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Forget Maguire and Koulibaly – Man Utd would be better off signing this £60m-rated ace instead and here’s why

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Man United Opinion: Red Devils should drop their interest in Maguire and Koulibaly and sign Diop instead

According to Metro, Man United are interested in signing West Ham centre-back Issa Diop this summer, with reports claiming that the Red Devils are prepared to test the Hammers resolve with a big-money bid.

Diop, however, is not the only centre-back on manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s radar, with United also linked with moves for Napoli’s Senegalese international stalwart Kalidou Koulibaly, as well as Leicester City star Harry Maguire. (h/t Metro)

United are prepared to offer £45 million to West Ham in order to bring the 22-year-old French youth international to Old Trafford but the Hammers are holding out for a fee of at least £60 million to part ways with their prized asset.

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The East Londoners spent £22 million to bring Diop to the Premier League from French club Toulouse as a part of their spending spree last summer and it is understood that they now want more than twice that amount to let him depart following the youngster’s impressive debut season under Manuel Pellegrini.

Diop established himself as an ever-present at the back for West Ham in his very first season at the club and went on to make a total of 38 appearances for the Hammers in all competitions, scoring twice. The 22-year-old’s stocks have risen significantly since his arrival in England and the Old Trafford chiefs might as well need to loosen their purse strings if they are really serious about striking a deal for the Frenchman this summer.

Well, it is a no-brainer that United need to bring in a new centre-back this summer in order to sort out their defensive problems. The Red Devils conceded as many as 54 goals in the Premier League this past season, which was the second-worst defensive record amongst the top ten clubs and almost twice the number (28) that they shipped over the course of the 2017-18 season.

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United’s backline has deteriorated significantly in a very short span of time and the likes of Phil Jones, Eric Bailly, Ashley Young, Victor Lindelof and Chris Smalling were all slammed numerous times by the fans and pundits for their inconsistent and lacklustre performances. Quite clearly, the Red Devils need to bring in upgrades on several of their options at the back if they are really serious about challenging for the Premier League title in the years to come, if not, next season.

Solskajer is likely to be backed heavily in the transfer market this time around but the Norwegian needs to be sensible with his approach while investing in players. As a matter of fact, United cannot afford to blow away the majority of their budget on one player, given that centre-back is not the only area that is in dire need of investment.

The Red Devils also need to bring in a replacement for departing club-captain Antonio Valencia or an upgrade on Ashley Young at right-back, whilst central midfield reinforcements following the departures of Ander Herrera and Marouane Fellaini are also likely to be high on the manager’s wishlist. Furthermore, United need to offload Alexis Sanchez and bring in quality centre-forward to replace Romelu Lukaku, given that the Belgian isn’t the best for Solskajer’s style of play.

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Suffice to say, United have a hell of a lot of problems to sort out and spending £80 million on Harry Maguire or £100 million on Koulibaly would hardly make a lot of sense.

It is true that the Red Devils cannot bolster all areas of their squad in a single transfer window, and while a centre-back remains a top priority, Solskajer needs to look at cheaper and more affordable alternatives to the likes of Maguire and Koulibaly to ensure that United give themselves a chance of solving as many problems as they can this summer itself.

Issa Diop is likely to be available for a fraction of that price, and although West Ham have slapped a £60 million price tag on the 22-year-old following his impressive debut season, the Red Devils should fancy their chances of bringing him to the club for a fee much lower than that.

Standing at 6ft. 4 inches with a towering well-built frame, Diop is a tremendous athlete and very fast and agile for a centre-back of his stature. A physically dominating defender noted for his speed, athleticism and supreme aerial ability, the Frenchman also impressed with his calmness, composure and decision-making at the back in the Premier League last season.  

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Blessed with the ball-playing qualities of a modern-day defender, Diop registered a pass success rate of 86 this past season. To add to that, the 22-year-old averaged 2.3 aerial duels, 2.1 tackles, 1.9 interceptions and 4.7 clearances per game in the Premier League, figures which speak volumes of his well-rounded attributes as a central defender. In fact, the youngster gave Man United a bitter taste of his robust defending when he played a key role in West Ham’s 3-1 victory over the Red Devils back in September last season.

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Issa Diop has the potential to evolve into a world-class defender in the years to come and United have every reason to look at him as a good long-term, as well as, a short-term investment. The Frenchman is certainly good enough to play for their first-team and he is just 22, which is another reason why United should prefer Diop to the likes of more established and experienced central defenders, Maguire (26) and Koulibaly (27).

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Leicester City

A tribute to Jamie Vardy – celebrating his incredible rise from being a non-league rookie to a PL icon

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A tribute to Jamie Vardy- celebrating his incredible rise from a non-league rookie to an England star and a Premier League icon

From the obscurity of non-league football to Premier League stardom, Jamie Vardy’s meteoric rise up the footballing pyramid in England has been an incredibly inspiring journey, to say the least.

There is hardly anyone who would have heard about him seven years ago when he was plying his trade with Fleetwood Town in the Conference Premier but he is now a cult hero at Leicester City and a former England international.

There has hardly been any footballer in England in the 21st century who has completed such an exponential rise from a being a non-league rookie to one of the most lethal strikers in the Premier League.

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Joe Lolley, who currently plies his trade in the Championship with Nottingham Forest, could, by some ways, be the nearest example, although he hasn’t matched Vardy’s exploits by any means.

Vardy’s incredible scoring form in Leicester City’s awe-inspiring Premier League triumph made him a cult hero at the club but that is only a part of his newly-found stardom.

Vardy’s consistently impressive performances in the Premier League has transformed him into an icon; a hugely influential figure in English football, and a former England international.

Yes, it might be hard to believe but the once non-league rookie donned the Three Lions jersey at two major tournaments in recent times – 2016 Euro Cup and 2018 FIFA World Cup.

He announced his retirement from international football after scoring 7 goals in 26 appearances for England, with a bulk of those goals coming against top European nations like Spain, Italy, Germany and the Netherlands.

Vardy is now 32 but he is still looking good for plenty more in the Premier League for the years to come. However, it is certainly worth revisiting the incredible rise of the Sheffield-born ace, which should go down as one of the most inspirational stories in the history of football.

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Early Years

Vardy started his career in the youth ranks at Sheffield Wednesday but he was released at the age of 16 and joined Stocksbridge Park Steels F.C in 2003.

He made his way through the reserve team and into the first-team before making his debut in 2007 in non-league football. Vardy impressed with his stellar displays at Stocksbridge and attracted interest from elsewhere, whilst a trial at Crewe Alexandra ended in failure.

Vardy, however, continued to excel in non-league football and joined F.C Halifax Town in the Northern Premier League in 2010, scoring 25 goals in 37 appearances in his debut season to propel his new club to a triumphant league campaign.

Vardy’s scoring heroics earned him the Players’ Player of the Year award and after just over a year with Halifax, Vardy signed for Conference Premier outfit Fleetwood Town.

The striker’s first season in the Conference Premier proved to be a fruitful one, as Vardy netted 31 goals in 26 appearances to propel Fleetwood Town to their first-ever promotion to the Football League.

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Entry into the Championship

Vardy’s incredible strike rate at Fleetwood Town, which saw him finish as the top scorer in the Conference Premier, prompted Championship promotion-hopefuls Leicester City to make a move for him. He was offered a first-team role under then manager Nigel Pearson.

As a matter of fact, Vardy never played in League Two and League One and made a direct jump from non-league football to the Championship, which, indeed, is an incredibly bold step for any player.

His first season at Leicester City was not smooth sailing, as Vardy found the net on just 4 occasions in 26 appearances in the second-tier. Leicester’s gamble on Vardy failed to pay the dividends at the first time of asking.

However, Pearson and his assistant Craig Shakespeare convinced him to stay and that would ultimately prove to be another talking point of his rise in football.

Vardy put the disappointment of the 2012-13 season behind him and spearheaded the attack brilliantly in the following season, scoring 16 goals to propel the Foxes to the Premier League as the outright winners of the Championship. 

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Premier League debut and still going strong

Vardy proved his credentials to thrive in the Championship but many would have expected Leicester to sideline him or loan him out to another second-tier outfit upon securing promotion to the Premier League. However, Pearson showed immense faith in Vardy and opted to field him up front as a regular starter in the top-flight.

And Vardy repaid his manager’s faith in him with a man-of-the-match display against Man United, helping the Foxes come back from 3-1 down to an eventual 5-3 victory.

The 32-year-old never looked back and produced a number of eye-catching performances in the top-flight, enough to prove that he definitely has the quality to thrive in the Premier League.

Vardy finished the campaign with 5 goals and 8 assists, as the Foxes finished 14th and managed to beat the drop comfortably in the end.

Vardy’s stocks were very much on the rise at the end of the 2013-14 season but even he wouldn’t have anticipated such a dramatic change of fortunes, for him as well as for Leicester in a span of just a single season. In other words, what followed after that simply defied belief.

Pearson’s successor Claudio Ranieri upset the ridiculous 5000-1 odds and guided the Foxes to an unlikely Premier League title triumph in the 2015-16 season, with Vardy scoring 24 goals in the campaign.

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Leicester’s abrupt emergence and Vardy’s incredible upturn of form saw him bag the 2016 Barclays Premier League Player of the Season.   

Arsene Wenger was ready to bring him to the Emirates but he rebuffed Arsenal’s approach and signed a new long-term deal with Leicester City, instead.

Vardy continued his scoring form in the Premier League in the following season and also found the net twice in the UEFA Champions League, as the Foxes made it all the way to the quarterfinals. 

Vardy hasn’t been able to replicate his feat of scoring 24 goals in the Premier League until now but goals have continued to flow for him at an impressive strike rate, nonetheless.

The 32-year-old has racked up a staggering 80 goals and 29 assists in 176 Premier League appearances, numbers which are quite eye-watering for any footballer playing in such a highly competitive league.

Conclusion

It is difficult to find the proper set of adjectives to describe Vardy’s sensational rise in English football from being a non-league star to a Premier League icon.

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It certainly doesn’t require a rocket scientist to figure out that he has by far been one of the most consistent strikers in the Premier League over the past few years and it would be harsh to take any credit away from him.

Vardy’s hardworking nature, lightning pace, instant acceleration, his ability to play off the shoulder of the last defender and time his run to perfection, and clinical finishing, have troubled even the best of defences in the top-flight.

Still only 32, he definitely has a lot to offer as far as Leicester are concerned, and even if he hangs up his boots right now, the story of his rise is likely to inspire footballers for generations to come.

Vardy’s meteoric rise in English football is like a ray of light at the end of a dark tunnel for all non-league footballers who dream of playing in the Premier League some day.

The Leicester man rose to prominence by his sheer dint of merit and hard work, which should be a lesson for all non-league footballers that opportunities are there if you keep working hard.

Working hard and working smart are completely different things but Vardy has shown the ability to combine both in order to produce the desired results.

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Celtic

Comparing the transfer approach of Neil Lennon and Brendan Rodgers at Celtic

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Comparing the transfer approach of Neil Lennon and Brendan Rodgers at Celtic

It has all been one-way traffic in the Scottish Premiership over the past eight seasons or so, with Celtic establishing themselves as the undisputed powerhouses in Scotland ever since the financial crisis at Ibrox hit Rangers hard on the face.

With Rangers failing to reinstate their challenge for trophies following their return to the top-flight in 2016, Celtic’s unparalleled dominance has reigned supreme in recent years.

Neil Lennon, who returned to the club for his first managerial stint in 2010, and then Brendan Rodgers, who took charge in 2016, guided the Hoops to eight straight domestic titles, albeit Ronny Delia was also at the helm of affairs for a while prior to Rodgers’ arrival.

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Celtic won three back-to-back Scottish domestic titles under Lennon but it was under Rodgers that they completed the historic ‘treble treble’, starting from the 2016-17 to 2018-19 season, thus marking one of the most glorious periods ever in the club’s history.

Rodgers certainly achieved a lot more on the pitch when compared to his predecessors before leaving for Leicester City in February 2019, only to be replaced by club-legend and former manager Neil Lennon.

Well, it is a no-brainer that Rodgers gave the fans at Parkhead a lot to cheer about and while the Hoops never really made much of an impact in the European competitions, they hardly left any silverware on the domestic front unconquered, ranging from the league title to the Scottish Cup and the Scottish League Cup.

The critics might argue that there wasn’t enough competition to halt Celtic’s juggernaut under Rodgers but that kind of dominance was truly phenomenal, nevertheless.

However, with all due respect to whatever Rodgers achieved on the pitch, it would be fair to say that his approach in the transfer window was a lot different from Lennon’s and didn’t really work in accordance with the club’s structure and organisation.

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A look back at Neil Lennon’s recruitment policy from his first managerial stint at Celtic

To justify this statement, let us look at the kind of change that Neil Lennon brought about at Parkhead when he took over as the permanent manager prior to the start of the 2010-11 season.

Seemingly unhappy with the commitment levels of the existing set of players at the club, Lennon opted for a massive squad overhaul and plucked out some relatively unknown and unproven players from the far corners of the world.

The summer of 2010 saw the arrival of players like Beram Kayal, Emilio Izaguirre and Gary Hooper for thrifty amounts, while experienced and proven veterans like Cha Du-Ri, Daniel Majstorovic, Charlie Mulgrew, as well as Joe Ledley, all came through the door on free transfers.

Fraser Forster was also brought in on loan from Newcastle and later signed permanently, with the towering English shot-stopper going on to set a record for clean-sheets in Scottish football. 

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All the aforementioned players went on to earn plenty of plaudits for their impressive displays and most of them established themselves as mainstays of the club’s first-team for years to come.

Adam Matthews and Mikael Lustig were signed on free transfers in the summer of 2011 and we all witnessed the kind of impact that they had in the subsequent campaigns.

Not to mention Victor Wanyama, who arrived as a complete rookie from Belgian outfit Beerschot in the same transfer window. Celtic pulled off another massive bargain in the January window with the signing of playmaker Kristian Commons from Derby County.

Equally, Lennon’s expertise in the transfer market saw Celtic bring in the likes of Tom Rogic and Efe Ambrose in the summer of 2012. Both players went on to establish themselves as the key driving forces behind Celtic’s dominance.

Just to remind the fans, Virgil van Dijk arrived at Celtic from Dutch club Groningen in the summer of 2013 when Lennon was in charge and we all know what followed.

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Celtic were pretty much in the driver’s seat on the domestic front by then and the January transfer window witnessed Lennon pull off another masterstroke with the signing of Leigh Griffiths from Wolves.

Well, he might not be at the top of his game any longer but his monumentous feat of scoring 31 goals in the 2015-16 league campaign is still likely to be fresh in the memories of the fans.

How Rodgers went about things in the market

Now, let us shift our focus to how Brendan Rodgers went about things in the transfer window.

It is obvious that each manager has his own way of building a squad when he takes charge of a new club and the motive of this discussion is not to criticise Rodgers’ transfer dealings during his glorious spell at Parkhead but to simply focus on the completely different approach that he adopted in the market.

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As opposed to Lennon, who had to put in a lot of work in order to assemble a new-looking Celtic unit back in 2010-11, Rodgers inherited a good set of proven and established players at the club.

That, however, didn’t stop him from making a few signings in his first summer, as the former Liverpool boss brought in the likes of Kristoffer Ajer, Moussa Dembele and Scott Sinclair.

Both Dembele and Ajer proved to be massive bargains for Celtic, with the latter still very much a key figure at the back, whilst Sinclair is still racking up the goals and assists in the top-flight.

Rodgers’ first flop signing turned out to be Ivorian midfielder Eboue Kouassi, who arrived from Russian club Krasnodar in January 2017 for a fee of £2.8million. Kouassi’s stint at Celtic has proven to be an ill-fated one, with recurrent injuries and inconsistencies stalling the Ivorian’s progress at Parkhead. 

Looking at Celtic’s dealings in the summer of 2017, Olivier Ntcham arrived from Man City for £4.5million as a marquee signing, while his teammate Patrick Roberts also joined on loan.

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Both of them would go on to have contrasting futures at Parkhead, with Roberts taking Scottish football by storm and proving himself to be an influential figure in the club’s attacking ranks, whereas Ntcham faded away after a promising start.

One cannot help but feel that Celtic haven’t really got the most out of the money that they had spent to bring Ntcham to the club despite the Frencham teasing the fans with his glimpses of brilliance.

Odsonne Edouard, who had initially arrived on loan from PSG, went on to become a fan favourite due to his goalscoring exploits in the 2017-18 campaign but Rodgers took everyone by surprise when he convinced the board to splash out a club-record £9million to sign the French striker permanently in the summer of 2018.

Also, the acquisition of Marvin Compper in January hardly made any sense given that the German didn’t play any significant role in the remaining games, whilst £1.5million was probably too much to spend on Jack Hendry, who came in as a future prospect at Parkhead.

The marked difference between the two

Well, these figures might seem like a drop in the ocean to the fans in the Premier League but in all honesty, money doesn’t flow the same way north of the border and those kinds of transfer fees are still considered as massive in the Scottish top-flight.

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Undoubtedly, both Rodgers and Lennon have been successful managers at Celtic, but the main question is – has the latter shown a greater level of acumen, wisdom and shrewdness in his transfer dealings?

To put things into perspective, it is a no-brainer that Lennon brought success to Celtic by spending a significantly less amount of cash as compared to Rodgers.

Lennon, who had carved out a big reputation for bringing in quality players on free transfers and for thrifty amounts during his first managerial stint at Parkhead, apparently has a good knowledge of the lower leagues and we have seen over the years that very few of his transfers have failed to pay the dividends.

It is clear that Rodgers spent quite a lot even on project players, the latest of them being the likes of Maryan Shved and Vakoun Issouf Bayo in January 2019, while Lennon always seems to know somebody who would come in for the same amount of money and play a big part in the first-team right away without spending too much time on the bench. And that kind of an approach certainly suits Celtic a lot more.

What Edouard has achieved at Celtic is similar to the heroics of Alfredo Morelos at Rangers, leaving many to wonder whether the Hoops could have brought in a player of the same quality for a much lower fee.

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Has Edouard matched the exploits of Gary Hooper and Leigh Griffiths? Likewise, has Ntcham bettered the returns of someone like Kris Commons in a Celtic shirt?

Well, that hasn’t been the case so far. While the French pair does have the quality to go on and hit great heights in the future, one should not forget that the two other players mentioned above arrived at Celtic for ridiculously low transfer fees when Lennon was in charge.

Yes, it is true that Lennon has also opted to spend big on Christopher Jullien and Boli Bolingoli-Mbombo this summer but that can be seen as a desperate measure given that the Hoops were struggling to find replacements for the likes of Benkovic, Boyata, Lustig, Gamboa and Izaguirre.

Maybe Neil Lennon knows that it is impossible to cope with so many departures without splashing the cash.

All in all, Lennon has proven himself to be a shrewd operator in the transfer market when compared to Rodgers, and that makes him a better fit for Celtic’s structure and organisation.

He lives and breathes the culture at Parkhead and there can’t really be anyone better than him to take the club forward.

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Cardiff City

5 of the biggest upsets in the 2018/19 season of the Premier League

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2018-19 Premier League rewind: A look back at the 5 of the biggest upsets

There was hardly any shortage of drama, excitement and hype in the 2018-19 season of the Premier League, with some mesmerizing individual performances, sheer moments of magic, edge-of-the-seat thrillers and a see-saw title race producing yet another enthralling season of football.

As a matter of fact, it was goals galore all throughout the campaign, as the grand total of 1072 goals made the 2018-19 season the most prolific ever in the history of the Premier League.

In the end, Man City successfully managed to defend their Premier League title, as Pep Guardiola’s side broke Liverpool’s hearts and ensured that the Reds’ pursuit of a first domestic title since 1990 ultimately ended in failure.

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The final day of the campaign ended in ecstasy for the fans at Etihad, while those at Anfield would have felt the pain of falling short by a solitary point despite a valiant effort from their team.

We all know that the Premier League is famous for producing plenty of thrills and spills, which is probably the reason why it is widely acclaimed as the most competitive league in the world.

When we speak about competition, it is expected that the league would also have a touch of unpredictability to it.

The 2018/19 season, indeed, produced some massive upsets, where the lesser teams defied the odds and took everybody by surprise to shock the heavyweights operating in the upper reaches of the competition.

Surprisingly, winners Man City were also at the receiving end of three such upsets; one each at the hands of Leicester City, Crystal Palace and Newcastle United.

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It is true that we have a definitive top-six in the Premier League these days but we witnessed last season that the mid-table teams and even the relegation-threatened sides are more than capable of pulling off surprises on their day. With that in mind, let us revisit those instances when teams defied belief to register the unlikeliest of victories.

1. Leicester City vs Man City- Boxing Day

Leicester City were enduring a rather inconsistent campaign under Claude Puel but the Foxes came into the game high on confidence following a 1-0 victory over Chelsea in their previous outing.

Man City, on the other hand, arrived at the King Power Stadium on the back of a shock 3-2 defeat at the hands of Crystal Palace at home, although Pep Guardiola’s side were the outright favourites to claim all three points against Leicester.

Unsurprisingly, Leicester defended in numbers and got bodies behind the ball as Man City stamped their authority in the opening quarter of the game.

It didn’t take long for them to open the scoring though, as Sergio Aguero played Bernardo Silva behind the Foxes’ backline to set up the Portuguese for an easy finish.

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However, Leicester responded within just four minutes, as Jamie Vardy’s cross found the run of Marcus Albrighton, who outsmarted Fabian Delph with his clever movement and beat Ederson to score the equaliser. Well, you cannot keep Jamie Vardy out of the action, can you? 

Aguero lost his footing numerous times in the final third quite uncharacteristically and Man City failed to score the winner despite enjoying a lot of possession. James Maddison and Hamza Choudhury called Ederson into action a few times but the scores stayed level until the very end.

Some late drama saw Ricardo Pereira fire home a pile driver from just inside the edge of the box to hand Leicester a 2-1 advantage before Man City’s Fabian Delph received the marching orders from the referee.

The game was an eye-opener to all the fans who would have thought that Man City’s loss against Palace was a mere bad day at the office.

2. Man City vs Crystal Palace – 22nd December

Man City had only lost a single game in the Premier League season, which was against Chelsea, when they played host to Crystal Palace at the Etihad on 22nd December and with Roy Hodgson’s side struggling in the lower reaches of the table, the Citizens were the clear favourites.

Pep Guardiola’s side kept Palace under the cosh in the opening stages of the game and Fabian Delph’s cross was headed in by Ilkay Gundogan, who gave City the lead in the 27th minute.

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Palace, however, found an instant reply as Wilfried Zaha’s dazzling run followed by McArthur’s clever pass allowed Jeffrey Schlupp to equalise with a clinical finish.

The match turned out to be closer than expected and a moment of sheer brilliance from Andros Townsend turned the game in Palace’s favour. The former Spurs man put his magical left foot through the ball from a long way outside the box but his thunderous effort evaded the fingertips of Ederson, thus putting Palace 2-1 up before half-time.

Townsend hit the post early in the second half and Max Meyer, in an attempt to score from the rebound, was brought down inside the box by a reckless challenge from Kyle Walker, prompting referee Andre Marriner to point to the penalty spot. Luka Milivojevic buried the penalty kick to give Palace an unlikely 3-1 lead.

De Bruyne made it 3-2 with a cross that luckily sailed over the head of Guaita and Leroy Sane hit the post later on but the Eagles did enough to hold on to their lead for a famous win.

3. Wolves vs Chelsea – 6th December

Premier League newcomers Wolves impressed one and all with their character and resilience but as a matter of fact, Nuno Espirito Santo’s side were going through a patchy period when they played host to Chelsea on 6th December.

Wolves came into the game on the back of miserable defeats at the hands of Cardiff City and Huddersfield Town, and the Black Country outfit were under pressure to justify that their flying start to the campaign wasn’t a mere flash in the pan.

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Things didn’t go according to plan for Wolves though, as Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s powerful effort from 25 yards was headed into his own net by home captain Conor Coady just 18 minutes into the game.

Both teams failed to produce anything spectacular in the first half but Chelsea went into the interval with a 1-0 lead.

However, Wolves staged a remarkable comeback following the restart, as two quick goals from Diogo Jota and Raul Jimenez in the space of just four minutes proved to be the turning point in the clash.

Wolves ultimately won the game 2-1 and Nuno Santo’s lion-hearted warriors went on to register impressive victories over the likes of Man United, Spurs and Liverpool thereafter. 

4. Newcastle United vs Man City – 31st January

Pep Guardiola sat in the dugout for his 100th Premier League game, as Newcastle United played host to defending champions Man City towards the end of January.

With Man City and Liverpool going hammer and tongs at each other in a bid to get the upper hand in the title race, this was always going to be a must-win game for the Citizens and they were the definitely the strong favourites against Rafael Benitez’s unit.

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And it looked like the travelling fans were in for an absolute feast when Sergio Aguero put the visitors 1-0 ahead just 24 seconds into the game. City dictated the play in the first half and they could have had the second goal just at the stroke of the interval, only for David Silva’s attempt to be blocked by Florian Lejeune.

Man City upped the ante after the restart and Martin Dubravka was called into action numerous times early in the second half, as Sterling, Sane and David Silva all had attempts on goal.

However, in a twist of fate, Newcastle made City pay for their missed chances and equalised in the 66th minute. Salomon Rondon got in front of John Stones and volleyed it straight into the net after a bit of a scramble in the final third.

City went all out in pursuit of the winner but it was Newcastle who had the last laugh and pulled off a massive upset.

Fernandinho’s challenge on Sean Longstaff was deemed worthy of a penalty and Matt Ritchie stepped up to send Ederson the wrong way, thus making it 2-1 with just 10 minutes left to play. The 2-1 victory meant that Newcastle registered their first victory over Man City in the Premier League since 2005.

5. Man United vs Cardiff City – 12th May

Man United thrashed Cardiff City 5-1 in December in what was Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s first game in charge as the caretaker manager of the Red Devils. However, the tides turned dramatically when an already-relegated Cardiff City travelled to Old Trafford to take on United in the final game of the campaign.

Marcus Rashford missed a couple of promising chances and Neil Warnock’s side drew first blood. Diogo Dalot’s rather tame looking challenge on Nathaniel Mendez-Laing was deemed worthy of a penalty by referee Jonathan Moss for some unknown reason and Mendez-Laing stepped up to make it 1-0 from the spot.

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United continued to miss chances and Mason Greenwood saw his shot get tipped on to the post by Neil Etheridge.

Things turned from bad to worse in the second half for United when Josh Murphy picked out Mendez-Laing’s run at the far post with an accurate cross following a dazzling run, and Cardiff took a 2-0 lead.

It didn’t turn out to be a happy outing for Solskjer against his old club, although the Bluebirds ended their campaign on a high. Cardiff City registered their first victory over Man United since 1960 and first at Old Trafford since 1954.

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