Five potential replacements for Alexis Sanchez

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Alexis Sanchez’s future is still in the air at Arsenal. The Chilean cuts an increasingly frustrated figure at Arsenal and while his manager Arsene Wenger dances to the tune of ‘He wants to stay’ the consensus is that Sanchez will be plying his trade elsewhere next season.

 

Should the former Barcelona forward leave The Emirates here are five potential players who could replace the dogged Chile frontman:

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5.

Anthony Martial

Club: Manchester United

Cost: £35m – £55m

A bit of a wildcard to start off with. With Jose Mourinho and Wenger’s open dislike for each other it is unlikely that Mourinho would want to sell a talented player to a rival. However, Martial is well out-of-favour with The Special One and could be offloaded this summer. Should Arsenal submit a bid which would recoup a lot – if not all – of what Louis van Gaal paid for the then teenager Mourinho may well be willing to part with the young Frenchman.

 

Martial offers directness, pace and can finish. He is still inconsistent Wenger will no doubt have patience with the former Monaco man and give him the love he looks like he needs.

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4.

Yannick Carrasco

Club: Atletico Madrid

Cost: £51m – £65m

Carrasco will cost a lot of money; the type of money Arsenal have never parted with. However, the Belgian is becoming a star under Diego Simeone in the Spanish capital. The winger has eight goals and four assists this season for Atletico.

 

An explosive winger who can play on both flanks, Carrasco causes nightmares for opposition full-backs who have a difficult time dealing with tricky wide man. Carrasco is still 23-years-old and can get better with the right nurturing.

 

Carrasco would bring with him the directness which Sanchez would leave behind. While the young Belgium international may cost a lot but the windfall Arsenal should receive for Sanchez, should he leave, would go a long way to bringing the Atletico Madrid winger to The Emirates. Having said that, with speculation over the future of Antoine Griezmann, Simeone will be more than reluctant to let two of his star men walk away in the same transfer window.

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3.

Mohamed Salah

Club: Roma

Cost: £30m – £40m

 

After failing to shine during his first brief stint in England with Chelsea Salah has gone on to light up Serie A with goals and assists galore. The Egyptian forward has 11 goals and eight assists this campaign and 27 Serie A goals in total since joining Roma in 2015.

 

Salah himself is still only 24-years-old, although in recent years he has felt like somewhat of a journeyman since his Chelsea move did not work out with stints at former club Basel and Fiorentina before finally settling in Rome.

 

The Egypt frontman has pace in abundance, can play with either foot and finish in a variety of ways. Arsenal are always looking for classy forwards and Salah has shown that he is certainly one of them. His eight assists and 60 chances created this term show he can pick a pick a pass also – perfect ammunition for Olivier Giroud, or maybe a new Arsenal forward.

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2.

Douglas Costa

Club: Bayern Munich

Cost: £22m – £30m

Douglas Costa is reportedly unhappy at Bayern Munich and is seeking a move away. Now at 26 the Brazilian is at a stage in his career where he needs regular games – which he is not getting behind Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery.

 

Costa tore Arsenal apart during their 5-1 hammering of the Gunners in the last-16 tie of the Champions League with trickery and pace that neither Hector Bellerin nor Nacho Monreal could handle.

 

Costa’s inconsistency is perhaps what drives Carlo Ancelotti to leave him out of the Bayern first XI but he certainly has the ability to get Arsenal fans out of their seats. Not as direct as an out and out winger, Costa is strong on both feet and can float inside to get involved through the middle as well as beating his full-back down the line.

 

With his unhappiness at Bayern and the German giants seemingly happy to offload the wide man Costa would probably be the cheapest option of the list – which would probably appeal most to Wenger as he is notoriously tight with the  purse strings.

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1.

James Rodriguez

Club: Real Madrid

Cost: £45m – £55m

 

James is maybe the most likely player to make his way to The Emirates on this list. Not so much because he is desperate to join Arsenal or Arsenal are desperate to take him, but because Real Madrid and the Colombian have made no secret about his desire to leave and Madrid’s keenness to offload him.

 

James is typically a number ten but can play out wide. His goal in the 2014 World Cup against Uruguay was the stand out moment that summer and announced James to the world stage – it is also a glimpse of what he can do in a split second.

 

If Arsenal part ways with the £50m sum the Spanish giants are asking for then they will be getting a player that will not hound and harass defenders like Sanchez will, but will give you quality in abundance when going forward. In order for the Colombian to succeed he may need, perhaps like Mesut Ozil, a world-class holding midfielder who will pick up his lack of work ethic.

 

The former Monaco man has the flair that Arsene Wenger loves in a player and the technical quality which the Arsenal boss also looks for in his attacking players. He can float between the lines exposing the gaps in midfield and defence which can carve teams apart.

 

 

James is a different type of player to Sanchez – perhaps more in line with Ozil’s style of play but his quality cannot be denied and if Sanchez leaves Arsenal must replace him with quality – and James is certainly that.

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Top 10 disappointments of Euro 2016

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As we gear up for the quarter finals stage of the European Championships we are beginning to turn pencil to ink when it comes to formulating our team of the tournament selections.

 

However, with the last eight imminent it is a time for reflection. Enough of the tournament has been played that we can get a very good assessment of nearly every player we’ve watched – superstar or an diamond in the rough. Gareth Bale, Dimitri Payet and Jerome Boateng have all but cemeted their place as part of the best XI for the tournament.

 

But what of the others? The ones who promised so much but ultimately fell flat for one reason or another. Well it’s not an XI but I give to you the top ten players who disappointed at Euro 2016. Granted the tournament is not over yet but at this stage it would take quite a lot for these ten names to turn their tournament around.

 

  1. David Alaba, Austria

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    during the UEFA EURO 2016 Group F match between Iceland and Austria at Stade de France on June 22, 2016 in Paris, France.

Austria were the cliché Dark Horse in the tournament and their superstar was one of Europe’s brightest in Bayern Munich left back Alaba. Unfortunately, much like the rest of the squad, the promising defender endured a miserable campaign. Often played in midfield he looked like a fish out of water and desperate to return to his more familiar full back role. Coming off after just over an hour against Portugal Alaba did not look fit. His campaign ended with the ultimate wretchedness of Iceland snatching a victory from Austria in the 94th minute to leave the Austrians rock bottom of Group F.

 

  1. Romelu Lukaku, Belgium

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    during the UEFA EURO 2016 Group E match between Sweden and Belgium at Allianz Riviera Stadium on June 22, 2016 in Nice, France.

He has two goals to his name and ran a mock against the Republic of Ireland. However by enlarge the bruising Belgian has not had much to smile about these Euros. With the Everton forward angling for a move to one of Europe’s elite clubs this was seen as the perfect shop window for him to showcase his abilities against the best in the world.

 

Unfortunately for Lukaku he didn’t get off to a flying start against Italy: often making the wrong runs, inability to hold the ball up and wayward shots were the key ingredients which led to a cocktail of boos when he was eventually substituted for Divock Origi with 73 minutes played.

 

While Lukaku could still turn things around with Belgium still in the tournament his performances have fallen flat for a striker that often promises so much.

 

  1. Arda Turan, Turkey

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    during the UEFA EURO 2016 Group D match between Spain and Turkey at Allianz Riviera Stadium on June 17, 2016 in Nice, France.

The Barcelona man has endured a mixed year. Having to wait until January for his Barca debut due to their transfer ban and then finding the net only twice in 18 appearances. The former Atletico Madrid midfielder would have been hoping for a successful European Championships to kick start his 2016/17 season but as the old saying goes: “Hope into one hand and spit into the other and see which one fills up first.” Turan – along with the rest of his Turkey teammates is has to be said – had a hard time in Group D.

 

The Turkish trequatista struggled to impact his nation’s attacking play. While it was always going to be a tough ask against opponents with such pedigree as Spain and Croatia we all expected more from a player who has played well consistently.

 

  1. Will Grigg, Northern Ireland

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    during the UEFA EURO 2016 round of 16 match between Wales and Northern Ireland at Parc des Princes on June 25, 2016 in Paris, France.

He didn’t play a single minute. Forget stats, the eye test analysis and all the rest. Tha man that had his own song, had Eric Cantona sing that song and became a social media sensation did not play a single second of Euro 2016. Northern Ireland are one of the great stories of the Euros and a justification to the format change. But we needed a Will Grigg sighting. Let us hope he does not fall into the Emmanuel Frimpong (remember him) bracket of being better known for their viral attention that football ability.

 

  1. Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal

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I toyed with putting Ronaldo further up and further down. He started at six, went up to nine, down to four then back to six. When you are one of the two or three best players on the planet these are the tournaments where the magnifying glass can begin to burn you if you stand under the intense heat rays too long.

 

Ronaldo has two goals and could be credited with an assist after his shot forced a good save from Danijel Subasic for Ricardo Quaresma to head in the rebound. Overall though the Real Madrid superstar has cut a picture of frustration. Trying far too hard like a teenager asking out a girl for the first time Ronaldo looked stiff, irritated and the more he tried the more he failed.

 

His brace against Hungary was a glimpse of the CR7 we know and loath but it was back to square on in the Round of 16 when “MISSING” posters could have been taped to lampposts all over France.

 

Like Lukaku, Ronaldo still has time to become a hero at Euro 2016 but it’s fair to say he’s been disappointing by the often lofty standards set by himself and the spectators.

 

  1. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Sweden542162686

This one feels a touch harsh as Ibrahimovic was hardly helped by his supporting cast. If ever there was a one man team at the Euros it was Sweden. Lead by their charismatic captain many felt so long as the rest of the Swedish side could supply the bullets Ibrahimovic would fire them to their necessary targets.

 

In the final group game against Belgium the decorated striker had eight touches in Thibaut Courtois’ box but failed to test the strength of the net like he has done on so many occasions.

 

Many suspected it would be Ibrahimovic’s last major tournament and he announced that would be the case in the middle of the group stages. To see such a great character of the game end his international career with a whimper may be the biggest diappointment of them all.

 

  1. Thomas Muller, Germany

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Much like Ronaldo the Bayern Munich attacker has built a rod for his own back in many ways. Five goals in 2014 helped propel Germany to World Cup victory in Brazil. Muller also endured a quiet 2012 tournament too after being joint top goal scorer in the 2010 World Cup with another five goals. The man turns up to play for big international tournaments.

 

However he has been held goalless so far yet again. The Germans have been their usual efficient selves doing just enough to get through each round. Their attacking play has not been at its fluid best and it has had an effect on Muller.

 

Often isolated in the wide areas and smothered when coming central it has been left to players such as Mario Gotze, Mario Gomez, Julian Draxler and Mesut Ozil to pick up the slack.

 

  1. Robert Lewendowski, Poland

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    during the UEFA EURO 2016 round of 16 match between Switzerland and Poland at Stade Geoffroy-Guichard on June 25, 2016 in Saint-Etienne, France.

It has been a real shame to watch the Poland predator struggle in front of goal like he has done. Lewendowski has worked tirelessly for his team but there is no doubt that he is best when he is facing goalkeepers and making the art of finishing look as easy as one, two, three. The chances have been there for the Munich striker but like many forwards at this years’ European Championship he has struggled for consistency and to find the net.

 

Portugal will still fear the forward as he is truly world class – perhaps the best out and out striker on the planet. But failing to register a single shot on target in four games  (His cooly dispatched penalty in the shoot-out victory over Switzerland does not count) – bringing his total drought with Poland to over ten hours – is more than disappointing, it is a disaster.

 

  1. Paul Pogba, France541498868

Speaking of disasters, poor Paul Pogba. The pressure on him heading into this tournament was gargantuan. He is the poster boy for this tournament and has found himself outshone by an inspired Dimitri Payet in the group stages and a rescuing act from Antoine Griezmann against the Republic of Ireland. It could be argued that his biggest affect on France’s Euro 2016 campaign was digging the hole they had to claw their way out of in the Round of 16 after clumsily conceding a penalty.

 

The Juventus playmaker has shown little touches here and there of what has made him the most sought after player in Europe but it has not been enough. He looks to be a player weighed down by the expectation instead of thriving in the face of it. This tournament is a true acid test of Pogba’s superstardom and if he can be classes as exactly that. Again, there is still time but now over the half was stage of the tournament it has to be said that he has been pretty woeful.

 

  1. The entire England team

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    Joe Hart (ENG), goal, during the UEFA EURO 2016 round of 16 match between England and Iceland at Allianz Riviera Stadium on June 27, 2016 in Nice, France. (Photo by Foto Olimpik/NurPhoto)

We all knew this was going to be number one. What can be said that has not already been uttered about this 23 man wrecking crew. Wrecking our hopes and dreams that is.

 

Harry Kane looked like he was playing in boots made out of cement. Wayne Rooney – not even the best midfielder in a Manchester United – was deemed England’s most creative midfielder and had a nightmare in the second half against Iceland, Roy Hodgson made some of the most head scratching decisions of any England manager and Joe Hart – oh dear. The man who endorses shampoo certainly lived up to the second syllable in that word.

 

Nobody expected England to win the tournament but many deemed this to be the best team since we last made a semi final at Euro ’96.

 

However, much like in Euro 2012 – a fast opening half an hour was ultimaetly met with disappointment. Against Italy in 2012 England started with wave after wave of attack but were ultimately beaten 2-1 by an Azzuri orchestra conducted by the brilliant Andrea Pirlo. “If we play like that we’ll do well.” Said many, sound familiar? It should do because it was the same sentiment after a 1-1 draw against Russia in Marseille.

 

Many expected Hodgson’s men to kick on and a last gasp Daniel Sturridge winner papered over the cracked that England were simply not ruthless enough and had no tactical plan.

 

Lacklustre against Slovakia and abject verses Iceland this tournament will go down as one of the greatest disappointments in England’s long and heartbreaking history.

What We Learned: 5 things from Bayern Munich vs Atletico Madrid

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Atletico Madrid reached their second Champions League final in three years after defeating Bayern Munich on away goals after the tie ended 2-2 on aggregate. Losing 2-1 in the Allianz Arena on Tuesday night Diego Simeone’s men played their part in an animated clash in Germany which saw two missed penalties, one controversial penalty call and much more drama. Here are five things we learned:

 

5. Bayern wanted to up the tempo

Last week in Madrid Bayern did not have the same quick, incisive attacking to their game. That all changed in Munich as Pep Guardiola’s side attacked in waves and had 12 shots in the opening 27 minutes. Even the balls boys had to be at their fastest as the home side looked to keep Atletico under pressure with their speed and intensity. The return of Franck Ribery and Thomas Muller helped push Munich up the pitch quicker and at times the Atletico defending resembled Bambi on ice as they could not get anywhere near their opponents. Every chance Atletico had to slow the game down they tried: delaying the restart of the game at set pieces, arguing with officials and Bayern players, whatever they could do to try and catch their breath.

 

4. Atletico were better when they had to attack

Simeone is possibly the best manager in the world over two legs. Steal a goal then defend diligently and attack on the break trying to add to the lead. It’s a recipe that works most of the time but they were actually far more effective when they had to go forward and score. In the second half they committed more players forward and although Fernando Torres and Antoine Griezmann had less support than Kanye West’s plea to Mark Zuckerberg the one slick attack they had resulted in a goal – a counter attack too. After that they threatened much more and looked much more composed in possession and had a number of their own chances they wasted, Torres having a late penalty saved which would have killed off any Munich hope.

 

3. Missed chances cost Bayern

Possibly the biggest thing that cost Bayern a spot in the final was Bayern themselves. While their build up play was first rate their finishing certainly was not. Muller missed the biggest chance in the first half when he saw his penalty saved by Jan Oblak just moments after Xabi Alonso had put Munich back into the tie with a deflected free-kick. Robert Lewendowski spurned two big chances in the first half and while the visitors had a penalty miss of their own which could have swung the pendulum late on in the game it was Bayern who created the lion share of the chances – especially in the first half. The home side had Madrid on the ropes looking punch drunk after fending off relentless attacks. However a combination of poor finishing and Oblak doing his best impression of an octopus between the sticks saw Atletico survive.

 

2. Guardiola could be seen as a failure at Bayern

Regardless of how many records Guardiola’s Bayern have set and broken during his reign the big hole in his CV will be failing to win the Champions League with them. Not only did he fail to win the competition with them but he failed to even navigate them to a final. While domestic trophies are all well and good Guardiola was brought in to help usher in a new era of Continental dominance for Munich and it simply has not happened. Failure may be too strong of a word to use but that is how many die hard Bayern fans may perceive his tenure at the club.

 

1. Atletico want Real Madrid

Make no mistake, Atletico want Real in the final. While Simeone and his players will claim to not care they will want to avenge their heartbreaking 4-1 AET defeat of 2014. Atletico were literal seconds away from winning their first Champions League title before Sergio Ramos scored to take game into extra time and by the end it seemed a one sided result. Simeone and his squad are passionate men and will want to right the wrongs of 2014 as well as last year being dumped out of the competition at the quarter-finals stage by the same opponent. Winning the trophy against one of their fiercest rivals and avenging previous defeats in the process is the kind of motive that drives Simeone.

What we learned: 5 things from Atletico Madrid vs Bayern Munich

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during the UEFA Champions League semi final first leg match between Club Atletico de Madrid and FC Bayern Muenchen at Vincente Calderon on April 27, 2016 in Madrid, Spain.

Atletico Madrid defended diligently and attacked smartly during their 1-0 Champions League semi-final first leg victory over Bayern Munich. Saul’s magnificent weaving run and finish was enough to separate the two sides and was the outstanding piece of skill in a highly contested affair. Pep Guardiola’s last chance to win the prestigious competition with the German club is now hanging in the balance as he attempts to rouse his side to overturn their one goal deficit in Munich next week. Here are the five things we learned:

 

5. Atletico startled Bayern

Atletico used their home stadium to their advantage particularly in the first half. Bayern looked stunned in the opening half an hour and could not get to grips with the game. The hostile atmosphere the Atletico fans created at the Vicente Calderon teamed with Diego Simeone’s tactics to harass Munich put Guardiola’s side into a fit of shock, even resorting to route one tactics when they were unable to link up with Lewendowski.

 

Saul’s goal capped off what had been an inspired opening quarter of an hour from the home side and at that point, had Atletico grabbed a quick fire second, Munich may well already be out of the tie. Although Bayern came roaring back into the game in the second half the mood of their play suggested they were not fully comfortable playing an Atletico side against such an emotional backdrop.

 

4. Gabi and Koke ran proceedings

While the pairing of Xabi Alonso and Thiago Alcantara are the more universally known central midfield masters they were hugely outshone on the night by the midfield paring of Koke and Gabi. Ian Darke commented on the amount of Atletico fans that had “Gabi” displayed on the back of their shirt calling him “an unsung hero” and the Spaniard was exactly that. Gabi epitomised everything about Simeone’s team’s performance with a blend of grace and grit. Working hard in the midfield areas stamping his authority on the game Gabi allowed him midfield partner, Koke, to roam and create chances for the attackers.

 

Koke pulled the strings along with Saul for the La Liga side. This gave Fernando Torres and Antoine Griezmann to the ammunition they require to make Manuel Neuer’s life difficult at times.

 

3. Tactics & missing players hurt Bayern

Not one to question Guardiola’s tactics often, if at all, but leaving Thomas Muller on the bench has to be seen as a mistake. Muller is a player who links up the attack and midfield brilliantly for Bayern and also works harder than any Munich attacker.

 

When coming up against such a well drilled, hard working outfit you need the personnel to match Atleti’s worth ethic and Muller may have made a difference had he started the game rather than being introduced from the bench.

 

Arjen Robben’s absence was felt greatly also. While not the most industrious player he possesses the individual brilliance that could have snatched Bayern the all important away goal.

 

2. Atletico are the real deal in Europe

After their 2014 final heartache against Real Madrid and reaching the quarter-finals of last season’s competition, only to be thwarted again by Real, Atletico have shown that they are one of the best three or four teams in Europe. If they make it through the test to come at the Allianz Arena it will be the second time in three years that Simeone has guided his side to the final.

 

While they may not have the budget to compete with Real and Barcelona on a year in year out basis their squad, style of play and fine coaching and management makes them a legit contender for the big-eared trophy every year – every year as long as Simeone is there anyway.

 

1. Bayern to up the pressure next week

While not a huge defeat to overturn Bayern will be keen to get back into the tie as early as possible next week. This should see them attack with more venom right from the first whistle but it will also leave them more open to the counter attack – and Atletico do not need any invitation to hit teams on the break.

 

Guardiola will have to find a balance perhaps in both personnel and tactics to attack with real intensity while still remaining stable at the back. Jerome Boateng will be fit for the return leg next week and many would expect Muller to start. Munich should be stronger in terms of options for the return leg.

 

However Simeone will set up his team much like on Wednesday and will look to frustrate Bayern, forcing them into several long range attempts which kept Lewendowski isolated. Bayern will be more susceptible to the break in Munich and one away goal could kill off any real chance they have.