The French gave some exhilarating performances at this World Cup, and the key man in every single one has been Valbuena. He has great vision and puts an excellent weight on his passes in the final third. In the group stage Valbuena was pivotal to the French displays, and it is not surprising that when he was out of the team against Ecuador the French attack looked disjointed and sloppy.
The Marseille man has been given permission from his club to leave if they receive the right offer, and rumours suggest that both Liverpool and Arsenal are chasing him. He’s the perfect Wenger player, but Arsenal have no shortage of attacking midfielders so bringing him in would surely mean someone would have to leave.
The Liverpool move makes more sense to me, Rodgers will need a much bigger squad to be able to sustain their improvement with European competition on the horizon, and there’s a space to be filled given Luis Suarez’s likely departure.
I think everyone has been impressed by the performances of Chile at this World Cup. Their energetic and attacking play style is superb to watch, and it is absolutely epitomised by their star-man, Alexis Sanchez. He plays across the pitch, dropping deep at times to act as a playmaker, getting chalk on his boots as an electric winger or making runs in behind the defence.
What’s really stood out for me has been his playmaking ability, something that we haven’t seen regularly at Barcelona. Jorge Valdivia’s goal against Australia is a perfect example of this, Sanchez received the ball with his back to goal, turned his man with his first touch and then ran to the edge of the box before squaring to Valdivia.
It was an assist that included both great skill and individual ability, but also an awareness of where his teammates were. With it now confirmed that he will be an Arsenal player next season, I for one am looking forward to the connection he should make with Mesut Ozil.
Colombia were absolutely brilliant at this World Cup, and whilst not the main man Juan Cuadrado nonetheless was very impressive. He racked up three assists, a figure that only Netherlands’ Daley Blind can match, and looked good doing so.
His outstanding attribute is the speed at which he runs, both with and without the ball. This speed gives him numerous options in attack, he can come short or make runs in behind to devastating effect. When isolated one-on-one with a defender there are few who would be able to deal with Cuadrado.
What has been lacking from his play a little is his decision making and final delivery. Whilst he has three assists, he could easily have five or six if he’d got his head up earlier or played a ball just a little better. That said, he’s still a quality player that Premier League teams should be looking at.
Much had been made pre-tournament about the attacking prowess of the Belgian side and how exciting they should be to watch. For a number of reasons, however, this simply hasn’t happened. Eden Hazard, Kevin Mirallas, and Kevin De Bruyne have all impressed at times but not consistently so.
One player that has looked good has been Napoli’s Dries Mertens. He has utterly explosive pace and is more than capable of delivering a quality ball or finish in the final third. With Belgium languishing to Algeria, Mertens came on and completely changed the game and gave Belgium real attacking potency and threat. He scored the winning goal with a brilliant right-foot finish that gave the ‘keeper no chance whatsoever.
I think Mertens would be perfect for the well-documented high tempo of the Premier League. He has the speed to cause problems for any defence, and that matched with good technical quality results in a very dangerous player.
There is simply no way to leave this man off the list. So far he has to be the player of the tournament, and despite going out at the quarter-final stage he still has a chance of being awarded the Golden Boot. Whilst of course his total of six goals is brilliant, it’s his overall play that has been a joy to watch.
James has been the key in the Colombian side; he links the midfield to the attack and controls the game at ease. No part of his attacking game is lacking, he can dribble, pass, and shoot, and more importantly he knows when to use his different talents in different situations.
A particular highlight from this World Cup has to be the goal against Uruguay. He received the ball with his back to goal, chested it to his side and volleyed it on the turn exquisitely. The sheer technique was extraordinary, and it was a microcosm of everything James is. Obviously the goal took great skill, but also the ability to recognise so early that he was in a little pocket of space can’t be ignored.
He’s currently at Monaco, which undoubtedly means he’s on a wage packet that only the richest clubs can afford. I sincerely hope he leaves the French league as early as possible so that he can really challenge himself regularly.