuild a side whose confidence and self-belief were decimated by his predecessor, and it would take a magnificent collapse for United to even consider replacing another manager so quickly. Mourinho is the man that the club wanted, and he needs and deserves time to get things right.
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RUMOURS: West Ham join the hunt for Inter forward Icardi

The Argentine striker has sparked plenty of transfer talk after comments made in his autobiography, and the Hammers are mulling over a £25 million raid

West Ham are the latest side to be linked with Inter forward Mauro Icardi, with The Sun claiming that the Premier League outfit could lodge a formal bid in January.

The Argentine striker has dominated the headlines in Italy over recent weeks, with comments in his autobiography angering Inter supporters and fuelling exit talk.

The Hammers were among those said to be monitoring Icardi’s situation over the summer, before turning their attention elsewhere, but it is now being suggested that a £25 million approach is being readied.
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Jose Mourinho promises Man Utd fans he will never sell this player

Jose Mourinho has promised Manchester United fans that he would never sell Wayne Rooney, despite the striker’s stuttering start to the season.

The Manchester United captain’s form has been a relentless talking point this season following his failure to produce consistent performances for the Red Devils.

Rooney has found himself dropped to the bench for both club and country after a disappointing start to the new campaign.

The former Everton striker is used to being a regular fixture in the Manchester United first team in recent seasons and his new bit-part role in the side is likely to frustrate him.

It has been suggested that Rooney could seek a move away from Old Trafford if he is unable to earn a regular spot in the Manchester United first team this season.

However, United boss Mourinho has ruled out selling the striker in the near future.

Asked by Sky Sports if he would ever consider selling Rooney, Mourinho replied: “No, never.

“I will never make that decision. A player of his stature, a player of his history in the club will never go to point where club or manager want to make that decision for him.

“I put him on the bench for three matches in a row. That is hard for him, hard for me, so that is being ruthless, to put in my mind the interests of the team in front of the player, prestige, status. In this case even legend.

“To put on bench a player with the numbers he has for club and country is hard.

“But as we were saying before, this is an industry where the people who leads, sometimes in a correct decision, sometimes not correct decisions, but in our mind the decisions we think is the best for the team.”
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