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.
Jack Wilshere’s injury shows why Arsenal shouldn’t renew his contract
The 26-year-old has been struck down by yet another injury.
Jack Wilshere will be pleased with the progress that he has made since returning to Arsenal from his loan spell at Bournemouth.
He was initially nothing more than a squad player that was out in the cold at international level too, but the midfielder worked hard to gain more game-time in North London.
Across all competitions, he has played more than 30 matches and his form earned him a call-up to the England squad.
It looked like he was getting a once-promising career back on track, but almost like clockwork, he has suffered an injury to set him back once again.
Gareth Southgate confirmed that he wouldn’t be travelling to the Netherlands for Friday’s match and the quotes were reported by Sky Sports.
“It is not a specific injury and over time they flare up and they need to settle down over a couple of days.
“We are hopeful it will settle down pretty quickly. It’s an ongoing problem and it’s not something new for him. He’s very disappointed not to be involved in the game.
“He’s trained well though but if you think about the journey he’s had in the last two years and his big injuries then he’s progressing really well.”
Although it is encouraging that it isn’t a serious injury, it is a reminder that Jack Wilshere remains a risk for both club and country.
It is difficult to build a team around a player that is susceptible to miss matches and the quote from Southgate is a worry as he refers to an ongoing problem.
Arsenal have had a difficult campaign and they will be planning a rebuild over the next 48 months as they transition away from the Arsene Wenger era.
They will have to make tough decisions on many players at the club and Wilshere’s future will be brought into focus over the next few weeks as his contract expires at the end of the season.
There have been numerous reports regarding contract talks between the two parties and there is hesitancy on both sides.
This latest injury suffered by Wilshere and the comments from Southgate referring to an ongoing problem show why it is Arsenal who need to end this association.
Wilshere can’t be relied on to stay fit and to feature prominently in a busy schedule. Arsenal will have ambitions of challenging at the very top of the game and will likely be involved in European competition every season. They need to have a squad of players that are reliable and the 26-year-old isn’t that.
Aside from that, Wilshere represents what Arsenal have become over the last decade. He is a player that had a lot of potential, but he has failed to fulfil it and been very inconsistent at the highest level. Of course, he isn’t to blame for the club’s problems, but he is also unlikely to offer the solutions.
This season has been a nice farewell campaign for him. It would have been sad if his Gunners’ career had ended after being shipped out on loan to Bournemouth.
He has returned to earn some of his credibility back, but the club need to move on and progress if they are to get back to the top of the English game.
A lot of contentious decisions will need to be made and the first should be the release of Jack Wilshere this summer.
Why Jose Mourinho’s treatment of Luke Shaw has crossed the line
The Portuguese manager has been highly critical of Luke Shaw this season.
The fractious relationship between Jose Mourinho and Luke Shaw plumbed new depths when the left-back was substituted at half-time in Manchester United’s FA Cup victory over Brighton & Hove Albion. The 22-year-old had been handed a rare opportunity to impress at Old Trafford but lasted only 45 minutes.
Speaking about Shaw in his post-match interview, Mourinho said: “Luke, in the first half, every time they came in his corridor, the cross came in and a dangerous situation was coming. I was not happy with his performance.”
The differences between the pair now appear to be irreconcilable. Shaw, who was signed by Louis van Gaal in the summer of 2014, has been used sparingly by Mourinho. The former Southampton starlet has made just 18 Premier League appearances under the Portuguese in a career that has been blighted by injuries.
Being substituted at half-time is almost as embarrassing as it gets for a player and Shaw’s mood will not have improved after being publicly criticised by his manager. It’s certainly not the first time Mourinho has chosen to talk candidly to the media about his concerns with the 22-year-old.
Some players require an arm around the shoulder to perform at their peak, while for others it takes a kick up the backside. Mourinho, opting for the latter, does nothing without reason and has clearly tried to spark a reaction from Shaw, without success.
From being one of English football’s brightest prospects after making his World Cup debut aged just 18, Shaw, who has seven England caps to his name, is in danger of not fulfilling the potential that convinced United to spend what was then a world-record fee for a teenager.
Mourinho’s tactic of singling out individuals who have not met his standards is in stark contrast to Sir Alex Ferguson, who never blamed his players in public. It has divided opinion among pundits, with Southampton legend Matt Le Tissier claiming the United manager is ‘destroying’ Shaw.
Mourinho is an expert at using smokescreens to distract from his side’s unconvincing performances. And this latest controversy has moved the narrative on from United’s shock Champions League exit at the hands of Sevilla.
Tough love is one thing, but the sustained, public attack on Shaw is unacceptable. If Mourinho genuinely believes he is not good enough to represent United, then fair enough. But to continually vilify the youngster’s performances is a step too far and one that could irreparably damage Shaw’s confidence.
This is not to say that Shaw is a completely innocent bystander. Mourinho’s predecessor, Louis van Gaal, also questioned his desire and general conditioning when he joined United four years ago. Indeed, the Dutchman signed Shaw up to a tailored exercise regime in an effort to improve his fitness.
But while van Gaal’s treatment had the desired effect, Mourinho’s has done the opposite. Being publicly humiliated on a routine basis does neither party any favours.
In all likelihood, Shaw’s disappointing United career will come to an end this summer. A fresh start away from the toxicity under Mourinho is exactly what he needs.
Keanan Bennetts has perfect opportunity to impress Mauricio Pochettino this week
The left-sided star has a chance to impress in first-team training during the international break.
With the international week in full flow, plenty of teams in the Premier League have seen their squads diminished by call-ups to national teams.
Tottenham Hotspur are one such side. Nonetheless, with most of the first-team squad away with their respective nations, work continues at Hotspur Way.
In order for Spurs to have a full complement in training, plenty of young talent needs to be pulled in to the ranks.
Mauricio Pochettino will, therefore,e get a chance to see some of his young players training with regular first-team players such as Fernando Llorente, Erik Lamela and Lucas Moura.
One player who will be training with the first-team this week is talented wide-man Keanan Bennetts, according to London Live.
The 19-year-old left-winger has been catching the eye for the club’s youth team in recent weeks, making the news after scoring a fantastic goal for the under-19s against Monaco in the UEFA Youth League last month.
Bennetts has also been attracting interest for his positional dexterity. The wide-man has played at left-back in recent times and it could be that is his future best position.
This week he will be up against some excellent players such as Lamela and Moura, who did not receive selection to the Argentina and Brazil national teams, respectively.
If he can prove himself with this calibre of player, Pochettino will have to take notice.
It is coming to a point in his Tottenham career when Bennetts has to make such an impact. The teenager is out of contract at Spurs in the summer and needs to ensure he is kept on for at least one more season.
Tottenham fans who follow the youth teams are certain he is deserving of such a chance. If he can show Pochettino what he is capable of this week, then a new deal will surely be in the pipeline for the talented wide-man.
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