Now that the summer transfer season has closed and the rosters are locked until January, it is time to step back and take a look at who secured the best new players and specifically, what are the top 5 attacking lines in the Premier League?
Fifth Place: Arsenal
Arsenal’s attack is going to be lead by new man Danny Welbeck, who was recently sold by Manchester United. Welbeck is going to start immediately, replacing the injured Oliver Giroud. Arsene Wenger desperately needed coverage upfront, and Welbeck is going to step on the pitch in form after a two goal performance for the England national team. Welbeck will match up with another London newcomer; Alexis Sanchez. Sanchez provided forward coverage for the squad even before the Giroud injury, and I expect the two to work as a center pair, with Welbeck taking the more traditional forward role. The two players share many similar traits; an affinity for layoff style passes and cutting the ball inside, and strong finishing ability. The two are sure to link up for some electrifying short pass play if they can gel together early.
My only doubts about this partnership come from Welbeck’s lack of previous experience. This is Welbeck’s first opportunity to command and own a true starting forward role, having played second and third fiddle to Robin Van Persie and Rooney for so many years at Manchester United. If Welbeck can show the class that he has shown for the “Three Lions” this duo will score many goals for the gunners. When you consider the possible rotation with the tall Giroud when he returns, Arsenal also will be able to have an aerial threat. Yet, until Giroud returns and Welbeck proves himself, Arsenal will come in at 5thon this list.
Fourth Place: Liverpool
If this column had been written six months ago, it would be hard to place Liverpool any other place than at number one. The departure of the Uruguayan chomper Luis Suarez, the leading goal scorer for the Premier League leaves large shoes for any team to fill. Yet Brendan Rodgers has done his best to fill the void left by Suarez, and he brought in the “just-as-crazy-but-less-orally-fixated” Mario Balotelli to slot along side young stud Daniel Sturridge. I do not doubt one bit that these two could be the best striking tandem in the league. When you look at the pairing on paper, they fit perfectly. First and foremost, they will lead one of the taller lines in England, as both come in over 6 feet tall. Balotelli provides the strength and aerial ability that Sturridge lacks, and Sturridge has the thin and speedy frame needed for a quick countering ability. Both are strong finishers, have great dribbling ability, and have proven themselves at the top levels in Europe.
Having just played one game together, they appeared to work well. But we have seen Balotelli be a firework in dressing rooms before (as well as apartments) and frankly this is still a “wait and see” situation. Despite their uninspiring defense and guaranteed lack of discipline on the pitch they surely will be the cheapest entertainment you can get in league, and will no doubt connect for some great play. If the two develop as a pair, then they will climb on this list and but until then they will fall right ahead of Arsenal as having the fourth best attacking line the league.
Third Place: Manchester City
Injuries, injuries, and more injuries. There are no questions about the quality of the players that City can put out on the pitch at any moment, and when healthy, the threesome of Aguero, Dzeko, and Negredo devastated opponents across competitions last season. Yet Negredo bid adieu to the Ethiad on transfer deadline day, partly due to the scintillating form of Stevan Jovetic, who has since picked up an injury on international duty. The “always a bridesmaid never a bride” striker of the bunch, John Guidetti, was loaned out to Celtic as well. A transfer period that started with five options for City upfront has ended with only two. Aguero’s long term fitness is also always a question, as he has suffered numerous injuries during his last few years with the club.
While it has been a rough few weeks for the Manchester squad, I do feel that the direness of the situation is overstated. If Jovetic returns quickly, and Aguero can stay fit alongside a healthy Dzeko, City is set to run rampant through the league. The real strength of the squad falls behind the attacking line, and as long as one or two of their strikers are fit they will win games. The combo of the three blue strikers is enough to land them in third place on this list.
Second Place: Chelsea
This ranking is single handily due to the hot start of Spaniard Diego Costa. Chelsea’s strength, similar to City, lies in their midfield, but the way that Costa has started for the London squad separates the two teams on this list. Starting recently as the lone forward for the team he has taken advantage of the plethora of midfield options, scoring (poaching) goals left and right. Costa’s size and strikers intuition fit perfectly into this offense, as we have consistently seen him be in just the right spot to finish on missed or deflected opportunities from the Chelsea midfield line. Because of their single forward system Chelsea does not need as much coverage at the position as the other teams on this list that favor a duel or triple threat to lead their line. This has in turn led to estranged Spanish striker Fernando Torres’ departure, and the resigning of a Chelsea legend to proved cover.
While Didier Drogba has lost much of the form from his original Chelsea tenure he still is a physical presence that can lead the Chelsea line if there is a long term absence to Costa. He has been successful across all competitions and the combination of an experienced veteran and a rising star has been a proven formula for striker success in the Premier League. The current form of the Chelsea duo is enough to put them as the second best attacking line in the league.
First Place: Manchester United
Van Persie, Rooney, Falcao, Di Maria. Simply put, on paper they are arguably the best attacking line in the world. Just ignore the first matches of this season and think about that roster. Any combination of the four of those players is the sure lock on this list. The talent is overflowing and it is just a matter of time before Louis van Gaal (or someone else) figures out how to get this team to click. This team is simply going through growing pains; soon enough they will figure out how to flex their new found muscle.
The doubts about this Manchester squad are about their coaching and the new system that is being implemented at Old Trafford; not the players. The depth of their front line allowed them to sell one of other players that we discussed on this list, Danny Welbeck. Even the scraps of the Reds are front line legitimate stud attacking players for other clubs. It is because of this depth and overall quality that Manchester United can field the best attacking line in England.
Tottenham Hotspur fans react to Danny Welbeck dive
Tottenham Hotspur fans were not pleased with Danny Welbeck’s dive v AC Milan.
Arsenal successfully knocked AC Milan out of the Europa League last night with a 3-1 win at the Emirates Stadium. The hero of the night was England forward Danny Welbeck. The striker scored two goals as Arsenal completed a deserved 5-1 aggregate victory over the Rossoneri.
But Milan had taken an early lead through Hakan Calhanoglu’s bamboozling long-range strike. Arsenal, at that stage, were looking on the ropes. Welbeck though won and then dispatched a penalty to level the scoring. The word ‘won’ being the optimum word.
Welbeck dived for the penalty, there is no doubt about that. Ricardo Rodriguez barely breathed on the Arsenal man, who tumbled to the ground hopefully. When the penalty was given, he looked in disbelief.
For Tottenham Hotspur fans it was a moment they did not appreciate.
Spurs have seen Dele Alli victimised throughout the season, and some would say rightly so, for his diving. There is no doubt that the England midfielder has dived this season and not many Tottenham fans would suggest not.
But the anger here lies with what Tottenham fans believe is hypocrisy. There is also a certain level or irony given a thinly veiled dig by Arsene Wenger against Spurs’ players this season.
After the highly controversial 2-2 draw at Anfield, where Harry Kane was accused of diving v Liverpool, Wenger had this to say, as reported by the BBC:
“I remember there were tremendous cases here when foreign players did it.
“But English players have learned very quickly and might be the masters now.”
“Sometimes players play a little bit with the rules. How far can you go? That is down to the referees.”
With Arsenal their next Premier League opponents, Arsene Wenger’s barb was not hard to see.
When that statement came out Tottenham fans quickly pointed out occasions when Arsenal’s English stars had been caught diving. Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott were prominent examples. Now, in Welbeck, Tottenham have seen another.
Arsenal fans will be happy that their team have booked a place in the next round of the Europa League. On balance it was more than a fair result as over two legs Arsenal outplayed the Italian giants.
But the Welbeck moment certainly put an asterix on the game for Spurs fans.
Here is some of the best reaction from Twitter…
Özil against Watford was falling down when a gust of wind went past him. It was appalling. Welbeck yesterday was one of the worst dives
— Joe B ??????? (@JblincoTHFC) March 16, 2018
Only just seen the Welbeck dive, he must be embarrassed even appealing for that.
— Joshhh (@JJonesTHFC) March 16, 2018
— Harry Hotspur (@HarryHotspurWHL) March 15, 2018
If you had any doubt about how this country treats Dele Alli (one of its brightest prospects in years) look at the difference in how the media and in particular fans, are talking about the #Welbeck dive. ? #COYS #THFC
— Gary Ford (@Spursfordie) March 15, 2018
Imagine if this was @dele_official who did this and the media onslaught! Danny Welbeck you diving cheat! Hope the likes of @talkSPORT @GaryLineker @alanshearer to name a few subject Danny to the same treatment they have subjected Dele too this season! https://t.co/MXFMAkOGcN
— H (@LittleMissTHFC) March 15, 2018
— Lucas (@MoughtTHFC) March 15, 2018
Welbeck is a cheat end of. Ruined a good game.
— THFC (@RaoullyT69) March 15, 2018
Look how everyone destroys Dele over diving. No one will comment on Welbeck’s dive. Shocking! #THFC
— Harry Hotspur (@HarryHotspurWHL) March 15, 2018
— Steve Williams (@spurssteve69) March 15, 2018
Welbeck dives. Dele will be in trouble in the morning. #THFC
— Stephen Vincent (@StevieV14) March 15, 2018
If Dele Alli did what Welbeck just did?
— Billy Adams (@ThfcAdams) March 15, 2018
Victory in Milan, but is this another false dawn for Arsenal and Arsene Wenger?
Arsenal were triumphant in Milan despite their recent miserable form.
Arsenal ended their losing run of four matches with an excellent performance away to AC Milan in the Europa League. This competition has the potential to save the Gunners season and the commitment from every player suggested that they want to go all the way.
They were coming up against a team full of confidence under Gennaro Gattuso. Milan hadn’t lost a match since the end of December. The Serie A club hadn’t conceded a goal in six and had won five of those inside ninety minutes.
These sides came into this fixture in remarkably different form, but football is played on grass and not on paper.
Despite Milan having more attempts, it was Arsenal who created the better chances. They had a couple of half-chances early on before the opening goal.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan has had a hot and cold start to life in a Gunners’ shirt, but he was one of the best players on the pitch in Italy. His goal was emphatically taken as he drove the ball past Gianluigi Donnarumma.
It is important to capitalise when you are on top, especially away from home in European competitions and Arsenal did just that. As the first-half progressed, they continued to create the better opportunities. Both Danny Welbeck and Mkhitaryan had good chances to double the visitors’ lead, but they were squandered.
In stoppage-time of half-time, Arsenal scored a second to give them a commanding lead in the tie. It was a great move from the team and Mesut Ozil found Aaron Ramsey who coolly rounded Donnarumma before putting the ball into the net.
The first-half performance from Arsenal was one of the best that supporters have seen this season. They were better all over the pitch and showed the work rate that they had lacked in previous weeks. Milan pushed in the second half, but they couldn’t penetrate the Gunners’ defence.
Laurent Koscielny and Shkodran Mustafi were both excellent. Arsene Wenger will be hoping that both are returning to their best after some uncharacteristic errors in previous matches. The centre-back pairing made eight ball recoveries and were always in the right position on Thursday.
Patrick Cutrone is a teenager with a big future, but the young striker had no luck out of the Arsenal defence and that will encourage the manager.
Another player to emerge with credit is Danny Welbeck. The ineligibility of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and the injury of Alexandre Lacazette means that the Englishman started the game up front for Arsenal. It was a huge opportunity for him after being pushed down the pecking order at the club and he took it with both hands.
The Englishman worked tirelessly and caused problems with his movement.
Although his final product wasn’t great, he was a constant threat and led the defensive effort from the front. Welbeck will never be a leading Premier League striker, but he is effective in matches such as this one. He deserves more opportunities during the run-in.
It would be too soon to get carried away for Arsenal fans. There are still questions regarding Arsene Wenger and the work rate of the players, but this was an excellent performance that finally provides the club with positive momentum. They have had a miserable few weeks and the supporters can get excited about their team once again.
When the draw was made, a lot of supporters checked their expectations when it came to the Europa League. Milan were the overwhelming favourites, but Arsenal have taken a dominant position in the tie and should be able to finish the job in London.
If they can do that, they will move into the quarter-final stage. Although it will be difficult to win it, they will have as good a chance as any.
There have been many false dawns for Arsenal in recent years and this could be another one. That said, it takes enormous character to go away to a huge stadium like the San Siro after a poor run of form and win comfortably.
Considering the criticism that they have had for their lack of desire, few would have thought the Gunners to be capable of a result like this.
It is now up to Wenger to prove that he can get this level of effort and performance out of his players on a regular basis. The Frenchman remains in a difficult position with no margin for error. If he is going to keep his job, he needs to finish the season strongly and win the Europa League.
It won’t be an easy challenge, but this performance and result will give him hope that he can upset the odds to claim his first European trophy.
Brighton 2-1 Arsenal: Three talking points from the Amex
Arsenal lost for a fourth successive game as Brighton & Hove Albion bullied their opponents into submission.
Arsenal suffered their fourth consecutive defeat in all competitions as Brighton & Hove Albion took a giant leap towards Premier League survival.
The pressure on Gunners boss Arsene Wenger, which has intensified since the turn of the year, looks set to reach new heights after another dismal day at the office for his charges.
Goals from Lewis Dunk and Glenn Murray put the Seagulls in control before Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang pulled one back for the visitors on the stroke of half-time.
Despite enjoying the lion’s share of possession, Arsenal were unable to muster an equaliser.
For Brighton, this was a huge result that lifted them seven points clear of the relegation zone.
Here are three talking points…
Is beleaguered Wenger’s position now untenable?
It lurches from one disaster to another for Wenger.
He probably thought the nadir had been reached after last weekend’s limp performance in the Carabao Cup final against Manchester City, when his future became the main topic of debate.
The Frenchman would have hoped for a reaction from his players in the subsequent fixtures.
Instead, his side were brushed aside against City in the Premier League before producing another sub-standard display here against Brighton.
Added to their shock Europa League reversal at home to minnows Ostersunds, it is the first time Arsenal have lost four successive matches since 2002.
After last season’s FA Cup triumph, Wenger penned a new contract that takes him through to the summer of 2019.
Now, however, it’s difficult to see how he can last beyond the end of the current campaign.
Perhaps only by lifting the Europa League, which would automatically qualify Arsenal for the Champions League, could Wenger realistically remain in situ.
Even then, it may not be enough. His players look devoid of any confidence and need an injection of new ideas.
Brighton take a massive step towards safety
The focus will understandably be on Arsenal, but Brighton’s display should not be overlooked.
This victory extended their unbeaten run in the Premier League to four games and has all but banished thoughts that they might be dragged into a relegation scrap.
Yes, it was a good time to face Arsenal, but Chris Hughton’s side made a fast start with two early goals that went a long way to recording their first win over the Gunners since 1982.
Brighton’s performance bore all the hallmarks of their season so far.
Despite being one of the lowest scorers in the division, they took their chances when they came, exploiting Arsenal’s weakness from set pieces and aerial balls.
In the second half, the home side remained very organised defensively, which was key when the Gunners upped the tempo.
Modest and unassuming, Hughton has done a terrific job on the south coast.
Defensive shortcomings continue to haunt Arsenal
Wenger has regularly spoken of his belief that Arsenal cannot compete on a level playing field with the likes of Manchester City.
And while his side’s record against fellow ‘Big Six’ clubs is regularly scrutinised, the Gunners’ results against the lesser lights have not been good enough for a club with Champions League aspirations.
In 2018 alone, Arsenal have been beaten by Swansea City, Bournemouth and now Brighton in the Premier League, while losing to Nottingham Forest and Ostersunds in cups.
A lack of leadership has long been an issue on the pitch and it’s an area Wenger has consistently ignored.
Defensively, the Gunners are too easy to bully.
Take Shkodran Mustafi’s defending for the first goal in the Carabao Cup final last weekend, for example.
Particularly away from home, Arsenal are prone to imploding.
Despite the attacking talent Wenger has at his disposal, his failure to invest in proven defenders at the top level looks set to cost him dearly.
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