Posts tagged Arsenal
The Counter Press - You Hate to See It

The Counter Press Boys are joined by Spurs fan @ryne_jones to talk about all things Premier League including Tottenham's list of transfers. We also dive into Champions League matchups along with some Serie A talk.

Follow Vijay on Twitter: @VJVemu
Follow Josh on Twitter: @highbiscuits

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Premier League Matchday: Five Games to Watch

Chelsea vs Liverpool

The marquee matchup of this weekend will most definitely take place at Stamford Bridge where Liverpool will face off against Chelsea, a quick rematch after these teams faced off midweek in the Carabao Cup with Chelsea emerging victorious, Both of these teams will head into this match with unbeaten records in the league, Liverpool having won all six of their contests so far. Liverpool can become only the second team in Premier League history to win their first seven matches of a PL season, the other just so happens to have been Chelsea in the 05/06 season.

Arsenal vs Watford

At the Emirates this weekend will be two teams trending in opposite directions matching up in red-hot Arsenal and middling Watford. While Arsenal come in having won their last four PL contests, Watford, on the other hand are losing steam, looking for their first win in their last three contests after starting the season with a four game winning streak of their own. The combination of Lacazette and Aubamayeng up top for Arsenal has been lethal as of late for Arsenal and will be looking to put Watford to the sword yet again.

Wolves vs Southampton

Most teams in their first year after promotion to the Premier League come into the season ready to scrape for points and prepare for a relegation battle but this is FAR from the case with Wolverhampton Wanderers. After dominating the Championship last season, Wolves have carried their momentum into the PL and are unbeaten in their last four games, including draws against Manchester City and Manchester United. The only teams with more shots on goal than Wolves heading into this weekend are all in the top three. Southampton have struggled out of the gates and with Wolves looking to stay unbeaten at home, those struggles may not been over yet.

Crystal Palace vs Bournemouth

Wrapping up the match day, on Monday, two mid-table teams in 11th place Crystal Palace and 8th place Bournemouth will clash at the Vitality Stadium. After a hot start to the season, Bournemouth head into this match after being on the receiving end of an absolute hammering by a Burnley team that had not yet won a game heading into last weekend. Crystal Palace continue to look to Wilfried Zaha to provide the majority of their offense and look for him to try to spark the team once again this week. It doesn’t bode well for Bournemouth that the team have never won a PL match played on a Monday but the team will be hoping to put an end to that unwanted record.

Cardiff vs Burnley

An early season six-pointer between relegation candidates Cardiff and Burnley will take place in Cardiff City Stadium this weekend. Sean Dyche and Burnley hope they have put the worst behind them and look to build on their first win of the season, a 4-0 battering of Bournemouth last weekend. Cardiff continue to chase their first win of the season but their recent history against Burnley can only inspire them knowing the team are unbeaten against Burnley in 13 matches since 2007. This may not be the prettiest game to watch but the importance of this result could be significant for both sides come season’s end.

Premier League Player Power Rankings

  1. Eden Hazard, Chelsea

  2. Sergio Aguero, Manchester City

  3. Virgil Van Dijk, Liverpool

  4. Aleksandar Mitrovic, Fulham

  5. James Milner, Liverpool

  6. Jose Holebas, Watford

  7. Alexandre Lacazette, Arsenal

  8. Lucas Moura, Tottenham

  9. Aymeric Laporte, Manchester City

  10. Ruben Neves, Wolverhampton Wanderers

2018-19 English Premier League power rankings: City favorites to repeat, but Liverpool hope to end the drought
PREMIER LEAGUE POWER RANKINGS.jpg

With the European football leagues getting underway this week, The Barber's Chair is taking a look at each of the major soccer leagues across the pond to see how each club stacks up this season. Yesterday, Jonathan Ramos examined the top tier in France, Ligue 1. Today, Vijay Vemu looks at arguably the most popular league in football, the English Premier League.

Premier League Power Rankings

One of the world's best leagues, the English Premier League, kicks off on Friday with Leicester City facing off against Manchester United. It's the beginning of a great soccer weekend (including Arsenal vs. Man City) and hopefully a fun EPL season. Let’s rank the 20 clubs and in the end, I’ll release my entire table predictions.

Class 1: Title contenders

Manchester City
Liverpool

Last year we saw Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City take the crown by the throat, ending the title race by Christmas. Their second-half spell wasn’t as dominant as their start, but it was enough to get the job done and win their third EPL title of the decade. Now with an invigorated squad filled with summer signings like Riyad Mahrez, City are favorites to repeat.

Pep retains the majority of his key players and will get a healthy Benjamin Mendy to fill in at left back this season. Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus are going to be goal poachers with Kevin De Bruyne, Leroy Sane, and Raheem Sterling providing service. However, the title chase will be closer with one team, in particular, having an amazing summer in the transfer market: Liverpool.

The Reds had a fantastic season in 2017/18 and got even stronger in the summer, adding the duo of Naby Keita and Fabinho to shore up the midfield. Both players fit right into Jurgen Kloop's system, with the former having a great motor to press. Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino, and Mo Salah all come back healthy as well. Liverpool even went out and spent money on a quality keeper in Brazil's Allison, who sures up the backline and makes the Reds a dangerous contender in the Premier League. One question worth asking given Klopp’s system: will they run of steam in the second half of the season? If that happens in the middle of a serious title chase, we could see another Liverpool collapse.

Any year in the Premier League is a toss up, but with City being so far above everyone else and Liverpool improving, it’s hard to talk yourself into another big club being a title contender. At least right now. I expect the race to be pretty close, but for now, these are my two teams.

Class 2: European contenders

Manchester United
Tottenham Hotspur
Chelsea
Arsenal
Leicester
City

I’m just gonna get this out of the way right now... I don’t see Burnley making a push like they did last season. Sean Dyche’s team did a fantastic job of playing park-the-bus soccer and making the Europa League out of it. They made great use of set pieces and defended like crazy, but we know what happens when you mix a Europa League run with trying to compete in the Premier League. Ask Southampton and Everton; it creates a disaster in one competition or another. The Clarets are going to naturally have to make a sacrifice about which competition to care for; but even if they solely focus on the Premier League, they will need another monster season to qualify for Europe.

As for who will actually be competing for European qualification, expect the rest of the big guns to be competing for Champions League. Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho’s comments have made things especially wild around Old Trafford. The whole thing regarding Anthony Martial raised a few eyebrows but thankfully there are people at United who realize his value. Making Marcus Rashford the number 10 is a big deal; hopefully, he can get more playing time this season. Mourinho has a lot of decisions to make attacking wise and if he can’t get it right, he may be on his way out.

Antonio Conte is finally out at Chelsea, and the Blues have brought in their man from Napoli. Maurizio Sarri will bring an exciting style to Stamford Bridge and hopefully convince Eden Hazard to stay with him by getting more attacking help. Adding Jorginho to boss the midfield along with N’Golo Kante is a big boost. Chelsea fans hope Sarri can make Alvaro Morata look at least 20% of what he was last year. I think if Morata is given a chance in Sarri’s system, he will have a fine season. But one man who is on his way out is Thibaut Courtois. Chelsea reportedly have his replacement lined up in Kepa, but it means even more shuffling defensively. You also have to wonder how Conte’s back three now fit with Sarri’s 4-3-3 system. Marcos Alonso will have real problems playing as a full-time left back.

No movement in the transfer window have left Tottenham fans mad as there have been barely any incomings to the club. Losing Toby Alderweireld and Moussa Dembele won’t ease any of the tension. Spurs still have a super talented squad and manager Mauricio Pochettino will have his guys ready to go. Harry Kane will still be smashing in goals and the likes of Heung Min Son, Christian Eriksen, and Dele Alli will provide a ton of offensive support, but they needed an upgrade on their squad to take the next step into title contention. Sadly for Spurs fans, there was no upgrade at all.

Arsene Wenger is finally out and Unai Emery is in at Arsenal. The Gunners have a potent attack with Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette up front. Emery will have to figure out make the two strikers together instead of what happened last season when the latter was moved out to the left wing and looked all out of sorts. The midfield got a boost with the addition of Uruguay’s Lucas Torreira. He can be a good cover in front of Arsenal’s shaky backline and will look to be their backbone in midfield. It’s a project that Emery has got in his hands. Wenger left him a depleted squad, and it'll take a couple of years for Emery to get his type of players. Expect another topsy-turvy year from the Gunners.

Another team I would like to throw in for Europe contention is Leicester City. Even after losing Mahrez, they made some smart signings in Ricardo Pereira, Richard Ghezzal, James Madison, and Danny Ward. All of those signings strengthen a talented and dangerous squad with Jamie Vardy still up top, and Ndidi and Vicente Iborra solid in the midfieldl. Getting Jonny Evans to play in the back will help the backline depth, especially if Harry Maguire leaves (which he might this transfer window or next).

Class 3: Mid-table

Crystal Palace
Wolverhampton
Everton
Watford
Newcastle United
Fulham
West Ham
Burnley

The team who will get the most eyeballs here will be Wolves. Like Newcastle last year, they are easily a mid-table team and won’t be fighting for their lives this season. They brought in a lot of quality players in the past two years, and the way they ran the Championship showed they can make some noise in the table. I know it’s ambitious to put them in the top 9 but you can argue given the troubling summers the three teams behind them in the list, it’s not unreasonable. Crystal Palace had a good end to the summer and given the chaos in the middle of the table, if they keep Zaha they will be fine.

Newcastle has had a very troubling summer with Rafa Benitez expressing his concern for the lack of transfers. It’s not out of reason for them to be in the relegation race when the season comes to a close, but I think Benitez is a talented enough manager to pull them out of it.

Fulham will be fun too and they kept their best young players, which bodes well for them staying up. Everton is a toss up under Marco Silva; they could be in contention for 7th, but given how their pre-season has gone it seems they are in a fight for 10th place again. West Ham hope their signing of Felipe Anderson will be a big boost for them; he's a smart purchase who can spark the Hammers offensively like Dimitri Payet did a couple of years ago.

Class 4: Relegation Zone

Bournemouth
Southampton
Brighton
Huddersfield
Cardiff City

There are two teams here who are good bets to land in the relegation zone: Huddersfield and Cardiff City. Both clubs, talent-wise, don’t have enough firepower to stay in the Premier League. It was a miracle that Huddersfield stayed up last year, and this year will be even harder for them. They’ve made some signings which could help them stay up, so it’s an automatic drop but it’s hard to see them trying the same thing they did last year and have it work.

The last relegation spot will come between Brighton and Southampton. Much like Lille in France, Southampton's drop in quality has been shocking and sad to see. The Saints were once in the Europa League, now they are fighting for their Premier League lives. They are going to have to rely on a young core to get them out of this. Bournemouth is also in here but Eddie Howe can get the job done, much like Rafa at Newcastle.

Full table prediction

  1. Man City

  2. Liverpool

  3. Manchester United

  4. Spurs

  5. Chelsea

  6. Arsenal

  7. Leicester

  8. Crystal Palace

  9. Wolves

  10. Everton

  11. Watford

  12. Newcastle

  13. Fulham

  14. West Ham

  15. Burnley

  16. Bournemouth

  17. Southampton

  18. Brighton

  19. Huddersfield

  20. Cardiff City

 

Europa League preview

Even with the Champions League underway, we thought it was some time to appreciate some of the fixtures in this year’s Europa League. There are some quality clubs in this years competition as the likes of Atletico Madrid, Borussia Dortmund, AC Milan, and Arsenal are all competing this week. Even RB Leipzig, who were at a time second in the Bundesliga, are in action this week. Let’s take a look at the three most intriguing fixtures taking place in the UEL this week.

AC Milan vs. Arsenal
TV: Fox Sports 2
Where is the fixture: San Siro in Milan, Italy

Andy Hooper/Daily Mail

Andy Hooper/Daily Mail

This is a battle of two historic clubs who find themselves in another season of disappointing results. Both Arsenal and Milan are relatively low (by their standards) in their respective domestic league tables. Arsene Wenger’s club sits firmly 6th in the Premier League table but are coming into this match on a 4 game winning streak which included two 3-0 beatings by Manchester City and stunning losses to Brighton and Swedish club Ostersands in the second leg of their previous Europa League tie. The Gunners look completely broken and are playing like a team who is desperate for anything positive to happen. With the Gunners firmly positioned in the middle of the table with the madness of them crashing out of the FA and League Cup, this is their final go around to grab a trophy this year.

It’s been a troubling year for AC Milan as well. They are currently 7th in the Serie A table, tied on points with Sampdoria for 6th. With them being 7 points behind rivals Inter for 5th and 6 points ahead of Atalanta in 8th, Milan are stuck in the table and it’s likely to stay that way. However, it doesn’t mean they don’t any other trophies to play for. In their most recent fixture they advanced to the Coppa Italia final after beating Lazio 5-4 on penalties. With both legs being disappointing 0-0 draws, the only way to decide it was a penalty shootout. After Marchi missed a penalty with the score being 4-4, Alessio Romagnoli stepped up and fired a penalty past Strakosha to send Milan to the final against Juventus. But now they have a test at home against Arsenal.

With Pierre Emerick Aubamayeng cup tied, he will be unavailable in this match. This handicaps Arsenal even more and they will likely rely on Alexandre Lacazette to be their striker. The former Lyon danger man has been moved out to the wing with Auba coming in. Not only has he been playing out of position but he’s dealing with a severe lack of confidence in front of goal. Arsenal will need to serve him some A+ chances for him to put one into the net of AC Milan.

The pressure on Wenger mounts with each passing game. It’s been a disastorous season for the Gunners and it could get worse in Milan. As bad as Milan has been in Serie A, they should be favorites in this tie and it helps that the first leg is in the San Siro.

Prediction: 2-0 Milan

 

Marseille vs. Athletic Bilbao
TV: Fox Sports Plus
Where: Stade Velodrome in Marseille, France

It’s been a turbulent season for Athletic Bilbao. They’ve lost some important players like Aymeric Laporte and it’s shown in their La Liga form. Right now Bilbao sit 14th, that’s right 14th, in Spain’s top division.  In their last two La Liga games, Bilbao drew Valencia 1-1 and were beat 2-0 by Sevilla. They are now 13 points behind 5th place Sevilla so barring a near perfect final months of the season + some help on the side, winning the Europa League is the only way Athletic can get back into Europe next season.

It was a tricky situation in their Round of 32 tie against Spartak Moscow. Bilbao escaped with a 4-3 win on aggregate despite losing the second leg 2-1. They will have to be much better against a Marseille team which likes to get up and down the pitch in a hurry.

The French team, who are 3rd in Ligue 1 at the moment, are in desperate need of a good game. Marseille have gone 4 games without a win which has included two back to back 3-0 beatings by league leaders PSG. In their most recent Ligue 1 match, they drew Nantes 1-1 in a game where they had 22 shots but only 4 on target along with 80% possession. It was a match they should have won. Like Bilbao, they advanced in their Round of 32 tie despite losing the second leg. Thanks to a 3-0 first leg win against Braga, they were able to get away with a 1-0 loss in the second leg.

Both teams are coming in with struggles in their domestic leagues with Marseille’s being more recent. But this will be a fun game. Especially from the French team’s side. They have scored 57 goals in Ligue 1, which is more than double of Bilbao’s total in La Liga. Look for Athletic to try and absorb the pressure while trying to strike on the counter.

Prediction: 2-1 Marseille

 

Atletico Madrid vs. Lokomotiv Moscow
TV: N/A
Where: Wanda Metropolitano in Madrid, Spain

AFP

AFP

This matchup features the favorites of the favorites to win the Europa League against the leaders in the Russian Premier League.

Atletico Madrid are no doubt the best team in the Europa League and after crashing out in the Champions League group stage, they are ready to put the embarrassment behind them. Diego Simeone’s team will be revved to go tomorrow and will be looking to suffocate the game from the get-go. They are currently second in La Liga but saw their six game winning streak snapped against league leaders Barcelona in a heartbreaking 1-0 loss. Had they gotten the three points, Atletico Madrid could have putten some real pressure on the Blaugranes but thanks to a Leo Messi free kick, which he put into the top right corner, Barcelona are up 8 points on Atletico. They have to be able to put the loss behind them as they keep striving towards a Europa League title.

Meanwhile, Lokomotiv Moscow have built themselves a comfortable lead at the top of the Russian Premier League. They are seven points ahead of second place FC Krasnador. They had their four game domestic winning streak snapped with a 0-0 draw against Spartak on Sunday. But they are cruising in the league right now. Meanwhile, their Round of 32 tie against OG Nice was interesting. They were down 2-1 in the first leg when a red card sent their French opponents to 10 men. After that Lokomotiv scored 2 goals in the final 21 minutes to nab a crucial 1st leg win with the added bonus of away goals. They sealed off the tie in the second leg when Ignor Denisov scored in the 30th minute to make it 4-2 on aggregate. The 1-0 saw them to the Round of 16 but they will be facing a very tough squad.

The Russian league leaders played well in their last away leg but this isn’t Nice. They will be going up against one of the toughest teams in Europe and it’s going to take a massive performance from the away side to make this a competitive tie.

Prediction: 3-0 Atletico Madrid

The current state of Arsenal football
Getty Images

Getty Images

A wise person once said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

Insanity is the perfect word to describe what Arsenal has been since the Invincibles team won the Premier League in 2004 without a single defeat. Arsenal has not won the league since, and has also suffered some of the most embarrassing defeats the Champions League has ever seen. For the amount of money Arsenal spends and for the status of being a top club, not winning the league in 14 years is unacceptable. Yet for reasons unknown, Arsene Wenger is still not out.

With Arsenal currently sitting at 6th place in the premier league table, they are choosing to sell their players instead of sack Wenger. With the Alexis Sanchez transfer to Manchester United official, he becomes the second player that Arsenal has sold this season to a team ahead of them in the standings. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was the first when the Gunners sold him to Liverpool. Other players that have been sold this season include Francis Coquelin to Valencia and Theo Walcott to Everton.

Arsenal did however receive Henrikh Mkhitaryan in the swap for Sanchez, but he is not the talent Sanchez was and it feels like Arsenal is blowing it up and trying to rebuild. However the only way they will be able to truly rebuild is by getting rid of their out of touch Gaffer.

The players never seem to play for Wenger and he is constantly putting his players in formations to fail. It’s been hard being an Arsenal supporter watching the team get demolished in the Champions League whenever they play the likes of Bayern or Barcelona, as well as watching them lose repeatedly to the other top 6 teams in the premier league.

Winning the FA Cups is the only reason Wenger is still there. Yet, no fan should feel happy about winning over an FA Cup for a top club. Winning that trophy is like winning your division in the NBA.

Arsenal is on pace to miss the Champions League for the second straight season, and unless they are able to get Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, the future looks disastrous. We’ve seen this story before, Arsenal has the money to spend yet Stan Kroenke/Wenger stand pat and expect things to change without doing a damn thing.

Here’s to hoping that this will not be the same ol' song and dance.