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A few thoughts ahead of the FA Cup semi-finals

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The FA Cup semi-finals will be held in late April, and while most football fans are still focused primarily on domestic league competitions, it’s an event that deserves a little more attention than usual. Four top-tier clubs secured spots in the semis this time around, which should make for some thrilling action when the matches commence. Saturday, April 22 will give us Chelsea versus Tottenham Hotspur, with Arsenal and Manchester City to follow the next morning. Here are a few thoughts ahead of the action.

This Is An Unusually Strong Semi-Final

The FA Cup is usually a chance for some of the smaller English clubs to break through and get a chance at a championship, and for some supporters that’s what makes it fun. But comparing this year’s semi-final field to those from years past makes this one look particularly thrilling. In 2016 we saw Everton vs. Man Utd. and Crystal Palace against Watford. 2015 saw Reading take on Arsenal while Aston Villa faced off against Liverpool. 2014 had Wigan and Arsenal play in addition to Hull and Sheffield, and in 2013, Millwall fought Wigan and Chelsea battled Man City. To have an FA Cup semi-final with four teams from the top 10 in the EPL table (top six at the time of this writing, in fact) could make for some real stirring competition.

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Arsenal Could Have An Edge

The Gunners don’t look particularly strong in this batch of four teams, but they may have an edge of sorts. To begin with, they’ve won this event twice in the last five years, and that type of experience never hurts. They’ve also played Manchester City fairly evenly in the last few years. In a preview of the quarter-final included at a platform featuring expert opinions and strategic advice it was noted that Man City might push harder than usual for the FA Cup given that it’s unlikely to win any other silverware. However, the same can certainly be said for Arsenal. At any rate, the second semi-final could be the most compelling, even though the first features the EPL’s top two teams at the moment.

Tottenham May Be The Most In Form Team

With wins in its last three league matches (not counting a postponement) and a dominant 6-0 win over Millwall in the quarter-finals, Tottenham may actually be the side exhibiting the best form heading into the FA Cup semis. A lot can change in the weeks leading up to the matches, but no one should overlook the Spurs simply because they’re a small step below the other three contenders in terms of club prestige.

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The EPL Will Shape How This Goes

These four clubs are strong enough that any of them could win on any given day, but keep an eye on the EPL standings in the coming weeks if you’re curious as to who ought to have the edge. If Chelsea’s points lead should narrow at all, expect the Blues to hold back resources for the FA Cup and focus on the main prize of winning the league. If Chelsea is clear in first place it might go for both titles. Meanwhile, Arsenal and Man City will already be looking at the FA Cup as the last chance for a 2017 championship (which again should make the second semi-final particularly interesting).

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Arsenal

Liverpool receive blow as Caglar Soyuncu reveals desire to play for Arsenal

Arsenal appear to have won the race for the player’s signature.

Jamie Watts

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Liverpool have recieved a blow in their attempts to sign Freiburg defender Caglar Soyuncu, as the player has revealed his desire to play for Arsenal next term, in quotes via Turkish outlet Gunes.

Jurgen Klopp is said to be keen on landing the 22-year-old’s signature this summer, as the team search for a long-term partner to develop alongside star defender Virgil van Dijk next term, according to the Mirror.

However Arsenal are also keen admirers of the Turkish international’s talents, with new boss Unai Emery weighing up a potential move for his services this summer, according to the Sun. And the team sit in poll position.

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“Arsenal is a proposal. I go to Arsenal. I want to play there, but everything is connected. Because I have a contract for 3 more years,” the player revealed.  And now it looks as though the north London club has won the race, if they increase their interest in signing Soyuncu.

The young defender is renowned for his superb reading of the game and his quality range of passing – boasting 81 per cent passing completion last term – garnering comparisons to the likes of seasoned veteran Mats Hummels.

His two footedness and explosive pace over short distances also suit the Premier League, and Arsenal could now land a serious talent with the potential to become a superstar at the Emirates.

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Criticism of Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson unfair? stats suggest he’s England’s best option

The midfielder came under scrutiny for his latest performance.

Jamie Watts

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England put an end to the World Cup opener curse after Harry Kane’s stoppage time header ensured England started the tournament with maximum points, with Tunisia looking more than likely to take their share of points in Volograd.

A promising opening 20 minutes was encored by ponderous and slow football in the second half, after the team began looking seemingly affected by Tunisia’s equaliser. The additions of Marcus Rashford and Ruben Loftus-Cheek added impetus and purpose to the attack late on. But prior to that, England struggled in pursuit of a second, and Liverpool midfielder Jordan Henderson came under fire for what was deemed to be a lack of creativity.

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Many fans were questioning the omission of Jack Wilshere from England duties, as Gareth Southgate opted for the Liverpool man as the regular in central midfield. But last season’s statistics show some maybe being preemptive in wanting to replace the 28-year-old this World Cup.

Squawka stats (below) show that the Liverpool man was superior to both Eric Dier and Jack Wilshere in all aspects of midfield play in the Premier League last term, suggesting he could very well be the right man to continue starting for the Three Lions.

The former Sunderland man bested his two counterparts for number of forward passes, average pass length, key passes, tackles won, aerial duels won and chances created (all per 90 minutes), which sheds some light on why he’s a regular in Southgate’s team.

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Arsenal and Chelsea receive huge boost in pursuit of Aleksandr Golovin

The London rivals have been given an edge over Juventus in the pursuit it seems.

Jamie Watts

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London rivals Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea have recieved a huge boost in their pursuit of Russian maestro Aleksandr Golovin, after the play-maker’s father revealed he is currently learning English, in quotes via Russian outlet Komsomolskaya Pravda.

Italian giants Juventus are said to be courting the CSKA Moscow midfielder closely, with some reports even claiming a deal had been agreed between the two clubs (Calciomercato). However, the new revelation from the player’s father suggests the move is anything but a formality, and Chelsea and Arsenal remain in the race.

“He [Golovin] now has one thing on his mind: the Russian team. But if such proposals are made, I believe that he will go abroad, play abroad,” the Russian international’s father claimed.

“Their football is of a different level, there is nowhere to hide. Speeds are different. I’m sure my son will be able to play at a new level. It will be more difficult with a foreign language. But I know that he has already started learning English.”

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Arsenal have no plans of slowing down in the transfer window after agreeing a deal for 34-year-old Stephan Lichtsteiner and closing in on Lucas Torreira. SportBILD claims that a deal for Bernd Leno is also close to being completed, as personal terms have been agreed. And now it would appear Unai Emery is keen on continuing the pursuit for Golovin.

However, they will face stern competition from west London, as Chelsea have expressed an interest in signing the 22-year-old, with the Express claiming that the club are looking to quickly encore the managerial appointment of Maurizio Sarri with the Italian’s long-spanning target.

CSKA are said to want £22 million before they would be willing to do business for a player they regard as one of the most influential in their squad, while they also assert that a sell-on clause will be part of any deal, to ensure they dont miss out should the player’s market value drastically increase in the future, according to The Sun.

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