Excitement Builds As MLS Play-Offs Continue

It’s always exciting when a season comes to an end, as it’s that time of the year when the trophies are handed out and celebrations begin. It’s no different in North America as the MLS Play-offs take centre stage, with all participating teams dreaming of MLS Cup glory. If making money of the situation is your thing, you should definitely check out a sports interaction bonus. Plenty of people love this tense period and it as an ideal chance to win some money back.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s LA Galaxy and Wayne Rooney’s DC United may have fallen during the first knockout stage but the competition still has plenty of stars to keep our attention satisfied.

All of the first legs of the Conference semi finals have been played and they’re all still on a knife-edge. In the four opening games of this round, we’ve seen three wins and one draw but no team has more than a one goal lead going into this weekend’s fixtures.

In the Western Conference, current Scotland international forward Johnny Russell will hope he can add to his goal tally and give Sporting KC a win over Real Salt Lake. Designated player Albert Rusnak is a creative attacking midfielder that can make the Claret and Cobalt tick. The first leg ended in a 1-1 draw, so it’s very much all to play for in this one!

Both Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers have won one MLS Cup each and they’ll be hoping that they can win their second this year but they’ll need to eliminate the other first. The Timbers hold the advantage after winning 2-1 in the first tie but the second leg will be played at the home of The Sounders and they’ll hope that their passionate fans can give them the edge. Sounders boss Brian Schmetzer has plenty of winning experience, so his players should be listening carefully to their manager.

New York Red Bulls will be looking at their all-time leading goalscoring Bradley Wright-Phillips for inspiration as they look to over turn a one goal deficit against Columbus Crew SC this weekend. The Crew have their own goal threat in Gyasi Zardes, who has struck nineteen times already this season. It could be a big game for both defences and the keepers. Interestingly Crew’s Zack Steffen was handed the goalkeeper of the year award recently, while Red Bulls and US international centre back Aaron Long was awarded the MLS defender of year trophy.

In the last bracket of the Eastern Conference we’ve got two newer franchises in Atlanta United and New York City FC. Neither side has won the MLS Cup before, so no side’s support will be as excited as these two sets of support this season. Veteran World Cup winner David Silva would love to add more silverware to his trophy cabinet and he’ll be hoping to get the goals that New York City FC are looking for. Venezuelan striker Josef Martinez has been a goal machine this year and he could be the difference maker. Atlanta take a goal advantage into their home leg.

Whatever happens next; expect plenty of nail biting, some tears and cheers as we watch on and see which team reaches and wins the final on December the 8th!

It’s A Case Of Now Or Never For Celtic’s European Campaign

Celtic have really hit top gear in the Scottish Premiership, after a disappointing start the Scottish champions have won their last five league games and scoring twenty-one goals in the process.

Yet in Europe, Brendan Rodgers’ side have been pretty disappointing. They were knocked of the Champions League by Greek side AEK Athens during the qualifying stages. That saw The Hoops drop into the group stages of the Europa League.

It was hoped that Celtic could prove themselves in UEFA’s second tier competition. They edged out Rosenborg in their opening fixture but they’ve since lost to RB Leipzig and Red Bull Salzburg.

Up next is Bundesliga cracks Leipzig at Celtic Park and it looks like it might be a must win for The Hoops.

It should be noted that Celtic’s two defeats came away from home and they are a much better outfit when they’re playing under the lights at Celtic Park. Even in Europe, Celtic have been impressive at home.

Rodgers has stated that he thinks that home advantage could be vital and that he’s hopeful that the team can bring their upturn in domestic performances into the game against Die Bullen:

“It’s always a different game at Celtic Park. We know that we’re playing at a much better level and we’ll need to be at the very highest level to get the result.”

Parkhead needs to be rocking again tonight. The fans need to make it an intimidating atmosphere and be the team’s twelfth man.

The Celtic gaffer also needs to step up.

All too often, Brendan Rodgers has been too stubborn with his tactics during continental games. We know he likes to see his side attack and play pretty passing football but sometimes you just need to win, even if that means shutting up shop and winning ugly.

They’ve got a capable striker in Odsonne Edouard, who has already scored four times in Europe this season.

Tom Rogic and Callum McGregor are attacking midfielders that can step up and grab vital goals, while Ryan Christie is starting to prove himself at Celtic Park and has scored three times in his last three games.

The more Dedryck Boyata and Filip Benkovic play beside each other in the heart of defence, the better their duo are getting. Under Brendan, Celtic have struggled to really get a strong and consistent defensive partnership and they need that strong backbone in Europe. The Hoops faithful will be hoping that Benkovic and Boyata can be the solid foundation that they’ve been missing.

It’s fantastic for the Parkhead club that they’ve won two domestic trebles in a row but for a club like Celtic and their support they need to be more competitive during European nights. It’s particularly galling when they look at Rangers doing well in the Europa League under Steven Gerrard, The Gers have still to taste defeat in Europe so far this term.

A win over RB Leipzig could turn things around dramatically in the Europa League. Defeat could see them staring at their second European exit of the season.

Rating Rangers Manager Steven Gerrard’s Summer Signings

Now we’re a few months into the season, I thought it would be a good time to look at new Rangers boss Steven Gerrard’s summer signings and rate them out of ten.

Gerrard’s Gers team have been extremely impressive in Europe but haven’t been as consistent in Scotland’s top flight.

Obviously this is purely subjective and feel free to use the comments section to tell me who I’ve over or under marked!

CONNOR GOLDSON – £3.4m – Brighton & Hove Albion – 8/10  

For me, the centre back has been Gerrard’s best defender so far this term.

The former Seagull gives the Gers defence more stability at the back, he’s decent in the air and he can play it out from the back too. The twenty-five year old is a leader in defence and Gerrard is clearly confident in Goldson’s ability as he plays regularly in the backline.

Has had some iffy moments but the good points currently far outweigh any negatives. He seems to get what it means to play for the Light Blues.

NIKOLA KATIC – £2.2m – Slaven Belupo – 6/10 

The Croat started well and looked very composed with his passing. But unfortunately he’s been a bit more erratic as of late and has fallen behind Joe Worrall in recent weeks.

Still young at twenty-two years of age and he’s also still learning about playing in a new country. If he can rediscover his early season form then he should be OK at Ibrox.

JOE WORRALL – Loan – Nottingham Forest – 6/10 

The Englishman has been decent without really wowing me.

Definitely seems eager enough to prove himself in the Scottish Premiership but still seems a bit rough around the edges. He can look very nervy at times and many a Gers fan would prefer to see Katic reclaim his starting place over the loanee.

ALLAN MCGREGOR – Free – Hull City – 9/10 

Has been the Gers signing of the season thus far.

The returning number one makes top class saves when called upon and the defence look more confident when he’s playing in between the sticks.

Has past experience of winning things with Rangers and the veteran is still one of the best goalies in Scotland. Needs to watch his behaviour when opposing forwards are in and around him!

BORNA BARISIC – £2.4m – NK Osijek – 7/10 

The Croatian international impressed Gerrard when The Gers knocked out Osijek in the Europa League.

Borna has a lovely left foot and offers great delivery with it. Committed to the cause and looks to be the club’s best option at left back.

Has recently been out with an injury and the starting eleven have been missing him.

EROS GREZDA – £2m – NK Osijek – 4/10 

Steven Gerrard stated when Grezda signed that he’ll excite the Light Blues faithful:

“But he is an excellent player and the fans will love him because he can contribute in the final third.”

“He’s really quick, very direct and he comes in with international experience.”

Unfortunately the Albanian international arrived injured and he’s so far struggled to regain full fitness and shine in a Gers shirt.

Has looked a yard off of pace but we can only truly gauge his ability when he shrugs off the ring rust.

LASSANA COULIBALY – Loan – Angers – 8/10 

Coulibaly has been a dynamo in the Rangers midfield. Can be the N’Golo Kante type that wins back possession but he also has the ability to get forward and help the team in attacking areas.

The Ibrox support have already taken to him and you’ve got to imagine that the club would like to sign him on a permanent basis if possible. Offers consistency and plenty of energy to the team’s midfield.

The twenty-two year old also has the potential to become even better.

UMAR SADIQ – LOAN – AS Roma – 2/10

The mark might be awfully low and it’s true that the young loanee hasn’t played much for the Glasgow giants but what we’ve seen hasn’t been impressive.

Looks too raw to be considered a Rangers first teamer; has a poor first touch and hasn’t been composed in front of goal.

Still has time on his side, just not sure it will happen for him in the Scottish Premiership.

RYAN KENT – Loan – Liverpool – 8/10

The Liverpool winger has really found his feet in the last month and half. He’s added consistency to his game and can be a real handful when he’s direct and running at defenders.

Has scored three times so far and I’d expect that to rise now he seems to have a measure of the league.

Would be another one that the Gers gaffer would love to bring in on a longterm basis and he seems to enjoy it up here too.

OVIE EJARIA – Loan – Liverpool – 7/10 

Another loan signing from Liverpool and he too has impressed. Likes to get on the ball and make things happen.

Probably hasn’t been as dangerous or as consistent as Kent but you can tell that Ejaria has plenty of skills and a willingness to work hard for the team.

Just needs to have more good days and not so mixed with his performances. Still only twenty years old, so maybe he’ll be one that improves as each month passes.

SCOTT ARFIELD – Free – Burnley – 7/10 

Has settled in well and it’s clear that Rangers were his boyhood heroes as he plays with passion.

Scott has been one of Gerrard’s more reliable performers and looks to be comfortable when given the ball and that gives the team confidence.

He’s had a few injury and fitness issues that have hampered his season and I think his manager would want to see him get forward more and help out the attackers.

JON FLANAGAN – Free – Liverpool – 4/10

Jon was a player that Stevie had played with during their days at Liverpool but you can see that the full-back has declined in terms of performance.

The twenty-five year old does offer versatility and is a decent back-up but he’s not quick enough or what Rangers need going forward.

Can be clumsy and ponderous, if everyone’s fit he’s not good enough to be in the first eleven.

KYLE LAFFERTY – £500K – HEARTS – 7/10 

Arrived with a bang, scoring twice on his second debut with the club. In total, he has four goals in his seven outings for the Light Blues.

Is the Gers second best scoring threat after Alfredo Morelos and he offers more physicality up-top. Has shown in the past he’s a player for the big occasion and showed that again with his vital equaliser in the Europa League match against Villarreal.

Has had a muscle problem, which has kept him out of the team recently, but Rangers need the experienced forward back asap!

GARETH MCAULEY – Free – West Bromwich Albion – N/A

The ageing centre-back has yet to pull on a Light Blues shirt, so it would be extremely unfair to mark him at this stage.

With Katic and Worrall offering up some erratic performances, the Northern Irishman could find himself in the team once he’s back to full fitness.

The Premier League’s Standout Players So Far This Season

The Premier League season is now in full swing and, as expected, Manchester City and Liverpool are leading the way and they continue to provide some stunning attacking football. It could turn out to be the expected battle between the pair but London sides Chelsea, Tottenham and Arsenal are finding their form so could provide a threat to their duopoly. In today’s football betting on Betfair Manchester City are 4/6 for the title with Liverpool in at 2/1.

There have been a number of players who have made very bright starts to the current campaign and could even challenge at the PFA awards in due course. Here, we list some of those names:

Eden Hazard

The Belgium forward is without a doubt the current star of this Premier League season which is shown in the fact he is also the current favourite for the PFA Players’ Player award. Hazard entered the season after leading his national side to their greatest finish at a World Cup (third place): he showed incredible form in Russia and has brought that into the Premier League season.

Chelsea are firmly in a top four spot with many people even giving them a chance for the title. This would be a stunning achievement considering prior to the season they were long odds to do so. Eden has been catalyst behind their good start to this season.

Hazard currently sits at the head of the scorer charts with seven goals and four assists. If he can continue this remarkable run of fine form then could we see Chelsea push for league honours? Eden Hazard could possibly enter the equation as the world’s best footballer.

Sadio Mane

The Senegalese international has shot on to the scene following his move to the UK, first with Southampton and now with Liverpool.

He has formed part of a formidable front three at Liverpool with Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah, which helped them reach last season’s Champions League final. Mane managed to gran Liverpool’s consolation goal in that final against Real Madrid.

He has continued his run of form into this season as Liverpool sitting two points behind league leaders Man City in the table. The Reds will need Sadio to stay fit as he is a major factor behind their improvement in recent seasons.

James Maddison

Maddison has made an electric start in the Premier League for Leicester City following his move from Norwich City.

The 21 year old is looking like another fantastic buy for the Midlands club. The attacking midfielder received his first call-up for the England squad last month. At the moment The Foxes sit in tenth place in the Premier League and will be hoping to push for a European football place.

Maddison has been a driving force in the side in all seven games which has seen him get on the scoresheet on three occasions as well as providing two assists. If he can continue his progression then he is likely to play a major role for Leicester for many years to come.

Matteo Guendouzi

Arsenal’s French youngster, Matteo Guendouzi, has really started to get a foothold in the side which is why there are reports he could even get a shock call up to the world champions.

The 19 year old French central midfielder has played a vital role behind the Gunners run of form, that has pushed them to the brink of the top four. They kicked off the season with two defeats but have completely turned it around.

Could Arsenal return to the Champions League next season?

If Guendouzi continues to improve, whilst playing at the top level, then big things can be expected of him and the Arsenal faithful will hope he stays with them for many years to come.

Eric Bailly Would Be A Great Get For AC Milan

When you look at the AC Milan squad and you check out the Serie A table, you can identify that the Rossoneri’s defence is one of their main weaknesses.

Only Sassuolo have conceded more than Milan’s fourteen goals in the league’s top ten teams, so far this season.

Captain Alessio Romagnoli is still the side’s best centre half but even he’s looked nervy at times in the backline this term. He’d probably prefer to play with a more reliable partner, than those he’s played beside during this current campaign.

Summer signing Mattia Caldara hasn’t made his league debut for Milan yet, due to injury problems, and club boss Rino Gattuso has stated he won’t be back within the next two months:

 “We’re going to lose Caldara for a couple of months. He had a problem with the medial ligament, it’s a cursed season for him, really disappointing for the lad,”

Colombian defender Cristian Zapata is past his peak years. The veteran thirty-two year old has also missed the first month of the season due to injury and he’s probably better off being the club’s back-up centre back rather than an automatic starter.

The other recognised central defender is Mateo Musacchio hasn’t been overly convincing at the back since his arrival from Villarreal in 2017. The fact he lost his place to Zapata, when the Colombian returned to fitness, shows that Gattuso isn’t convinced by Argentine. He looks particularly vulnerable in the air.

Recent news reports have linked the Milanese giants with a move for Manchester United centre back Eric Bailly.

Personally, I think the Ivorian is still one of United’s best defenders along with Chris Smalling. Unfortunately for Bailly, Red Devils boss Jose Mourinho seems to have lost all faith in Eric. The defender has had injury problems during his spell at Old Trafford but he’s been fit for most of this season, yet he’s ultimately spent most of his time out of the first team picture.

For me, Bailly will need to leave Man United in January if he can’t get back in the starting line-up before the Christmas period. He’s a player that needs more game time to get back up to speed and get some renewed belief.

I think that once Bailly is playing with confidence again, a team would be getting a terrific centre-back. He’s still only twenty-four years of age. He possess terrific pace and he’s also comfortable with the ball at his feet, meaning he can dribble it or pass it out of defence. His passing success rate is averaging above 89% in the Premier League this term.

Defensively he’s at his strongest when he’s able to show his intelligence in snuffing out interceptions. During his debut year in England, he was winning around 2.4 interceptions per English top flight appearance.

Interestingly, AC Milan have been linked with a managerial move that will see Arsene Wenger replacing Gattuso as the club’s head coach in early 2019. I Rossoneri have recently appointed former Arsenal Chief Exec Ivan Gazidis. as their new CEO. Now why is this all interesting? Well when it was first reported that Bailly could be available for transfer, one team credited with an interest were The Gunners.

I believe if Milan could sign Eric Bailly in January, they’d get a superbly talented defender who would be determined to prove himself at a new club. If he could then find a good working partnership with Alessio Romagnoli then it could give Il Diavolo the foundations in which they could potentially build a tilt towards finishing the season in the Champions League places!

Roberto Firmino Is Liverpool’s Champions League Star!

I often think Liverpool forward Roberto Firmino’s hard work gets lost because of the goalscoring talents of fellow frontmen Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane.

But the Brazilian’s work-ethic and ability to create and finish off chances is superb. It seems to be even more obvious when you look at his Champions League performances.

Since the start of last season, Firmino has contributed to nineteen of Liverpool’s goals in Europe’s elite club competition, through goals or assists. No other player in Europe has a better record during that time.

This term Roberto has started twice and appeared once as a substitute in UEFA’s premier competition, scoring two goals.

In a tough group like Liverpool’s, you need your best players to show up and Firmino has the knack of producing at the right times!

Usually the Brazilian international will find pockets of space in deeper positions and be the forward that chases and closes down. He works for the squad and isn’t as bothered as the other two to be the main man scoring the goals. Because of his willingness to run and go deep, he’ll find that he gets more touches of the ball compared to Salah and Mane. That’s been the case in the two Champions League games in which he’s started this term against Red Star Belgrade and Napoli.

Roberto also beats his strike partners when it comes to making more passes and having a better passing success rate. The attacker also makes considerably more tackles than the other two.

It seems in Europe in particular, defences struggle to keep Firmino in check. All of his ten European goals last season came from inside the opposition penalty area and the vast majority came about because he was able to intelligently peel away from his marker at the last second, allowing himself to gain that extra bit of space to put away the chance. It also proves that he is willing to get into the box when the ball is in the final third.

He also usually takes his chances first time and keeps his shots low, giving the opposing goalkeeper little chance to prepare for the effort. Although Roberto also managed to score two with his head, showing us he’s decent in the air too.

His recent form hasn’t seen him at his best, Firmino has only scored once in his last nine Liverpool outings (obviously that was in the Champions League).

But Reds boss Jurgen Klopp doesn’t believe that the Brazilian star needs a rest nor does he think his lack of recent goals is a big deal for the club:

“It will be all fine for sure. If he didn’t score in the last few games then… one in nine? All competitions? Didn’t he score against Red Star? That was the one goal he scored? Okay, good.”

“I am not concerned. Things like this happen. He is a very important player for us.”

Now maybe Roberto Firmino does need a bit of a timeout but I doubt Klopp would drop him for a Champions League clash nor in an important Premier League fixture.

The forward has proven time and again that he’s player for the big occasion and that he gives his all for the team’s cause. Don’t be surprised if he scores against Red Star tonight as the Anfield side chase down a route to the next round of the competition!

Forget The New Recruits Idrissa Gueye Is Still Vital For Everton!

Everton have impressed under new manager Marco Silva.

The Toffees are in the top half of the Premier League table and they spent big in the summer to give their squad a much needed facelift. New signings Lucas Digne, Bernard and Richarlison have bedded in quickly and FC Barcelona loanee Andre Gomes is also now starting to find his feet with The Toffees.

But during Everton’s 3-1 win over Brighton & Hove Albion, holding midfielder Idrissa Gana Gueye once again proved he’s a key player that let’s the rest of the team tick.

The midfielder bossed the game against the Seagulls. He saw plenty of the ball, having more touches of it than any other player on the park (93 touches in total), and he recycled it with accurate neat passes (he enjoyed an 86% passing success rate from his 71 passes). The defensive central midfielder even found time to get forward and see a stinging effort come back off the woodwork.

Interestingly when you look at Gueye’s heat-map from the weekend, you’d notice that the midfield enforcer wasn’t just marshalling in front of the Toffees defence. The former Lille man also found himself out on the righthand side. That shows intelligence and discipline as the Senegalese international knew attacker Theo Walcott wouldn’t protect right back Seamus Coleman’s overlapping runs. So Idrissa would tuck in and sweep up on the numerous occasions that Irish full-back burst forward.

There’s no doubt that Gueye is extremely impressive when it comes to the defensive side of being a holding midfielder. No Premier League player has better tackling stats than Gana’s 5.5 tackles per game this term. The central midfielder also makes around 2.5 interceptions and averages 1.6 clearances.

As Silva tries to find his ideal partnership in the centre of his defence and slowly introduces Portuguese playmaker Gomes to English football, it’s vital for the Everton gaffer to have Idrissa consistently performing well in the team’s spine and protecting the backline.

Last month, Marco Silva stated that Gueye was playing in a vital position for the team:

“Gana is improving and understanding what I want. He is improving what our plan needs in each moment of the game, using his capacity and aggressiveness in the right way.”

“He is really important for us because our other midfielders do not have the same profile and we need Gana at a good level to help us in those moments, in our reaction and in our defensive and offensive transition.”

If Everton are going to climb the league table and challenge for European places then you have to believe that Idrissa Gueye needs to remain in the team and to continue to perform at the high levels that he’s been producing so far during this campaign!

Chelsea’s Alvaro Morata Needs To Be More Jekyll Than Hyde

Alvaro Morata is seemingly finding his feet again at Chelsea and that has meant a return in goals from the Spaniard.

The £60m man has now scored four goals in his last four Premier League appearances. In total, he’s got a respectable fives strikes in ten league outings this term.

Yesterday the Spanish international forward struck a brace as The Blues beat Crystal Palace at Stamford Bridge. Yet in reality Morata could’ve and should have bagged himself a hat-trick against The Eagles.

The forward hasn’t fully turned the corner and nor is he nailed on the remain the club’s number nine. He has to continue his recent vein of good goalscoring form.

Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri stated after Sunday’s victory that he’s happy for the Spanish striker but he also has room for improvement:

“He improves in confidence, in personality, in playing with the team, so now I am very happy.”

“He can improve more because the technical potential and physical potential is great, now he has confidence he can improve more.” 

I think that’s a bit of a warning to Morata from the Italian coach, basically saying you’ve proven you can do it and now you need to do it regularly!

In the win over Palace, Morata took his goals well but interestingly it’s when the chances called for fast, instinctive finishes. When Alvaro had little time to think about it, he just instinctively controlled the ball and expertly drilled his shots into the back of the net.

In the very last minute, Eden Hazard released Morata and the striker found himself one on one with the opposition goalkeeper. That chance should’ve been easier than the two that he scored earlier, yet the twenty-six year old never looked totally comfortable. He had too much time to contemplate on what he was going to do next. You could read exactly what he was going to do. He rushed forward; just looked up once, thought the keeper was charging out and then Alvaro opened up his body shaping to chip the keeper. Palace goalie Wayne Hennessy just stayed tall and easily saved the chip shot.

Morata needs to work on those situations constantly in training, to the extent that what he ends up doing comes as naturally to him as his quick one or two touch finishes. Look up at least twice and then read the keeper. If in doubt keep it low and hard.

His link-up play looked better yesterday and he was offering himself up more too. As we know he’s good in the air and he can make intelligent runs. So he clearly has the makings of a top class attacker.

The Blues have recently been linked with Serie A hitmen Krzysztof Piatek and Mauro Icardi, yet an in-form Morata could save them a lot of money on that front. People forget that it was only in his second season at The Bridge before we started seeing the best from Didier Drogba.

I believe Alvaro Morata has the ability to go on a scoring run and really help Chelsea out. I’m not overly convinced he believes in himself tough.

He should be targeting a Premier Legaue goal return of between five and ten goals between now and Christmas. If he can do that, then he could be the striker that Chelsea have been calling out for!

 

Tottenham Hotspur Should Be Plotting Swoop For Abdoulaye Doucouré

If Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino is thinking of the club’s future (of course he is), then you’ve got to believe that he’ll be pondering what to do with his midfield.

It looks extremely likely that Mousa Dembele will depart North London as his contract is due to expire next summer.

It’s also believed that Pochettino has decided that defensive midfielder Victor Wanyama can leave the club with the Kenyan struggling to get back into the Spurs starting eleven.

French internationalist Moussa Sissoko is another middle-man that could leave within the next two transfer windows as the twenty-nine year old might want to find regular game time elsewhere.

If all three players leave Spurs, or even if two of them head for the exit door, then The Lilywhites will need to seek reinforcements to bolster the squad. After failing to sign any new recruits during the summer window it could be vital that they look for new faces to come in during January as they look to freshen up the squad and have them at their best as they look to secure anther top four finish.

One midfielder that could fit the bill is Watford’s Abdoulaye Doucouré.

The Hornets have been impressing this season and the Malian central midfielder has been an ever present so far this term as Watford have climbed to eighth place in the Premier League table.

The twenty-five year old doesn’t mind getting stuck in and winning challenges. On average so far this term, he’s won 2.2 tackles per league game and he’s also made 1.4 clearances per top flight fixture. Those stats are on par with what he was doing last season at Vicarage Road. He’s player that likes to be on the heels of opponents and winning the ball back for his team.

Abdoulaye isn’t just diligent with his disciplined defensive duties, the former Rennes man is also effective with the ball at his feet and coming forward with it too.

In the 2017-18 season, where Doucouré won Watford’s player of the year award, the midfielder managed to help his team’s cause with seven league goals.

So far in this current campaign, in eleven games, he’s produced four assists for Javi Gracia’s men. He is also impressing with his passing success rate, which is above 81% for the season.

After a superb performance from Doucouré against Wolves last month, Gracia was quick to praise his player:

“If there is the space Doucoure always play well. For me, he is an amazing player. He always helps his teammates, running a lot, playing well today with good passes and for me the midfielders, in my opinion, were very important if we wanted to get a good result.”

We know that Mauricio Pochettino likes consistent midfielders that can win back possession and recycle the ball back to creative attackers. Abdoulaye Doucouré certainly seems to fit the mould that would excite the Argentine coach,

If Tottenham Hotspur are indeed monitoring the Watford midfield star, then they might need to act quickly during the January transfer window with Liverpool and PSG reportedly keen on the former French under-21 internationalist.

He could be a strong midfielder that helps fill the void that will be left with upcoming departures at White Hart Lane.

Lucas Torreira Is Giving Arsenal Exactly What They Need In Midfield

Arsenal have probably lacked real bite in midfield since the likes of Gilberto Silva and Patrick Vieira departed The Gunners and that was back in 2008 and 2005!

It was hoped that new manager Unai Emery would change things but after the opening two games people were a tad sceptical as Arsenal struggled to get the ball away from Manchester City and Chelsea.

But for those of us that had seen new signing Lucas Torreira previously, we had an inkling that the Uruguayan could be the man that would add more steel into The Gunners midfield. Interestingly, the former Sampdoria man didn’t start in either two of those opening fixtures.

As Arsenal started to get used to Emery’s style, the better the team have become. They haven’t lost a Premier League game since those two early defeats, meaning they’ve now gone nine games unbeaten and are currently inside the all important top four.

Emery remained a bit cautious with Lucas, giving him just cameos in the first five league games. He finally gave the twenty-two year old his first English top flight start of the season against Everton towards the end of September and the youngster hasn’t been dropped since.

You can see just why the club splashed out £26.4m for the midfielder.

He remains diligent and disciplined when the opposition have the ball. Torreira doesn’t lose concentration like Granit Xhaka has in the past.

Today against Liverpool, Torreira was like the Energizer bunny as he ran about all game marshalling in front of his defence. At one point he made two terrific tackles in the space of as many minutes. He had a 100% tackling success rate against The Reds and was a key man as his side managed to get back in the game and get a draw from the game. Arsenal would’ve lost big games like that in the past but they look tougher mentally this season under Unai.

The midfielder is also very efficient with his passing. His passing success rate is up at 89% so far this term and it was better than any Liverpool midfielder today! The Gunners man also made more passes than any opposition midfielder.

Another factor that Torreira has brought to the team is that Xhaka is playing like a different player. The Swiss midfielder is getting on the ball more and making more successful tackles, he’s doing better because he knows he has a reliable partner in Lucas playing beside him. The midfield looks a lot more solid having  two good sitters in there.

Lucas has said recently that he enjoys playing with his fellow holding midfielder:

“Granit is a player that I link up a lot with in the midfield and he covers lot of ground on the pitch,”

“He occupies space really well and is important to the defensive balance of the team, which the manager knows.”

Another plus is Torreira’s attitude. When he has the ball or when he wins it, his first thought is to get the ball forward to the creative players. The Uruguayan has good vision and transition is quicker when he’s in the middle dictating play. He also not scared to take the ball forward himself or have a crack from distance!

Lucas Torreira is a confident young man and he knows and plays to his strengths. His discipline, positivity and his passing gives Arsenal such a stronger spine in midfield. Hence their upturn in form!