Is there a new dawn for English Dominance in Europe?

Out of the 20 games that English teams have played in the Champions League this season, they have only lost one. And 4 of the 5 teams are perched at the top of their respective groups, with Chelsea (the English champions) being the only exception in second.

For many years now, English teams were not even considered in the discussion of being part of Europe’s elite. The days of United’s dominance and Arsenal’s invincibles were long gone and as the statistics show, English teams were bang average. Since Chelsea last won the Champions league in 2012, an English team has entered the Semi-Final of the Champions League only once (Manchester City in 2016). In that time, Real Madrid and Barcelona won 4 Champions Leagues in total, Juventus and Atletico reached the finals twice each and there was also an all German final in 2013.

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The English teams always fizzled out of the competition early while the Spanish clubs had asserted their dominance over Europe with their stellar performances and World Class Players.

However this year, the winds of change have blown, somewhat altering the pecking order of Europe’s elite clubs. Sure Real Madrid and Barcelona have the 2 best players in the world and may still be the best clubs, but they no longer are at the height of their powers… and the rest are catching up.Agwhereoooo.jpg

Manchester United have won all 4 of their group games in the UCL so far,  Manchester City have beaten the current Italian league leaders twice in the span of two weeks but the biggest shock of all is the fact that Tottenham Hotspurs have beaten Real Madrid 3-1 at Wembley and drawn 1-1 at the Bernabau. 2 years ago, if anyone said that Tottenham would beat Real Madrid 4 – 2 over two legs, they would have been laughed at for their football knowledge. But as Tottenham demonstrated this week, that gap between the 2 Spanish giants and Englands finest is being reduced day by day.Alli.jpeg

A big reason for this resurgence of English clubs is the Managers we have at our disposal. It can be argued that the top 5 managers in the World, are all managing English teams while Barcelona and Real Madrid still have relatively inexperienced coaches in Zidane and Valverde. Also in recent times no Premier League player would be considered to be part of the best World 11. But now some players would be serious contenders for being the best player in their position in the world, N’Golo Kante, David De Gea and Kevin De Bruyne would be the ideal candidates.

However we are yet to enter the business end of the competitions, and no titles are won in November. But if current form and progress is any indication, the English teams have enough money and quality to forget their recent failures and ignite the new dawn of English dominance in Europe.

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Are Liverpool The Most Unbalanced Team In The Premier League?

Liverpool will never win the Premier League for the foreseeable future, well not until they fix their defensive issues. As their 5 Premier League games have shown, they have possibly the best front three in the Premier League but have one of the poorest defenses.

Liverpool have already conceded 9 goals this season, almost 2 a game. This probably shows why Liverpool will not win the Premier League. A potent attacking force may win you games, but a strong defence wins you the league, as shown by Chelsea last year. Even when Liverpool had their best attacking force in years with Luis Suarez, their poor defense ensured they did not win the Premier League.

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Liverpool have created the most chances (77) in the Premier League but conceded the 2nd most amount of goals and this highlights the unbalance in their side. Here is an in-depth look at their side to really see where they are struggling.

Goalkeeper: Since Pepe Reina left, Liverpool have failed to find a suitable replacement and have had a string of average goal-keepers since. I doubt their current keepers Karius and Mignolet inspire any confidence in Liverpool fans and they will definitely not win you games like a world class keeper like De Gea would.

Defense: Jurgenn Klopp has only bought 2 defenders in his 4 windows as manager which speaks a lot about his mindset as a coach. He plays an attacking style of football that simply leaves his defenders vulnerable since they play such a line. This system is one of the reasons that Liverpool concede so many goals. That being said, the personnel playing in this system are not of the highest caliber as well. If Liverpool are serious about being challengers then defenders like Moreno or Klavan need to be shipped out and replaced. But more importantly their system needs to be amended for them to stop conceding goals.

Midfielders: Liverpool have a bunch of good ball playing midfielders like Henderson, Can or Wijnaldum but none of them are what they need. Ideally they require one Central Defensive Midfielder who can sit in front of the defence and two box to box players who may aid in attack and defense. When you look at title winning sides like Chelsea their central midfielders Kante, Matic and Fabregas had some X-Factor, however this Liverpool midfield does not look like it possesses that.

Attack: Liverpools front three are probably the most dangerous the Premier League has seen in a while. Salah and Mane are two of the quickest players in the league and are filled with trickery while Firmino is a very underrated player. Coupled with the X-Factor that Coutihno brings or the potential of Dominic Solanke, they are extremely well endowed in front of goal.

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Liverpool’s attack may be compared to a Lamborghini Aventador and their defence could be likened to a 1980 Fiat, and until they find a balance between the 2, it will be a long time till they can lift their 19th Premier League Trophy.

 

 

 

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Game-Week 4: My Review

It was a week-end to savor for the marquee forwards as all top strikers found the back of the net. Manchester United and Liverpool were the only top sides to drop points as Liverpool were thrashed 5 – 0 against Manchester City and United drew against a resilient Stoke City. However this game-week was again marred with controversy with most of the discussion surrounding the sending off of Sadio Mane for his tackle on the Manchester City Goal-Keeper.

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Match of the Week: After thrashing Arsenal 4 – 0 last time round, one would think Liverpool were well poised to take on Manchester City, a team they have a great record against. However the game completely changed at the half hour mark where Liverpool’s talisman Sadio Mane was rightfully given a red card for his challenge on Ederson (as seen above). This swung the game in City’s favor, making the remainder of the game look like a training session as they found the net 5 times with Liverpool offering little resistance.

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Player of the Week: Brighton and Hove Albion were promoted for the first time in the Premier League last season. However they struggled in the first 3 game-weeks as they failed to win or score in any game. However they managed to triple their tally this week-end as they won 3-1 against West Brom. Their German Playmaker Pascal Groβ scored twice and assisted 1 goal to be itched in Brighton history as their first scorer in Premier League history.

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Disappointment of the week: Crystal Palace made history this week-end, the first team to lose their first 4 games without scoring. This eventually led to the sacking of their manager Frank De Boer after only 4 games in charge, Madness! The Dutch coach has tried to implement his Philosophy of Total Football which has served him well during his time at Ajax. However he failed to adapt his strategies to the English game and hence became the shortest serving full time manager of a Premier League Club.

Team of the Week:

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5 things we learned:

The August Voodoo is true, as soon as it is September Harry Kane can score a goal.

Arsenal can play beautiful football at times, unfortunately those occurrences are becoming increasingly rare.

Everton are in dire need of a striker, and will struggle to get 7th if they don’t find one.

Huddersfield Town’s honeymoon period is over, and reality may be starting to kick in for their fans.

Jack Butland, not Joe Hart should be Englands Number 1.

 

What I learned from the Internatinal Break

After 14 days of exile, the Premier League is finally back, much to the delight of most football fans. While the international break might be termed as boring, many interesting clashes occurred over the fortnight. Here are 4 things I learned over this International Break.

1) Mesut Ozil  plays much better for Germany as compared to Arsenal. When playing for Germany, Mesut Ozil is their main man. He plays as a CAM in their 4-2-3-1 formation and all their attacks flow through him. Over the international break Ozil racked up 2 assists and 1 goal, as Germany easily won both of their games. However Ozil was sublime, he spread passes across the field, set up goals and arrived late in the box in the search of scoring. He played as if he was allowed to roam free and not do any defensive work, which is what a player like him needs.

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At Arsenal however, even if we have lots of possesion he looks burdened and does not play as freely. Maybe its the pace of the Premier League compared to International football or the quality of players he is surrounded by. Nonetheless, if Ozil played for Arsenal like the way he plays for Germany we would see a lot less rants on ArsenalFanTv and more recognition on the extraordinary talent that he is.

2) England are bang average, and have no chance of winning silverware anytime soon. There is always a lot of optimism surrounding England, which prompted me to stay up late and watch them play Malta, a team ranked 168th in the world, one place above Bangladesh. However after 45 minutes, even though they were 1 – 0 up I struggled to realise how these players play so well with their Premier League teams, but just fall flat when they play with England. They seemed as if they were playing for themselves and did not look like a team. They may have good individual talent, but they are miles away from competing with the likes of Spain, Germany and France.

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3) Isco is the best central midfielder in the world right now. Isco scored 3 goals and bagged 2 assists in the 2 games played over the break and in the game against Italy he was the best player on the pitch by a mile. Isco has always been the next big thing in world football, winning the U-21 Euro’s and U-21 World Cup and bagging the Golden Boy award few years ago. He then got his dream move to Real Madrid but everything did not go as to plan as he struggled to get into the team. However in this past year he really has excelled and is one of the biggest reasons why Madrid have won back to back Champions Leagues and the La Liga. Isco is the heir to Iniesta’s crown and as he bossed the pitch against Italy last week, he showed why he is the best midfielder on the planet.

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4) International football can be extremely boring. Imagine France playing Luxembourg, a difference of 128 ranks in the FIFA ranking. You would assume its an easy win for the french with the talent they possess. However that was not the case last week as Luxembourg fought for a well earned 0-0 draw in France’s backyard. While it was good for them, it was just so boring to watch. They defended with 11 men, and had no interest in scoring. They simply parked the bus and France could not penetrate their defence. This is what International football is, 2 teams who are vastly different in terms of quality and hence one team just looks to play for a draw. You will never see a high scoring game, because everyone looks to defend.

Irrespective, the dreaded international week is over and the mighty Premier League returns. However as an Arsenal fan, it may not bring me too much joy in any case.

 

 

Top 10 Premier League Transfers this Window:

With the Transfer Window Closing on Friday, a record 1.4 Billion was spent on Players by the 20 English teams making this the most expensive Window ever. Here are my top 10 transfer made by clubs this window:

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1) Romelu Lukaku: If United are to win the league this season, they would require a 25 goal striker, and in Romelu Lukaku they have found the perfect solution. He was signed for 75 Million Pounds from Everton and is definitely worth it in this current market. He has plenty of experience in the Premier League and is gifted with blistering pace and power and could be the vital cog in helping United lift their first League title after Alex Ferguson.

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2) Mohamed Salah – After watching Liverpool last season, no one thought that their attack could get anymore potent and electrifying. However signing Mohamed Salah for a club record signing has taken their forward line to another level. He has already scored and assisted 4 goals in 3 games and will be giving defenders sleepless nights with his pace and trickery.

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3) Wayne Rooney – 13 years after Wayne Rooney left for Manchester United, he has returned to his hometown Club Everton on a free transfer. Englands all time goal scorer will add immense quality and experience to their forward line and will be a big part of the Revolution happening at Everton under Ronald Koeman.

 

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4) Renato Sanches – 13 months ago, Renato Sanches won the European Championships and was named the Young player of the tournament. He then signed for Bayern Munich for 40 Million Euro’s making him the most expensive 18 year old player in football. However things didn’t go as planned and he has signed for Swansea on a year loan. This is a great signing for the Welsh Outfit who have added a great young talent to their side who can help them survive relegation this season.

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5) Alvaro Morata – Chelsea have a weird history with Strikers from Spain, from Fernando Torres’s misfortune to the fallout of Diego Costa. However Alvaro Morata could be the one to bury all their previous woes. He has already scored and assisted 4 goals in his first 3 games and has settled nicely after his big money move from Real Madrid.

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6) Alexandre Lacazette – After finding the net 97 times in the last 4 years it seemed as if Lacazette is the perfect signing for Arsenal. He could finally fill the Robin Van Persie sized void that Arsenal had at Centre Forward and could instrumental in them finishing in the top 4. He has tremendous pace and finishing ability and could act as the perfect foil for Olivier Giroud.

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7) Grzegorz Krychowiak – The big Polish Central Midfielder was signed on Loan for a year from French giants PSG. He is an experienced player who has won 2 Europa Leagues and a French Cup. He will add immense quality to this West Brom Side and could help them become the best of the rest and gain a European Place.

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8) Michael Keane – Considering that John Stones was sold by Everton FC for £50 million last year, Michael Keane looks like a steal at £30 million. He is a tall, physical centre back who excelled with Burnley last year. The former Manchester United academy graduate will be one of England’s shining stars in the future and is a great scalp for the team from Liverpool.

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9) Bernardo Silva – He was one of the stars for AS Monaco last year and was signed early in the window by Manchester City for £43 million. He is one of the most creative players in Europe and will excel in the new formation deployed by Pep Guardiola, and could be the heir to David Silva’s central attacking role in the side.

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10) Javier Hernandez – When you look at the insane transfer fee’s that have been splashed this summer, Javier Hernandez looks like a bargain at £16 million for West Ham. He has bundles of experience in the Premier League and will definitely score 15 goals this season for the Hammers.

Game-Week 3: My Review

This week was definitely not one to savour for most fantasy managers as all the big strikers struggled to score goals. Lukaku missed a penalty, Lacazette was benched and Kane and Aguero couldn’t find the net. However there were some other great performance, and sadly some other predictable ones.

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Match of The Game-Week: Manchester City’s thrilling win on the south coast against Bournemouth was definitely the most exciting Game of the week-end. Charlie Daniels opened the scoring for Bournemouth with a screamer with his left-foot. Jesus levelled the scores few minutes later, and then it Raheem Sterling scored the winner 7 minutes into Added Time.

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Player of The Game-Week: Roberto Firmino – He led the line superbly for Liverpool against Arsenal and managed to get a goal and assist. He was constantly running in behind Arsenal’s defence and wreaked havoc for their three central defenders with his pace and trickery.

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Disappointment of The Game-Week: Arsenal’s lackluster performance was dissapointing, yet predictable. They conceded 4 goals away from home to Liverpool and never looked like winning the game from minute 1. They lacked desire and effort and were well beaten by a pacey and dynamic Liverpool team.

Team of The Game-Week:

 

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5 things we learned:

After firing blanks in the last 3 games, its clear Harry Kane can’t score a goal in August.

Arsenal don’t know how to win Away from home against the big teams, while it looked like a piece of cake for Liverpool.

There is something seriously wrong at West Ham, and Slaven Bilic could be the first manager to face the sack.

Alvaro Morata has settled perfectly into the Premier League, and could be the perfect replacement for Diego Costa.

Frank De Boer can’t catch a break at Crystal Palace and is under serious pressure after his side has failed to score in 3 games.

Same Old Arsenal Football Club.

“Insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results.”

Arsenal haven’t won a game away from home against a top side since January 2015 and have conceded 13 goals in their last four visits to Liverpool. One would think that after doing the same thing again and again against top sides Wenger would learn. However after today’s gutless and cowardly performance it’s clear that Arsenal do the same thing every year and expect different results.

It was the worst 90 minutes of football I have seen from an Arsenal side that were torn to pieces by the pace and pressing of Liverpool. It was an embarrassing, insipid and cowardly performance from a bunch of players who seemed to have thrown in the towel as soon as the first goal went in.

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Arsenal set out before the game as they always do, looking to dominate possession, play a high line and try to break down teams with intricate passes in and around the area. Liverpool knew what was coming, everyone knows this is the only way Arsenal play and Liverpool were prepared. All they did was sit back, soak the pressure and then hit them on the counter and that’s that, 4 – 0, Game Over.

What’s worse is that Arsenal Players seemed as if they didn’t care anymore. They looked lazy on the ball, not wanting to track back or put in their full effort. And that’s why they were comprehensively beaten 4 – 0 with 0 shots on target. Players like Alexis Sanchez, Oxlade Chamberlain and Ozil have less than a year left on their contracts and the way they played today showed that they have lost some ambition and desire.

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Moreover some of the decision’s Wenger made during the match was baffling to say the least.

The team selection was wrong: His 50 million pound record signing does not start, why; because he needs to settle into the league. Would you ever see Mourihno or Conte do something like that, no! He played Danny Welbeck and Hector Bellerin, the two worst players last week instead of his two new signings. What was the point of signing them in the first place, if they are being kept out of the side by mediocre players.

Square Pegs were used in Round holes: Right Backs playing at Left wing back, left backs playing at centre back, its absolutely shambolic. No wonder we can’t defend because we have the wrong players playing in the wrong position.

Substitutions: At half time you are 2-0 down and the team needs an attacking substitution for inspiration to make a comeback. But Arsene Wenger decides to bring on Francis Coquelin, a defensive midfielder in place of Aaron Ramsey to help claw Arsenal back from being 2-0 down. Coquelin as a player represents Arsenals failings and barren run as a football club, and while trailing a game away from home Wenger decides to bring him on. Shambolic!

In the Summer, Arsene Wenger signed a new 2 year contract and Arsenal’s CEO Ivan Gazidis stated that last season’s pathetic performance will be a catalyst for change for the upcoming campaign. Well so far, Arsenal have a net spend of 10 million in the transfer window, lost 2 of our first 3 league games and will be facing BATE Borisov in a few weeks.

However as the Internal Arsenal Optimist, I still believe. Something can still happen, it can right?

There are still four days till the transfer window closes, four days for a complete squad overhaul, four days for Arsene Wenger to sign some players who can finally help us challenge for a title.

But who am I kidding, this is Arsenal Football Club. Nothing will change, because everyone is comfortable the way it is and for 2 more years with Arsene Wenger us Loyal fans have to put up with Same Old Arsenal.

What Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s return means for Manchester United

4 months after injuring his Anterior Cruciate Ligament in a Europa League Match, Zlatan Ibrahimovic is back with Manchester United. He announced on Twitter saying that he has signed a 1 year contract extension with the Red Devils with the hope of “finishing what he started.” He was there best player last year, scoring 28 goals in 46 games. However without him United have started the season with three victories, perching them at the top of the table.

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His arrival will significantly boost Manchester United’s chances of winning their first Premier League title in the post Fergie Era, but for all parties involved is it really a good move?

Last year Manchester United finished 6th, drawing 10 of their home games in the process and they never really looked like challenging for the title. Despite Ibra’s success, they lacked pace up front and hence struggled to break down teams who were prepared to defend and played for a draw.

Players like Mata and Mkhitaryan were looking for players who would run in behind defences, however Ibrahimovic would be more of a focal point and come deep to collect the ball. This would slow their play down, and is the reason why United struggled to break down teams.

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However this year with Lukaku up front, United have played with pace, power and fluidity. The pace of Lukaku, Martial and Rashford has benefited Mkhitaryan helping him rack up 5 assists in 3 games. United genuinely look like title favorites after 3 games and maybe the lack of Ibrahimovic is the reason.

Irrespective, having a player like Zlatan Ibrahimovic be your second striker and help out in the second half of the season is a situation most clubs would envy. He may not be the quickest or be the player he was 10 years ago but he will score important goals and be the man in big games when perhaps Lukaku falls short. He is the sort of character that makes the Premier League so exciting, and the league is better off with him in it. Even if its for only one more year.

And other clubs should beware, because he is here to finish what he started.

Game-Week 2: My Review

While this Game-Week didn’t live up to the drama of the opening weekend, their were still plenty of good games and performances. Last season’s top 2 met in a thrilling match at Wembley Stadium which ended in Chelsea Snatching victory in the dying minutes. Other big clubs like Arsenal and Manchester City dropped points while Manchester United, West Brom and Huddersfield remain the only teams to win both games.

Man Like Marc.jpgPlayer of the Game-Week: With 2 stunning strikes of his left boot, Marcos Alonso is the man of the Week-End. The Chelsea left back netted a brace against Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley to give Chelsea their first win of the Season. His first goal was a fine free kick which curled into the top corner, and the second was a 87th minute winner which squirmed through the Tottenhams goalkeeper, Hugo Lloris.

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Match of the Game-Week: Manchester United’s dominant performance in Wales was definitely the performance of the weekend. They were up against it for the first 44 minutes where Swansea hit the bar and Paul Pogba could have been sent off. But in the last minute of the first half Eric Bailly scored from a corner, easing the tension. In the second half United found their rhythm, scoring 3 goals in 10 minutes which put the game to bed and reinforced their spot at the top of the table.

Disappointment of the Week: Referees – The substandard refereeing was on show this weekend with plenty of mistakes being made. Alexandre Lacazette’s equalizer against Stoke City for Arsenal was allegedly offside when it is evident he was just on. Two red cards were also incorrectly given, with Kyle Walker being sent off for the smallest contact with an Everton Player and Morgan Schneiderlin receiving a second yellow card after a clean tackle on Sergio Aguero.

Team of the Week:

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5 things we learned:

West Brom know how to keep a clean sheet, much to the delight of most fantasy managers.

Tottenham still don’t know how to win at Wembley, having lost 7 of their last 8 games at the National Stadium.

Manchester City still don’t know how to defend as they were found out on the Counter Attack by Everton.

Manchester United are the real deal this season, having scored 8 goals in 2 games they have already matched 15% of their last season’s goal tally.

Arsenal still struggle to bully opponents physically away from home and grind out a result, as seen by their disappointing 1-0 defeat at Stoke City.

The top 6 outside the top 6.

This week, Everton smashed their transfer record to buy Gylfi Sigurdsson for £45 million from Swansea. It was also the 31st most expensive transfer of all time and the most expensive transfer done by a Premier League Club outside the regular top 6. He has scored 20 goals and the most free-kick goals in the last 2 seasons, and will add immense value to the Everton Line-Up.

Looking at the money spent by non-top 6 clubs and the fact that Relegated teams like Sunderland in the Premier League get more money from TV deals than Bayern Munich, I will look at the top 6 players in the league, who don’t play for the top 6.

6. Xherdan Shaqiri – The Swiss international will be starting his 3rd season with Stoke City and is one of the most creative players in the league. He already has a Champions League winners medal and 2 Bundesliga winners medal to his name with Bayern Munchen. Despite his last season being plagued with injuries, he is one of the brightest talents in the league and is capable of doing much more with his skill. At only 25, there is still lot more to come from the Silky Swiss.

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5) Yohan Cabaye – This may come as a suprise for many, but I feel that on his day Yohan Cabaye can be as good as any in Center Midfield. He has an immaculate passing range, a killer long shot and great vision. If not for the immense competition at PSG, he would be a regular starter there. Despite not reaching his full potential at Crystal Palace, he is a vital cog in their midfield and could excel in their new formation under Frank De Boer.

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4. Wayne Rooney – After 13 years in Manchester, Everton’s prodigal son returned on a free transfer. After being shunned out by Mourihno at United, Rooney has joined Ronald Koeman’s side to help rediscover his form of yesteryear. Despite being 31, he can be unplayable at times and with this move he could still attempt to break Alan Shearer’s goal scoring record.

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3. Jamie Vardy – The former title winner already started this season with 2 goals at Arsenal and after last year’s title hangover he could rediscover his goal scoring form that triggered Leicester’s fairy-tale. He has scored 37 goals in the last 2 seasons and his lightening quick pace still frightens defenders and keeps them on their toes at all times.

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2. Javier Hernandez – After a 2 year hiatus, Hernandez has returned to the Premier League with West Ham after 2 years with Bayer Leverkusen where he scored 39 goals from 76 appearances. The Mexican has already won a couple of Premier Leagues with Manchester United and will boost West Ham’s chances of challenging for European places.

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1. Gylfi Sigurdsson – The Ice Man has just signed for £45 million fir Everton Football club and I believe he is the best player in the league not playing for a top 6 club. He created 105 chances in the league last season leaving him second behind Christian Eriksen. Furthermore he is a dead ball specialist scoring 6 free kick goals last year which gives him that added X-Factor.

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