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Top 6 Asian Players to have graced the Premier League since the turn of the century

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Top 6 Asian Players to have played in the Premier League since the turn of the century

When we talk about some of the great players to have played in the Premier League since the turn of the century, the names of Ryan Giggs, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Thierry Henry, Didier Drogba, John Terry, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Wayne Rooney and so on come to our minds.

Indeed, the fans in the Premier League have been blessed to witness some world-class players produce some mesmerizing football to take their breath away.

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With all due respect to those great players who have graced the Premier League and enhanced its reputation since the turn of the century, some of the underrated stars who added to the diversity and proved their mettle at the highest level are often forgotten.

The Asian footballers are arguably the most underrated in the world and the English top-flight has played host to some of the greatest talents to have emerged from the continent.

From China’s Sun Jihai in the early 2000s to Son Heung-Min in recent times, Asian footballers have often taken the Premier League by storm and they too deserve a fair share of the limelight.

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So, without further ado, let us take a look at some of the best Asian footballers to have graced the Premier League since the turn of the century.

1. Sun Jihai

 A massively influential figure in Chinese football, Sun Jihai rose to prominence with Chinese outfit Dalian Shide before making his mark in the old English First Division with Crystal Palace in 1998.

Jihai only joined the Eagles on loan and was recalled by his parent club but he returned in February 2002, this time with Man City, and became the first Asian player to play for the Cityzens.

Jihai made a handful of appearances in City’s promotion-winning campaign but he established himself as a regular for the Citizens in the following season in the Premier League.

Despite being just 5ft 10in tall, his solid defending and dangerous attacking attributes made him a strong fan favourite amongst the fans on the blue half of Manchester and he became the first Chinese player to score in the Premier League when he headed home the first goal in a 2-0 victory over Birmingham City.

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The centre-back would then go on to have a successful spell until the end of the 2007-08 campaign before joining Sheffield United in the Championship.

Nevertheless, the 80-cap Chinese World Cup star went on to make 148 appearances for the Citizens, also becoming the first Chinese player to score in the UEFA Cup.

2. Park Ji-Sung

Having won two Eredivisie titles with PSV Eindhoven, Park Ji-Sung wasn’t a complete rookie when he arrived at Man United in the summer of 2005 but the Korean’s illustrious spell at Old Trafford made him the icon that he is today. 

Park established himself as a regular starter under Sir Alex Ferguson and his high levels of fitness, eye-watering work rate, versatility to play anywhere in the middle of the park and uncompromised commitment made him a firm fan favourite amongst the fans at Old Trafford.

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Park went on to win a whole lot of silverware with Man United, including four Premier League titles, three League Cups as well as the UEFA Champions League and the FIFA Club World Cup, making him the first Asian footballer to have won the Champions League.

Used as a big-game warrior in crucial encounters by Sir Alex Ferguson, the versatile midfielder repaid his manager’s faith more often than not, racking up an impressive 28 goals and 29 assists in 204 appearances for Man United in all competitions.

The South Korean international, who represented his nation at the 2002, 2006 and 2010 FIFA World Cups, left Man United to join QPR in 2012, although he returned to his old club PSV Eindhoven following Queens Park Rangers’ relegation to the Championship.

Park currently works as a club ambassador for Man United, and with 19 major trophies in his cabinet, he is undoubtedly the most decorated footballer in the history of Asian football.

3. Ki Sung-yueng

Following his impressive performances for K-League heavyweights FC Seoul, Ki Sung-Yueng rose to prominence with Celtic before earning a coveted to the Premier League with Welsh outfit Swansea City.

The hardworking central midfielder quickly established himself as a mainstay in the Swans first-team under Michael Laudrup and helped his team clinch the 2012-13 Football League Cup.

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Ki’s impressive range of passing, tactical intelligence, sharp reflexes, work ethics and expertise in dead-ball situations made him a firm fan favourite at the Liberty Stadium and the Korean racked up 11 goals and 12 assists in 162 appearances across all competitions for the Swans.

Following Swansea’s relegation to the Championship at the end of the 2017-18 campaign, Ki joined Newcastle United and went on to play a key role for the Magpies under Rafael Benitez.

Now 30, the 110-cap South Korean stalwart is still going strong in the Premier League and he certainly looks good for a lot more.

4. Maya Yoshida

Having shot to prominence with J-League giants Nagoya Grampus, Maya Yoshida made his move to Dutch club VVV-Venlo before earning a surprise move to the Premier League with newly-promoted Southampton in the summer of 2012.

The centre-back hasn’t looked back since then and has gone on to establish himself as a key figure at the back for the Saints.

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The 95-cap Japanese World Cup star hasn’t always been a sure starter for Southampton due to the frequent managerial change at the club but he has held his own more often than not.

Noted for his sharp anticipation, quick reflexes and good game-reading abilities, Yoshida has already racked up 183 appearances for the Saints in all competitions. 

Yoshida might not have the eye-catching profile as someone like Park Ji-Sung but he has carved out an identity for himself in the Premier League, nonetheless.

5. Son Heung-min

Arguably the brand ambassador of Asian football in recent times, Son Heung-min’s meteoric rise to becoming a Premier League stalwart with Spurs has been an awe-inspiring tale.

A combined scoring record of 49 goals in 165 appearances for Hamburger and Bayer Leverkusen in German football was enough to prompt Spurs to come up with an offer for the Korean in 2015 and the £22million fee made him the most expensive Asian footballer of all time.

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Son hasn’t looked back since then and has progressed by leaps and bounds under the watchful eyes of Mauricio Pochettino. It is not surprising to see that his stocks have rocketed sky-high in recent years, with the South Korean’s impressive performances in North London making him a firm fan favourite on the white half of North London.

Noted for his versatility to play on either side of the attack and also lead the line as a centre-forward, Son has formed a deadly strike partnership with England icon Harry Kane at Tottenham.

The 27-year-old, who has 23 goals in 72 appearances for South Korea, is one of the most underrated players in the Premier League and the fans will be hoping that the best is yet to come from him.

Nevertheless, a tally of 67 goals and 36 assists in 188 appearances for Spurs has already sent him into the history books as one of the greatest ever talents to have graced the Premier League.

6. Ali Al-Habsi

He might be one of the least decorated inclusions in the list but as a matter of fact, Ali Al-Habsi became the first-ever Omanese footballer to feature in the Premier League when he was signed by Bolton Wanderers from Norwegian club Lyn Oslo back in January 2006.

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The towering 6ft 4in shot-stopper remained under the shadow of Jussi Jaaskelainen at the Reebok Stadium and, despite producing some incredible saves against Bayern Munich in the 2007-08 UEFA Cup, he never really managed to dislodge the Finnish international from the No.1 role.

However, he made a big impact upon joining local rivals Wigan Athletic, initially on loan before making his stay permanent in 2011. Al-Habsi illustrated great proficiency in saving penalties and went on to make a total of 154 appearances for the Latics in all competitions, winning the 2012-13 FA Cup in the process. 

Al-Habsi continues to be a massive source of inspiration for all the aspiring Middle Eastern footballers and his success story in English football reminds everyone that opportunities are there if you put a lot of hard work into your game.

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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Manchester City

Manchester City vs Tottenham: 3 key battles that could decide the outcome of this epic encounter

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Three key battles in Manchester City vs Tottenham

Defending Premier League champions Manchester City kicked things off in great fashion as they beat West Ham 5-0 in their opening PL fixture at the London Stadium.

Pep Guardiola’s side now return to Etihad and turn their attention towards a juicy fixture against Tottenham, a side that eliminated them in the Champions League quarter-finals last season. This will be a different test for Manchester City and they’ll be desperate for three points on Saturday.

Tottenham, on the other hand, also enjoyed a positive start to the new campaign as they defeated newbies Aston Villa 3-1 after coming from a goal behind. The north London side will have to be at their sublime best to beat City at the Etihad.

The duo has had some memorable encounters over the years with plenty of goals too and both could easily take the win if they get their tactics right. Both City and Spurs have real match-winners in their respective sides, but what are the key battles that could decide the game? Let’s take a look.

1. Harry Kane vs Aymeric Laporte

Harry Kane has started the new campaign very well, scoring a brace in the 3-1 win over against Aston Villa. He will undoubtedly be the danger man for Tottenham and their main avenue of attack once again.

The England striker will likely have to deal with Aymeric Laporte, who alongside John Stones helped City in keeping a clean sheet against West Ham last weekend.

Kane is arguably Premier League’s best striker at the moment and his game is about intelligent positioning and reading of the game. He is deadly in and around the box, which means that the City defenders have to be extra vigilant.

Laporte has been Guardiola’s first-choice centre-back and did very well against West Ham. The Frenchman had to contain Sebastien Haller last week but Kane will be a very different kind of test for him, and one he’ll have to be up for if his team are to take all three points.

2. Christian Eriksen vs Rodri

Christian Eriksen was left on the bench in the opening day win over Aston Villa, but his entry as a substitute changed the course of the game. His side were trailing 1-0 at home until his introduction in the second half and the Dane inspired Spurs to all three points.

Eriksen is one of the best midfielders, always having an influence going forward. With him in the team, Spurs are a different animal and that was well documented against Villa. A player who Eriksen is most likely to come up against in this game is Rodri.

Rodri made his first Premier League appearance in City colours against West Ham, controlling the tempo of the game from the base of the midfield. He was dispossessed a few times but that was not expected as all new players take time to adjust to the physical and aggressive nature of the Premier League.

With time, however, Rodri will improve and become a long-term replacement for Fernandinho. However, the Spaniard is the man who would be charged with keeping Eriksen quiet today.

3. Raheem Sterling vs Kyle Walker-Peters

Spurs have become weak at right-back following Kieran Trippier’s exit this summer. Pochettino preferred young Kyle Walker-Peters over experienced Serge Aurier on the right against Villa and the 22-year-old repaid his manager’s faith with a strong performance.

However, Walker-Peters will have to be mindful when he comes up against the dangerous Raheem Sterling, who scored a hat-trick in the 5-0 battering of West Ham.

The England international is a lynchpin in the City attack and is an excellent link-up player. He has an excellent awareness of where to position himself to pounce on the opponents’ mistake.

So Walker-Peters will have his task cut out against the nippy Sterling. The City ace will be a key supply line in his team’s attack and the Tottenham defender has to break it early on to make it difficult for the hosts.

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Manchester City

Comparing Man City’s star right-backs – numbers show that Guardiola has a selection headache

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Comparing Manchester City’s new signing Joao Cancelo and Kyle Walker

Premier League champions Manchester City completed the signing of Juventus defender Joao Cancelo on a six-year deal.

Cancelo, 25, has signed a contract at the Etihad Stadium until the summer of 2025 and became Manchester City’s third signing of the summer after Angelino and Rodri.

The Portugal international, who won the domestic double with Juventus in his debut season in the Serie A, was a part of the Man City squad that thrashed West Ham United 5-0 on the opening day of the Premier League season.

However, he had to watch on from the sidelines as Kyle Walker put in a terrific performance at right-back.

As things stand, Pep Guardiola has two brilliant, flying right-backs in Walker and Cancelo. Thus, it is worth comparing them and finding out the reason behind Man City’s decision to splash the cash on Cancelo.

Statistical comparison of Walker and Cancelo from 2018-19 season

In terms of the defensive numbers, Kyle Walker, who made 30 appearances for City in the Premier League last season, made 1.2 tackles and 1.1 interceptions per game. He made 1.5 clearances and blocked 0.2 shots.

Cancelo, on the other hand, played only 22 games for Juventus in the Serie A as he spent a couple of months on the sidelines after undergoing knee surgery.

Yet, he made 1.7 tackles and 0.6 interceptions on average. The Portuguese was dribbled past 0.9 times a game and committed 1.3 fouls per game, which doesn’t paint a great picture as far as the right-back’s defensive qualities and game-reading are concerned.

Moreover, Cancelo received six yellow cards in comparison to Walker’s three during the entire 2018/19 campaign.

As far as the offensive numbers are concerned, Walker managed just a goal and an assist. Cancelo bagged three goals and an assist, with 1.4 key passes and 2.4 dribbles per game. Walker, meanwhile, amassed 0.7 key passes and 0.5 dribbles on average.

Cancelo is a decent passer of the ball and enjoyed a pass success rate of 86.2%. Walker enjoyed a whopping passing success rate of 90.1% in the Premier League.

Looking at the numbers, it is not surprising to see that Walker enjoyed a better pass success rate than Cancelo purely because City have adopted a free-flowing possession-based approach under Pep Guardiola.

But Cancelo, who can play further forward on the right, is more creative and forward-thinking than Walker as he is comfortable getting involved in intricate, free-flowing football in the final third, meaning the Portuguese can support the likes of Bernardo Silva and Kevin De Bruyne in the attack.

He works tirelessly up and down the right flank and is considerably more useful in possession.

This doesn’t mean that Walker is bad by any means, but it highlights the differing profiles of the two players. The England international has improved defensively under Guardiola but he doesn’t have the dribbling ability, natural flair and vision to create opportunities for his teammates as Cancelo does.

Verdict

Both Walker and Cancelo are entirely different players, with both having a diverse style of play and qualities. And this should be considered as a boon for Guardiola though, as he has two different options to use depending on the opposition. Without any second thoughts, Cancelo’s addition looks perfect.

The Portuguese full-back is one of the best in Europe, particularly in possession, and is ideal to compete with Walker for the right-back spot, something which Danilo couldn’t.

Walker’s performance in the 5-0 thrashing of West Ham shows that he is dedicated to the task and wary of City’s brand new star, Joao Cancelo.

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