Premier League Review (Gameweek 12)

Prem 2017

Welcome to S57 on Sport’s inaugural Premier League Review. Throughout the course of the remainder of the season, we promise to provide a concise and informative reflection on the weekend’s talking points. Minus Garth Crooks, his pretentious analysis, and 24 years worth of experience as a professional footballer.

Wenger keeps North London Gunning for more

At 14:30 on Saturday afternoon I was completely perplexed. It was not because the form book was flung from The Emirates window, it was the manner of Arsenal’s performance. I had not expected The Gunners to compress Tottenham’s supposed dominance and excerpt themselves in a top-of-the-table clash. In counteraction to their inept display against seemingly champions-elect Manchester City, Arsene Wenger produced a tactical masterclass which bewildered the Lilywhites.

Look at Alan Shearer’s synopsis on Match of the Day. Arsenal pressed in packs; buoyancy from a scintillating forward line of Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez and Alexandre Lacazette gives hope that this season can bear fruits for the red of North London. Defender Shkodran Mustafi’s return shored up a frail-looking defence, but it was Ozil who was undoubtedly Arsenal’s star.

Ozil has come under considerable criticism in his time in England since his £42 million switch from Real Madrid 3 years ago, but this was debatably his finest hour in an Arsenal shirt. Pulling the strings from midfield and dissecting Spurs backline at ease, it was the German’s tenacity in helping his side press and run Tottenham into committing an array of errors which impressed me, condescending critics views that he does not ‘graft’ enough for his side. His weight of delivery, albeit from a controversially awarded free-kick, was a joy for Mustafi to plant his head onto giving his side what would become an unassailable lead. It was his 45th assist in 4 years in England, more than any other player.  Genius underappreciated.

As for Tottenham, it is another heavyweight clash where they have fallen short away from home. Already this term, they have lost to Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal and they hold one victory at the Emirates Stadium in 10 seasons. Tottenham need to show signs of progress and begin the deliver, otherwise Pochettino’s men, for all their credit, will be looked back on as the ‘what if’ side.

Pogba supplying Mourinho’s va-va-voom

If Ozil’s genius is under-appreciated, their can be no denying Paul Pogba’s influence on this Manchester United side. With the game etching in Newcastle’s favour, it was Pogba with the addition of shimy and cross who found Anthony Martial inside the penalty area to nod home and ignite a comeback. The Frenchman also added a goal to his performance after an astute head down from Marcus Rashford. But it is Pogba, and his sharpened red locks who will rightfully steal the limelight. In each of the 3 matches United have comeback to win under Jose Mourinho, Pogba has either assisted or scored in every one of them, signifying his importance in riling up his side for the fights that will ensue throughout a busy festive calendar.

The return of the charismatic Zlatan Ibrahimovic, as well as Romelu Lukaku’s first goal in seven games, has returned a sense of optimism to the Theatre of Dreams, especially after a compounding defeat to Chelsea before the international break. The performance echoed the confidence displayed by the Red Devils at the season’s opening, conveniently whilst Pogba was pulling the strings.

For Rafa Benitez, he can be inspired by his team’s first-half performance. An impressive showing from £10m signing Jacob Murphy demonstrates reasons to be cheerful, but the second half collapse was concerning. The Geordie fanbase was probably the highlight of Newcastle’s evening under the floodlights; the 3,100 travelling army provided rapturous support. They realise their side, considerably lacking in Premier League quality, will need all the help to preserve their Premier League status come May. A takeover and a transfer kitty may be done for January, the Magpies need it, quickly.

Pulis put out of his misery

It surfaced on Monday afternoon that Tony Pulis had been dismissed of his managerial duties at West Bromwich Albion. The appearance of the club’s Chinese owners symbolised unrest within the hierarchy, now they require a replacement. Assistant coach Gary Megson will take charge of affairs until a new appointment is made. After Saturday’s performance, it’s an understatement to say whoever comes in has an almighty task to hand.

Chelsea battered The Baggies. Despite feeble attempts to suppress the talent of Eden Hazard and co, it eventually showed. Hazard bagged a brace, coupled with Alvaro Morata’s 8th goal in 11 league games for The Blues and a Marcos Alonso effort which consigned Pulis’ fate. But is the manner of Alonso’s finish, in acres of space from a Fabregas delivery, which showcased defensive frailties unreciprocal of Pulis’ ethos. There was no effort to save the manager’s skin, although no win in 10 games is a statistic that can’t be saved.

Pulis will find work, with his nous of never being relegated as a manager, don’t be surprised of seeing his at a Premier League struggler soon. Heck, West Brom would do with help at the moment. With fixtures away to Tottenham and Liverpool and Manchester United visiting The Hawthorns in the next 6 matches, don’t expect a miraculous upturn in fortunes anytime soon. Worrying times for Albion fans, but at least you don’t support West Ham.

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Arsenal need Ozil now more than ever


Mesut Ozil splits football fans. Some think he is world class, others think he is lazy and inconsistent. Love him or hate him he is one of the biggest stars in world football. This was evident when he decided to come to the Premier League in 2013. Leaving Real Madrid and becoming Arsenal’s record signing at the time, Alexandre Lacazette broke that record this summer. Arsenal only have 3 FA Cup wins to show for Ozil’s time in London. With so much expectation on his shoulders has his time been a success?

Initially the signing looked fantastic for Arsenal. Even though Real were looking to offload Ozil to balance their squad after a busy summer of buys they still got a wonderful footballer. A indirect triumph came in the way of their rivals Tottenham losing Gareth Bale which in turn made Ozil available for ‘the Gunners’ to sign. The majority of football fans thought that Madrid had made a mistake. Even their star players thought so.

“He was the player who best knew my moves in front of goal … I’m angry about Özil leaving.” (Cristiano Ronaldo, 2013)

Ozil was greeted with hero status at The Emirates Stadium as you would expect. He was the marquee signing that year with very little going in and going out of the club. It showed. Not much changed for Arsene Wenger’s side as they retained fourth spot in the league. However, there was the first of Ozil’s FA Cup successes in his first season. It looked like great progress for Arsenal, their first trophy in 9 years. The new German playmaker would feel no more than satisfied with his first season performance scoring 7 times and creating 11 in all competitions.

It is often suggested that Ozil needs players around him. Wenger possibly had that in the back of his mind when he signed Alexis Sanchez from Barcelona in the summer after their domestic cup victory. He must have also felt the club needed more to challenge on all fronts. An early season boost saw them claim the curtain raiser, the Community Shield.

They also improved their league position to third but never looked as though they would lift the trophy. Defending the FA Cup was special, but it was not enough. The season did not feel like a success. Ozil did not improve either, 5 goals and 9 assists. He missed a chunk of the season due to injury which may have affected that.

Another 2 seasons passed by and Arsenal claimed another Community Shield and another FA Cup. They finished second in the league before falling to fifth last season. They started this campaign with another Community Shield success but it feels like the set of players are underachieving. Ozil’s Arsenal career stands in the balance. He is 29 and will want to add some serious silverware to his collection. Playing 169 times for Arsenal scoring 33 times and notching up 59 assists are good numbers but he can be better.

Arsenal need to grow to help him succeed or else he will be open to leaving. Rumours that Jose Mourinho wants to snatch him will strike fear into Wenger. He will not want a repeat of Robin van Persie leaving to their arch rivals.

Ozil is a superb player, he creates for others around him. When times are good he performs and is in a league of his own. When they are going wrong he disappears. Ozil is a luxury player and unfortunately for him at the moment many around him are. Wenger likes to play in a certain way and even though everybody involved in football suggests he should sign some defensive players he does not.

Arsenal must keep the German World Cup winner if they want to progress and clinch the league title. If Wenger can assemble the pieces around him the sky is the limit. It will mean the long term Arsenal manager will have to stray away from his comfort zone and sign some physical defensive players. He brings something different to the team and losing him now would be a disaster for the club. He is the key to the success of the club, Wenger must keep him.

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Liverpool rising, Arsenal gunned down

Klopp vs Wenger

It is perhaps with some irony that on the sixth anniversary of Arsenal’s obliteration at the hands of Manchester United, Arsene Wenger is yet again being summoned to the stand to stake a defence for his job. A thumping 4-0 loss to Liverpool, who themselves have encountered a few falls from grace in recent years, only seeks to add to the turbulence that is becoming par for the course for the Frenchman.


The now regular hashtag has once again reared its head as the protesters begin sharpening their pitchforks. Piers Morgan has again taken to Twitter to discuss his despair amidst Wenger’s odd tactical calls and his failure to address the situation of Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil.

As a tactician, Wenger has no excuses. Against a Liverpool side who were shipping goals as much as they were scoring them, he elected to bench record signing Alexander Lacazette. Thus devoiding Sanchez of any potential link up that his chance creating gameplay deserved.

Partnering Sanchez with the inconsistent Danny Welbeck over established aerial threat Olivier Giroud will have drawn frustration. But what was insulting was that Liverpool gambled on starting rookie goalkeeper Loris Karius, and neglected to use veteran fullback James Milner in a match which should have been a lot closer than it eventually was.

There are some whose statements are little more than dramatic. Indeed, the sight of a fan literally butchering his Arsenal shirt with a cleaver was strong viewing, but indicates a mere destructive tantrum. But there are some who have the the articulation to sense that Wenger may be on his last legs as manager – but just how long he has left remains a mystery.

The Sanchez/Ozil farce 

It is a farce, let’s be honest. Sanchez has made no secret of his desire to leave the Emirates. Unconvinced that the club is moving forward, he has been the centre of a blizzard of rumours as to where he might go. Although Mesut Ozil has been a lesser target, the sheer invisibility of his performance this weekend only serves to suggest he too has had enough.

Rather than seeking a sale and taking the money for his star players, Wenger has seen fit to keep them for a year, perhaps deluded to think that they might perform as the world knows they can. It is Sanchez and Ozil’s petulance versus Wenger’s desperation. A strategy simply not viable for a club to function competitively. Times like these were ended by a manager showing his player the door, emphasising that the player can and will not hold sway over the club he plays for. Wenger’s old nemesis Sir Alex Ferguson did this to great effect, and maintained a dignity through these times that seems to have deserted the long suffering Frenchman who must wonder if he is the primal cause of a sinking ship.

As for Liverpool….

The Reds are very much a club on the up. Jurgen Klopp has masterminded a turnaround for Liverpool that puts them very much in the top four mix.  The £34m capture of Sadio Mane and then £39m Mohamed Salah look like bargains so far, both have hit the ground running up top. Roberto Firmino has dipped in with goals and assists as Liverpool look to establish a potent attacking trio than can assault any defence.

But their problem lies in their own defence. Conceding three away at Watford says more for Liverpool’s failings than Watford’s triumphs, and the Reds did not help themselves further with three more goals shipped against Hoffenheim over two legs. Also exposed in the win over Arsenal was their defensive indiscipline. Joe Gomez and Dejan Lovren going into the book early on for less than clever challenges. Klopp has to address this further rather than riding his luck with his current back four.

The Coutinho debacle

On Sunday they hardly missed him. The menace of Firminio, Sane and Salah was enough to extinguish any lingering worries that Coutinho’s absence would affect the squad. The only injustice being done is that Klopp is taking too long in seeing him sold. Two rejections from Barcelona have seen Coutinho’s dream move pass him by, and with it he is getting more and more bitter.

Like Sanchez, he is unlikely to return to form, or show commitment to the Reds cause. His departure seems set by the impending arrival of Naby Keita from RB Leipzig. The attacking midfielder is due for an Anfield arrival in 2018, but Klopp ought to raise funds by selling Coutinho, who is contracted until 2022. He has time to cash in on the Brazilian, but will look more foolish the longer he continues to allow Coutinho to rot on the sidelines.

Very much a tale of contrasts for Arsenal and Liverpool. Arsene Wenger is in big trouble of letting his team spin beyond his control, whilst Liverpool must look to reassemble their defence before it begins to cost them.

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Battle of the 9’s

Manchester United and Arsenal have had some brilliant forwards over the years as they tussled for Premier League glory. Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp and Ian Wright spring to mind for Arsenal. On United’s side there is, Eric Cantona, Ruud Van Nistelrooy and Wayne Rooney. There are many more for both sides including Robin Van Persie who represented both.

Now it seems the two legendary English clubs both have new marksmen up top. Arsenal have splashed out around £45 million on Frenchman Alexandre Lacazette where as United opted for Everton’s main man Romelu Lukaku in a transfer worth £75 million. But who will perform better? Who will take the headlines? It will surely be a massive question for people picking their fantasy football teams in next few days.

The most notable advantage on either man’s side is that Lukaku has a wealth of Premier League experience already. He arrived at Chelsea in 2011 as an 18 year old was said to have huge potential. He spent three years at Stamford Bridge, he only made ten appearances, before securing a loan move to West Brom. It was a period that sky rocketed Lukaku’s reputation. 17 goals that season, including a hat-trick on Sir Alex Ferguson’s last game in charge of United, led him to be in demand at the end of that season. Another loan move to Everton was successful and the move was made permanent the following season, the man selling him? Jose Mourinho. His time at Everton has seen him develop into one of the top strikers in Europe. He has notched 68 goals in the four seasons he has spent with ‘the Toffees’.

Lacazette has had a slightly different footballing upbringing. From 2003 he has been a Lyon player and from an early age he has had a reputation as a potential superstar. He has worked his way through the ranks at the French club and leaves after making 203 senior appearances and scoring 100 goals for them. His call to a more reputable domestic league has been coming for sometime. With the emergence of Paris Saint-Germain and Monaco, Lyon have been slipping out of contention in France and Europe. Lacazette has been the stand out player at the club for a while and feels as if he has outgrown the club.

Both players have represented their national teams at the highest level. Lacazette at the age of 26 only has 11 caps for France scoring once. 24 year old Lukaku has represented Belgium a staggering 57 times scoring 20 times for his national side. Lacazette may have the advantage when it comes to European club competition experience. He has played for Lyon in both the Champions League and Europa League representing Lyon 40 times in the competitions combined. Lukaku on the other hand Lukaku played 9 times in Everton’s doomed Europa League campaign in 2014/15. With both sides playing in Europe this season it will be Lacazette’s who carries more experience into those games.

Depending on who Arsenal are able to keep around Lacazette will be a huge factor in his success. If he has a supporting cast that consists of players like Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil it could be dangerous for defenders who come up against ‘the Gunners’. If not too much pressure could be put on the new arrival. However, with Lyon he has had high expectations for a number of years now. He has been their talisman and has delivered to a certain extent, without him they would be in a far worse position. He will bring pace and finesse to the Arsenal attack that they have been lacking for a large period of time. He has to be considered a great signing for under pressure boss Arsene Wenger who will have difficult questions to face if he cannot get Arsenal to challenge for the domestic title this year. Lacazette will score goals, that is for certain. Can Arsenal support him and get the best out of him? They are more than likely to do that. If they do Arsenal could have their best season in years.

Lukaku comes into a United team that is in transition. After Ferguson left nobody has been given a sustained period of time to implement their ideas and that showed last year. Mourinho is entering his second year and seems to have the backing of everyone around the club. It feels as though ‘the Red Devils’ are starting to turn it around. They have certainly added goals to the team, something they needed with Zlatan Ibrahimovic being released. The players around him are creative, Juan Mata and Henrick Mhkitaryan both make chances and the pace of Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford will both create space and chances for the new arrival. His strength and ability in the air added to his eye for goal make him the perfect heir to Zlatan’s number 9 shirt.

Both clubs have made their intentions clear with their new goal getters. Lacazette and Lukaku will both be looking to claim the golden boot and their sides will be hoping to lift the Premier League trophy again. Only one of each can do that. It will be interesting to see how the season plays out.

Who will score more goals for their new side this season – Romelu Lukaku or Alexandre Lacazette? The people of Twitter had their say and here are the reulst;

Can Wenger make Arsenal invincible again?

The 2016/17 was a crazy one for everybody involved with Arsenal football club. The person at the centre of the confusion? Arsene Wenger. Wenger in and Wenger out both trended on twitter. Banners flying over grounds were the team were playing were calling for Wenger to leave. The Frenchman has been a constant at the London club. Since 1996 the legendary coach has seen over everything at the club. However, he has failed to win the league since 2004 when his side went unbeaten in their league campaign to claim the Premier League trophy. FA cup wins and top four finishes have saved his neck in the 13 years since winning the league. This year saw them drop out of Champions League football and this meant that the ice Wenger is standing on is thinner than ever. Big names are being linked with the club. Since 2004 what major signings has Wenger made to improve his squad? 

After the invincible season Arsenal did not go out and grab a marquee signing. They brought in Manuel Almunia, Robin van Persie, Emmanuel Eboue and Mathieu Flamini. Van Persie would go on to be the biggest name there in terms of creating a legacy at Arsenal. However, at the time he was only 20 years of age. They spent in total just over £10 million, Wenger clearly thought the squad was strong enough already. Logically there is no problem with that thought process. The team had just gone unbeaten in the league all season, why would they need to strengthen the squad? On the other side of the argument you have the fact that players were allowed to leave. Ray Parlour left for Middlesbrough, Sylvain Wiltord moved to Lyon, Martin Keown went to Leicester and Giovanni van Bronckhorst switched to Barcelona. All of these were free transfers and the Arsenal side lost a lot of experience. The Gunners won the Community shield and FA cup that season.

The next summer transfer market was a disastrous one for the London club. They lost a vital member of their team in Patrick Vieira who moved to Italian giants Juventus. The player they signed to replace their outgoing captain was Alex Song. Song was still young and not prepared to fill such a vast void. Arsenal also signed Aleksandr Hleb, Theo Walcott, Emmanuel Adebayor and Abou Diaby. More exits followed the next season with Ashely Cole leaving for rivals Chelsea in a deal which included William Gallas arriving at Arsenal. Sol Campbell also left in the summer of 2006 along with Robert Pires. Julio Baptista arrived on loan from Real Madrid and Arsenal also invested in Denilson and Tomas Rosicky.

Things did not improve in terms of outgoing stars for Wenger’s Arsenal. Star man Thierry Henry left to Barcelona, Jose Antonio Reyes also left. Freddie Ljungberg and Lassana Diarra also left during this campaign. Incoming players were underwhelming again; Eduardo, Bacary Sagna and Lukasz Fabianski came in. All good footballers, it just feels as though Arsenal were unwilling or unable to replace the quality that was leaving the club with real world class stars. The team that had gone unbeaten only a few years before had been ruined. The best players from that side had decided to leave and what had come in had not been able to do the same job. Of course players like Van Persie developed and it must be looked back at as a wonderful signing, but Arsenal did not buy anyone for the now. They planned for the future, but the feeling was they neglected the present.

A big player left almost every season and 2011/2012 was a particularity distressing one for Arsenal. Cesc Fabregas decided to go back to Barcelona and Samir Nasri and Gael Clichy both went to Manchester City. The next season saw Van Persie go to Manchester United and Song to Barcelona. Again a mass exit from the Gunners. With this policy it easy to understand why Arsenal fans have grown frustrated with their manager.

Finally in 2013/14 Wenger decided to change his strategy when bringing in players. He signed German superstar play maker Mesut Ozil. It signalled a new age for Arsenal, one in which they would go out and try and sign top talent. Wenger must have got the taste for big money signings as he followed Ozil up with another mega signing. He brought in Alexis Sanchez to London from Barcelona. The Chilean attacker is a brilliant player and has dug Arsenal out of bad patches single handedly on numerous occasions. They also bought Danny Welbeck from Manchester United. Another solid bit of business followed as Wenger got Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech. The problem with this is that all the players leaving were allowed to by the clubs. Ozil and Sanchez were sold to make room in their clubs squad for new arrivals, Louis van Gaal did not intend to use Welbeck at United and transfer listed him and Cech had been replaced as Chelsea’s number one. Great news for Arsenal but they had not gone out and competed to bring players to the Emirates.

Last summer they brought in two £30 million plus players. Shkodran Mustafi came in to bolster the defence. As well as the German defender Wenger finally spent big money on a quality midfielder in Granit Xhaka, although he has found it difficult to settle in in England. Both of these signing are ones in which Arsenal fans should feel excited by. They both are highly rated and have good futures ahead of them as well as a decent amount of experience already in the bag.

Rumours are rife around Arsenal this summer. Sanchez is being linked with Manchester City and Wenger will have his work cut out to keep him. This must be the most vital item on his agenda at the moment. Sanchez is crucial to any consistency and potential success for Arsenal this year. Although if he leave Arsenal are heavily linked with Riyad Mahrez who inspired Leicester City to their shock league win. Monaco’s Thomas Lemar has been linked but it looks as if that may be off the table for the Gunners.

Another key point for Wenger is to keep Hector Bellerin. He is a wonderful player with amazing potential. After a decent under 21 Euro Championships and with Barcelona’s interest in bringing back former players Wenger must persuade the young Spanish full back that Arsenal will improve and compete for trophies.

With news that Olivier Giroud may be wanted by Everton coming out this may play into Arsenal’s hands. Giroud is a brilliant footballer and scores goals. However, he does not really fit at Arsenal for whatever reason. Sanchez played as a centre forward in patches last season showing that Giroud is not the best option in Wenger’s eyes. It looks as if Alexandre Lacazette will sign for Arsenal soon. This would take any issues with goalscoring out of the question. He is quick and a great finisher and would nail down his place in Arsenal’s eleven. Gunner’s fans should be hugely excited by this arrival.

Whatever happens over the summer is not even half of the issue. Wenger needs to address several issues to save himself. Even if they sign top quality players and lose some of their current stars he needs to mould them into winners quickly. If he fails to do so the mob of angry, frustrated and disappointed Wenger outers will be calling for blood. And this could be the time they get their wish.