The Transfer Conundrum: Part 1

Who would have thought a few years back that a team will spend 200 million in the first month itself? But then Again who would have guessed Paul Pogba could go for 100 million, that he did last year.

The transfer market has boomed for the premier league clubs over the past 2 years and a lot of it has been because of the amount of money the premier league has generated and the clubs that have generated through TV rights and prize money.

After the whooping transfer season that was last year, everyone in the world was looking forward to this transfer season. And well it is off to a flourishing start.

The forerunner of the lot has been Pep from Manchester City. Already on the verge of spending 180 million for 4 players; EdersonMoraes for 40 mn; Benjamin Mendy for 39.8 million; Bernardo Silva for 43 million; and an almost confirmed 60mn signing of Alexis Sanchez at the doorstep, city has broken the market already with high profile signings and extravagant spending.

United on the other hand hasn’t been that busy yet, but with 2 high profile signings on the corner of Alvaro Morata, Victor Lindelof on the move to the English club. Meanwhile, West Brom have lined up Everton midfielder James McCarthy as a replacement for ex-captain Darren Fletcher. 634T712oRfiAtwmVYWbI_9f1SktL1RKC7RSgKYXTl_skysports-victor-lindelof-sweden-football_3975512

In other news, Chelsea have offered €50m for Juventus full-back Alex Sandro, according to Gazzetta dello Sport. However, the report suggests the Serie A champions rejected the offer and have said they have no intention to sell the Brazilian

Arsenal and Arsene proved to be wise yet again as they bag Sead Kolasinac the Bosnian left back from Schalke for a free transfer, enhancing the left wing back position in their 3-4-3 formation. Also saving the funds to make a supposed 100 mn bid for Kylian Mbappe. Monaco already has rejected a 83mn deal that arsenal had offered, but now they are planning to break their club record to prepare the highest ever bid.

Among other news, Chelsea has confirmed the signing of TiemoueBakayoko for 35 million, showing the doors to the not favored Diego Costa.

If rumors are to be believed, RB Leipzig play-maker Emil Forsberg has gathered news suggesting he will move to AC Milan by revealing playing in the Champions League isn’t a necessity for him. The former Liverpool transfer target is the latest name to be linked with Milan, who are undergoing a transformation this summer

Everton v Espanyol: Pre-Season Friendly

Barcelona has been back to market to get a stable right back with Arsenal’s Bellerin being the first choice. Also they have been pushing hard for the almost impossible Verratti bid. Barcelona midfield is in shambles and needs quick and quality restructuring.

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A win by margin

The meeting of these two teams in the league used to be title deciders at one point of time. However, in recent times, it has been reduced to a determiner for a top four finish. While the luster of this once famous fixture has faded away, people still expect good football out of both teams. This was not the case this time. While Arsenal fans may rejoice at the 2-0 victory, and rightly so, it should be put into proper perspective. Ravaged with injuries, and at the back of a Europa league game against Celta Vigo, what Mourinho fielded was a team of second team players. At the back were Smalling and Jones, both clearly lacking match fitness. At right-back was 19 year old debutant Axel Tuanzebe, with out-of-favour Martial and Rooney also finding starting spots. There was no Fellaini or Pogba to provide physicality and boss the midfield. And their style of play reflected that. Except two clear chances, which was dealt with by Cech expertly, United barely threatened. Arsenal kept possession of the ball, and played some incisive passes. However, the breakthrough came when a long range effort by Xhaka (who else?) took a wicked deflection off Herrera and beat De Gea all ends up. Almost immediately, Welbeck headed in from close range off a sumptuous cross by Oxlade-CIMG_20170508_021257hamberlain. And that was that.

The game, although not very exciting from a neutral point of view, had some interesting points.
This was the first time that, barring the 2015 Community Shield, Wenger has won against Mourinho. Though he did finally get the better of his rival, winning against a reserve team did dull some of the glory.
It was clear from Mourinhos team selection that the Europa League is his top priority, instead of competing for a top four finish. Though winning the Europa League would automatically qualify them for the Champions League, Mourinho is taking a big risk by wagering it all while still having the second leg of the semi-final left to be played.
Debutant Axel Tuanzebe shined and proved to be quite capable of handling Sanchez in the left wing. And that is no mean feat, as most defenders will tell you. United have got another academy gem in their hand.
Rooneys age is clearly beginning to show. Barely making an impact, he did show good awareness to latch onto a horrible back pass by Rob Holding. However, one on one with the keeper, where the previous Rooney would have buried the ball into the goal, he failed to score. It is becoming more and more difficult to justify his 300,000 pounds a week wage bill.
Finally, after a string of below par performances, Arsenal manaIMG_20170508_021212ged to find their rhythm in this game. They will hope to build on this and mount a late top four challenge. Though it depends on the results of other fixtures, all the Gunners can do is keep their focus and hope they don’t finish outside the top four for the first time under Wengers reign.

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Tottenham’s Folly

Living under the shadow of their rivals for more than two decades, it has been tough for Tottenham Hotspurs. However, recently, things have started to look up for the white half of North London. On course to finish above Arsenal for the first time in over 22 years, it has certainly been a while since the Gooners were denied their annual St. Totteringham Day celebrations. And they have Mauricio Pochettino to thank for that. The Spurs manger, appointed in 2014, injected fresh blood into the squad which seemed to have lost its confidence after they lost their star man, Gareth Bale, to Real Madrid, and failed to make optimum use of the funds that were freed up. Pochettino built a squad with a strong English core, with the likes of Eric Dier, Danny Rose, Kyle Walker, Dele Alli and Harry Kane being first team regulars, supported by the defensive steel of Alderweireld and playmaking skills of Eriksen. And it has paid its dividends. They made a strong run for the Premier League title for the better part of the 2015-16 season, and are still in contention for this season’s title. However, are things as rosy as they seem in White Hart Lane?

The recent result against West Ham seems to say otherwise. Losing 1-0, it was a game that they absolutely had to win to maintain pressure on the league leaders, Chelsea. On the back of a 2-0 derby win against Arsenal, they failed, however, to keep their nerves against another London team. Something similar happened in the previous season too. Playing against Chelsea, who had an abysmal season, they behaved more like spoiled brats than potential champions. Feeling the need to catch up on Leicester, the eventual champions, they lost their cool in the match, which culminated in a full-fledged brawl between the players. They drew the game and lost all momentum and any hopes of winning the title. On the last match day, they choked against already relegated Newcastle and practically gifted Arsenal the 2nd spot.

Coming back to the current season, because of Spurs stumbling, Chelsea need to win just two of their last four games to seal their victory. With their title hopes fading away, the only thing they can take away from this season is that it was better than their fiercest rival’s, Arsenal’s. Or was it? Suffering arguably their worst season since Arsene Wenger joined, Arsenal still have hope for silverware, with the F.A. Cup Final still left to be played. On the other hand, enjoying one of their best seasons in a long time, Tottenham are already seeing their only chance for a trophy slowly slipping away. Add to that the fact that they crashe2285332d out of the Champions League Group Stage and the Europa League Round of 32, while Arsenal made it till the Champions League Round of 16 again this year. Surely, securing a better league position than Arsenal should not be the sole goal of such a young and talented squad? However, unless Chelsea falter too, it seems like that is all they will achieve this year. And unless they manage to improve their mentality, standing up to the success of their city neighbors will prove to be a tough job indeed. However, with Pochettino as their manager, and the exciting talents that they possess, they can hope that that day will come sooner rather than later.

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Article Contribution- Anirban Bhattacharya

And then there were FOUR

The Champions League semi-final draw presented us with two completely different match ups. On one side was Atletico Madrid vs Real Madrid, two sides that needed no further introduction to each other. City rivals, they know each other like the back of their hands, even meeting each other in the Finals, twice. On both occasions, the Galacticos ruled supreme.

On the other side were two teams that had seldom faced each other. Both potential champions of their own leagues, they couldn’t have been more different if they tried. French flamboyance and guile vs Italian structure and order. One relying on free flowing attack while the other building up from an impregnable defense. It was Monaco vs Juventus. However they had one common thread uniting them. Both were out to prove their European dominance.

The first draw presented a result whichcristiano-ronaldo-real-madrid-atletico_1xn33kg1c04h81my5vwvo9a5em was all too familiar. Real Madrid dominated Atletico, with Ronaldo scoring a hattrick, ending the match 3-0. Varane and Casemiro did their defensive jobs brilliantly, snuffing out any potential attacks, with Marcelo romping down the left flank, as usual. Isco, given a free role by Zidane, showed sparks of brilliance, but failed to stamp his authority over that position. Atletico’s star man, Griezmann, barely threatened the Madrid goalkeeper, as he was handicapped by the lack of service from his teammates. However, the evening was all about one man. Cristiano Ronaldo.

The only man to score a century of goals and back-to-back hattricks in the Champions League, Ronaldo showed us that though he may have lost some of his explosive pace due to age, he is as good as a goalscorer as he ever was. Moulding himself to a new role as a poacher, he showcased his brilliant attacking sense and resolute finishing, both with his head and feet, and proved to the world, once again, why he is considered one of the best to ever play the game.

The second match had two players epitomizing each side. Gianluigi Buffon, the Grand Old Man of Italy, has more games under his belt than Mbappe, the French attacking prodigy, has days since his professional debut. Juventus had an aging team, with Barzaghli, Bonucci, Chiellini, Dani Alves, their defensive crux, all over the age of 30, while Monaco had one of the youngest teams in the tournament. The game went Monaco’s way at first, with them creating chances at the other hand, which were dealt with by Buffon. However, in the end, experience won over youth. Following a brilliant counter attack, Higuan opened the scoresheet for Juventus. He added another in the second half after Monaco lost possession in their own half. Both were assisted by Dani Alves. Mbappe and Bernardo Silva both were a menace for the Juventus defence, but they soon fizzled out as Juventus started controlling the game. In the end, it was a convincing 2-0 victory.gonzalo-higuain-cropped_1hlz7uug7o9fd12qr5jfcgv2y0

The winners of both the first legs have a huge advantage over their opponents. Atletico have a mammoth undertaking ahead of them, to try and make up the three goal deficit. On the other hand, Monaco will have the thankless task of penetrating the strongest defence in Europe, at least twice, in their own home, a feat few can claim to have achieved. But in the end, it is football, and in a season where Barcelona came back from 4 goals down in the first leg to win it all in the second leg, anything seems possible.

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Article Contributed by Anirban Bhattacharya