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Is Unai Emery the right man to take Paris Saint Germain forward?

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Paris Saint-Germain have been one of the surprises of the season so far, and not in a good way. The French champions sit third in the Ligue 1 table and second in their Champions League group. It may just be October but there has been cause for concern already this season.

When a team goes through as summer of changes as PSG did then a bedding in period can be expected. Except, when you are PSG, winners of four straight Ligue 1 titles and spenders of countless Euros, that bedding in period is almost nil.

Laurent Blanc departed after his failure to progress in the Champions League and Unai Emery took his place. Add to that the departure of talisman, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and his winning mentality, as well as David Luiz’s regular presence in defense and Emery has had a lot to contend with early on.

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The issue of Blaise Matuidi is also unresolved as the France international has, per to ESPNFC, made it clear he would have left the club if given the chance. A January departure could still be possible and would be another blow for the club given there are no replacements for him in the squad.

Still, a squad with this quality, and without much turnover in key departments, would expect to be humming along business as usual in a league they’ve dominated in the last few seasons. That hasn’t been the case.

Losses to Monaco and Toulouse as well as a draw with St. Etienne has already seen PSG lose some of its invincible aura domestically. Things aren’t much different on the continent either as Les Parisiens failed to finish off Arsenal and had to come from behind against Ludogorets in the Champions League amid some up and down performances. Of the key arrivals, only Thomas Meunier and Gregorz Krychowiak have contributed positively while Jese and Hatem Ben Arfa have yet to make an impact.

Those in charge at PSG wanted to head in a different direction and after Blanc’s tenure and Emery was certainly a good choice for that. The Spaniard has shown himself to be a very capable manager during stints with two of Spain’s storied clubs, Valencia and Sevilla. His three consecutive Europa League titles while at Sevilla would have played a major role in his appointment given PSG’s focus on European success. Yet, unlike Blanc, who won a title with Bordeaux before his stint at PSG, Emery has found silverware hard to come by domestically. While Blanc was perfectly fine continuing his predecessor’s work with some minor fine-tuning, with much success it must be added, Emery was to represent a significant change in style and mentality.

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The Spaniard started the season trying to implement the 4-2-3-1 system he used at Sevilla but in recent games he has reverted to the 4-3-3 the side used under Blanc. Emery places less focus on possession and more on pressure of the ball than Blanc, and it seemed this was the way forward. According to Bleacher Report, several key players took issue with some of Emery’s tactical ideas which then led to the return to Blanc’s system.

While the formation may not have been the main issue Emery has put himself in a tough position. His acquiescence to the player’s preference weakens his position with a group of players used to winning a certain way. Conversely, a manager of his capabilities should see that a possession-based approach matched with his pressing would make PSG a more formidable prospect regardless of formation. If he can get the players to buy into both approaches then success should follow.

One positive for the Spaniard is the recent form of Edinson Cavani. The Uruguayan has started to knock in the goals in a fashion similar to his Napoli days but, as shown by his display against Arsenal, there’s still a case of the yips in big moments and games. He has dealt with one of his major arrivals, Ben Arfa, quite strictly, something that may not have occurred under Blanc judging by his handling of Serge Aurier’s actions earlier this year.

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The former Sevilla manager must be mindful that he’s in a different situation altogether, where increased expectations and egos mean much more will be demanded of him on and off the pitch. His three consecutive Europa League titles represent both a gift and a curse in that respect. While Sevilla dominated that competition, Emery has never done particularly well in the Champions League, PSG’s holy grail, while at Sevilla or Valencia. In fact, he’s failed to get past the Round of 16 with either side and was knocked out in the group stage last season with an abysmal record of two wins and four losses.

It may seem harsh to judge a manager so quickly into his reign but that is the status quo in football these days. Those in charge at PSG have spent millions to ensure their club becomes on of the biggest in the world. With that comes massive, and sometimes unrealistic, expectations. Emery has proved his capabilities with two of Spain’s well-known clubs but he faces a different beast here. His appointment, much like the transfers brought in after him, generated more curiosity than excitement.

Now it’s time for him to show that he’s up to the job.

Featured Image: All rights reserved by anouarpac

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Barcelona

Who are the five most valuable players under the age of 21?

Jake Jackman

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The CIES Football Observatory have produced a list of the 100 most valuable players under the age of 21 and it makes for interesting reading, with three Premier League players in the top five.

CIES are a research group based within the International Centre for Sports Studies. It was created in 2005 and has looks to specialise in the statistical analysis of football, which is a growing field within the sport.

A lot of their studies are based in the financial side of the game and given the continued increase of transfer fees, they produce a lot of information that is of interest to clubs.

This particular study focuses on the top five leagues and it won’t come as a surprise that the Premier League features heavily.

Here are the five most valuable under-21 players according to the CIES study:

5 – Marcus Rashford (€116.7 million)

Amid all the spending that Manchester United have done in recent seasons, the value of producing your own players through your academy continues to be shown in the Manchester United squad. It is important to their supporters to have homegrown players and Marcus Rashford is one of the best that they have produced in recent seasons. According to CIES, he is already worth more than £100 million and it is remarkable to think that he may not have been given a chance if it wasn’t for injuries to Wayne Rooney and Anthony Martial.

It has been a good start to the season for Marcus Rashford as he continues to get significant minutes, despite the arrival of Romelu Lukaku. Across the Premier League and Champions League, he has contributed six goals and four assists. His goal involvement is one every 113.8 minutes. Considering he has been used in various positions and not played every week, this is impressive. United need to continue showing faith in him. If they do, the sky is the limit.

4 – Ousmane Dembele (€120.4 million)

The French winger made headlines during the summer, as he was selected to be the replacement for Neymar at Barcelona. There is a lot of pressure on the 20-year-old to live up to his price tag, which was £135.5 million. There were clauses included in the deal, but the overall value is more than the £120.4 million that he has been estimated at by CIES. However, there were circumstances driving that. Namely, the desperate position of Barcelona.

Last season, he was one of the best players in the Bundesliga as he contributed eight goals and 18 assists across the two major competitions. His goal involvement was one every 108.2 minutes, which underlines why Barcelona were keen to buy him this season. An injury has hindered him at the beginning of his La Liga career, but he remains one of the most exciting young players in the game.

3 – Leroy Sane (€124.5 million)

The £37 million that Manchester City paid for the German international is looking more and more like a bargain with every passing day. CIES value the winger at €124.5 million and that underlines the improvement he has made under Pep Guardiola. He is now one of the most devastating attackers in the Premier Leaguer and it will be fascinating to see how much further he can go, as he is only 21.

His record in the Premier League this season has been remarkable and he is well on his way to contributing at least ten goals and ten assists. Sane is already on six goals and six assists, with a goal involvement every 78.75 minutes. The quality of the team helps him, but his own performances have contributed significantly to the success of City.

2 – Dele Alli (€180.2 million)

It has been a difficult start to the new season for Dele Alli, but he remains one of the most exciting players in the world. In the list of these five players, the England international is the most attainable for the biggest clubs in Europe, as Tottenham have the lowest chance of winning major trophies. It will take a huge fee to secure the midfielder and the valuation of €180.2 million from CIES is around the fee that Spurs would expect.

Since joining Tottenham as a teenager, he has been a revelation and scored 28 goals during his first two Premier League seasons. This season has been harder as he has only three goals in 15 matches, but he was always going to go through a drop-off in form at some point. The test will be how he recovers. The next few months will show us how far Alli can go in the game.

1- Kylian Mbappe (€182.8 million)

The valuation from CIES is fractionally higher than the reported fee that PSG will pay for the teenager next summer when his transfer is made permanent. He was a revelation last season and played a major role in Monaco winning Ligue 1 and reaching the Champions League semi-finals. PSG have made the move to sign him and he could become the best player in the world at the club if he is managed correctly.

This season hasn’t been as eye-catching as his debut season in senior football, but he has been very impressive still, especially when his age is taken into consideration. He has contributed nine goals and seven assists across the two major competitions, with a goal involvement of 86.5 minutes. This is incredible, but there have been some critics as he isn’t as noticeable playing alongside Edinson Cavani and Neymar. He is clearly the best young player in the world and this list from CIES reflects that.

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PSG

How Twitter reacted to Tottenham’s signing of defender Serge Aurier from Paris Saint-Germain

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Serge Aurier

Tottenham’s summer transfer window seems to be hitting full flow with less than a day until the deadline as the north London side confirmed that Serge Aurier has signed from Paris Saint-Germain.

The 24-year-old right-back will join Mauricio Pochettino’s side on a five-year deal in a move BBC Sport believe will set Spurs back around £23 million, becoming their fourth arrival in the space of seven days.

There had been fears that a move for Aurier was in jeopardy as Tottenham waited to hear from the Home Office about whether the Ivorian would receive a UK work visa, following a conviction last year for assaulting police officers in the French capital, but his work permit has been granted in time to complete a move before the deadline.

Talking about his move to Tottenham, Aurier said:

“This is a huge and exciting opportunity at a massive football club and I am determined to prove myself”.

The 24-year-old managed 81 appearances across all competitions for PSG since arriving from fellow French outfit Toulouse in 2014, helping them secure back-to-back Ligue 1 and Coupe de France titles.

Aurier had taken to social media on Wednesday afternoon to tease a move…

Before Tottenham confirmed the £23million switch on Thursday…

And it’s fair to say Tottenham fans were just a little thrilled by the addition…

With supporters of rivals clubs even conceding that it’s a great signing…

And some Spurs fans had already forgotten about Kyle Walker…

Others are still waiting for potential further arrivals later on today…

But either way, it seems that the optimism has returned to the white side of north London…

What do you think Tottenham fans? Is Aurier the signing of the summer? Let us know below.

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Arsenal

Would PSG’s Julian Draxler statistically be a good replacement if Alexis Sanchez leaves Arsenal?

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Draxler

Arsenal fans will be wondering when they can wake up from the nightmare ending to the summer transfer window, and it could get worse with the future of Alexis Sanchez hanging by a tiny thread.

BBC Sport reported on Tuesday evening that Manchester City have submitted an opening offer of £50 million for the Chilean forward – an offer rejected by Arsenal – but it’s expected they will return.

And the Mirror have claimed that the only way that Sanchez will be allowed to leave the Emirates over the course of the day would be if a move for Paris Saint-Germain’s Julian Draxler could be done. But with Sanchez so influential last season, how does the German international compare to him?

Industry in the opposition third

It’s hard to argue against the fact that, had it not been for Sanchez last season, then Arsenal would have finished much lower down the table than fifth and manager Arsene Wenger would not still be in London.

And part of the Chilean’s influence was just how busy he was in the final third, constantly working hard and roaming in-between the midfield and defensive lines, and it shows in his season’s statistics.

He made an average of 43.18 passes per match in the Premier League in comparison to Draxler’s tally of 31.24 – although it’s worth noting Draxler made five of his 17 appearances from the bench.

Yet the 23-year-old German international completed a higher percentage of his passes (85%) over the course of the season and there’s no doubt he could bring a similar level of productivity to Arsenal.

Producing the end product

With Sanchez being the main man at the Emirates last season – and realistically the only potent threat in front of goal aside from target-man Olivier Giroud – it’s no surprise that he’s miles ahead on this one too.

Across the course of the season he averaged 0.63 goals per game, scoring 24 in just 38 league appearances, and add an average of 0.26 assists per match and his importance shows even clearer.

The PSG forward doesn’t lag too far behind however with 0.24 goals per game, creating just less than two clear-cut chances per match in Ligue 1, and it’s not a bad return considering he only managed 1011 minutes of football in the French capital last year and was often restricted to cameo performances.

Although Draxler has been supposedly lined-up as a proposed Sanchez replacement, it’s key to remember that he’s more of a natural wide player whereas the Chilean was comfortable striking.

Should the speculation actually become a reality over the course of the day then Draxler would no doubt play on the left-wing, acting as support for Arsenal’s new record signing Alexandre Lacazette.

Defensive prowess

Yet one place where the PSG man comes into his own is when it comes to taking on defensive responsibilities, averaging just less than one (0.71) interceptions per match at the French giants.

This tally, along with the fact he makes 0.24 defensive clearances per game, both trumps the Chilean’s number (0.63 and 0.13 respectively) and highlights the benefit that Draxler could bring at both ends of the pitch, especially if he would be utilised as a left-winger that can help track back.

Should he join, and should Wenger persist with his wing-back formation, then Draxler’s ability to defend would be such an underestimated asset and add something that Sanchez didn’t last season.

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