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This towering Swedish defender holds the key to Gerrard forging a strong backline at Rangers – Agreed?

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Rangers Opinion: Martin Olsson could help the Gers forge a formidable backline next term

According to The Scottish Sun, Rangers are interested in signing Swedish international left-back Martin Olsson in the summer transfer window, with reports claiming manager Steven Gerrard is looking to bring a tried and tested left-back to Ibrox ahead of the upcoming season.

The Scottish Sun also understands that Olsson, who is out of contract at Swansea City, spoke with the Ibrox chiefs, and a move north of the border looks likely to materialize for the 31-year-old veteran.

However, if Rangers are genuinely interested in signing the hugely-experienced Swedish international, the Gers would need to fend off interest from Championship outfit Nottingham Forest, with Martin O’Neill’s side also poised to offer the 31-year-old a deal. (h/t Scottish Sun)

Olsson made 17 appearances for Graham Potter’s Swansea in the Championship this past season, playing a bit-part role in the first-team due to the presence of Connor Roberts, Declan John, Kyle Naughton and Matt Grimes.

The Swede rose through the youth ranks at Blackburn Rovers and has established himself as a household name in English football over the years since making his Premier League debut back in 2007.

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The 31-year-old made 142 appearances for Blackburn over the course of a six-year stint at Ewood Park before switching boats to join Norwich City upon Rovers’ relegation to the Championship.

Olsson suffered relegation in his first season at Carrow Road but he helped the Canaries secure promotion back to the Premier League at the first time of asking. He left Norwich to join Swansea in 2017 after making 129 appearances for the Canaries in all competitions.

The 31-year-old, who has 5 goals in 47 international appearances for Sweden, boasts of a wealth of Premier League and Championship experience under his belt, having a total of 346 senior competitive appearances for the likes of Blackburn, Swansea and Norwich.

To put things into perspective, Martin Olsson certainly fits the bill at Ibrox and he could be the perfect man to answer Gerrard’s prayers for a tried and tested left-back at the highest level. Given that he is only 31, the Swedish veteran still has plenty to offer at the highest level and it should be a no-brainer for the Gers to offer him a deal.

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Rangers’ links with Olsson probably has a lot to do with the departure of long-standing left-back Lee Wallace to QPR this summer, which has left Gerrard short of cover in that particular area of the pitch. The Gers brought in Croatian international Borna Barisic last summer but he hasn’t done enough to earn a regular starting role at Ibrox, whilst former Liverpool right-back Jon Flanagan filled in as a makeshift left-back this past season.

Midfielder Andy Halliday has also been tried out at left-back but one cannot help but feel that Rangers need to bring in a specialist left-back with a lot of experience. 31-year-old Martin Olsson presents just the ideal option for Rangers and the acquisition of such a high-profile player on a free transfer would undoubtedly be a massive coup for the Gers.

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Rangers fell well short of Celtic in the race for the Scottish Premiership title this past season but they showed a lot of promise and the arrival of a few fresh faces in the summer should go a long way towards helping them post a better challenge next term. To sum it up, the arrival of a veteran like Martin Olsson could help rangers forge a formidable backline in the league next season.

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Arsenal

3 Winners and 3 Losers from PL gameweek 5 including Tottenham and Arsenal

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3 Winners and 3 Losers from Premier League gameweek 5

Premier League action returned with a bang after the end of the first international break of the season and Round 5 of the 2019-20 campaign produced some mesmerizing football for all sets of fans to savour and admire. 

Man City’s shock 3-2 defeat away at Norwich City was arguably the hottest talking point from this weekend, while a few of the other big-six clubs, including Man United, Liverpool, Spurs and Chelsea should also be happy with how things panned out for them in Round 5.

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Arsenal blew away a two-goal lead at Vicarage Road to share the spoils in a 2-2 draw against Watford, while top-six hopefuls Everton were beaten 3-1 away at Bournemouth. 

Watford and Wolves once again finished the week as the only two sides in the Premier League who are yet to register a single victory thus far. 

Without further ado, let us take a look at 3 winners and 3 losers from Round 5 of the Premier League:

Winners

1. Liverpool 

Jurgen Klopp’s side stretched their lead over defending champions Man City to five points at the top of the table, as a first-half brace from Sadio Mane followed by a third goal from Mo Salah in the second half guided the Reds to a comfortable 3-1 comeback victory over Newcastle United. 

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Jetro Willems put the Magpies in the driver’s seat early in the game with his pile driver from the edge of the box but heroics from Mane, and Roberto Firminio who came on as a substitute for Divock Origi midway through the first half ensured that Liverpool stretched their winning run in the Premier League to 14 games in a row, becoming only the fourth team to achieve such a feat. 

While it was more of a regulation victory for Liverpool, the fans at Anfield have every reason to hope that Man City’s stumble at Carrow Road proves to be one of the title-defining moments later on in the season.

Nevertheless, for the time being, Liverpool have a lot of breathing space with a five-point lead at the top of the standings.

2. Chelsea

It was a treat to watch how Chelsea’s young guns completely whitewashed an underwhelming Wolves side 2-5 away from home on Saturday, with Tammy Abraham’s hat-trick making him the youngest Blues player to achieve such a feat in the Premier League. 

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Frank Lampard’s side had come under criticism for blowing away a two-goal lead at home against Sheffield United prior to the international break but the Blues absolutely demolished Wolves in ruthless fashion to get back to winning ways and finished the week placed 6th in the standings.

While Abraham stole much of the limelight with his hat-trick, fellow academy graduate Fikayo Tomori also got the crowd off its feet with an absolute stunner from 35 yards out, as did Mason Mount, who bagged his third goal of the league season.

3. Tottenham Hotspur

Having lost 1-0 to Newcastle United and drawn 2-2 away at Arsenal prior to the international break, Spurs came into the game against Crystal Palace with only a solitary victory in their first four games. 

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However, the home fans will be relieved after the Lilywhites produced arguably their best display of the season thus far and cruised to a comfortable 4-0 victory over Roy Hodgson’s side, who dropped down to 12th place in the standings after that defeat. 

An own goal from Patrick van Aanholt, sandwiched by Heung-min Son’s brace and Erik Lamela’s strike made the score 4-0 before the interval and though Spurs moved up to 3rd place in the standings this week, they still have plenty of catch-up to do if they are to get back in the title race. 

Losers

1. Man City

It was always going to be interesting to see how Man City would cope with the opposition in the Premier League following Aymeric Laporte’s injury and the defensive blunders against Norwich City are sure to have Pep Guardiola scratching his head to find a solution for the upcoming fixtures. 

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Some poor marking allowed Kenny McLean to head home the opener for the Canaries early in the first-half before Teemu Pukki took advantage of some ineffective coordination at the back to set up Todd Cantwell for the second. 

Sergio Aguero pulled one back just at the stroke of the interval but a horrible error from Nicolas Otamendi allowed Pukki to make it 3-1 in favour of the hosts. It stayed that way until Rodrigo found a late goal. City struggled to hit great heights against a Norwich side that ran them ragged with their never-say-die mentality on the pitch. 

Undoubtedly, Man City’s defeat comes as the first big twist in the title race and Guardiola will be aware that his team cannot afford such slip-ups if they are to keep themselves within striking distance of Liverpool at the top of the table.

2. Arsenal

Arsenal didn’t have the worst of results in Round 5 but Unai Emery is likely to be disappointed to have come away with just a draw from the trip to Watford, with the Gunners blowing away a two-goal lead in the second half to somehow salvage a point. 

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Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s brace in the first half was cancelled out by goals from Tom Cleverly and Roberto Pereyra after the interval, the latter coming from the penalty spot after the Argentine was tripped by David Luiz inside the box.

A victory over Watford would have propelled the Gunners to 3rd place in the standings, ahead of Spurs, who currently hold that position, but some poor defending and lack of resilience at the back cost Arsenal heavily once again.

3. Everton

A victory over Bournemouth would have seen Everton finish the week in the top four but instead, the Toffees currently find themselves outside the top-ten, languishing at 11th place in the standings after suffering a 3-1 defeat to the Cherries away on the south coast.

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Callum Wilson’s opener was cancelled out by Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s header just at the stroke of the interval before Ryan Fraser made it 2-1 with a free-kick and Wilson put the game to bed with his second goal midway through the second half. 

The Toffees failed to capitalise on their chances and this defeat definitely comes as a big blow to their hopes of challenging for a top-six place. 

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Leicester City

3 Talking points from Man United 1-0 Leicester City ahead of PL gameweek 6

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3 Talking points from Man United 1-0 Leicester ahead of PL gameweek 6

Man United triumphed 1-0 over Leicester City at Old Trafford in the Premier League on Saturday, as the Red Devils ended the Foxes’ unbeaten run and registered their first victory in the league since the 4-0 hammering of Chelsea on the opening day of the campaign. 

The game, which was regarded as one of the main attractions of Round 5, turned out to be something of an anti-climax in the end, and the overall lack of creativity over the ninety minutes was quite ridiculous considering the quality of players in action. 

There was hardly anything to separate the two teams in what turned out to be a rather dull and boring game of pretty ordinary standards, with Marcus Rashford making all the difference with his goal from the penalty spot early in the first half. 

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Overall, it was a story of how both the teams failed to live up to the hype surrounding the game, with Man United lacking the composure to keep hold of the ball long for long enough to carve out anything meaningful and Leicester just not showing enough creativity to find a way through a stubborn United backline led by Harry Maguire.

Nevertheless, Ole Gunnar Solskajer should be happy with those three valuable points and more importantly, against a side that has been tipped to overtake them in the race for the top-six. Here are 3 talking points from the dull 1-0 encounter:

1. Maguire gets the better of Vardy

This was the first time that Harry Maguire was facing his old club in the Premier League since his move to Man United earlier in the summer and the Englishman was always going to be Solskajer’s best bet in trying to keep an in-form Jamie Vardy at bay. 

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And the towering central defender, who seemed to be fully aware of Vardy’s tricks and strengths in the final third, didn’t allow his former teammate to even get a sniff of the goal on Saturday.

Maguire’s flawless reading of the game and his knowledge of Vardy’s strengths were instrumental in United’s efforts to drag the ultimate opportunist out of the game and though it wasn’t a very creative display from the Red Devils, they certainly deserve plenty of credit for a clean-sheet against one of the most potent attacking units in the division.

2. Soyuncu’s bubble finally bursts 

Caglar Soyuncu, who has taken over the reins from Maguire at the heart of Leicester’s defence, was showered with praises for his performances in the first four league games heading into the international break but the youngster turned into a villain at Old Trafford this weekend.

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Soyuncu’s needless clip on Marcus Rashford’s heels inside the box early in the first half allowed United to open the scoring from the penalty spot and that, ultimately, would go on to be the decisive moment of the game.

Indeed, he has done a fair job at the back but his sudden rush of blood on Saturday, which eventually cost the Foxes the game, would have reminded Rodgers that the Turk is still quite young and relatively inexperienced at the Premier League level. 

3. Scott McTominay the standout performer for Man United

On a day where both the teams lacked creativity and finesse in the middle of the park, Scott McTominay put in arguably his best performance of the season so far and repaid Solskjaer’s faith in his abilities. 

Playing alongside Nemanja Matic as a part of a double pivot in the midfield, the Scottish international completely bossed the midfield with his tireless running up and down the pitch, while his physical presence put off the likes of Hamza Choudhury and Youri Tielemans. 

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McTominay broke down the play really well with his tackles and interceptions, carried the ball forward with intent and was always at the right place and at the right time to safeguard United from Leicester’s forays. 

The 22-year-old won 9 out of 16 duels on the ground, 3 out of 3 duels in the air, completed 2 out of his 2 attempted tackles and chipped in with 2 interceptions and 3 clearances.  

Apart from that, he was instrumental in circulating possession in the midfield and switching the play, with the youngster registering 60 touches on the ball and completing 31 passes (accuracy rate of 79.5), including 6 successful long balls. 

McTominay has shown signs of maturing into a powerful defensive midfielder this term and Man United have every reason to be pleased with his rapid development. 

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Arsenal

3 Talking points from Watford 2-2 Arsenal ahead of PL gameweek 6

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3 Talking points from Watford 2-2 Arsenal ahead of gameweek 6

Arsenal and Watford played out arguably one of the most enthralling encounters in the Premier League so far this season, as the Hornets came back from two goals down to salvage a point at Vicarage Road in their first game following the return of Quique Sanchez Flores as the new manager. 

Arsenal had more of the possession in the first half and went into the interval with a two-goal advantage, thanks to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s brace.

Sead Kolasinac set up Aubameyang for the opener with a driving run while Mesut Ozil’s wonderful pick-out paved the way for Ainsley-Maitland Niles to assist the Gabonese for his second.

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However, Watford came out with more determination in the second half and took the game by the scruff of the neck. The Hornets completely dominated the proceedings, had more efforts on target and were by and large the better side by a long margin.

Gerard Deulofeu’s clever interception inside Arsenal’s penalty area allowed Tom Cleverly to pull one back in the 53rd minute before a mistimed challenge from David Luiz on Roberto Pereyra inside the box led to Pereyra’s equaliser from the penalty spot nine minutes from time. 

Watford had plenty of chances to wrap up a famous victory at home over the Gunners but Bernd Leno made some smart interventions to save the blushes for the Gunners, who have only themselves to blame for blowing away a golden chance to finish the week in the top 4.

Here are 3 talking points from Vicarage Road:

1. Playing out from the back

The new ruling in the Premier League, which allows players to be inside the box during goal-kick situations, certainly favours teams opting to play out from the back with short exchanges. And Arsenal, who pride themselves in using such tactics to good effect, were the architects of their own downfall on Sunday. 

Watford were very much alive to the Gunners’ tactics and when they tried to play the ball out from the back with short lateral passes. The Hornets adopted a high pressing style to disrupt their rhythm. 

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In the build-up to Watford’s first goal, Leno passed the ball to Sokratis, who apparently thought that passing it to a crowded Matteo Guendouzi was a good idea.

Deulofeu, who was just waiting for a sniff to win the ball back, put out his leg to intercept the ball inside the box and Cleverly made it 2-1 with a cool finish. 

That, however, wasn’t the only time when Arsenal were sloppy when playing out from the back. Guendouzi was robbed off the ball inside his own penalty area in the first half and had it not been for Leno’s fine reflex save, the Gunners would have got some serious stick from their own fans. 

Quite clearly, Arsenal were too slow while playing out from the back and Emery, who knows a lot about the implementation of such tactics, will be aware of the fact that he needs to put in a lot more work on the training ground to avoid such embarrassment in the future. 

2. Watford’s resurgence under Sanchez Flores

The 2-2 draw was probably a fair reflection of the balance of the game but Quique Sanchez Flores would know that his team was ever so close to registering its first victory of the Premier League this term. 

Having failed to win any of their league games since April last season, the Hornets looked short of confidence under Javi Gracia but the appointment of Sanchez Flores has come as a breath of fresh air amongst the players, who put in a lion-hearted performance and showed the audacity to take the game to Arsenal. 

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The writing seemed to be on the wall for the hosts when they went into the interval with a two-goal deficit but the way they fought back to salvage a draw speaks volumes of their character and resilience, highlighting the change in mentality that the new manager has already brought to his unit. 

Looking at the stats, Watford had as many as 31 attempts over the course of the ninety minutes on Saturday, 10 of which were on target, while Arsenal managed to get only 4 out of their 7 attempts on target.  

Furthermore, the Hornets finished the game with 53% possession, which is largely a result of their unrivalled dominance in the second half, while the work rate of the players and the ability to carve out chances on a regular basis were a few other hallmarks of their performance. 

Despite the impressive 2-2 draw, Watford stayed at the bottom of the Premier League table with just 2 points from their first 5 games but they certainly won’t be there for long if they continue their resurgence under Sanchez Flores.

3. Luiz a liability once again

Arsenal’s persistent woes at the back over the past 12 months have been one of the biggest talking points of Unai Emery’s reign at the Emirates and the club’s hasty decision to bring in an impetuous centre-back like David Luiz in the summer has already shown early signs of backfiring, with the Brazilian veteran conceding yet another penalty on Saturday. 

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Luiz was quite horrible with his decision-making and mentality at the back in the games against Liverpool and Spurs, and his clip on Pereyra just inside the box paved the way for the Hornets to equalise in the second half.

Looking back at how things shaped up over the ninety minutes, the very fact that Watford managed to register 31 attempts is a clear indication of the fact that the Gunners just didn’t do enough at the back to close down the attackers soon enough. 

In fact, they were lucky not to have conceded three or four goals, thanks to some goalkeeping heroics from Leno and some poor finishing from the home side.

If Luiz continues to let the team down on such a regular basis, Emery might have his work cut out in guiding the team to a top-four finish this season. 

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