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Liverpool

This agile Moroccan No. 10 is Liverpool’s best bet for replacing Philippe Coutinho in the midfield – Agreed?

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Why Liverpool must make a move for Hakim Ziyech this summer?

Morocco international Hakim Ziyech put in a stellar display as Ajax crushed Real Madrid 4-1 in the second leg of Champions League Round of 16.

Ajax travelled to Spain for the Champions League last-16 second-leg, having lost 2-1 in Amsterdam to Real Madrid two weeks ago. Very few would have given Ajax a realistic chance of progressing, but they came all guns blazing in the opening stages and found themselves 2-0 ahead inside just 20 minutes.

The architect of the comeback was none other than Hakim Ziyech, who scored the opener very early in the game and tormented Real Madrid with his movement, passing and creativity. The Moroccan alongside the likes of Dusan Tadic, David Neres, Frenkie De Jong and Lasse Schone tore Madrid to shreds at the Santiago Bernabeu, sealing a 5-3 aggregate victory and eliminating the holders before the quarter-finals.

Last May, a report from Calciomercato suggested Liverpool were one of the few Premier League clubs interested in Hakim Ziyech. Having excelled both in the Eredivisie and the Champions League this season, Liverpool should rekindle their interest in the Ajax playmaker this summer.

The Reds are gunning for the Premier League title this season but have fallen a point behind league leaders Manchester City after a 0-0 draw with Everton at the Goodison Park last weekend. Jurgen Klopp didn’t make any investment in the January transfer window and his team seems to be haunted by it as they are now battling with injuries in the team without enough bench strength.

Moreover, Liverpool are yet to sign a replacement for Philippe Coutinho, who left Anfield for Barcelona last January. However, Ziyech could to be the answer to Coutinho’s replacement, with the 25-year-old enjoying his best season in Ajax colours.

Ziyech is extremely versatile, capable of playing in central midfield, right and left wing and as a no.10. His main strengths lie with passing and dribbling ability, with the Moroccan combining his agility and skill to wreak havoc against the opposition defenders. Apart from excellent dribbling, he can deliver killer passes, whether from open play or from set-pieces.

A goalscoring midfielder, Ziyech is someone who always likes to get close to the ball and is also known for his superior work rate. His contract with Ajax runs out in the summer of 2021 and judging by his performances this season, the midfielder seems to be ready for a step up in his career.

Read more: Liverpool would find the ultimate partner for Virgil van Dijk by signing this 27-year-old Greek international in the summer

And Liverpool should benefit immensely by signing Ziyech, who would add more dynamism and cutting edge to their attack whilst being a long-term replacement for Coutinho.

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Arsenal

Liverpool vs Arsenal: Match Preview, Team news, Predicted XI and more

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Liverpool vs Arsenal: Match Preview, Team news, Prediction and more

Liverpool host Arsenal at Anfield on Saturday with both teams hoping to extend their 100% domestic record with the third win of their Premier League season.

The Reds thrashed Norwich 4-1 in the Premier League curtain-raiser before edging past Southampton 2-1 on Saturday. Sandwiched in between was their UEFA Super Cup triumph against Chelsea in Istanbul, Turkey.

The Gunners have also enjoyed a perfect start to their season, thanks to wins over Newcastle and Burnley, but the trip to Merseyside will represent their first acid test of the new season.

Arsenal’s recent visits to Anfield have been embarrassing, to say the least. Liverpool have scored 22 goals out of 30 in some staggering victories against the north London club in recent times. So, Unai Emery has a mighty task of changing the scenario at the weekend.

Team News

For Liverpool, Alisson Becker has a suspected grade two tear and is not expected to be fit for the Arsenal game. Naby Keita has a muscle problem and will miss Saturday’s game, while Nathaniel Clyne is a long-term casualty.

Arsenal’s Hector Bellerin is continuing his recovery from a cruciate ligament injury, although he won’t be available anytime soon. New signing Kieran Tierney remains unavailable due to a groin problem but Rob Holding has participated in full training with the first-team squad.

Granit Xhaka could return after missing the Burnley win while Mesut Ozil was absent due to illness and is back in full training now.

Predicted XIs

Liverpool (4-3-3): Adrian; Trent Alexander-Arnold, Joel Matip, Virgil van Dijk, Andrew Robertson; Fabinho, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Georginio Wijnaldum; Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane.

Arsenal (3-5-2): Bernd Leno; Ainsley Maitland-Niles, Sokratis Papastathopoulos, David Luiz, Nacho Monreal, Sead Kolasinac; Matteo Guendouzi, Granit Xhaka, Dani Ceballos; Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette.

Tactical Prediction

Jurgen Klopp should go with his usual 4-3-3 formation on Saturday. Adrian will continue to deputise in goal, with Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Van Dijk and Robertson forming the back-four.

Having Fabinho as the shield in front of the back-four, the likes of Wijnaldum and Chamberlain should get the free license to join the attacks often and cause problems to the Arsenal defence.

Liverpool’s high press is very difficult to contain and the onus will be on Chamberlain to help drive the attack from the midfield.

The Reds are powered by their front three of Mane, Firmino and Salah. They are slowly starting to hit form but given their fantastic record at Anfield against Arsenal, Klopp will expect his fiery front three to deliver the goods.

Unai Emery, on the other hand, could revert to a back-three system on Saturday. It is a system in which many of the Arsenal central defenders feel comfortable.

David Luiz is the best ball-playing defender of the lot and he will be accompanied by Sokratis and Monreal at the back, with Maitland-Niles and Kolasinac as wing-backs.

The Gunners will look to use the width while hitting Liverpool on the counter as full-backs Alexander-Arnold and Robertson are defensively suspect and provide a lot of space behind them due to their natural attacking mindset.

Guendouzi has started the season encouragingly and should be partnered in the midfield by Xhaka, and Ceballos, who royally impressed with his performance against Burnley. It’ll be vital for Arsenal’s midfield to nullify the threat of Wijnaldum and Chamberlain while in transition.

As record-signing Pepe is still being eased in, Emery is expected to go with the two-pronged attack of Aubameyang and Lacazette. Liverpool have been shaky at the back so far in the new season, which could present Lacazette and Aubameyang with some chances to pounce on.

Predicted Result

It’ll be a wild contest in front of the ever-boisterous Anfield crowd. Expect Liverpool to dominate possession, press very hard, force mistakes and pounce on it.

Also, expect their backline to make a couple of errors and get punished by Arsenal’s attack. Nevertheless, the game should end in favour of the Reds.

Prediction: Liverpool 4-2 Arsenal

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Chelsea

5 Talking points from Premier League gameweek 2 including VAR drama and Norwich masterclass

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Five talking points from Premier League gameweek two

Week two of the new Premier League campaign is now over, with Wolves and Manchester United settling for a 1-1 draw.

A victory for the Red Devils would have seen them become only the third side to record two straight victories this season so far, with Liverpool and Arsenal currently boasting a 100% record after champions Manchester City dropped points at home to Tottenham on Saturday.

Elsewhere, Frank Lampard is yet to win his first game as a Chelsea manager as his side were held to an exciting 1-1 draw by Leicester City at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.

Here, we take a look at five talking points from the second week of the 2019/20 Premier League season.

1. Norwich 3-1 Newcastle United:  Teemu Pukki grabs the headlines

Teemu Pukki was a revelation in the Championship last season, guiding Norwich City to top-flight promotion. And he has taken the Premier League like a duck to water, scoring four goals in two games thus far.

The Finland international scored a fantastic hat-trick against Newcastle United at the weekend, which also involved a rasping pile-driver from inside the box that Martin Dubravka had no chance to keep out.

The 29-year-old has shown what he is capable of doing and Daniel Farke will expect his marksman to keep delivering the goods consistently.

2. Manchester City 2-2 Tottenham: VAR denies Man City a late winner

The battle between Manchester City and Tottenham produced some late drama once again, courtesy of the VAR.

For the second time in four months, City saw a decisive stoppage-time goal against Tottenham snatched away by VAR, leaving them with a 2-2 draw rather than a 3-2 victory.

VAR disallowed Gabriel Jesus’ goal two minutes into stoppage time after a hand-ball earlier in the move by Aymeric Laporte.

Given the stakes are high in the Premier League, these two dropped points for Pep Guardiola could be pivotal come May.

3. Southampton 1-2 Liverpool: Sadio Mane comes back to haunt the Saints

Liverpool seem to have a new talisman this season in Sadio Mane, who came back to haunt Southampton at the weekend.

After helping the Reds add the European Super Cup to the Champions League, Mane got the ball rolling for Jurgen Klopp’s men with a superb goal in first-half stoppage time before Roberto Firmino scored in the second half to hand the visitors a two-goal cushion.

A comedy of errors from Adrian in goal gifted Danny Ings his first goal of the season, but Liverpool saw the game out to earn two wins from their opening two matches.

4. Sheffield United 1-0 Crystal Palace: John Lundstram helps the Blades to three crucial points

Any team that takes Sheffield United lightly at Bramall Lane would simply be digging its own graveyard.

Chris Wilder’s men have been impressive in the first two games, earning their first victory of the top-flight campaign against a spineless Crystal Palace side via to a second-half strike from John Lundstram. The Blades also gave a glimpse of how difficult they are going to be at home.

5. Chelsea 1-1 Leicester City: Frank Lampard still waiting for his first win as Chelsea boss

It has been a tough start for Frank Lampard at Chelsea, although the 41-year-old will be encouraged with the displays in the last two games after the 4-0 thrashing against Manchester United.

Chelsea started strongly and were rewarded with an early goal through Mason Mount, however, they couldn’t double their advantage or bury the game in the first half when they had the chances to do so.

That gave Leicester a chance to bounce back in the second half and they did so, equalising through Wilfred Ndidi. The Foxes have only themselves to blame for not taking more than a point out of the Bridge.

Lampard has a lot to improve if his team is to make it to the top-four but for now, he remains without a win.

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Everton

Comparing Liverpool’s Robertson and Everton’s Lucas Digne – two of the best left-backs in the PL

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A detailed statistical comparison of Liverpool’s Andrew Robertson and Everton’s Lucas Digne

Liverpool might have fallen short in their pursuit of the Premier League title last season but the Reds had a number of standout performers throughout the division over the course of the campaign.

Indeed, the deadly front trio of Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane and Mo Salah ran the show more often than not and stole the limelight despite Man City having the last laugh in the title race.

In all honesty, the Reds falling short of the Premier League title had little to do with the quality of their squad and it was those moments of pure luck (consider Aguero’s shot that crossed the goal line by a millimetre in the 1-0 win against Burnley) and the emergence of the unlikeliest of heroes at crucial hours (like Kompany’s wonder goal in the penultimate game against Leicester City) that won Man City the title.

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Well, that is all past now, and turning our focus to the standout performers at Anfield, there were quite a few, to be honest. Forget about Salah and Mane scoring 22 goals apiece, the full-back pairing of Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson shared as many as 23 assists between them, figures which are really quite staggering.

It is true that 20-year-old right-back Alexander-Arnold surpassed all expectations with 12 assists but Robertson, in particular, was the better of the two as far as the overall contribution, both in terms of attack and defence, is concerned.

And it was hardly surprising to see the Scotsman’s impressive displays earn him plaudits from fans and pundits alike, so much so that he was widely acclaimed as the best left-back in the Premier League.

Interestingly, the pairing of Robertson and Alexander-Arnold proved to be one of the key driving forces behind Liverpool’s success on all fronts this past season, including the Champions League triumph, as the duo provided the main creative outlet for Jurgen Klopp’s side.

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That not only made Liverpool a more devastating attacking force but also allowed Klopp to cope with the absence of a natural No.10 in his ranks, with the manager using the likes of Xherdan Shaqiri and Adam Lallana sporadically.

Unsurprisingly, Robertson made a lot of noise with his well-rounded attacking and defensive displays, but was he the best left-back in the Premier League?

Well, you wouldn’t dare to argue against it when you consider the kind of impact he had this past season but as a matter of fact, the fans on the blue half of Merseyside might have a strong point to argue against the notion.

That is because Lucas Digne also took the Premier League by storm in his debut season, with the Frenchman putting up some impressive displays of his own to propel the Toffees to an eighth-place finish.

Whether Everton underachieved or failed to live up to the hype is an entirely different discussion but one can hardly take any credit away from the former Barcelona man.

Digne, who arrived at Goodison Park last summer as a part of a triple raid on Barcelona, accumulated 4 goals and 4 assists in 35 appearances, numbers which are impressive for any full-back in the world.

The 25-year-old played a similar role down the left-hand side in Marco Silva’s preferred 4-2-3-1 system, providing impetus upfront in the attacking third and dropping back to deal with the transitions, keeping the opposition at bay effectively.

Image result for lucas digne and andrew robertson

The French international impressed with his pace, ability to create space down the flanks, obvious quality on the ball, accurate tackling and impeccable crossing abilities but it was his knack for scoring goals and ability to produce moments of magic from free-kicks that made him a firm fan favourite at Goodison Park last season. 

Robertson got more of the media attention due to the fact that he was playing at Anfield but a statistical comparison reveals that Digne wasn’t far behind in terms of overall contribution. With that in mind, let us get into the statistical part of things without any further ado. 

It is very difficult to pick out the better of the two and this discussion is simply based on stats comparison.

Table showing the vital stats of Robertson and Digne from the 2018-19 Premier League season

NameTTSPCLIADADPPSKPBCDRBUST
Robertson2.2721.30.80.745.2883.21.4150.80.9
Digne280.62.71.72.666.67762130.40.9

Key:- T-Tackles per game, TSP- Overall Tackling Success Percentage, CL- Clearances per game, I- Interceptions per game, AD- Aerial duels won per game, ADP- Aerial Duel Percentage, PS- Pass Success Percentage, KP- Key Passes per game, BC- Overall Big Chances created, DRB- Dribbles per game, UST- Unsuccessful Touches per game

Stats Courtesy – whoscored.com (Andrew Robertson, Lucas Digne)

Starting with the defensive numbers, Robertson’s average of 2.2 tackles per game puts him slightly above Digne’s 2 tackles per game, although the Frenchman edges ahead of the Liverpool star in terms of the number of interceptions and clearances.

That doesn’t mean Robertson falls behind Digne in that aspect. The difference in those numbers is most probably a result of the kind of dominance that Liverpool had in the Premier League last season.

Now, the most interesting part of the comparison, which has very little to do with the difference in quality between Liverpool and Everton, is the tackling success percentage of the left-backs.

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Robertson successfully completed 80 out of his 111 attempted tackles, while Digne managed to pull off 71 out of his attempted 88 tackles, meaning that Digne’s success percentage of 80.68 betters the Scotsman’s success rate of just 72. 

In terms of the number of aerial duels won per game, Digne’s average of 2.6 puts him head and shoulders above Robertson’s average of 0.7.

Also, Digne won 90 out of a total of 135 aerial duels in the Premier League last season and his success percentage of 66.67 in that regard puts him way ahead of Robertson’s 45.28, with the Scotsman winning only 24 out of a total of 53 duels.

Both the players stand at 5ft 10in, which eliminates the height factor, and it probably doesn’t require a rocket scientist to figure out that Digne illustrated better proficiency while challenging for aerial balls.

Let us take a look at the passing statistics of both the players and as opposed to the previous two comparisons involving the success rates in terms of tackling and aerial duels, this has a lot to do with the difference in the quality of both the teams in question.

Image result for lucas digne and andrew robertson

Digne averaged 41.6 passes per game with an accuracy of 76%, whilst Robertson bettered those numbers with 66.6 passes per game and an accuracy rate of 83.2%. 

It is true that both the teams like to play the ball out from the back with short exchanges but we all know how Liverpool dominated possession in the Premier League last season, whilst Everton were always inconsistent in that regard.

Hence, Everton’s relative lack of dominance could have caused Digne to play fewer passes than his counterpart, although both players showcased an appreciable level of composure in possession.

Both Digne and Robertson proved their proficiency in providing width down the left-hand side of the pitch, whilst also supplying accurate crosses for the strikers to work with.

Digne’s average of 2 key passes and 2.4 crosses per game puts him way above Robertson, who only averaged 1.4 key passes and 0.8 crosses per game. Digne accumulated a total of 71 key passes, which easily surpasses Robertson’s tally of 51.

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Furthermore, Digne proved himself to be a better crosser of the ball, registering a success percentage of 30 as compared to Robertson’s 16. However, Robertson edges ahead in terms of the number of big chances created (15), as compared to Digne’s tally of 13, although such a minimal difference in parameters in understandable.

As evident from the table, both players never showed much proficiency in terms of dribbling, given that 0.8 and 0.4 dribbles per game aren’t particularly impressive these days even for full-backs. On the contrary, 0.9 unsuccessful touches per game is an impressive figure for any footballer.

That brings us to the end of the statistical comparison and it is pretty clear that there is not a lot to choose between the two players, with one edging the other in various aspects.

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