Antony – São Paulo


Name: Antony Matheus dos Santos

Country: Brazil

D.O.B: 24/02/2000 (20 years old)

Place of Birth: Osasco, Brazil

Height: 172cm

Youth Career: São Paulo Futebol Clube

Club: São Paulo Futebol Clube, transfer arranged to Ajax 01/07/2020

Squad Number: 11

Current National Team: Brazil U23

Preferred Foot: Left

Market Value (by £16.2m

Tournaments Participated In: CONMEBOL Libertadores, Brasileiro Série A, Paulista, Série A1

Contract Until: 30/06/2024

Players Agent: 4ComM

Transfer Rumours:

Similar Type of Player: Antony is a very unique player. He is absolutely in his element when taking a player on and has been known to wait for players to catch up so he can take them on again (a la Garrincha). His turn of pace is so sharp, that if you blink he’ll be gone and he is very skillful. With them traits in mind he reminds me of a Sporting Lisbon/early Manchester United days Cristiano Ronaldo. A lot of work to be done however to hit them heights.



Footy Files says

Antony’s move to Ajax has come at exactly the right time. As a seemingly direct replacement for Ziyech it’s going to be very interesting to see him slot into the side and ultimately take to the Eridivisie. With pace to burn, the ability to get his head up and pick out a pass, and seeing the pure enjoyment he gets when taking on an opposition player one on one, makes Antony a must watch for any football fan.

Note: A big thank you to Jacek Kulig ( for allowing me to use his template for this bio.

Kaio Jorge – Santos


Name: Kaio Jorge Pinto Ramos

Country: Brazil

D.O.B: 24/01/2002 (18 years old)

Place of Birth: Olinda, Brazil

Height: 176cm

Youth Career: Santos Futebol Clube

Club: Santos Futebol Clube

Squad Number: 19

Current National Team: Brazil U17

Preferred Foot: Right

Market Value (by £6.48m

Tournaments Participated In: CONMEBOL Libertadores, Brasileiro Série A, Paulista, Série A1, U17 World Cup

Contract Until: 31/12/2021

Players Agent: Unknown

Transfer Rumours: Juventus (06/20), Chelsea (06/20)

Similar Type of Player: There have been numerous comparisons to Cristiano Ronaldo, but in my humble opinion there are very few similarities between the pair. Kaio Jorge however is strong, very quick, seemingly endless amounts of stamina and knows exactly where the goal is reminding me of a raw Luka Jovic.



Footy Files says

An unfortunate downfall in his game currently is his reliance on his right foot. Be it cutting back to ensure he gets a shot off on his right foot or his technique when dribbling, his dominant right foot makes Kaio Jorge fairly predictable when it comes to taking on an opponent.

He does however have a couple of aces up his sleeve for it not to be too much of a disadvantage. Strength, pace and an engine that keeps him going for a full 90 minutes. On top of that, his right foot knows exactly where the goal is. Confidence in his left foot will come with experience and Kaio Jorge would push his career to another level, and I can see why the likes of Juventus and Chelsea are keen on him.

Note: A big thank you to Jacek Kulig ( for allowing me to use his template for this bio.

Pedri – Las Palmas (Barcelona 01/07/2020)


Name: Pedro González López

Country: Spain

D.O.B: 25/11/2002 (17 years old)

Place of Birth: Tegueste, Spain

Height: 174cm

Youth Career: Tegueste, Juventus Laguna, Las Palmas

Club: Unión Deportiva Las Palmas, S.A.D.

Squad Number: 28

Current National Team: Spain U19

Preferred Foot: Right

Market Value (by £6.48m

Tournaments Participated In: U17 World Cup, Campeonato Nacional de Liga de Segunda División

Contract Until: 30/06/2024

Players Agent: Unknown

Transfer Rumours: Barcelona (06/20), Ajax Loan (06/20)

Similar Type of Player: It’s been extremely hard to miss the hype around Pedri since Barcelona have snapped him up. The comparisons have been thrown around left right and centre, and one name keeps cropping up that cannot be ignored: Andrés Iniesta. When you watch how easy Pedri makes transition phases look, the execution of a key pass and his ability to hold onto possession you can see exactly why. Barcelona have signed a real gem.



Footy Files says

One word to describe Pedri’s style of play? Effortless. His movement, his passing, his awareness, his very mature reading of the game and confidence in using both feet. He may not walk into the Barcelona side next season, but he’ll be on the periphery. I wouldn’t rule out the anticipated loan offers and seeing him being phased into the squad throughout the season.

Note: A big thank you to Jacek Kulig ( for allowing me to use his template for this bio.

Gabriel Veron – Palmeiras


Name: Gabriel Veron Fonseca de Souza

Country: Brazil

D.O.B: 03/09/2002 (17 years old)

Place of Birth: Assu, Brazil

Height: 176cm

Youth Career: Santa Cruz de Natal, Palmeiras

Club: Sociedade Esportiva Palmeiras

Squad Number: 27

Current National Team: Brazil U17

Preferred Foot: Right

Market Value (by £20.25m

Tournaments Participated In: U17 World Cup, Paulista, Série A1, Brasileiro Série A, CONMEBOL Libertadores

Contract Until: 31/12/2024

Players Agent: Unknown

Transfer Rumours: Barcelona (06/20), Arsenal (06/20)

Similar Type of Player: For a young Brazilian player, particularly an attacking minded skilful individual it’s hard not to be drawn to comparisons with World Class players of the past and present but I do think Veron warrants it. 17 years old, the world at his feet, the close control, pace and awareness that most professionals would be jealous of, the sky is the limit for the youngster. Genuine comparisons to the likes of Neymar (including the occasional theatrics, sorry) and players of the same mould are not being made lightly. Veron looks like the real deal and I look forward to watching his development.



Footy Files says

Bursting onto the scene during the U17 World Cup and winning the Golden Ball was no surprise to anyone aware of his displays in the Mundial de Clubes de La Comunidad de Madrid. Veron has always shone bright when under the spotlight and continues to do so as he steps up through the echelons of the football system. Palmeiras are a team to watch, even if Veron is starting on the bench as when he enters the fray he is capable of magic.

Note: A big thank you to Jacek Kulig ( for allowing me to use his template for this bio.

Mohammed Salisu – Real Valladolid


Name: Mohammed Salisu Abdul Karim

Country: Ghana

D.O.B: 17/04/1999 (21 years old)

Place of Birth: Accra, Ghana

Height: 191cm

Youth Career: Kumasi Barcelona Babies F.C, African Talent

Club: Real Valladolid Club de Fútbol, S.A.D.

Squad Number: 27

Current National Team: Uncapped (apparent refusal when called up)

Preferred Foot: Left

Market Value (by £9.9m

Tournaments Participated In: La Liga, Copa del Rey

Contract Until: 30/06/2022

Players Agent: JM10 SPORT

Transfer Rumours: Rennes (06/20), Atletico Madrid (06/20)

Similar Type of Player: With a very good sense of positioning and anticipation, an unwavering strength and ability to be in the right place at the right time, Salisu makes a lot of his game look effortless. With that in mind I make comparisons to Ledley King.



Footy Files says

Defensively Salisu is beginning to look phenomenal. He is completely fearless in a challenge, extremely consistent and not phased about coming up against the likes of Messi and co. Definitely a big game player. His main downfall currently is his passing ability, as he struggles with long balls often. Sticking to the short passing game would benefit him greatly right now, but he is only 21 and can only improve. One to watch for sure.

Note: A big thank you to Jacek Kulig ( for allowing me to use his template for this bio.

Bryan Mbeumo – Brentford FC


Name: Bryan Mbeumo

Country: France

D.O.B: 07/08/1999 (20 years old)

Place of Birth: Avallon, France

Height: 173cm

Youth Career: Espérance Sportive Troyes Aube Champagne (ESTAC)

Club: Brentford

Squad Number: 19

Current National Team: France U21

Preferred Foot: Left

Market Value (by £7.2m

Tournaments Participated In: Ligue 1, Ligue 2, Coupe de la Ligue, EFL Championship, EFL Cup, FA Cup

Contract Until: 30/06/2024

Players Agent: Frederic Guerra

Transfer Rumours:

Similar Type of Player: I’ll probably be putting my head on the chopping block here as the player he most resembles for me is incomparable. But the driving runs, the confidence to take on the defenders, the ability of providing the spectacular goal, the intelligence to look for space and awareness of his positioning for me all resemble a certain Thierry Henry. Do not twist my words, he is not at that level (yet) but he is player to keep your eye on.



Footy Files says

Mbeumo has been a breath of fresh air to the Championship this season. The combination of Benrahma, Mbeumo and Watkins (dubbed BMW) has culminated in a fantastic viewing experience and we strongly recommend a watch if you get the chance. It would be a shame to see the trio picked up by other teams at the end of the season, and a promotion to the Premier League at the end of the season might lead to everyone having the pleasure of them playing against some of the world best. Fingers crossed.

Note: A big thank you to Jacek Kulig ( for allowing me to use his template for this bio.

Antoine Bernède – FC Red Bull Salzburg


Name: Antoine Joseph Emmanuel Bernède

Country: France

D.O.B: 26/05/1999 (21 years old)

Place of Birth: Paris, France

Height: 177cm

Youth Career: Paris Saint Germain

Club: FC Red Bull Salzburg

Squad Number: 28

Current National Team: France U21

Preferred Foot: Left

Market Value (by €4.86m

Tournaments Participated In: Austrian Football Bundesliga, UNIQA ÖFB Cup, UEFA Champions League, Ligue 1

Contract Until: 30/06/2023

Players Agent: Unknown

Transfer Rumours:

Similar Type of Player: Defensively Antoine Bernede has an air of Mousa Dembele about him. The bravery in a challenge and the ability to pick out the quick short pass to the more creative team mate. Going forwards he’s a bit of a rough diamond, although definitely has a presence to build on.



Footy Files says

Leaving the PSG academy has been a blessing for most youngsters leaving their ranks recently, and I see no reason to believe otherwise for Bernede. The unfortunate timing of his injury may have hampered his development since moving to Austria, but back fighting fit now he is an extremely exciting prospect to watch.

Note: A big thank you to Jacek Kulig ( for allowing me to use his template for this bio.

Mateus Vital – Corinthians


Name: Mateus da Silva Vital Assumpção

Country: Brazil

D.O.B: 12/02/1998 (22 years old)

Place of Birth: Rio De Janeiro, Brazil

Height: 175cm

Youth Career: CR Vasco Da Gama

Club: Sport Club Corinthians Paulista

Squad Number: 22

Current National Team: Brazil U23

Preferred Foot: Right

Market Value (by €3.20m

Tournaments Participated In: CONMEBOL Libertadores, CONMEBOL Sudamericana, Brasileiro Série A, Paulista Série A1

Contract Until: 31/12/2023

Players Agent: P&P Sport Management S.A.M

Transfer Rumours:

Similar Type of Player: I’m personally never a fan of trying to make comparisons of players who can play such unique roles in a team. Vital does have a tendency to ghost in at the back post in a similar way to how Dele Alli emerged at Tottenham, his ball control, technique and the ability to take a man on are very similar to that of Christian Pulisic due to them both lacking a bit of strength. An amalgamation of both could result in Vital becoming a versatile player that could bolster the ranks of any team.



Footy Files says

Oddly, nowadays at 22 years old you’re no longer a youngster. But every time Vital takes to the field you can see how promising he looks with his positional sense and his technique. The positive impact that he has on the rest of his team shows that he could really be a diamond in the rough and I would not rule out a move to one of the European leagues in the future. Where? Your guess is as good as mine, but I could definitely see a move to Portugal on the cards. He would fit in very well with current ethos at Famalicão.

Note: A big thank you to Jacek Kulig ( for allowing me to use his template for this bio.

The Chronicles of a Scotland Fan – The Good the Bad and the Ugly

Paris, 10th of June 1998, Scotland v Brazil in group A of the 1998 FIFA World Cup. Surely every Scotland supporter can remember exactly where they were to watch the game? I vaguely remember sprinting home from school full of anticipation, my country against one of the finest national teams to ever grace the game, what a game to open up the world cup. Brazil had been like Scotland’s Kryptonite in the world cup finals, grouped together in 74, 82 and 90 prior to these finals, Scotland had never won. Surely the law of averages would work in our favour and a positive outcome could be achieved. 90 minutes later however, anticipation and hope slowly faded to disappointment and hurt, although whilst the team made every Scotland fan extremely proud that day, there is still a question of what if? What if we hadn’t conceded the opening goal in the first 5 minutes? What if Tom Boyd hadn’t conceded that ridiculous own goal. Too many questions and not enough answers, that’s what makes football the beautiful game, unfortunately it just doesn’t go your way sometimes.
The 1998 world cup was the first one I remember watching. The nostalgia still hits me when I see highlights from certain games or read articles about the tournament. The build-up is what I can vividly recall the most, what 7 year old boy doesn’t want to be watching football every day for a whole month? The added bonus of your home nation qualifying too just added to the hype. Sitting watching the opening game between Scotland and Brazil with my dad made me fall in love with the world cup, the rollercoaster ride of emotions through 90 minutes, I will never forget it. Although the 3 points eluded us, I was confident that we could win against Norway in Bordeaux. Norway had an excellent team who had qualified for the previous world cup and had also been ranked as high as 2nd in the world a couple of years earlier. As I recall watching the match at a close friend’s house who didn’t actually like football if I can remember correctly, I couldn’t believe after the buzz of nearly getting a result against Brazil, a draw against Norway would be considered a disappointment. Goals shared between Havard Flo (Tore Andre Flo’s brother) and Craig Burley, who had dyed his hair blonde for the occasion meant the match finished at 1-1. A first win at world cup finals since 1990 would have to wait.
On to Saint Etienne, Morocco would be the opponents, a win would be enough to qualify bearing in mind Brazil defeated Norway (in what would be one of the shocks of the tournament, Norway won 2-1 with a late penalty after being 1 goal down at 80 minutes). Craig Brown fielded a strong starting 11, Gallacher and Durie would be spirited in targeting a defence who had already conceded 5 goals in 2 games so far. I was allowed to stay up and watch the whole match even though I had school the next day, looking back I don’t know why I bothered. The 3 nil drubbing was Scotland’s heaviest defeat in a World Cup finals match since a 4-1 reverse at the hands of Brazil in the 1982 finals in Spain. So much hope at the start of the match, turned to sheer embarrassment by the end, Morocco deserved the win you can’t take it away from them, but again this was another World Cup Finals tournament that Scotland missed out on the knockout stage (the 8th consecutive time – a record).
Who knew that this would be our last match at the finals of a major tournament for 20 years and counting. The reality was we were regular participants at footballs top table, although with a slight Jekyll and Hyde approach, think the majestic result against Holland in 78, to the shambles of Costa Rica in 90.
If I knew then that being a Scotland supporter was going to be this difficult, I think I would have picked another sport. But that’s the thing with football, you can never leave, it just keeps pulling you back in. Never mind though eh, I had Euro 2000 to look forward to!

Xhaka disrespects, pressure on Emery

Image via theshortfuse

In yet another slump of performance, Arsenal blew off a 2 goal lead over Crystal Palace allowing its London rivals to crawl back in the game to finish the match on 2-2. Arsenal poor form continues, after a vague and relatively weak performance again newly promoted side Sheffield United on Monday night. Arsenal have yet again fallen flat this time at home to Crystal Palace.

There was a stellar performance by Nicolas Pepe in the midweek to rescue Emery and bought him some time with highlights being his 2 beautiful free kicks but Arsenal couldn’t capitalise on that performance. Arsenal started with their preferred front 3 Alexandre Lacazette, Nicolas Pépé and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang but without a perfect Number 10 they couldn’t find a good delivery from anywhere. Mesut Özil’s absence is now showing an effect on Emery’s arsenal. There was a ray of hope, a goal from Sokratis to take his team 3-2 however it was ruled out by VAR. After many replays it seemed to be very harsh on Arsenal as video referee decided to award a free kick to Crystal Palace instead, Calum Chambers appeared to what referee thought was a foul on Milivojevic.

Highlight of the match was much bigger and in a way embarrassing to a club of stature of Arsenal. Emery’s captain Granit Xhaka was substituted on 61st minute amid of his bad performance, on his way back to the touchline he was booed and he’s bad mouth foul against Arsenal supporters made it even worse. He shouted F*** O** and made a gesture towards them to scream more. He then went straight down the tunnel without even giving a handshake to the manager and removed his shirt in a displeasure. All this was a trailer of what exactly is happening at Arsenal.

First Xhaka wasn’t the first choice caption, he was elected captain in September through a blind ballot among Arsenal players, a decision that attracted criticism in certain circles. He lacks quality, patience and desire to lead such a big club. Guendouzi is the only one who actually has the anger and desire to win each and every match for the gunners. Emery keeps faith in the youngster and Guendouzi never disappoints. However the present situation in the emirates is the unrest among supporters, Emery’s stubbornness to stick with Xhaka, Captain’s foul mouth tantrums towards his own fans all adding more and more pressure to Emery and his already hostile situation in the dug out.

Stan Kroenke’s son, Josh, was in the directors’ box attending the match, while his father was watching his NFL team. Looking at the performance, it would be interesting to see what comes out of the conversation between the two. Arsenal are now 5 points adrift of last Champions league spot and they seems far more off the pace with Leicester and Chelsea both of whom have a way of play and direct approach with momentum on their side too. Coming few weeks will decide Emery’s fate and now of their captain Xhaka too.

Football Index – A New Strategy (Results, pt 3)

In my previous post I wrote about what my plan was, why/how I would be choosing players and what I think will happen. CLICK HERE

Which players did I select?

After a bit of research, I decided on fourteen players across the main five leagues in Europe and purchased £100 worth of futures of each. The players I chose are listed below;

  • Denis Zakaria – 59p – 170 futures.
  • Emil Forsberg – 87p – 114 futures.
  • Gerard Moreno – 72p – 138 futures.
  • Jakub Jankto – 48p – 208 futures.
  • Jan Oblak – 63p – 158 futures.
  • Kieran Trippier – 76p – 15 futures (had a small amount left in the account burning a hole in my pocket. He was on my maybe list)
  • Konrad Laimer – 70p – 142 shares.
  • Lorenzo Pellegrini – 94p – 106 shares.
  • Luis Muriel – 87p – 114 shares.
  • Maximillian Arnold – 87p – 114 shares.
  • Nordi Mukiele – 85p – 117 shares.
  • Sergio Reguilon – 89p – 112 shares.
  • Stefan Lainer – 64p – 156 shares.
  • Willi Orban – 55p – 181 shares.

Each person had a reason behind it. Each player played for a club that was involved in Continental football, and most played for their countries. Other factors came into account too, but I’ll spare you the details (mins played, avg passes made, dribbles, crosses etc.).

The plan is to hold onto these players for their 30 day period, hoping to see their prices grow along with the added bonus of In Play Dividends, and potentially Performance Buzz dividend winners.

What happened?

To be honest, be it beginners luck or decent research prior to selection, I had a good month. Below I’ll detail each individual buy and sell price alone with any dividends they accumulated, followed by a summary of the whole month at the end.

Denis Zakaria – Monchengladbach

Purchased: 59p, 170 shares, £100.30

Sold: 83p, 170 shares, £141.10

Profit/Loss: 40.68%

Dividends: £0.00

Emil Forsberg – RB Leipzig

Purchased: 87p, 114 shares, £99.18

Sold: 91p, 114 shares, £103.74

Profit/Loss: 4.60%

Dividends: £2.28

Gerard Moreno – Villareal

Purchased: 72p, 138 shares, £99.36

Sold: £1.11, 138 shares, £153.18

Profit/Loss: 54.17%

Dividends: £12.42

Jakub Jankto – Sampdoria

Purchased: 48p, 208 shares, £99.84

Sold: 70p, 208 shares, £145.60

Profit/Loss: 45.83%

Dividends: £2.08

Jan Oblak – Atletico Madrid

Purchased: 63p, 158 shares, £99.54

Sold: 65p, 158 shares, £102.70

Profit/Loss: 3.17%

Dividends: £6.32

Kieran Trippier – Atletico Madrid

Purchased: 76p, 15 shares, £11.40

Sold: 97p, 15 shares, £14.55

Profit/Loss: 27.63%

Dividends: £0.15

Konrad Laimer – RB Leipzig

Purchased: 70p, 142 shares, £99.40

Sold: 77p, 142 shares, £109.34

Profit/Loss: 10.00%

Dividends: £0.00

Lorenzo Pellegrini – Roma

Purchased: 94p, 106 shares, £99.64

Sold: £1.40p, 106 shares, £148.40

Profit/Loss: 48.94%

Dividends: £4.24

Luis Muriel – Atalanta

Purchased: 87p, 114 shares, £99.18

Sold: 69p, 114 shares, £78.66

Profit/Loss: -20.69%

Dividends: £1.14

Maximilian Arnold – Wolfsburg

Purchased: 87p, 114 shares, £99.18

Sold: 78p, 114 shares, £88.92

Profit/Loss: -10.34%

Dividends: £3.42

Nordi Mukiele – RB Leipzig

Purchased: 85p, 117 shares, £99.45

Sold: 86p, 117 shares, £100.62

Profit/Loss: 1.18%

Dividends: £0.00

Sergio Reguilon –  Sevilla

Purchased: 89p, 112 shares, £99.68

Sold: 89p, 112 shares, £99.68

Profit/Loss: 0.00%

Dividends: £0.00

Stefan Lainer – Monchengladbach

Purchased: 64p, 156 shares, £99.84

Sold: 63p, 156 shares, £98.28

Profit/Loss: -1.56%

Dividends: £3.12

Willi Orban – RB Leipzig

Purchased: 55p, 181 shares, £99.55

Sold: 70p, 181 shares, £126.70

Profit/Loss: 27.27%

Dividends: £12.67


Not a bad way to start this new method of turning a profit each month. I do think that Football Index’s bonus scheme may have played a factor and next month may provide a truer indicator on whether this approach is worthwhile. But a profit is a profit and I’ll take that.

With the players listed above, both Gerard Moreno and Willi Orban won Performance Buzz dividends for me, and there were copious amounts of In Play Dividends accumulated in the process. Whilst Jan Oblak turned a small profit, I currently fail to see value in goalkeepers.

I bought all futures for a cumulative price of £1,305.54, and sold them all on after a 30-day period for a cumulative price of £1,511.47. During this time the selected players also amassed £47.84 in dividends giving a total profit of £253.77.

That is a 19.44% return of initial investment (prior to Football Index’s 2% tax on sale) in just 30 days. Please find me a savings account that can do this in 30 days for you.

What’s next?

Rinse and repeat. New month, new players however I do see value in a couple of the players listed here. However, I do plan on choosing less players next time as I found it difficult to keep up with all players on match days when trying to keep an eye on injuries. Luckily I was watching the Roma match when Pellegrini got injured and opted to get out as he was getting helped of the pitch.

I have already purchased the players today that I hope can give me good returns for next month. Watch this space.

Southampton 0-9 Leicester City – Match Analysis


Leicester City recorded the biggest away win in the history of the Premier League as they inflicted embarrassment upon Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side, and move them into the relegation zone on goal difference.

Ryan Bertrand’s sending off after ten minutes for a foul in the build up to Ben Chillwell’s opener set the tone, as Hasenhuttl struggled to adapt tactically to this setback. Youri Tielemans, Ayoze Perez (2) and Jamie Vardy netted before half time as they heading into the break five goals up, before Perez and Vardy completed their hat tricks in the second half. James Maddison wrapped up the win with a sublime free kick, and lifted the Foxes up to second.

So what has that resounding win taught us?


Leicester came out on top on the expected goals (xG) in dominant fashion, racking up 4.38 to Southampton’s 0.46. Overperforming by 4.62, it still keeps in line with Leicester’s performances this season, where they have consistently over-performed, and there does need to be a question of how long the side can stay this clinical for. Over the opening ten games this season, they have overperformed their xG by 11.69, scoring 25 to the 13.31 expected. With them overperforming defensively, only conceding eight to the 11.74 expected, it is an area worth keeping an eye on ahead of their trip to Selhurst Park next Sunday.

Leicester’s Attack:

Now with nine goals to this name following his hat trick on the south coast, Vardy in red hot form once again and showing no signs of slowing down. A stand out for the striker is how clinical he has been in front of goal, and this was on show once again last night, as his goals this season have come at a combined xG of 4.28, and are shown below.

The game suited the Englishman perfectly, and his tenacity and constant movement up front gave the Southampton backline, in particular Maya Yoshida, a torrid time. Hasenhuttl initially looked to play a high line, but following the sending off of Bertrand, he dropped the Saints into a deeper block. Although the warning signs were already there from Leicester’s opener, by sitting deeper, it freed up the space out wide and in front of the back line for Leicester’s creative players to exploit.

With so many individual stand out performances, it is hard to choose the stand out players, however the link play from Harvey Barnes and Chilwell down the left was outstanding, and resulted in both five and four chances created respectively. Coming up against a Crystal Palace side who will sit deep to alleviate the worries of Vardy’s pace in behind, the full back/wingers combinations will be key to creating chances next Sunday, and will need to be in the same scintillating form against the Eagles.

From a tactical stand point, as well as the underlying statistics, despite the nine goals they racked up against Southampton, I’d be approaching the goal markets with caution. Palace’s defence are much more suited and well drilled in the low block compared to Southampton, and I expect Wilfried Zaha and Jordan Ayew to provide a much more effective counter attacking option. As Manchester City and West Ham did against Palace, they could Leicester could look to target Patrick van Aanholt at left back, so Pereira and Perez could provide the key in London next weekend.

What Next for Southampton?:

The red card didn’t help the Saints, but it was still an unacceptable performance, and there are a number of areas that need to be drastically addressed by Hasenhuttl in preparation for the trip to the Etihad on Tuesday in the Carabao Cup, as well as a trip on Saturday to the same ground.

Constantly overrun out wide, whether it was Chilwell and Barnes or Ricardo Pereira and Perez, Leicester were able to create 2v1s in the wide areas, with wide midfielders very rarely offering defensive cover. If they are to head to the Etihad and look for damage limitation, Hasenhuttl will need to adapt his normal narrow shape to counter act a City side who set up in a similar fashion, and look to utilise the full backs of Kyle Walker and Bernard Mendy in the same vain. The three central midfielders were easily overrun, whilst Danny Ings was understandably isolated up top before being taken off at half time, and this tactical switch to leave Redmond centrally added a little drive, but lacked any ability to hold up the ball.

It is a daunting task for Southampton next week, and Hasenhuttl will be desperate for a response, particularly defensively, from his side. If he is to adapt the shape of the team as a result, the goal markets will be worth keeping an eye on, especially as the trip to Manchester City will become a damage limitation exercise. Redmond’s pace on the break will be key as they’ll look to exploit the channels like Wolves did in victory before the International break, but seeing them bounce back in Manchester will be a huge ask.

Match Analysis – Ajax 0-1 Chelsea


Chelsea impressed in Amsterdam as they defeated Ajax to leave them 2nd in Group H, so what has this win taught us ahead of their game against Burnley on Saturday?

Line Ups:


Chelsea’s Centre Backs Still Susceptible to Press:

Despite restricting Ajax to an xG of 0.45, Chelsea did occasionally show signs of frailty at the back. Fikayo Tomori and Kurt Zouma have shown a susceptibility to being pressed high, and this was evident once again, particularly in the opening periods of the game.

There were warning signs after just a minute as a mistake from Tomori was pounced upon by the Ajax attackers, and this allowed them to break quickly at the Chelsea backline. In a game where Chelsea’s shape defensively was so impressive, reducing these errors will be key for Chelsea moving forward in tight games, as the high positioning of full backs in attacks leaves them susceptible to quick breaks. It is an area to note moving forward, as the shape of Chelsea (shown below) will leave them open to quick breaks, and is definitely an area opposition can exploit, potentially through a targeted press of the Chelsea centre backs.

However, once the ball was moved into midfield with Kovacic and Jorginho, Chelsea were able to break quickly and exploit spaces in behind, and their counter attacking prowess came to the fore, led by the impressive Callum Hudson-Odoi, and aided by the energy and perseverance of Mason Mount.

If the avenues to the midfield are effectively shut off, Tomori and Zouma can be pressed and forced into mistakes, however as Chelsea proved, if they can play through this press, they have the personnel to make teams pay on the break.

Callum Hudson-Odoi

Callum Hudson-Odoi was influential for Chelsea, however there was room for improvement in his performance, as his decision making and effectiveness on the ball at times could be called into question. He often found himself in threatening positions in the Ajax final third, however as shown below, he often struggled to pick the right pass (completing 50% of his passes in the final third), and this is an area he will be looking to improve upon in the coming games.

He also fired wide when placed well after 25 minutes, but nevertheless, he showed good awareness to find the space in the box, and is a promising sign that he continues to find himself in these strong attacking positions.

Despite these concerns, it was still a promising performance from the young Englishman, as his pace and positioning on the break was integral to Chelsea’s game plan, and offered his side a key outlet in breaking the Dutch pressure.

It was a bold selection from Lampard to select Hudson-Odoi, and he repaid his managers faith, as he put in a notable shift defensively. Moving forward, it increases the trust Lampard can have in the winger in big games regarding his defensive work rate, and will offer a key outlet when required to sit in against sides such as Ajax in the future.

Set Pieces:

An area of worry heading into the game against a physical Burnley side is that Lampard’s side are struggling to defend set pieces, and Ajax were once again able to target this area. Hitting the post after 58 minutes from a corner, Martinez was able to lose Marcos Alonso too easily, and if they are to continue to struggle with set pieces, it could be a major worry on the weekend.

Michy Batshuayi:

Match winner Michy Batshuayi was introduced for Abraham after 71 minutes, and in those 19 minutes the Belgian highlighted his ability to find himself in goalscoring positions. Firing over after 73 minutes with a guilt-edged opportunity, he redeemed himself on 85 minutes with the winner. His shot map shows the positions he was able to find himself, and moving forward is a promising sign. He represents an excellent option from the bench for Chelsea, and when games need killing off in particular, he excels. He will need to improve his finishing moving forward, but it is equally promising to see the number of chances he was afforded.

Betting Angles:

Looking ahead to the Burnley match, a few angles from a betting point of view have stood out. Given Chelsea’s susceptibility from set pieces, James Tarkowski or Ben Mee to have a shot on target takes an appeal, especially given Burnley’s direct nature of play. Not priced at time of writing, it is certainly a market to keep a keen eye on.

If Batshuayi is to feature, even off the bench, his intelligent positioning and ability to get shots away means he also takes appeal on the shot markets. Potentially one to look at in play if used off the bench, the Belgian is priced at 1/1 (William Hill) to score anytime, which is a little on the short side given he may not start. However, this price will be much larger in play if used as a substitute, and as a result is another to look into.

Given the positions that Callum Hudson-Odoi constantly found himself in against Ajax in the final third, he is of interest when priced at 11/4 (SkyBet) to get an assist on Saturday against Burnley. However, it is worth approaching this with a level of caution as the game will take a different shape and the Englishman won’t have the same level of space to exploit as against the Dutch side.

Preview Liga NOS round 8

There are a few matches that will be very interesting to watch this weekend. HTGA Football will discuss two of them.

FC Porto – FC Famalicão

If you follow the Liga NOS, there is no way you are not excited about this match. FC Porto is in third at the moment, while FC Famalicão are the surprising league leaders.

FC Porto had an easy match last weekend in the Taça de Portugal. They won 5-0 against SC Coimbrões and could rest a few of their most valuable players. Luis Díaz scored a brace, and gave one assist. In addition, Fábio Silva got the chance in the starting XI, scoring once and giving an assist also.

FC Famalicão didn’t have an easy match, as they had to play 120 minutes and reached the next round through a penalty shootout. Supersub Anderson Silva scored the 0-1 in the 70th minute, but in one of the last moments of the game Lusitânia FC scored the 1-1. It went to extra time, and despite Rúben Lameiras coming on as a sub FC Famalicão couldn’t kill the game off and score a goal. In the penalty shootout, Lusitânia had the chance to decide the match, but they missed the penalty and moments later Lionn scored the winning penalty.

If we take a look at both systems, you can see that FC Porto plays with a four-man midfield, while FC Famalicão plays with a three-man midfield. So it will be interesting to see how João Pedro Sousa makes sure that FC Porto cannot create a surplus in midfield.

I think FC Porto will take the lead in the first half, but that FC Famalicão will return as usual leading to a draw.

Sporting CP – Vitória Guimarães SC

After FC Porto – FC Famalicão, Sporting will play host to Vitória SC. It will be a very interesting match as both teams have some attractive players in their squad.

Sporting CP got eliminated in the Taça de Portugal, losing 2-0 to Alverca. After ten minutes, the Leões were already behind. After the break, Bruno Fernandes got subbed on. He couldn’t make an instant impact, and after Luan scored the 2-0 the match was done and dusted. This was the first defeat for Sporting CP, after Silas took over a month ago.

Vitória SC didn’t perform better this weekend. They had a hard time against Club Sintra, and after the break Elvis Fernandes opened the score from the penalty spot. Davidson equalized after 85 minutes, which meant that the match went to extra time. Neither Club Sintra nor Vitória SC scored, leading to a penalty shootout. On behalf of Vitória SC, João Carlos Teixeira and Marcus Edwards missed, while everyone scored their penalty at Club Sintra.

It will be interesting to see how Valentin Rosier will perform against Brazilian winger Davidson. Davidson averages 2.4 succeeded dribbles per 90 minutes, gets fouled 3.6 times per 90 minutes and he shoots 3.4 times per match. Rosier makes 4.3 foules per 90 minutes, and Vitória SC is pretty strong in set pieces so that’s something to keep an eye out for.

I think that Vitória SC will win against Sporting CP, as Sporting hasn’t been defending very well lately and the attack of Vitória SC is very strong.

Sheffield United 1-0 Arsenal – Match Analysis


Sheffield United inflicted a second league defeat of the season on Unai Emery’s men thanks to Lys Mousset’s first half winner, as Emery’s team selection was called into question following the omission of key players and a struggle to break down a well-drilled Sheffield United side.

The victory was Sheffield United’s first home victory since the opening day, and has lifted them up to 9th in the League.

So what has the game taught us to take forward into the next games?

Line Ups:

Nicolas Pepe:

Nicolas Pepe has endured a slow start to his Arsenal career following his £72 million move from Lille in the Summer. However, this was arguably one of his better performances, as he, along with Bukayo Saka, exposed flaws in the Sheffield United defence. Pepe in particular showed his ability and willingness to take players on, and this is highlighted by his number of take ons shown below. Sheffield United struggled to deal with his tricky nature, and it could be an area tat other teams target going forward, as they also struggled to cope with Moussa Djenepo in their defeat to Southampton earlier in the season.

Underperforming xG:

Despite his promising performance on the ball and attempting to commit defenders, Pepe wasn’t able to add to his sole goal this season despite taking on the highest amount of shots from any Arsenal player on the pitch (3). This has taken his average up to 2.7 shots per game, and could be of interest in the shots/shots on target markets in games moving forward, especially against teams set up defending deep, as he is willing to chance his arm from long range. He was also guilty of missing a huge chance in the first half to give Arsenal the lead (xg of 0.6), so it’s worth noting that this could subsequently knock his confidence.

He is underperforming his personal xG over the season by 1.92 (1 goal to an xG of 2.92), and his only goal of the season came from the penalty spot against Aston Villa. He is however finding himself still taking on shots, and the xG statistics, plus factoring in his goalscoring form from previous seasons (22 goals at an xG of 21.23 last season), suggest that if he does continue to put in similar performances, it should click for the Ivorian.

Looking at a similar angle from a Sheffield United point of view, David McGoldrick is guilty of underperforming his xG by 2.41 this season, and what stands out is the nature of chances he is missing. As shown below, he is finding himself in the right areas, and compared to that of Pepe, many more are coming from inside the box, and suggest that he could be worth keeping an eye out for in the goal scoring markets in coming weeks, as he will continue to find himself in the right areas.


The xG map (shown below) shows the importance of Pepe’s miss in the first half, and highlights once again that Sheffield United have at times over-performed their xG, and does beg the question how long can it go on for. They are actually under-performing going forward, only scoring 8 goals to their 9.96 xG, however this is still a relatively low xG compared to the rest of the league, ranking them 16th. The stand out however is that they have only conceded 7 goals, compared to an xGa of 11.79, which suggests that if they don’t address this, they could find themselves starting to ship goals. Goal keeper Dean Henderson has been in fine form this season which has been a huge factor, whilst misses such as that of Nicolas Pepe have helped.

Chris Wilder did manage the game expertly and Arsenal barely mustered a chance in the second half, which does highlight that his game management is strong, and once Sheffield United go in front, they are particularly hard to break down. However, if sides can make them pay at 0-0, whether they are creating enough chances in games to come from behind awaits to be seen.

Unai Emery’s Selection:

Two key areas regarding Unai Emery’s tactical selections stand out from this game; his decision to play Callum Chambers at right back and his choice of player in the number 10 role.

An area that was identified pre-match where Arsenal could prosper was to create 2v1s out wide on Sheffield United’s wing backs, allowing Saka and Pepe the ability to drift inside and cause problems by running at the centre backs. This came to fruition for Saka and Pepe, however it was expected he would choose Bellerin due to the attacking output and his ability on the ball. Instead, he stuck with Callum Chambers, and this loyalty backfired. Although good enough defensively, the volume of the ball he received in attacking areas was counter-productive, as his inability to cross and lack of creativity as a full back was exposed, and Sheffield United were able to deal with his threat with ease. Shown below, he only completed one cross in the game, and although he did complete 21/25 passes in the Sheffield United attacking third, his lack of attacking threat meant that by seeing such a high volume of the ball, they struggled to break them down.

The other area of concern for Arsenal is Emery trying to find the balance of his midfield, and his selection issues were once again shown by his choice to start Joe Willock. Arsenal’s front three were able to stretch the Sheffield United backline in the first half, creating space in the number 10 position which was crying out for someone of Mesut Ozil’s talent to exploit. However, youngster Willock struggled to create any link, as shown by his sole pass completed in the final third.

Emery reacted by bringing on Ceballos at half time, and despite this, he struggled to find the cutting edge against a well drilled and defensively resolute Sheffield United side. As shown below, the three Sheffield United centre backs looked to sit deep, but the strikers and central midfielders looked to press high in phases, and this forced Ceballos deeper to pick the ball up, and unable to effect the play for periods of the second half. It was the change from Wilder to bring on Billy Sharp, followed by Oli McBurnie late on, which was imperative in this phased pressing, and helped stop Arsenal dictate possession high up for large periods.

From a betting perspective, the learnings from this game is given the unpredictability of Unai Emery’s team selection and shape, it is definitely worth approaching a lot of markets with caution without making a decision until the teams are released. For example, in previewing the game, I expected to see Bellerin/Tierney at full backs due to their ability to expose Sheffield United’s flanks, and in seeing Chambers in particular was starting, was more reserved in my judgement regarding Arsenal’s chances.

It is also worth noting that Wilder’s game management and tactical adaptations were imperative in getting the three points for Sheffield United, and moving forward if Sheffield United are to take the lead in games, keeping an eye on the under markets regarding goals could be the way forward, as he looks to see out games.

Mike Deans cards:

Mike Dean took his record for the season to 37 yellows and 2 red cards in the 8 games he’s refereed with 8 yellow cards. Every game bar one this season has seen him book 4 or more players, however it is worth noting that the bookies will start to clock onto this and could start to see any value quickly disappear. It is worth looking at why the players were booked, and given the open nature of the game, it was no surprise to see a number of players booked for cynical fouls, which in fairness to Dean, were bookable offences.

However, his leniency towards diving and time wasting was minimal, and although the correct decisions, are not yellow cards you’d expect to see in most games, and it is worth taking caution with the next game he referees. The tactical context of the game will also be worth considering, but there will always be angles to find value on the games he chooses to referee regarding team cards or individual card markets, but it is always worth factoring in the tactics/personnel involved, as well as if taking a dive in play, the context of the game.

What Next:

Sheffield United travel to West Ham, who will be desperate to bounce back from a defeat to Everton on Saturday, where they lacked creativity in trying to break down Marco Silva’s side. However, they could learn from where Arsenal went wrong, and arguably possess similar players who could hurt Sheffield United, particularly in wide areas.

Arsenal host Vitoria on Thursday in the Europa League before hosting Crystal Palace on Sunday. The main worry ahead of Sunday’s game will be how they break down a team who look to play a low block, and have done effectively against Manchester United and West Ham this season, and Emery’s team selection will be key.

18th October – Friday’s Betting Preview

Domestic football returns after the International break, and here are a few key stats and tactical points to help pick apart your best bets on Friday night, as we look at ties in both Germany and France.

Eintracht Frankfurt v Bayer Leverkusen:

9th place Frankfurt host 7th place Leverkusen on Friday as domestic football returns to Germany. The bookies have priced this one up expecting a lot of goals, and the underlying stats with this one makes it hard to argue. Frankfurt’s Expected Goals (xG) per game is 1.7 for and 1.4 against, whilst Leverkusen are operating at a similar level at 1.5 for and 1.4 against expected. To reinforce this further, both sides are seeing a similar return in actual goals, with Frankfurt’s games averaging 3 goals and Leverkusen’s 2.9.

Frankfurt play a unique 3-4-3 formation with Hasebe looking to play very deep as a sweeper when on the ball, as well as often looking to implement a high line to condense the play and force the opposition back when pressed up the pitch in possession. However, they are coming up against an attack that possess good pace out wide in Leon Bailey and Kai Havertz, as well as in form striker in Kevin Volland, who has netted four in seven league games this season. It is hard to see Frankfurt shutting out the Leverkusen attack, and given that they will be afforded the space to impact the game in these key areas, it is no surprise to see such a short price on Leverkusen to score.

Leverkusen’s form at the back has also been patchy, and will be without influential Chilean midfield Charles Aranguiz, who has been a rock in central midfield, particularly with his defensive contributions. In his seven Bundesliga games this season, he is averaging 2.3 tackles and 1.7 interceptions, whilst his ability on the ball is shown by his 75 passes completed on average per game at 86% pass completion, and his replacement will have to provide an all round role to both link the play, as well as contribute defensively. Kerim Demirbay is expected to replace him, and although he will be able to help fill the gap on the ball, his defensive contribution isn’t as convincing, and could be an area Frankfurt look to expose.

In search for value, taking a pick on an anytime goal scorer could be advised, given that Over 2.5 goals is best priced at 13/25 (MarathonBet). Volland (13/8 Unibet), Andre Silva (9/5 SkyBet) and Goncalo Paciencia (12/5 Betfair) are in form, with the latter two both netting three this season, and strong arguments for them finding the back of the net can be made.

However, one stand out in the goal market is Filip Kostic (7/2 Betfair), who despite not netting in the league this season, is under-performing his xG (1.12), and isn’t afraid to take on a shot, attempting an average of 3.83 per 90 minutes. Frankfurt will look to utilise the 3-4-3 by creating overloads at the back post from crosses, and coming up against four at the back allows them to do so. Bailey and Havertz’s defensive contributions can be at times questionable, and Frankfurt will look to use this to isolate the Leverkusen full backs, and should lead to Kostic getting an opportunity.

A tight game to call a winner on, at time of writing best prices are:

Eintracht Frankfurt – 39/20 (Marathon Bet)

Draw – 72/25 (Marathon Bet)

Bayer Leverkusen – 13/10 (William Hill)

Nice v PSG:

Table topping PSG travel to Patrick Vieira’s Nice side as they look to make it eight wins out of ten against a Nice side lying in 9th, who are without a win in their last three.

The stand out from this game is the injury to Neymar for PSG, who has come up with vital goals in a number of games over the past weeks, particularly against resolute defences. It is worth approaching PSG with caution as a result, but despite Neymar missing, I still feel they have enough to comfortably beat this Nice side.

The PSG back four has been in imperious form despite a long injury list at times; only conceding in three games in the league this season for a total of four goals, and they are well suited to do so again against a Nice attack averaging an xG of 1.1 this season. Their forward line is led by Kasper Dolberg, who’s form has been inconsistent since his move from Ajax in the summer, netting twice in five games. Stopping creative midfielder Wylan Cyprien will also be imperative to stopping the attacking threat from Nice, and he is comfortably above his teammates statistically speaking. With three goals and two assists, he averages 2.9 shots per game, 1.7 key passes. Nice look to build from the back, linking through to Cyprien in this style, so if PSG cut off this supply, they could quickly run out of ideas.

In Marco Veratti and Idrissa Gueye, PSG have two midfielders perfectly place to fulfil this role, and as a result I expect to see one of these two instructed to simply sit on the French midfielder to stem the flow, and if this is done effectively, it becomes hard to see Nice creating enough opportunities. Factoring in this, plus the fact that PSG’s xG against is at 0.5 this season, PSG to nil could represent value at 28/17 (Sporting Bet).

Once again it is worth looking at the goalscoring markets on this game, and the stand outs from PSG are Kylian Mbappe (1/1 BetVictor) and Mauro Icardi (13/10). PSG are underperforming their xG of 2.5, only averaging 1.9 goals per game, but as Icardi grows in confidence and fitness, I expect to see the Argentine add to his first PSG goal previous to the international break. Pablo Sarabia has begun to settle in the front three for PSG, and his creative output, alongside Angel Di Maria, is growing with every game. The combination of these two players should provide enough to break down a Nice defence that will look to stay compact, whilst the pace of Kylian Mbappe adds another dimension to the attack. Icardi will relish having this attacking talent alongside him, and represents good value at 13/10.

PSG are favourites and understandably so, and at time of writing best prices are:

PSG – 49/100 (Marathon Bet)

Draw – 19/5 (Marathon Bet)

Nice – 13/2 (Bet365)

These two games will be covered on the newest episode of the Weekly Wager Podcast, so be sure to check us out on Twitter and Spotify as we preview plenty of action over the weekend!

The Premier League sack race. Who’s next to fall?

It’s never a nice thing to speculate about, the next manager to lose his job. But as we all know, in football its more about when than if. Time is precious and top tier managers are never given the luxury of much of it. With that in mind, I’m going to have a look at a few of the bookies favourites to be the next to go, and how they got onto this list.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (Credit: BBC Sport)


As we go into the international break, the current favourite to go next is Marco Silva, the Everton boss. The best price for him to be next to go is 5/4 with Sky Bet, but he is as short as 4/6 on the Betfair exchange at the time of writing (Over 18’s only, please gamble responsibly). Everton enter the break in the Premier League drop zone having lost their last four games.

Pressure was always going to be on the Portuguese manager following another summer of spending by the Toffees. Having brought in big names like Moise Kean, Alex Iwobi, Fabian Delph and making Andre Gomes a permanent signing, it had been thought that Everton would be chasing a top four finish. However, they are languishing near the foot of the table with just 7 points from 8 games this season in the English top flight.

Another worry for Silva is that his Everton team have only played one of last seasons top six. Next up is an in form West Ham side who will provide a tough test in what looks to be a must-win game if Silva is going to continue as Everton boss.

Marco Silva, the current Everton boss (Credit: Getty Images)

Ole Gunnar Solksjaer

This will come as little surprise to many, second favourite to leave his post next is the Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solksjaer. Following their worst start to a season in 30 years, the Red Devils sit 12th in the Premier League, just two points above the relegation zone.

United have only scored more than one goal in a game once this term, in their opening weekend 4-0 win against Chelsea at Old Trafford. This weekend they drew a blank as they went down 1-0 to fellow strugglers Newcastle, and since then the pressure on Solksjaer’s position has dramatically increased.

There’s two ways to look at this. The first is that United need a huge overhaul of the squad, which looks well below what you would expect from the 13-time Premier League champions. Ed Woodward may feel that they have the right man in charge to do this, with Solksjaer being a player at the club for so long. Over the summer the recruitment policy clearly took a different direction back towards younger players, the foundation of the Ferguson era at Man Utd.

The flip side is of course that since the Norwegian got the job permanently back in March, results and performances have hugely dipped. Many argue that he shouldn’t have been appointed in the first place and is underqualified to carry out the mammoth task of turning around this sleeping giant. Solksjaer is 7/2 with BetVictor at the time of writing, but can be as short 6/4 with a couple of firms.

Mauricio Pochettino

If you’d have asked most people at the start of this season if Pochettino would be on this list after 8 games, I’d imagine most people would have said no chance. And yet, here we are. With Spurs 9th in the Premier League with 11 points from their 8 games, and fresh off the back of a humbling 3-0 defeat to Brighton, the Argentine is very much in the mix to be next to go.

Tottenham had a difficult summer with the rumours surrounding Christian Eriksen leaving the club to go to Real Madrid, a transfer which of course never went through. There was also plenty of talk of Pochettino wanting various other senior players out, including Danny Rose and Serge Aurier. Again, these players ended up staying at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium against the will of the manager. Maybe the atmosphere in the dressing isn’t what it once was, and the performances on the field certainly haven’t matched up to what we’ve come to expect from Spurs in recent years.

Tottenham sit in 9th in the Premier League (Credit: GettyImages)

Pochettino is currently the third favourite with the bookies to leave his post as I write this. He is 10/3 with Betfair or as long as 5/1 with BetVictor if you fancy a dabble.


An honourable mention goes to Steve Bruce at Newcastle, although the recent win over Man United has probably quietened speculation about his sacking, at least for the time being.

There will be plenty of speculation over this international break concerning all three of these managers. Who do you think will be next to go? Drop a comment or tweet me @MikeyBreslin and send me your thoughts.


Diogo Calila – One to Watch

Diogo Calila is a 20-year-old Portuguese right-back who plays for Belenenses SAD in the Liga NOS.

Calila came through the youth ranks of SL Benfica, playing there until 2017. In the summer of 2017 he signed for FC Paços de Ferreira. Calila played in the B-team for a whole year, and started in 23 games while coming on as a sub in 5 matches. He signed for Belenenses SAD in July 2018, and he played for their reserves for a whole year. Again, he started in 23 games and came on as a sub in four games.

This season Diogo Calila has become a regular starter for Belenenses SAD and has proved to be an interesting player to watch for the future. In this piece, his style of play will be analyzed with the help of screenshots from Belenenses SAD – SL Benfica.

Style of play Diogo Calila

Diogo Calila is an offensive right-back who is very comfortable on the ball. Before we head into more detail, let’s assess how Belenenses plays. Belenenses plays with three central defenders, and two attacking full-backs who have a lot of freedom to go forward. Normally, Belenenses likes to keep the ball and dominate possession, but against Benfica this wasn’t always possible, as Benfica is the better side. In possession, both Varela and Calila play as wide midfielders, always offering an attacking outlet down the flanks.

Benfica played in a system with two strikers and two wide midfielders (Pizzi and Rafa Silva) against Belenenses. However, both Pizzi and Rafa Silva positioned themselves mostly central, which means that the two full-backs had to provide width to the team. When the left-back (Grimaldo) was in possession, Diogo Calila put him under pressure immediately, minimalizing the chance for him to pass the ball forward.

One weakness of Diogo Calila is certainly his aerial duels. He is only 1.80M / 5’9 feet, and he isn’t able to jump very high. Against Benfica, he lost three of his four headers.

Calila had a lot of trouble with the pace, skill and agility of Rafa Silva and Pizzi. This lead to some shots on target from Rafa Silva and Pizzi. This happened a few times against other opponents like Boavista as well. This is certainly something Calila has to keep an eye out for. However, he did well to anticipate and intercept the ball in the defensive third a few times. He won the ball six times in total against Benfica.

An example:

In attack, Diogo Calila likes to make an overlapping run and provide an extra passing option down the flank to create width. However, the main issue for Calila is that his decision-making and crossing is weak. Against Benfica, he had the space to be decisive for Belenenses with an assist or a goal, but he failed to make an assist or goal.

A few examples:

When on the ball, Diogo Calila is very comfortable. He doesn’t panic when put under pressure, and his short passing is good. Besides that, he shields off the ball very well and isn’t getting pushed off the ball easily. He is also very quick on the ball, as he is very agile and pacey. In image 2 and 3, he manages to shield off his opponent very well and make a good turn to keep possession.

Normally, Calila makes good runs in behind the defensive lines creating chances for himself, like he did against Boavista. However, it has to be said that Calila did make some runs into space, but the pass was often very bad and resulted in a throw-in for Benfica.


Concluding, I think that the match against Benfica was the worst performance of the season for Diogo Calila and is therefore not really a good match to analyze his style of play from. Normally he performs a lot better and he is of value with his attacking threat. If he continues to perform like he is doing this season (apart from the match against Benfica) I think he will remain a regular starter as long as Belenenses is playing in a 3-5-2/5-3-2 formation. In a 4-4-2 formation, like Belenenses played against Famalicão, he won’t be a starter as he is too weak defensively to play in that formation.

So, if Diogo Calila can work on his crossing and his 1-on-1 defending, I think he will be an interesting player for a big team in Portugal for the future.

Note: the match against Benfica was played at the 17th of August, and was the only full match I could find of Belenenses this season. I would have chosen another match if there were more full matches to watch.

Football Index – A New Strategy

Last time I wrote I explained how I got started on Football Index, the best advice that I had received, and how I had progressed in the seven short months that I have been a part of this awesome platform.

It was during this write up that I came across @GingerPirlo_FI’s blog which intrigued me and made me want to try something new. I highly recommend giving him a follow on twitter and keeping an eye on his blog – “Can I make a living from Football Index?” where he has had an enormous amount of success in the past month.

Now I have a slightly more modest budget than the aforementioned but that doesn’t mean I can’t try and get a decent return on a month by month basis. As I stated in my previous post, I haven’t placed a conventional bet at the bookies since the Christmas period and I have no intention of doing so either, all thanks to Football Index.

With that being said, what’s my plan? What’s the strategy?

The Plan

Honestly, it’s really quite simple but takes a bit of time when it comes to researching the correct players for my portfolio. But what am I looking for, and what do I expect?

When coming up with my strategy I was thinking, ‘what drives the prices of a player?’ and ‘what dictates if he is over/underpriced?’. Now at the end of the day, a player’s price is whatever you’re willing to pay for him and there is no right or wrong answer. The index is honestly an opinion-based game. Other users may think differently but this is my perception.

The one thing I have noticed is that when match days come around, players that are in form and already have goals and assists to their names are quite regularly seeing a rise prior to team selections being announce. If they have a good game, they tend to sustain a higher price than 24 hours prior as users see value in the hold.

My aim is to find players to hold for 30 days (IPD window);

  • To find players who have decent form.
  • Play for a top ten team in their respective division.
  • Have a nice run of fixtures coming up.
  • Ideal if they have international football although not essential.
  • And the kicker, are valued at less than £1 per share.

Sounds like slim pickings, but there is an opportunity to find a gem.

What do I think will happen?

Providing there are no injuries and the way the market is currently; I’d hope to see a rise purely in capital appreciation. However, if their form continues and the players I choose get goals, assists and clean sheets I’d hope that this would enhance their potential of prices rising.

I’m still on the fence as to whether there is any profitability with goalkeepers so I will be buying one just to test the water and see if it is an avenue worth exploring deeper.

To put it simply;

  • Capital appreciation – maybe a few pennies over a 30-day period.
  • Continued form – clean sheets, goals and assists could see their price rise dramatically.
  • IPD – In play dividends are an added bonus at this point.
  • Injuries – A bad injury could have a detrimental effect to the price. Especially if the spread is pretty low for an IS.

With regards to the last point, I will only be choosing a handful of players, 10-15 maximum as I don’t want to be so overwhelmed with players that I can’t keep an eye on all of their games and potential injury crises.

What’s next?

In my next post I will give my first 30-day update and reveal the players I chose, if they were profitable and any dividends they may have won.

If there’s anything I’ve missed, send me a message and I’ll answer any questions.

Match report- Aubameyang bags another as Arsenal earned a point at Old Trafford

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In the rainy night and under lights, much anticipated Manchester United against Arsenal didn’t live up to the expectations as one expected. The traditional fixture between the two great clubs of English football had produced some great moments be it goals, tackles, controversies you name it and it used to be in this great fixture.

However yesterday’s match was a boring and dull one. Both teams started slowly with first shot on goal coming in 30th minute when Andreas Pereira won the ball in the middle of the park and charged towards the goal waving past David Luiz only to hit low left footed shot which was easily saved by Leno. Few minutes later on counter attack Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang gave a lofted pass from left flank to Nicolas Pèpè but his poor finishing meant an easy save for De Gea. First half was relatively a strong and dirty affair with four yellow cards being produced by the referee Kevin Friend. Rashford missed a golden chance when Paul Pogba won the ball in the middle of the park to give a through ball to Rashford who was late and his attempt was blocked by Sokratis.

David De Gea saved Man United not once but twice with his double save first left footed shot by Saka and then by Guendouzi, it reminded of the day at Emirates when similar double save along with many saves was on display by David that earned them point against a much stronger Arsenal side. Just before the half time, deadlock was broken by a stunner from Scott Mctominay. In the second half, first chance came in 52nd minute when a low cross was send by Aubameyang only for Torreira to scuff it on half volley ultimately missing a chance.

Defensive errors from both the teams have let in few goals this season, this time too it was no different loose pass by Tuanzabe was latched on by Saka who gave an easy through ball to Aubameyang to finish it easy past De Gea. Referring in the match was poor as it was evident in this goal, it actually was given an offside while Aubameyang was clear onside. There were shout of penalty as well when the ball hit Kolašinac hand but it was turned down.

In the 74th minute mark, Fred replaced Jesse Lingard whose performance was once again poor, out of sorts and more accurately out of midfield as well. Fred had his chance as well in the 79th minute but his hit was high and wide. Rashford had the chance to give Manchester United the lead through a free kick but it was a good save by Leno.

With this scoreline none of the teams have helped themselves. On this display, returning to Europe’s elite any time soon is improbable for both teams. Although this result means that Arsenal are in fourth with United three points back in 10th place. Next up for Arsenal is a home match against Standard Liege while United are away to Eredivisie outfit AZ.

Leicester City, the real deal?

Following their 5-0 demolition of struggling Newcastle on Sunday, I thought it was a good time to delve a bit deeper into Leicester City. They currently sit on 14 points from their 7 games in the Premier League so far this season. Interestingly, this is 2 more points at this stage than they had in 2015/2016, the year Leicester famously won the league title. This version of Leicester City also sits 5 places higher in third than they did back in 2015, and with a far better goal difference. Currently sat in third, can the Foxes continue their excellent form under Brendan Rodgers?

Highlights from Leicester City 5 – 0 Newcastle United. (Credit @SkySports and @YouTube).

Leicester probably went into this season hoping they could be the team to break into the established big 6. The well documented troubles of Arsenal, Spurs, Chelsea and Man United present an opportunity for a club like Leicester to break in. Leicester believe they have what it takes, and may even be hopeful they can bring Champions League football back to the King Power next season.

Sitting third, there is of course plenty to like about this Leicester City side. The style of football and the amount of younger talent they have to name just a couple. But it is always worth looking at the underlying data to evaluate how good they really are.

The current EPL top 6 (Credit – @LCFC on Twitter)

When looking offensively, Leicester are looking decent. They have taken the fifth most shots in the league with 69, and scored 13 of those. This equates to an 18.8% conversion rate, which is above the league average of 16.5%. On the face of these stats, the Foxes look dangerous and clinical going forward. When you take into account the popular xG (expected goals) statistic, Leicester’s expected goals are 8. That means they have scored 5 more goals than the statistics would expect. This tells us the they have been finishing their chances, which is a very good thing. However, this sort of outperforming of xG generally doesn’t last a full season and may catch up with Rodgers side at some point this year.

Much was made of the potential impact Harry Maguire’s £80 million departure to Manchester United. So far this season though their defenders have been very good. The Leicester back four have only allowed 8.7 shots per game, which is second lowest in the league only to Manchester City. An excellent effort which means they have only conceded 5 goals this season, joint best in the league with Liverpool. Leicester also make 23 tackles per game which is currently the highest in the division, showing their ability to break up play and win the ball back quickly.

At this stage, there is much cause for optimism around Leicester and with good reason. Can they maintain this and finish top four? They are currently 7/2 with Sky Bet to do so. You can also get a top 6 finish at 10/11 with Sky Bet at the time of writing. Next up for Leicester? A trip to Anfield on Saturday which will be a massive test of their top 4 credentials.


Liga NOS: my favourite young players of September

In this monthly series HTGA football writes down who his favourite young players are of that specific month. This time: September.

For this edition, bear in mind that I have already written a piece this month about three talented young players, which were my favourite of August and the beginning of September.

Nehuén Pérez (FC Famalicão)

Nehuén Pérez is a 19-year-old centre-back who comes from Argentina. He started his career at Argentinos Juniors, and after a few years in the youth set up he moved to Atletico Madrid for £2.25M. He was loaned back to Argentinos Juniors for another year, but yet again he struggled to get game time in the first team. In total he played three matches in the Primera Division for Argentinos Juniors. This summer, Atletico Madrid loaned him to FC Famalicão, which is the best move Nehuén Pérez could asked for.

In Famalicão’s first seven games, Nehuén Pérez was in the starting line-up and has been a rock in defence. He has formed a great duo with 22-year-old Patrick William, although Patrick William is not as good as Nehuén Pérez. The Argentine centre-back is a great tackler, is very strong in the one-on-one duels and is strong in aerial duels. However, there’s one thing the 19-year-old isn’t good at. His long passing is mediocre. Ten of his last 30 long passes had led to a loss of possession.

If he can continues on this development path, he return to Atletico Madrid and fight for a place in the squad.

Daizen Maeda (CS Marítimo)

Daizen Maeda is a 22-year-old right-winger, who can also play as a striker. The Japanese has played for several Japanese clubs before moving to CS Marítimo on loan. In Japan, he played 92 games in both the first tier and the second tier, scoring 22 times.

In the first two matches for CS Marítimo, Maeda started on the bench. In both matches he was subbed on and made a good impression, and found himself in the starting line-up for the following four matches. In those four matches he scored two goals and impressed with his incredible pace and dribbling. The match that stood out was the match against SC Braga. In this match he completed two dribbles, won a penalty which he scored and he was fouled twice by Braga players leading to yellow cards.

After this season he will go back to Japan, which makes him an interesting player for several clubs in Europe.

Álex Centelles (FC Famalicão)

Álex Centelles is a 20-year-old left-back who comes from Spain. The player of Famalicão came on loan from Valencia CF and has been one of the revelations in September.

In the first four matches, Centelles was on the bench, and didn’t play a single minute for Famalicão. However, his rival at full back Tymon didn’t play very well and Centelles got his chance against FC Paços de Ferreira, and made an instant impact. He has proved to be a very complete left-back. In two matches (Paços and Sporting), he completed three out of three tackles, he won twelve out of 21 duels, he made nine clearances, he made six interceptions, he won six free kicks, he made five key passes and he completed 79 out of 91 passes.

Centelles has been great in these two matches and it will be interesting to see whether he can continue this great form.

PL: Wolves vs. Watford – Scrappy affair at Molyneux

Last season’s surprise package Wolverhampton Wanderers welcome fellow strugglers Watford in a crucial three pointer in the West Midlands on Saturday afternoon.

In the Premier League pond, the big fish reign supreme, something which Quique Sanchez Flores and Watford will be all too familiar with, having been well and truly torn to shreds in the shark infested waters of the Etihad last weekend. A demoralising plummet back down to earth after the Spaniard rescued a point against Arsenal in his return to Vicarage Road.

Wolves are also gasping for air in the merky depths of the bottom three after scrounging a measly 4 points from their opening 6 games, a late equaliser from Diogo Jota preventing Nuno Espirito Santo’s men from suffering a fourth defeat on the trot against Crystal Palace.

Perhaps ailing with symptoms of the infamous ‘second season syndrome’ or just a sore head from a European hangover, Wolves have already clocked an impressive 14 competitive outings this season and will be eager to shake off any fatigue by claiming a first league win against The Hornets this weekend.

Despite their poor league form, both sides prevailed in the Carabao Cup midweek, which will provide a welcome boost to morale coming into this game.

Due to the high stakes nature of this clash, I’m banking on referee Paul Tierney having his work cut out, keeping the peace between two under pressure sides in desperate need of a win. The man in the middle is averaging 25 fouls per game, which is the second highest in the Premier League, showing 4.00 cards per game in the process.

Both sides rank highly in terms of total attempted tackles, averaging north of 30 per game, as well as fouls committed per game (Watford 12pg, Wolves 11.5pg). Players from both teams have received multiple cautions so far this season, including regular offender José Holebas (3YC), tough tackling midfielder Etienne Capoue (2YC) and Portuguese midfielder Rúben Neves (2YC). Three Wolves players are averaging over 3 tackles a game, João Moutinho, Jonny and Willy Boly, the latter receiving his marching orders away at Everton. Wolves have received the most red cards this season (2), the last of which came against Crystal Palace, Moroccan enforcer Romain Saïss picking up a second yellow card for unnecessarily clipping the heels of Palace winger Wilfried Zaha.

The clipping of heels, shirt pulling and challenges from behind may be something to keep your eye on in this game too. Watford have been dribbled past an average 13.2 times per game, which is the second highest in the league. Wolves have also been pretty easy to navigate as well, being dribbled past 12.3 times per game, which is 4th highest in the league.

The recent history of this fixture bodes well, as the last 5 competitive matches between these two sides have involved atleast 40 booking points.

Best Bets

Wolves vs. Watford – 40+ total booking points – 10/11 (SkyBet)

Serie A: Roma vs. Atalanta – Heavy hitters to slug it out in Rome

After a damaging defeat away to Croatian Champion’s Dinamo Zagreb, Atalanta will turn up at the Stadio Olimpico in a buoyant mood having salvaged a point in a 2-2 draw at home to Fiorentina, a wonderfully timed volley from Timothy Castagne in the 5th minute of added time levelling the scores in dramatic fashion.

Roma also left it late in their previous outing, Edin Džeko nodding home from close range in the 94th minute to snatch all 3 points away at Bologna in a 2-1 victory.

Fans were treated to a massive 12 goals when these two teams butted heads last season, both sides sharing the spoils after swinging for each other’s chins in two highly entertaining 3-3 draws.

Offensive muscle coupled with fairly porous rearguards have seen 87.5% of their combined fixtures so far this season result in over 2.5 goals and both teams to score.

After scoring a rather underwhelming 9 goals last season, Bosnian striker Edin Džeko has hit the ground running finding the net 3 times in 4 appearances, an identical record to that of Atalanta hitman Duván Zapata, who will be eager to claim the ‘Capocannoniere’ this time around having been pipped to the post last term by veteran Fabio Quagliarella.

The palms of both goalkeepers should be well worked as both teams rank highly in terms of shots per game and shots on target per game. Atalanta pull the trigger on average 21 times per game which is a league best, finding the target on average 7.8 times per game. Roma let fly on average 16.8 times per game, hitting the target an average 5.5 times per game.

Although goals have not been in short supply at either end, both sides have displayed an unwillingness to be defeated in the league. Roma are without a loss in 13 Serie A games, whereas Atalanta have only tasted defeat once in the last 17 – all the ingredients for a feisty affair when these two lock horns in the Stadio Olimpico tonight.

Barring a total anomaly, the net should bulge on numerous occasions tonight, the last bore draw between these two coming in September of 1984.

To add some juice to the selection, I fancy corners and at least one card for each team given the fact that referee Massmiliano Errati has shown a card to both sides in the previous 20 matches he has officiated in Serie A, and both teams seldom shirk a tackle, both sides committing 14.5 fouls a game. Atalanta are averaging the highest number of corners per game in the league with 9.5, whereas a Roma side who have been averaging 5.5 corners per game should be the aggressors tonight with home advantage.

Best Bets:

Over 2.5 goals, 8+ match corners and 10+ booking points each team @ 1/1 (SkyBet)

Three young players in the Liga NOS you have probably never heard of before

In this piece, I will write down my opinion about three young players who played very well in certain matches and you will surely hear about more often. I’ll be highlighting their best match so far.

Heriberto Tavares (Boavista Porto FC)

Coming through the youth ranks of Sporting Lisbon, Heriberto Tavares signed for Belenenses in 2015. After scoring ten times in 22 matches for the under 19’s, Benfica were interested and picked him up on a free. The winger impressed for Benfica B, and scoring 29 times in 84 matches before going out on loan to Moreirense. He stood out with his dribbling, whilst also scoring seven goals and making six assists in 36 matches.

This season he got sent out on loan again, this time to Boavista. The 22-year-old started the season on the bench, but he proved to Lito Vidigal that he needed to be in the starting line-up. The following match he got the chance and was in the starting line-up for the next three matches. In those three matches he subsequently scored twice and made one assist.

The match that really stood out was the match against Belenenses SAD. He scored once and played very well. He was very confident in his dribbling, stayed very calm when under pressure and forced his opponent (Varela) to be subbed off after a hour. After these three matches he got benched and hasn’t played a lot since.

I’m very interested to see how his career will develop. He could certainly become a regular starter for SL Benfica.

Gustavo Assunção (FC Famalicão)

After playing in the youth teams of FC Porto, São Paulo and Atletico Madrid, Gustavo Assunção signed for FC Famalicão on a free. The Brazilian midfielder immediately got into the starting line-up and both defensively and attacking wise he has been playing very well. His performance against CD Santa Clara stood out for me. Defensively, he won seven out of ten duels, completed three tackles, cleared nine balls and made four interceptions. In attack he completed 25 out of 31 passes, made one key pass, completed one dribble and completed three out of four long passes. After this amazing match, he has played every single match for FC Famalicão, and continued to impress along the way.

I have seen almost every match of FC Famalicão so far, and Gustavo Assunção has been among the stand out performers in every game. I think the 19-year-old will sign for one of the biggest teams in Portugal in the coming years, if he continues on the same path with his development.

Mohamed Diaby (FC Paços de Ferreira)

Mohamed Diaby is a player that has been impressing me in the last couple of matches. Before he moved to FC Paços de Ferreira, he played for CD Santa Clara and SC Ideal.

The 23-year-old midfielder stood out in the match against Desportivo Aves, where he was crowned Man of the Match. Let’s start with his defensive stats. He completed two tackles, won 12/15 duels, won 7/7 aerial duels, blocked a shot and made thirteen interceptions. In attack he completed 36/43 passes (15 of them were forward), he completed 6/6 long passes, completed 2/2 dribbles and scored a goal.

His contract expires at the end of this season, and I’m interested in seeing how his career will develop.

Brandon Williams – One to Watch


19-year-old full back Brandon Williams is another of Manchester United’s youth products looking to push into the first team picture. Yet to make a senior appearance, he has comfortably made the step up into U23 football, and has captained the side on four occasions already this season.

Featuring six times, he has started the season well, assisting five goals, including three against West Brom in a 5-0 win, as well as one against Rotherham in the EFL Trophy.

It has been a seamless transition from Under 18 football to Under 23 like many of the currently Manchester United youth team, adding to his two appearances he made at during the 2018/19 season. Captain of the U18 side, he made 16 appearances in 2018/19, plus a further 6 in the UEFA Youth League, scoring three times and assisting a further three goals.

Recently called up to the England U20 squad, he started both the 0-0 draw against Holland and 1-0 win against Switzerland, and will be hoping to add to these caps in the upcoming international break.

Style of Play:

Williams is an attacking, versatile full back who can play on either flank, but has featured mostly as a left back for U23s this season. United have looked to dominate possession in their U23 games this season, and he has shown he is more than comfortable with the ball at his feet, always offering an attacking outlet down the flank. He possesses pace and energy to get up and down the flank, meaning that if United are caught in possession, he is more than capable of making the recovery runs to track back.

He looks to overlap the wingers when given the opportunity, and shown by his statistics this season, he is a threat in the opposition’s final third. An example below shows one of his assists against West Brom on the opening day, where he was found by from a deep position in behind the defensive back line. His high starting position (circled) is indicative of where he looks to play and offering a wide outlet when United start attacks.

Receiving the pass, he beat the defender with an excellent first touch and use of his pace, before showing great composure to pick a player out in the middle for the opening goal.

Promisingly for United, what this also shows is his understanding with midfielder James Garner (who provided the pass), as this is often a passing combination that they often look to use going forward. His positioning will also suit the style that United play, as when they have a fully fit side, Rashford looks to drift in from the wing, leaving space for the full back to subsequently exploit. An example is shown below, and although he didn’t receive the ball in this move, it indicates how useful an outlet he can be.

Always looking to create 2v1s with the opposition full backs by supporting his wingers, his assist for the fourth goal showcased this. Breaking quickly, once again utilising his pace, he provided an outlet down the left as shown below.

Able to beat his man easily once again, he was dragged down in the box, winning his side a penalty, which was subsequently fired home.

However, one area where he can be targeted is through his aerial ability, and this was shown in the 2-2 draw to West Ham, where he was fault for the West Ham equaliser. Only 1.76m tall, he can be targeted by target men who look to drift wide, and West Ham looked to exploit this. Losing the first header, he had made a poor decision to go for the ball when his left midfielder had it covered.

Subsequently leaving his man, it created an overload which West Ham were able to exploit, and this decision making at the back will need to improve, especially when coming up against more physical players in senior football.

Sent off against Fulham U23s last week, it also showed a level of naivety, picking up a rash second yellow, making a cynical foul in this opposition’s half when already on a yellow (shown below). He will need to learn from what was a poor decision, but his disciplinary record does suggest it was a rush of blood as opposed to a common theme.


Another promising youngster looking to make the step up from Manchester United’s academy, chances in the cup competitions could be upcoming for the young full back. With a Europa League campaign and a potential EFL Cup run on the horizon, Solksjaer might be tempted to throw his young full back in, and he looks more than capable to taking that chance. One to keep an eye on, a loan move could also offer him exposure to first team football and certainly benefit

Tuesday Night Football: Best Bets – Foxes to ease past Hatters, Goals Galore in France

Luton Town vs. Leicester City

The third round of the Carabao Cup brings together second tier Luton Town and an in-form Leicester City at Kenilworth Road. Despite teetering above the drop zone in the Championship, The Hatters have been involved in some fantastically high scoring and enthralling games this season, a whopping 88% resulting in over 2.5 goals with goals flying in at both ends. Their solidity at the back is a cause for concern, donning the worst defensive record in the league, conceding 16 goals over 8 matches, an average of 2 per game. The gung-ho officionado’s will be coming into this cup tie at a relatively low ebb after Hull City ran out 3-0 winners following a second half capitulation last Saturday afternoon.

On the other hand, Leicester City arrive on the back of a hard-fought victory against Mauricio Pochettino’s Spurs, having to come from behind to claim a 2-1 win after an early Harry Kane goal put the visitors in front. The 2015/16 Premier League champions have started the domestic season in fine fashion, wedging themselves in between Manchester City and Arsenal in 3rd position in the league, Brendan Rogers will certainly have his sights set on breaching the exclusivity of the so-called ‘Top 6’.

No doubt the Northern Irishman will have earmarked this competition as a potential avenue for silverware, but with a chance to steal a march on the faltering top 6 he will most likely want to give his star performers a well-earned break from action in order to keep them fresh, still remaining confident of progressing past an opponent of significantly lesser stature. Nifty Spaniard Ayoze Pérez could lead the line with Marc Albrighton and Demarai Gray hoping to bump up their playing time, providing ammunition and guile from either flank.

Taking into account the somewhat unpredictable nature of a cup tie, I do envisage a fairly cruisy run out for a Leicester team still packed with talent and superior quality to that of a leaky Luton Town side, who’s defensive frailties will ultimately see them swept aside in tonight’s matchup.

Monaco vs. Nice

A trip to the principality now for a potentially captivating clash between a struggling Monaco side and a resurgent Nice.

The dizzying heights of a Champions League semi-final in 2017 are all but a distant memory as ‘Les Rouges et Blancs’ are currently languishing at the basement of the French top division having retained Ligue 1 status by the skin of their teeth last campaign. Despite being stripped of their most prized commodities in Radamel Falcao and Kylian Mbappé amongst others, Leonardo Jardim’s side still possess a real plethora of quality spearheaded by a robust vanguard of Islam Slimani and Wissam Ben Yedder, both of whom have found the net on 3 occasions this season.

A strikingly high percentage of fixtures involving these 2 sides have seen over 2.5 goals scored (92%), 9/12 of said fixtures resulting in both teams to score and over 2.5 goals. Somewhat uncharacteristic of a Nice side who were resolute and notoriously low scoring last season, ‘Les Aiglons’ have netted 10 times already and are yet to keep a clean sheet – looking susceptible at the back. Interestingly, all 6 of Nice’s previous fixtures have produced a 2-1 score line either way, and there’s more than enough evidence to suggest that a similar outcome will be on the cards tonight.

Nice have made a few shrewd acquisitions to supplement their forward line, shelling out around €20m for 21 year old Dane Kasper Dolberg who bagged 33 goals in 78 appearances for Ajax, definitely not a record to be snaffled at. The loan signing of Algerian attacking midfielder Adam Ounas from Serie A outfit Napoli should also provide some well needed flair and craft.

Both teams sporting a propensity for goals paired with lacklustre defending should be indicative of an open and entertaining affair awash with goal scoring opportunities.

Recommended Selections:

Luton vs. Leicester, Leicester to win and over 2.5 goals – 11/10 @ bet365

Monaco vs. Nice, Both teams to score and over 2.5 goals – 6/5 @ bet365

Match Analysis – Southampton 1-3 Bournemouth


Bournemouth survived a second half onslaught from Southampton to come away with their first Premier League win in five attempts at St Mary’s Stadium. Nathan Ake headed home from a corner after 10 minutes to give Bournemouth the lead, before Harry Wilson added a second after 35 minutes. James Ward-Prowse slotted home a penalty shortly after half time, leading to Southampton dominating the play for the remainder of the match. However, a stoppage time mix up at the back allowed Callum Wilson to poke home into an empty net, and send Bournemouth home with three points.

Line Ups:

Southampton switched back to four at the back, with Cedric slotting in on his unfavoured left side, and Kevin Danso returning at right back. Moussa Djenepo missed out through injury, however Nathan Redmond returned as a straight swap. Although the graphic shows a 4-2-2-2 formation, this was often a 4-3-3, with Boufal and Redmond drifting wide.

Bournemouth made one change from the win over Everton, with Jefferson Lerma replacing Lewis Cook, who is still being managed on his way back from a long term injury.

First Half:

Southampton looked to press Bournemouth from the outset, opting to try and make them go long where Vestergaard and Bednarek were dominant in the air. The attempts to press high are shown by the ball recoveries made in the first half, of which a high proportion were made in Bournemouth’s half. The press was effective when Southampton were able to pick up the second balls, however the high press left Southampton very vulnerable when Bournemouth were able to play around it, and were opened up on a number of occasions in the first half as a result.

Bournemouth were able to pick Southampton off effectively in the first half, and their new look formation has been key to this. Lining up 4-4-2, the attacking balance worked perfectly. Callum Wilson led the line, looking to occupy the two centre halves, who’s lack of pace behind caused them to drop deep. This left space in front of the defence, which Dominic Solanke dropped into and looked to link the play. Out wide, Harry Wilson and Joshua King were electrifying on the break, looking to make the most of the Southampton’s full backs positioning, who were being used as the wide attacking outlet by Hasenhuttl.

The influence maps from the first half reinforce this (above), and explain why Josh King had so much joy down the left side. Kevin Danso was often caught higher up the pitch, and Redmond’s positioning centrally left them very exposed. Bournemouth’s heat map from the first half (below) emphasises just how much play went through this channel in the first half, and it was no surprise to see the second goal come through that avenue, as well as a disallowed goal.

The exposure is demonstrated from the disallowed goal below, as Southampton were caught out when losing the ball high up the pitch, allowing Bournemouth to break at pace. Danso had pressed forward, and this allowed King to slip in behind. Finishing well, he was unfortunate to be flagged offside, however the problems didn’t stop there for Southampton down that flank.

Harry Wilson’s narrow positioning was also key to Bournemouth’s joy in the first half, as it made him particularly hard to pick up for Southampton’s full backs. As he drifted inside, Cedric was often left with a decision whether to go with him, or whether to leave him for a midfielder or defender to pick up. This movement led to Bournemouth’s second goal, as shown below.

Left 3v2 in the box, Harry Wilson (edge of the box) had drifted inside, with Solanke adding an overload at the back post. As a result, Cedric left Wilson to run inside, and Vestergaard reacted too late to stop the cross. He slotted home well at the near post, as Bournenouth went into the second half 2-0 up.

Second Half:

It was a tale of two halves, and fundamental to the shift in momentum was down to Hasenhuttl’s decision to substitute Danso and replace him with Ryan Bertrand, allowing Cedric to move over to his preferred right back position. The influence maps below show the shift in positioning in the second half, as Southampton forced Bournemouth onto the back foot.

Key to this was the control the midfielders offered in the second half, retaining the ball much better, as well as forcing Bournemouth into more mistakes on the ball when pressing high. The two centre halves opted to play higher and condense the space when in possession, and Bournemouth subsequently struggled to find Solanke and Callum Wilson in the second half with their long balls out when forced against the press. The two sides pass maps highlight this, with Bournemouth only completing 69 passes in the second half, whilst only retaining 30% possession, as they were forced back by Southampton.

The Southampton penalty was won as a result of Bournemouth being caught out when losing the ball in Southampton’s half, allowing a quick counter attack from Southampton. Che Adams found space where Stacey had pushed on, and this isolated centre back Cook 1v1.

He was able to dribble into the box before being fouled, allowing Ward-Prowse to score the penalty. Bournemouth reacted to this by dropping deeper, with their full backs being encouraged to press on less. As shown by the influence maps above, Rico and Stacey were forced very deep in the second half, as Southampton focussed a lot of their attacks out wide.

Southampton continued to press, and managed 17 shots in the game to Bournemouth’s 4, racking up an xG of 2.62 (inc a pen), compared to Bournemouth’s 1.29. Although this is promising in terms of chance creation, it highlights the need for Southampton to start taking their chances, as Che Adams has now gone six games without a goal. Southampton’s chance creation map is shown below, highlighting just how many opportunities they had.

The third goal flattered Bournemouth, who relied heavily on Josh King’s pace out left as their only effective outlet in the second half. As Cedric pushed on, he would stay high when he could and allow Bournemouth to stretch Southampton, highlighted by his willingness to run on the ball, shown by his 6 completed take-ons in the match. Unlucky not to win a penalty, he was deservedly given Man of the Match by SkySports, as he shines in the left wing role.

Southampton improved in the second half, however the damage was done by poor defending and tactical shape in the first. Bournemouth move up to 3rd in the table with 10 points, facing a trip to Burton in the Carabao Cup in midweek. Southampton have a mouth-watering South Coast Derby to contend with on Tuesday, as they welcome Portsmouth to St Marys, hoping to bounce back from this disappointing defeat.

Marc Guehi – One to Watch

One of England U17’s 2017 World Cup Winners, 19-year-old Marc Guehi is progressing quickly in Chelsea’s youth ranks, and looks to be another promising youngster coming through the production line at Chelsea’s academy.

He is currently the captain of Chelsea’s U23 side, and has made an impressive start to the campaign, featuring in the first four of Chelsea’s games, as well as their EFL Trophy game against Swindon.

He featured 32 times for Chelsea’s youth teams in the 2018/19 season, including playing a key role in the sides run to the Uefa Youth Champions League Final, where they were eventually defeated by Porto. Exposure to first team football was also afforded through four games in the EFL Trophy as Chelsea U23s made it to the Last 16. Only missing two games last season for the U23s in the PL2, he was a key defender in their campaign and was rewarded with a place on Chelsea’s bench for the final Premier League game of last season, and as a result he will be looking to kick on this season, pressing for first team action under Frank Lampard.

He has already made his England U21 debut against Turkey in September, standing out in a back three alongside Ben Godfrey and Trevah Chalobah, and opportunities in Chelsea’s first team won’t be far away, with a Carabao Cup game against Grimsby a potential opening for the young centre half.

Style of Play:

Standing at 1.82 metres in height, Guehi is a right footed, ball playing centre half. Comfortable playing out from the back, he is also physically dominant for his age at youth team level, whilst also possessing a turn of pace, making him an exciting prospect as a modern centre back.

This was evident in his two games for England U21s over the international break against Kosovo and Turkey. Completing 53 of 54 passes against Turkey and 90 of 93 against Kosovo, he played on the right side of the back three, supplying a fundamental link to the RWB and Tom Davies in central midfield. (Shown by heat maps below). He would often bring the ball out from defence, knowing there was cover available, and was very comfortable in a side dominating possession, something key if he is to break into Chelsea’s first team set up.

The shape of England’s back three is shown below against Turkey, and he was often given this time and space on the ball below, showcasing his ability to pick out passes to those up the pitch. He doesn’t look to force his passes, always happy to take a safer option, and this will only help his development and potential to step up to the first team, as it minimises the potential for errors on the ball.

He takes calculated gambles when trying to win the ball back defensively, and this was helped for the games against Turkey and Kosovo by playing in back three, and against Turkey in particular he was able to contribute with two interceptions, as well as winning the ball back on five occasions. However, against Kosovo, there were occasions where the youngster’s tendency to drift forward left England exposed at the back, especially with the two full backs left so high, and was helped by the pace of other around him. An improvement in this concentration and the decision making regarding when he should press forward will be needed, however this should come with time and with exposure to first team football.

He also offers a threat in the opposition’s box, scoring three last season, including one against AFC Wimbledon in the EFL Trophy, and has already scored against Manchester City’s U23s this season.


Another one of Chelsea’s talented youngsters, expect his time to shine in the first team to come in the coming years. Although often the case with Chelsea’s youngsters that a loan move is the first step, Lampard’s willingness to test youth players out will play into his hands. With the transfer ban running out in the Summer, a loan move may become an option then.

A move to Vitesse, similar to that of Mason Mount and Jake Clarke-Salter before him, could be best suited to his development, or he could follow in the footsteps of Tomori, and look to gain experience in the Championship.

He is definitely one to keep a keen eye on, and expect to see him progress both for Chelsea and England U21s in the coming months.

Football Index. My experience so far.


In January of this year I took the plunge and decided to see what Football Index was all about. I can honestly say it is one of the best decisions I have made when it comes to what is technically gambling.

Prior to this I enjoyed traditional betting with the bookies; accumulators, both teams to score, first goal scorer, overs on corners, overs on cards etc. If there was a market for it, I’d give it a go sometimes mixing a few of them together to rack up the odds. Not extortionate amounts in terms of stake, just what I knew I could afford. Sometimes they were successful, sometimes they weren’t. But that’s how gambling goes.

This is where Football Index began to intrigue me. Throughout the Christmas period I was reading through the ins and outs of the platform. I was watching players prices rise and fall and trying to make heads or tails of it. I created a separate Twitter account from my personal one and began getting involved in the #FICommunity which I encourage everybody to do (just try to ignore the inevitable drama that tends to come with it).

I highly recommend doing this if you’re on the fence about it. Any questions you have, just type it on Twitter and include the hashtags “#FICommunity #FootballIndex”. The community is extremely active, and usually very very helpful. This is how I learnt about all the different ways of earning dividends, and discovering the scoring matrix for match days. Building my confidence with every interaction leading to me finally getting involved.

Starting Up

After a couple of weeks of trying to learn the ropes I opened an account and deposited a modest £50. I had no intention of chasing dividends, I was in it purely for the capital appreciation so I picked up young players who had been having a good season; Luka Jovic, Kai Havertz, Joshua Kimmich, Kylian Mbappe and Jadon Sancho.

Five solid players having great seasons, quite young and stacks and stacks of potential. Their prices soon began to rise and honestly this gave me a buzz. I felt like I was doing something right.

After a week I found myself depositing more money, another £480 to be precise. It was sitting in my bank and I wanted more shares in players. Would I have lumped this amount on a bet in a traditional bookie? Not. A. Chance. But for some reason, the Index felt safe, and in turn I was buying more futures of players from all over the place and everything continued to rise without me really having to do anything.

What happened?

Since the beginning, I had created a spreadsheet where I could log the players I have bought, the amount of futures and the price I paid. Then also log their current price. I had a load of formulas in place to then calculate profit/loss and what the sell price would be after the 2% commission Football Index take on every sale. (will happily e-mail a template to anyone who wants it).

Cumulatively I have deposited £1,300 into Football Index. A lot to some and pennies to others that you may meet on the Index, but it is a fairly large amount to myself. I did this all within my first four months of being on the index. I had a diverse Portfolio of players and the majority of players were rising. I was lucky enough to get on the likes of Greenwood, Hudson-Odoi, Pepe, and Joao Felix before they really began to rise. But eventually I felt I’d need to sell in order to see the profit.

I would sell players when I felt they had hit their ceiling, I was often wrong and they would continue to rise after the sale, but it didn’t matter as I was still in profit. In turn I would reinvest the profit in other players, then rinse and repeat. It worked for me at the time and I was pleased with how it was going.

Eventually I came to the decision that whilst waiting on capital appreciation was making me money, there were other opportunities on the Index that I wanted to explore. Upon selling my whole Portfolio I had made a profit in just over seven months of 49.37%. To put that in terms of money, I had deposited £1,300 and after selling everything I had £2,000 in my Football Index account. I gladly withdrew £700.

Please find me a savings account or ISA that can do that!

Do’s and Don’ts

The best bits of advice I have received are;

  • Not to look at this as gambling, but to try and treat it as a savings account. Although you do have the possibility of losing money (do not be fooled, there is always a possibility).
  • Do not look at your profit/loss in terms of amount of money, but as a percentage.
  • You have not made or lost any money, until you sell your shares. Until then it is a potential loss or a potential gain.

I plead with you, if you are new to the index PLEASE IGNORE THE TRENDING LISTS. Sometimes they have no rhyme or reason, and even if there is a reason for it the odds are they’re on the trending list due to the amount they have risen already. Will they continue to rise?

Fear of missing out (FOMO) is a thing. You see a player on the rise, he might have been on your radar for a while and you buy him instantly without thinking about it. Before you hit buy, seriously ask yourself if there is a reason you don’t have him already. Trust your gut and don’t panic buy. Sometimes it will prove you right, other times you’ll just have to grit your teeth as you miss out. For example over the Summer transfer window I had my eyes on Jack Clarke ahead of his move to Tottenham. He started to rise early on but I missed out on that rise, I felt he couldn’t sustain the growth as he wouldn’t get first team football and inevitable his priced dropped back down again. I was right, and relieved to have missed out. These experiences definitely help you learn.

What’s Next?

I’m currently trialling a new way of making a profit on the Index which has shown some early promise, but involves a lot of research into players and keeping an eye on in-form players.

Dylan Levitt – One to Watch

18-year-old Dylan Levitt has been a main stay in the table topping Manchester U23 side so far this season, and having been called up to the Welsh national side for the second time for the last set of International fixtures, he is set to have a bright future.

Playing alongside James Garner in central midfield in a 4-2-3-1 formation, he has started all four of United’s U23 games this season, scoring once in a 5-0 win over West Brom U23s and providing two assists in the other games, making it a promising start to the season. He has also started in the 2-0 Trophy win at Rotherham, which was his first taste of football against senior opposition.

Style of Play:

He and Garner are expected to pick the ball up off the centre backs and dictate the attacks, a role he has slotted into very well. He is particularly comfortable on the ball, and is more than capable of playing out of tight situations. His small stature (1.79m) helps him, as his low centre of gravity makes him able to turn quickly and a handful for attackers looking to press him. Although this may potentially lead to issues as to whether he can adapt physically against certain sides, but when playing for a side looking to play out from the back and keep possession, this isn’t an issue.

He also possesses excellent ability on the ball to pick out long range passes, allowing him to either play around the press, or pick out team mates when given time and space. This vision is key to breaking teams down, and has been valuable this season in the final third for the U23s. An example below shows his assist against Newcastle, where he was able to pick out his teammate (circled) in between the two lines of Newcastle’s defence.

When in defence, he has shown his ability to press the opposition well, making himself a nuisance to opposition attackers with his energy, as well as tenacity to win the ball back. In United’s 4-2-3-1 formation, there is a large reliance upon Levitt to provide energy in midfield as the front four are much more attack orientated. The full backs also opt to push high to offer extra width, so any counter attacks from the opposition he needs to be able to deal with. As a result, his positioning in attacks is key, and in tandem with Garner, an understanding of when to push further forward is required. He has shown in these opening games that he is more than capable of filling this role, and the more football he plays at this level, the more this side of his game will develop.

Playing 14 times for the U18s last season, he scored 5 goals and assisted a further 6, and was often used as a deep, central midfielder, making these stats even more impressive. It was after the turn of the year where he started appearing for the U23s, and after a slow start in a young side, they have built a side capable of winning promotion this season, something Levitt will be able to contribute towards.

Slotting in alongside the more physical and very talented Garner will definitely have helped his progression, and exposure to playing against older, more physically developed players will only aid his own development further. Garner and Levitt are forming a strong partnership at U23 level, and with the attacking threat in front of them, such as Tahith Chong and D’Mani Mellor it allows Levitt to play his natural game and dictate the tempo, whilst as discussed before, having the vision to pick out his teammates at ease.

Capped 14 times at U19 level for Wales, his call up to the national team was a little surprising, however does show how highly thought of he is in the International set up. Called up in May despite on playing nine U23 games, he was once again called up for the games against Azerbaijan and Belarus, and if he continues his impressive progression for the U23s, a senior appearance for both Manchester United and Wales can’t be far away. With opportunities awaiting in the Trophy against Doncaster and Lincoln, an EFL cup tie against Rochdale on the horizon and the start of the Europa League campaign, it won’t be long until he makes the squad.

Match Analysis – Finland 1-2 Italy

Match Analysis – Finland 1-2 Italy

Italy made it six wins from six in Group J with 2-1 win over Finland in Tampere, taking them a step closer to the European Championships. Ciro Immobile scored his first International goal in 10 games before Teemu Pukki equalised from the penalty spot. Italy were then awarded a controversial penalty of their own in the 79th minute, which Jorginho slotted home. From there, Italy saw out the game with ease, leaving them top of the group with maximum points, whilst Finland lie second with 12 points.

Line Ups:

Finland lined up in 5-4-1 formation, opting for a more defensive set up than in their 1-0 win over Greece three days earlier.

Italy responded to their disappointing display in Armenia by making five changes, but keeping the same 4-3-3 formation. Florenzi, Romagnoli, Veratti (suspension), Bernardeschi and Belotti were replaced by Izzo, Acerbi, Sensi, Pellegrini and Immobile as Roberto Mancini freshened up his eleven. Emerson started at left back for Italy, however he was forced off with injury after seven minutes, which saw the introduction of Florenzi at left back.


Finland started the quicker of the two sides as Italy’s midfield took time to settle. Looking to press Italy high early on, Finland were able to expose Italy’s new defensive partnership twice in the opening ten minutes. Their best opening in the open passages came from winning the ball high up the pitch and catching out Italy’s higher defensive line. As shown below, Italy’s high line left space in behind Bonucci, who wasn’t able to cope with the runner from the left wing. With Izzo switching off, this allowed Lappalainen to drift in from the left wing and in behind to latch onto a clever through ball. Bonucci recovered well to clear on a bad touch, however it was another warning sign for the Italian defence following Thursday where a goal had been conceded in similar circumstances. Pukki also found space in behind minutes later, and although Italy did settle after these early worries, the last two games have shown a worrying trend of Italy starting slow at the beginning of halves and struggling to deal with a counter attack. The introduction of Acerbi at centre back has helped alleviate some of these worries, as he looked more comfortable alongside Bonucci than Romagnoli did on Thursday, however as they come up against better opposition, particularly with more pace in their attacks, it is definitely an area that Mancini will need to look at.

Italy’s best attacking threat often came through the left-hand side. Florenzi, the early replacement for Emerson, took up a very high position throughout the game, looking to occupy the Finnish right back. As a result, this allowed Pellegrini to drift inside and find space between the centre halves, as well as look to make runs into the box. This was effective as it allowed Florenzi plenty of space on the wing, as well as giving options in the box when crossing from the other flank. An example below shows how Pellegrini (No. 7) has drifted inside to occupy the full back, allowing Florenzi to make a late run into the box unmarked. The cross subsequently found Florenzi who was unable to finish, however it was an indication how Italy looked to overload the box to create chances.

The heat maps below highlight how high Florenzi looked to play, and how his positioning allowed Pellegrini to drift inside and occupy one of the three Finnish centre backs.

Although Florenzi did leave a lot of space in behind, Italy’s defence coped well, and the positioning of right back Izzo (No 5) helped alleviate these worries. He acted as a third centre half when Italy attacked down the left to avoid them being caught out at the back, an area which Armenia had capitalised on in the previous game.

Stefano Sensi impressed in the first half, and it was he who helped change the momentum of the match after Italy’s slow start. He led the high press to win the ball back and force Finnish mistakes on the ball, whilst looking to increase the intensity on the ball. He took on a number of long-range strikes and was unlucky not to score, in particular forcing a fantastic save from Finnish goalkeeper Hradecky.

With Jorginho sitting deeper behind, he offered protection to the back four when Italy decided to press, and Sensi and Barella’s defensive contribution was shown by the combined 25 duels they won. The press forced Finland to go longer towards Pukki, who cut an isolated figure as the half wore on, as Bonucci and Acerbi dealt comfortably with him.

Italy dominated possession (60%) throughout the match, and this largely down to the performances of Jorginho and Barella in the middle of midfield. Jorginho moved the ball patiently, completing 78 passes at 91% success, allowing Barella and Sensi to link the play further forward. Barella’s performance also stood out, completing 65 passes in the game, one of which key, whilst he demonstrated his ability to drive Italy forward, completing six dribbles throughout.

The opening goal for Italy was indicative of how they’d looked to create 1v1s out wide and cross. A long pass from Jorginho found Chiesa who had isolated his full back, allowing him to beat his man and cross. As touched on previously, Pellegrini had drifted inside with Florenzi high up the pitch, essentially leaving Italy 3v3 in the box.

Pellegrini’s movement dragged away a defender allowing Immobile to slot between the two at the back post, whilst Florenzi’s positioning high meant that the full back didn’t come across to mark Immobile as he was left to cover any deep ball to the back post. Although the ball was deflected to his path, Immobile took his goal well, and gave Italy the lead.

Following the goal, Italy then opted to defend deep and compact, and looked very comfortable in doing so. However, it was one moment of brilliance from Pukki when isolated up front that led to the penalty, with Sensi needlessly bringing him down when Italy had plenty of cover (shown below). Having dribbled with the ball for thirty yards, Italy should have dealt better with Pukki, however it was the only chance they let up from going 1-0 up, a much more promising sign from Thursday.

Prior to the Finnish goal, Bernardeschi was brought on to replace Chiesa, and following the equaliser Mancini reacted by bringing Belotti on for Immobile. Italy subsequently upped the tempo, looking to play wide and overload the box once again, and it was as a result of this that they won their controversial penalty. Shown below, Italy committed a number of bodies to their attack, once again choosing to focus down the left. Finland struggled to cope, and the pullback found Bernardeschi who’s shot was blocked by a Finnish defender’s hand, although harshly resulting in a penalty.

Italy subsequently saw the game out comfortably, and instead of looking to sit on the lead like they did at 1-0, the fresh legs of Belotti and Bernardeschi pushed them on to find a third. Belotti was unlucky not to score, as Finland tired and made a number of mistakes, however it represented a professional performance from Italy in the last ten minutes as they made it six wins from six.

Representing a good win against an improving Finland team, it leaves them with six wins from six in the group. The slow starts will worry Mancini, however they looked much more solid at the back after they settled, whilst the balance in the midfield is beginning to settle. Jorginho looks suited to the defensive midfield role when Italy dominate the ball, whilst the performances of Barella and Sensi are of promise going forward. Finding the right front three will be Mancini’s next challenge, and the returning Insigne will be expected to help alleviate any worries up top, whilst prospects Zaniolo and Kean will have another chance after being left out for disciplinary reasons this time round. Euro 2020 awaits Italy bar a minor miracle, a much-needed response after their disappointing qualification campaign for the 2018 World Cup.

Replacing Romelu Lukaku

Manchester United’s slow start to the season has identified one key aspect that they weren’t able to replace. In losing Romelu Lukaku to Inter Milan after the window shut, they weren’t able to bring in an adequate replacement. This was poor forward planning from United, as throughout the window it looked like Lukaku was set to move on, whether it be to Juventus or Inter Milan.

The 2-1 defeat to Palace and 1-1 draw with Southampton has thrown up a key trend. Teams have opted to defend narrow and at times deep against United, as they look to restrict the threat that Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Daniel James can have. This subsequently creates space in the midfield for creative midfielders such as Juan Mata and Paul Pogba, however if the supply is cut off or stifled out, United have struggled to find a plan B.

Regarding Lukaku, he offered a different approach. Whilst having the ability to hold the ball up and bring others into the game, he also has the pace to run in behind defences and stretch them. What hold up play enabled was the ability to draw out defenders to challenge for the first header, something Martial and Rashford are unable to do. This subsequently creates space in behind for the quick wingers, which United were often able to exploit in Solksjaer’s early games.

His presence in the air and ability to trouble defenders also meant when United did lead, he offered an outlet up front. Against Southampton, this was became an issue as when Southampton pressed high at 1-0 down and cut off the supply from midfield to attack, United were forced to go long. As Rashford was unable to challenge in the air (only winning 2/5 aerial duals), the Southampton defence were able to give themselves an extra yard to deal with his pace from balls in behind, and as a result United struggled to control the ball. This played a large part in Southampton getting a foothold in the match, and helped Southampton gain momentum up until their equaliser.

However, the main worry United are having is when teams are sitting deep and making themselves hard to break down. Against open opposition in Chelsea and Wolves, this was much less of an issue as the space afforded to United’s attackers allowed them to break both sides down, both on the counter against Chelsea and in possession against Wolves.

Against Palace and Southampton, United resorted to bombarding the box with crosses to try and create an opening, particularly late on. In past seasons, this has been a reasonable approach, with Lukaku offering a strong aerial threat, and previous to Lukaku, United have had Zlatan Ibrahimović and Marouane Fellaini to turn to as aerial options when this tactic was needed.

It was against Southampton where this became particularly evident, with Solksjaer opting to take off Mata and bring on Nemanja Matic to allow Pogba to play further forward. Partially to allow the French midfielder the chance to impact the game higher up the pitch, there was also the added element of his aerial ability, and given United’s tactics towards the end of that match, added the chance he could add an threat in the box. The lack of aerial duals won in the box is shown below, with United not winning one of these in the opposition box against Southampton.

United’s crossing worries against both Southampton and Palace are shown below. Only winning 13 of the 50 crosses into the box, if they are to employ tactics such as these, they should be looking to invest in a striker capable of fulfilling a role similar to that of Lukaku in January.

With the problem evident for Solksjaer, it becomes the question of who United should invest in?

If they were to look purely at the target man approach, similar to what Fellaini was utilised for by Mourinho towards the end of games, the statistics point to the likes of Troy Deeney and Aleksandar Mitrovic being the most threatening, each on average winning 6.5 aerial duals a game. Of the two, an argument could be made for Mitrovic as a back up striker. Surprisingly staying on at Fulham following their relegation, he has shown his ability as a suitable target man and his ability to bring players into the game, whilst also being a nuisance in the box. He has been impressive in performances for Serbia (6 in 6 Nation League games) when surrounded by higher quality players, suggesting a step up wouldn’t be as drastic as it would first seem. Netting 11 goals in a relegated Fulham side was impressive, however he has a tendency to miss a lot of big chances, shown by his xG to conversion rate. Last season for Fulham, he was expected to score 15.45 goals, as opposed to the 11 he scored (understat), and this is a trend from his other full season in the Premier League with Newcastle, where he netted 9 compared to the 10.34 he was expected. The other main issue would be the price he would be available at for the role he would be expected to fill. For the purpose of a back up striker who would be utilised when chasing games in the last 15/20 minutes when chasing games, he wouldn’t represent particularly good value, with Fulham expecting to recoup a chunk of the £30 million outlaid last summer.

Staying in the Premier League, the stand out player who currently could fill the void left by Lukaku is Raul Jimenez from Wolves. 13 goals in his debut season in the Premier League, he has carried his run of form into this season, scoring twice in the league and six in the Europa League already. At 190cm, he has an aerial presence which has been utilised well by Wolves. Although not overly reliant upon this side of his game, he is able to link the play with Diogo Jota, and has a strong ability to occupy defenders. This will leave vast space for the quick Jota to exploit in behind, and he could be employed in a similar way at United, with Rashford, Martial and James being deployed on the wings with him as the focal point of the attack. He also demonstrates good technical ability on the ball, and isn’t afraid to take on defenders. This season he has been averaging 2.3 dribbles per game, a marked improvement on the 0.9 from last season. His link play is also demonstrated by the seven assists and 1.1 key passes per game last season he offered, whilst he currently averages 28 passes a game. Having been signed in the summer, Wolves will be reluctant to sell, especially to a team that could be seen as a rival.

Other potential options include Inaki Williams from Atletico Bilbao, however he has just signed a nine year contract with a release clause of £125m, whilst Bilbao would also have to replace him with Basque-only players. Richarlison from Everton could also be an option, however he is more suited to playing out wide. Although it would help solve the aerial threat when chasing games, the outlet when looking to hold out when in front as against Southampton would still be an issue, as it would see Rashford and Martial moved centrally.

The tactics currently employed by United show that they are in need of replacing Lukaku, particularly against sides employed a deep, narrow defensive line. Jimenez would offer more as a starter, whilst Mitrovic would be an interesting option from the bench. Whether United would be willing to spend the money on a striker waits to be seen, however the current tactics suggest this would need to be the case.

Match Analysis – Armenia 1-3 Italy

Italy struggled to a 3-1 victory away at a hardworking, 10-man Armenian side in the Group J Euro 2020 Qualifier. Armenia took the lead after 11 minutes, with Alexander Karapetyan finishing well on a quick break, before Andrea Belotti equalised after 28 minutes. Karapetyan was harshly sent off on the stroke of half time for a second booking, allowing Italy to dominate the second half. They struggled to break down a resolute Armenian defence, and it took late goals from substitute Lorenzo Pellegrini and Belotti to hand them the 3-1 victory and leave them top of Group J, with 5 wins from 5.

Line Ups:


Armenia opted for a 4-5-1, with Henrikh Mkhitaryan tasked with providing the support for Karapteyan.

Italy lined up 4-3-3, with Belotti being handed a start after his impressive start to the season, scoring 7 goals in 8 Serie A and Europa League games.


In what was expected to be a routine Italian win, there were a number of signs that will worry Roberto Mancini, despite their 100% record in the group. The biggest of these for Italy is their back four, and in particular the struggles of central defenders Leonardo Bonucci and Alessio Romagnoli, who struggled against the team ranked 98th in the World.

Italy opted to press high early on, with there being early warning signs after only three minutes as Armenia broke the press easily, which isolated the two Italian CBs with Italy’s full backs pressed high. Armenia made sure when they did break, they committed enough players forward to create an overload, and as shown below they were able to create an opening through a cross that found Kapetaryan at the back post, who saw his shot saved.

Armenia’s goal followed on 11 minutes, as a sloppy pass from Federico Chiesa set them on a quick break from deep in their own half, and they were able to capitalise on the issues showcased above. The image below shows where Armenia were able to break from, and the positioning of Italy’s full backs had left the Italian centre halves exposed. Left back Emerson is circled below, and it was the space left behind himself which was exploited well.

With Italy overcommitted up the pitch (shown below) when the challenge was won, Armenia’s attackers broke quickly and isolated the slower Italian centre halves.

Karapetyan’s movement between the two defenders should’ve been dealt with better, however he finished expertly and gave Armenia the lead, identifying Italy’s main worry of losing the ball when overcommitted, and defending with such a high line.

However, after the goal Italy settled and managed to gain control of the midfield, on what was admittedly a difficult pitch to adapt to. Jorginho was particular vocal after the match regarding the state of the pitch, however it was he and Marco Veratti who helped regain control of the game. Their link play with Emerson down the left side was fundamental to Italy finding a way back into the game and as shown by Emerson’s and Veratti’s heat maps below, a lot of the play was focused down the left flank.

Aided by Veratti and Jorginho consistently being able to link with him, Emerson’s positioning created a problem for Armenia’s right back, who then had to contend with either Bernadeschi or Chiesa drifting inside. As shown below, the overload was able to create an excellent chance for Bernadeschi after 22 minutes, and also showed the other Italy’s main tactics. Whilst creating 2 v 1s out wide, they also looked to overload the box for crosses, and it was this combination that worked for Italy’s first and second goals.

The build up to the goal is shown below, again with Italy creating this 2v1 down the left side, whilst looking to pack the box.

In isolating the right full back, Emerson was able to beat his man, and subsequently pick out Belotti at the back post, who’s good movement left him with an easy tap in.

On the stroke of half time, Karapetyan was harshly sent off for a second yellow, which led to Armenia sitting deep and looking to soak up Italian pressure. Whilst Veratti and Jorginho looked to create and were fundamental to controlling the game, Italy struggled to break down the compact Armenian side, and their defensive worries were once again exposed at times.

On 58 minutes, Nicolo Barella picked up a necessary yellow card as Armenia broke in similar circumstances to their opener. With Florenzi and Emerson caught high up the pitch, Mkhitaryan broke through the Italy midfield and once again had the two Italian centre backs backtracking, leading to Barella being forced to bring him down. As Armenia tired these breaks were reduced, however it does show an area of major worry for Italy moving forward, and could see a change in centre halves for their trip to Finland on Sunday.

Italy eventually broke Armenia down after 77 minutes, following another well worked 2 v 1, before subsititute Pellegrini was able to get free in the box and head home. As touched on before, this was indicative of Italy overloading the box, subsequently making it hard for Armenia’s defence to cope with. 3 minutes later, Belotti added a third as they saw out the game comfortably.

Alongside Emerson, it was Veratti’s performance that stood out as he controlled the midfield. The big worry for Italy is that he will be missing against Finland through suspension, and will be replaced by Stefano Sensi, who has impressed for Inter this season in their opening two games. Veratti’s match stats showed how imperative he was to their patient build up, completing 90 passes at 90% success rate, which was even more impressive given the state of the pitch. He also contributing three key passes, often difficult against such compact defences, whilst his defensive work can’t be underestimated. He won possession eleven times, three times of which came in the final third, indicative how he led the Italian’s high press.

An important win for Italy as they remain with maximum points after five games, it is Finland up next, who lie second and recorded an impressive 1-0 win over Greece, with Teemu Pukki netting again. Veratti will be a miss, and in particular the defensive worries at centre half will need to be looked at ahead of Sunday’s game, as Italy look to make it six from six.

Ashley Barnes for England?


Gareth Southgate has announced his England squad for the upcoming fixtures against Bulgaria and Kosovo. As ever, there were some controversial selections and omissions.

The first senior call-ups of Tyrone Mings and Aaron Wan-Bissaka (sadly the latter has had to drop out through a back injury) came after their good form at the start of the new premier league season. However, for Burnley striker Ashley Barnes, the wait for his first chance goes on.

The 29 year old from Bath has started the new season where he finished the last. Already having scored 4 goals in as many games this term. Since the start of 2019, only Sergio Aguero and Sadio Mane have scored more goals in the Premier League than the Burnley striker. That is an incredibly impressive statistic considering the free-scoring teams that those players play for.

Despite Barnes making one U-20 appearance for Austria, he would be available for selection for the England senior team having not played for Austria at the senior level. So the question is, has Barnes been unlucky to have not received a call up from Southgate?

England initial squad for the games against Bulgaria and Kosovo (Credit: @England on Twitter).

With the inclusion of Jesse Lingard, who hasn’t been at his best for Man United this season, I would suggest that he is very unfortunate to have not got the call from Southgate. Let me know your thoughts and whether you would have had Barnes in your England squad?


Match Analysis – Southampton 1-1 Manchester United

De-ja-vu struck again for United as they were held to a 1-1 draw by 10-man Southampton at the St Mary’s. Daniel James had given United the lead after 10 minutes, before a barrage of pressure after half time resulted in Jannik Vestergaard heading home an equaliser on 58 minutes. Kevin Danso saw red after 72 minutes, but Southampton held out for the final 18 minutes to earn a credible draw, and leave Solksjaer with only one win in their first four outings this season.

Line Ups:

Southampton                                                Manchester United

Nathan Redmond missed out for Southampton after an injury sustained against Fulham in midweek and was replaced by Sofiane Boufal, whilst Cedric Soares replaced Yan Valery from the win at Brighton.

Defeat against Crystal Palace coupled with injuries forced Solksjaer into a handful of changes. Luke Shaw and Anthony Martial’s injuries saw them replaced by Ashley Young and Andreas Pereira, whilst Juan Mata came in for the struggling Jesse Lingard, as Marcus Rashford was pushed into a central striker role and Dan James switched to the opposite flank.


In the first half for Manchester United, it was the tactical set up of the attacking front three, as well as the role of Aaron Wan-Bissaka that stood out. The choice to play Andreas Pereira on the right flank created a lot of space against a narrow Southampton defence for Wan-Bissaka to make the most of. Pereira would often look to drift inside and link the play with Mata and Rashford in the middle, which resulted in plenty of space for Wan-Bissaka to move into. Southampton’s full backs were expected to give the width to their attacks (shown by the influence maps below), and given Danso’s high position on the pitch throughout the game, it led to a lot of space for Wan-Bissaka and a torrid afternoon for the Southampton full back.

Manchester United Influence Map:             Southampton Influence Map:

The link between Wan-Bissaka and Pereira is also shown below by their respective heat maps from the match. Wan-Bissaka put in an excellent shift on the right side, racking up 100 touches throughout the game, whilst Pereira’s narrower role than what James had played in previous games created this space. Solksjaer’s decision to play Pereira on the right will have been influenced by the injury to Luke Shaw, who had been asked to do what Wan-Bissaka did against Southampton in previous matches. Ashley Young subsequently had a more restrained role, with James expected to offer the width and attacking threat on the left.

Aaron Wan Bissaka Heat Map                      Andreas Pereira Heat Map

Given how much influence he was expected to have on the game going forward, Wan-Bissaka’s defensive performance was particularly impressive, dealing very well with tricky Southampton winger Sofiane Boufal. As shown below, he completed 10/12 tackles in the match (the highest of any player on the pitch), often in dangerous areas around his own box. He was also able to demonstrate his ability on the ball going forward, completing the most amount of successful take-ons in the match (3/4).

Juan Mata also played a very important role for United, afforded a free role in behind Rashford. He made the most of this, drifting to both flanks and linking the play, and it was once his influence dropped that Southampton were able to get back into the game. By giving Mata the free role, similar to what Lingard had in previous games, it made him harder to track for midfielders Oriol Romeu and Hojbjerg. If one of the midfielders moved wider to mark him, it would leave an extra man in midfield (either Pogba or McTominay), and this allowed United to dictate possession for large periods of the first half.

Juan Mata Heat Map:

United looked to exploit the narrow Southampton set up throughout the game through the use of high full backs and Mata, and their opening goal showed how effective this was. The goal came from a 2v1 situation on the right side, with Mata’s movement to the flank creating the space for James to cut inside and score.

Wary of his pace and the run outside, Cedric backed off for too long, whilst Bednarek didn’t step up time. Afforded too much space, James finished well to give United the lead.

A similar scenario followed later on in the first half, when Wan-Bissaka fired over having found himself on the end of a McTominay cross. The freedom afforded to United’s attacking midfielders allowed Pereira to drift inside (by the referee), whilst Wan-Bissaka and Mata created an overload on the back post (off picture).

Although a tough scoring chance, it showed promise to United’s attacking threat, and how they had looked to target the narrow Southampton set up through wide overloads and giving freedom to their attacking midfielders.

However, Southampton started the second half the much better side, and this was down to them stopping the supply from United’s midfield up to Mata, James and Rashford. It was Oriol Romeu who stood out for Southampton in particular in the second half, impressing with his defensive work, as well as being able to utilise the ball well, linking up with Hojbjerg, who’s creativity was key to Southampton getting back into the game. Completing the most passes (43) on the Southampton side, Hojbjerg was also influential in the final third, completing the most final third passes of anyone on the pitch (15). The combination of Romeu’s defensive work and Hojbjerg being able to get on the ball to create allowed Southampton back into the game, as the United attack were frustrate going forward.  

McTominay in particular struggled for United, only completed three passes in the time between half time and the Southampton goal, and given he was the link between the midfield and Mata/James, United subsequently struggled to create any attacks going forward in this time. Romeu’s influence on the midfield was a strong factor in this, and shown below is how impressive he was defensively, making 11 ball recoveries (highest for Southampton), as well as 6 tackles. Key is where on the pitch me made these tackles and recoveries, as he was able to make them high enough on the pitch to stop United breaking through at the Southampton defence.

However, after the Southampton equaliser, United looked to regain control in the game, and Solksjaer opted to bring Lingard and Matic on for Mata and Pereira, allowing Pogba to move forward into a more attacking role. This coincided with Danso being sent off a few minutes later, and led to Southampton sitting very deep and holding out for a draw. As a result, Southampton opted to defend very narrow and allow United a lot of space out wide, feeling comfortable enough to deal with their crosses.

Southampton Player Influence (Post Red Card):           

Manchester United Player Influence (Post Red Card):

As a result, United attempted 12 crosses in the final 18 minutes, but were only able to complete two, with Vestergaard and Bednarek impressing defensively. Worryingly, there was a lack of creativity in the middle, and their best chances came mostly from long range.

The image below shows just how narrow Southampton had opted to defend, and why United opted to rely upon crosses, despite not having a focal aerial target in the middle.

Solksjaer bemoaned his side’s wastefulness after the game, and they really should’ve put the game to bed in the first half when on top. Managing 21 shots, they finished the game with an xG of 1.75 to Southampton’s 0.85, showing that they had realistically done enough to win the game.

xG Map (Southampton 0.85 – 1.75 Manchester United)

Next up for Manchester United is a home game against Leicester City, and they will need to be much more clinical if they are to pick up their second win of the season. Southampton will be confident of building on this performance ahead of their away trip to Sheffield United in a fortnight, and the balance of the midfield is beginning to take shape, particularly with Romeu and Hojbjerg impressing in the middle.

Written by @blandc_1996

Match Preview – Peterborough v Sunderland – Peterborough’s Front Three

Peterborough started the season slowly losing their first three games, however they have bounced back ahead of Sunderland’s trip to the Weston Homes Stadium, earning a credible draw against leaders Ipswich, before two comprehensive away wins against Southend (2-0) and MK Dons (4-0), where Marcus Maddison in particular has stood out.

One of the standout players outside of the top two English leagues, Maddison has been consistently linked with moves away from Peterborough, particularly with Sunderland over the last two transfer windows. He has once again started this season brilliantly, already racking up five assists and a wonder strike to his name, and is building up a potentially devastating relationship to League One defences with forwards Mohamed Eisa and Ivan Toney.


25-year-old Maddison started his career at Newcastle United, before getting his first taste of senior action in a loan move to Blyth Spartans in 2012. A brief move north of the border to St Johnstone followed, before he returned to the North East at National League Premier Gateshead. It didn’t take long for him to be noticed at this level, and after 9 goals in his first season and 4 in the opening 5 games of the 2014/15 season, he moved to Peterborough. Since then, he has been consistently one of the stand out players in League One, and it is surprising to many that he is still playing at this level.

2019/20 Season:

Maddison’ is utilised best when playing as an attacking midfielder, where his playmaking ability stand out, and the system Darren Ferguson is currently employing appears to be getting the best out of him.

Line Up v Southend (2-0):                                    

Line Up v MK Dons (4-0):

It is Maddison’s effectiveness on the ball this season which is particularly impressive. Afforded a license in behind the two strikers due to the solid nature of the three across the midfield, he has been able to rack up five assists and a goal in the opening five league games.

Across these games, he has been averaging 2.6 key passes a game, and whilst his passing statistics don’t look fantastic at first reading (58% pass accuracy), it is more to do with the role he is being asked to play. With less emphasis than previously on his defensive role (0.4 tackles p/g and 0.2 interceptions p/g), he has been able to pick the ball up higher in the pitch, and as a result impact games where his talent really matters. Despite only making 17 passes per game on average, 10 of these are coming in the opposition’s half. He is being trusted in his ability to create as shown by the assists against Southend (covered below), with both being excellent long-range passes. Whilst these don’t always come off (evident by the low pass percentage), it is what he has been asked to do rather than retain the ball, and giving him this license to create, alongside the free role he has been given, is helping turn Peterborough into an attacking force.

Loving to drift between the lines of the opposition midfield and defence, his effectiveness when getting the ball in these areas is best showcased by his goal against MK Dons.

Here, due to the free role he has been afforded, Maddison escaped the attention of both the midfielders and defenders. Able to turn and shoot, his excellent finishing ability was showcased by scoring from the situation below.

His free role was epitomised against Southend, as he was able to drift out wide, once again making him difficult to pick up. It was here he was able to find the space (below), before delivering a cross from deep for Eisa to finish.

For Peterborough’s second goal, he once again found space but this time on the opposite flank, once again delivering a fantastic cross in for Toney to finish (below). This shows the importance of giving Maddison a free role, and why he is a nightmare for League One defenders to deal with.

The creation of the space in front of the back four is also helped by the two centre forwards Eisa and Toney. Both pacey strikers, the defenders are wary of stepping up and compacting the play to mark Maddison as it will leave space in behind for Toney and Eisa to exploit. However, dropping off leaves a much bigger space for Maddison to utilise his playmaking ability, and thus making it extremely hard to defend against.

The decision to play a narrow three across midfield is also helping Maddison find pockets of space out wide, as opposition full backs have the decision to make whether to drift inside to deal with the three, or let the ball move out wide into their position. If they don’t move narrower, the midfield can get overloaded, however if they do, it creates more space for the likes of Maddison, Toney and Eisa, as well as allowing space for Peterborough’s full backs to press on.

Eisa and Toney have begun to hit form at the start of this season, scoring 4 goals each, and it is expected that this total will only continue to grow throughout the season. If a team is to be effective against Peterborough, they need to find a way to stop the supply into Maddison, whilst also not being caught out in behind by the Peterborough forward line. A particularly tough front three to defend against, Peterborough are priming themselves well for a promotion push this season.

Match Preview: Arsenal v Tottenham – Who has the upper hand?

The North London derby has come early this season in just the fourth round of fixtures, with Arsenal set to host Tottenham on Sunday 1st September. With both sides coming into the fixture on the back of a loss this early on in the season, three points would obviously be desirable.

Going into the match, both sides have differing issues that they are already facing relating to how they’re currently performing on the field. Chris has already analysed in “Pepe’s time to shine” the possible frailties of Tottenham’s back line, so I’ll be looking at other issues that both Unai Emery and Mauricio Pochettino look to be facing, and how their opposite number could possibly exploit them.


While Arsenal have come out triumphant in two out of three matches, their already some concerning trends appearing in their games. Their wins aren’t convincing dominant displays, and are usually a moment of individual brilliance rather than a superior team performance.

If we take a look back at their two wins so far this season, both were by a solitary goal. Whilst there is no debate that three points, is three points, and the team did what was needed, a dominant display would have been welcomed. For example if we look at the match stats from both the Newcastle and Burnley games below;

Possession-wise, absolutely no problem. Arsenal are seemingly in control of the game if we go by possession only, but the alarming numbers to keep your eyes on are the amount of shots that they had to face during the 90 minutes. In fact, there has not been one match this season where the Gunners have had more shots than their opposition.

Now I know just showing these stats alone it still doesn’t show the whole picture. For all we know, all those shots could be coming from forty yards out, not even troubling the keeper. But the fact of the matter is, and with the help of the graphics below, that is simply not the case especially in the Burnley game at the Emirates.

It could be argued that having the lions share of possession that Arsenal had control in the majority of the matches, which is a valid point of debate. But if we take a look at the player influence tables in the images below, we can see the average position of each player. Also, the bigger the name, the more touches the player had of the ball, the bigger the influence they had on the direction of the match.

So BIG BOLD NAMES is a very good sign when reading this chart. But what I see when I read this is how deep all of the teams’ average positions are and perhaps even more alarmingly that in both images, Leno’s name is bigger than any of the strikers.

In hindsight, it didn’t matter as Arsenal won both games. No argument there, but the lack of a dominant display could give any team with something about them the opportunity to pick up a victory against Arsenal. For example, Liverpool of course are one of the best two clubs in the league and beat Arsenal 3-1 in the league last week with a top display. This week against Tottenham, Champions League finalists last season, with an attacking trio of Kane, Son and Lucas will certainly give Arsenal something to think about.

During the Summer transfer window a lot was made of how little Arsenal had to spend and how they may struggle this term. Then they blew all them rumours out of the water by more than exceeding their perceived transfer kitty of £40m.

Signings like Nicolas Pepe and Dani Ceballos are absolutely superb acquisitions. Kieran Tierney could be an absolute revelation down the left when he returns from injury. Gabriel Martinelli has shown glimpses of what could be a very good player.

Note: I have written articles on both Kieran Tierney (Kieran Tierney: Hit or Miss in the EPL) and Nicolas Pepe (Stealing the Headlines: Nicolas Pepe to Arsenal) and what they bring to the table for Arsenal.

But an area they were lacking from last season was in the centre back position and it almost seems as this was overlooked by the hierarchy. Of course, they have signed one of the brightest prospects in Europe with Saliba then proceeded to loan him back to the club they signed him from.

Then Arsenal signed David Luiz on deadline day from Chelsea. In what appeared to almost be a panic buy, the 32 year olds transfer came out of nowhere. I doubt many Arsenal fans were jumping for joy at the sight of Luiz pulling on an Arsenal jersey. More were excited about having Luiz and Guendouzi’s hair on the pitch at the same time.

However, I digress, the point being that in central defence coupled with the loss of Koscielny does not look any stronger than last season and last season is where the team lacked. This is their weakness. Guendouzi as promising as he looks still has a mistake in him, Xhaka goes missing some games, and Torreira can’t do the job on his own.

If Tottenham can get someone like Christian Eriksen or Giovani Lo Celso operating in that area, then the goals could start flowing. However, Arsenal have shown time and time again, both last season and early this season that they do not need a lot of opportunities to score goals.

So can Tottenham cope against Arsenal’s prolific force? Let’s take a look.

Tottenham Hotspur

Coming off the back of shock 1-0 defeat at home to Newcastle, Spurs fans have every right to be concerned. With a record stretching back to last season they have four victories in their last fifteen games in the league, that is relegation form. Needless to say their appearance in the Champions League final, and that monumental second leg away to Ajax quite nicely covered up their shortcomings in the run in domestically last season. If you remember, getting Champions League football because no one else in contention could pick up a victory either.

Tottenham’s issues are quite different to that of Arsenal on the pitch though. I think it’s fair to say that since the loss of Dembele Spurs have found it difficult. At his best, Dembele was a force in the centre of the park for Spurs, contributing greatly in progressing the ball to Eriksen who was positioned perilously between the opposition’s midfield and defence, with the ability to create something from nothing.

When Dembele was sold, he was missed. Alli, Eriksen and Kane were all forced to drop deeper to help out the midfield and get the ball forward proficiently. For me this explains their slump towards the end of the season, they missed that player.

Now, with Tanguy Ndombele, and possibly with Lo Celso too Spurs have appeared to have filled that void. The problem this week being that Ndombele has been ruled out with a thigh strain and Lo Celso is yet to have a starting berth, with Pochettino stating he is not yet ready. On top of this, Pochettino’s reluctance to start Eriksen in two of their opening games has stifled their flow and creativity and ultimately their ability to win convincingly, and some time win at all.

Pochettino’s team still largely dominates possession as seen above, but the game so far this season has not been played on their terms. For example, both Aston Villa and Newcastle had done their homework on Spurs and allowed them to have the ball, almost inviting Spurs to attack. There was no closing down done outside their own half and they were superbly drilled defensively (particularly Newcastle) knowing that Tottenham struggle to break teams down.

Opposition seem to be able to find it easier to counter-attack against Spurs now and Tottenham do not look the threat they did two seasons ago. If we look at Tottenham’s player influences tables from the Villa and Newcastle game, you’ll see that their average positions are a lot further up the pitch in comparison to their rivals, whilst Lloris’ name is barely even seen (the same could be said for Kane against Newcastle). But it’s one thing to have the ball, it’s another to use it effectively.


In Summary, Arsenal have issues defensively without a doubt and David Luiz is not the player they needed but he was available. Harry Kane could be relishing this battle over facing Sokratis and I wouldn’t be surprised if we seen the striker position himself between the midfield and in front of Luiz. David Luiz does have a tendency to follow his man and if he does that come Sunday there could be a gap being left behind him for the likes of Son and Lucas.

I believe that Spurs have signed solutions to the issues I have mentioned above, unfortunately Ndombele is out of the game, Lo Celso may not start and Spurs could be back to square one. With Pochettino reluctant to start the likes of Vertonghen or Eriksen, we could definitely see Tottenham’s profligacy allow Arsenal’s front three having a field day on the counter attack.

Who will win? This is so finely balanced I can’t see anything but goals. Tottenham play better against teams that don’t sit back, and Arsenal will not allow a ninety-minute back to the wall job, so there will be space for Spurs to find that pass and end product. Tottenham like to press high and close down quick resulting in a high defensive line. With the pace of Pepe, Aubameyang and Lacazette we could see Spurs more reluctant in their pressing approach.

It will be a chess game between the two managers but it should be an absolute spectacle. I can’t wait.

Match Preview: Arsenal v Tottenham – Nicolas Pepe to Shine

Arsenal host Tottenham in the first North London derby of the season on Sunday as they both look to bounce back from disappointing defeats in their previous game. Arsenal were unsurprisingly beat by Liverpool at Anfield 3-1, whilst a lacklustre Tottenham were stunned by a resolute Newcastle 1-0 at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Unai Emery sprung a tactical surprise against Liverpool, opting for a very narrow 4-3-1-2, a formation that they hadn’t even experimented with in preseason. Pepe and Aubameyang led the line with Ceballos in behind, whilst Willock, Guendouzi and Xhaka played as the midfield three.

Pepe to be Key?

This formation was used to utilise Nicolas Pepe’s ability to stretch the game, and he could be the one to bring the North London Derby alive. Contrasting to the Liverpool game, Emery could be tempted to start the game as finished against Liverpool with 3 up top against Spurs’ fragile defence with Lacazette playing centrally and Aubameyang and Pepe pushed wide. Pepe was played centrally on Saturday as a ploy to leave him 2v2 with Liverpool’s centre backs, and it very nearly worked. Liverpool’s full backs were pushed very high due to Arsenal’s narrow midfield to utilise the space out wide, and this left a lot of space up the pitch for Arsenal. The image below shows how they looked to utilise this space as he drifts in from the wing, making a run between the two centre halves, a trademark of his time at Lille. His pace subsequently caused hesitation from Adrian, and whilst Aubameyang was unable to finish, it highlights an area of worry of Spurs back 4.

Arsenal also tried to beat Liverpool’s press by playing out riskily from the back, and when they did play through it, Pepe and Aubemeyang were afforded acres of space. It was here were Pepe’s main attributes were allowed to be utilised. He became the first person to dribble past Van Dijk in Premier League games since March 2018, and completed the highest number of take-ons from any player on the pitch (7 of 10 successfully).

He looks very comfortable with the ball at his feet, as well as being very tricky, so if he is forced to play wider, he will still be able to use these attributes. His statistics from both this season and past few are also impressive. He averaged 3.7 dribbles a game last season for Lille, and he is a target for defenders. He was fouled 2.8 times per game last season and 2.3 times per game the season before. He will be up against an unsettled Spurs back four on Sunday, and the last thing they will want to be worrying about is his pace and trickery. He drifted onto the right side against Liverpool (see heat map) before looking to cut inside, and this could be particularly dangerous for Spurs given their defensive worries on that side this season.

Pepe Heat Map v Liverpool:

It was a similar story against Burnley, all be it from the subs bench. Starting out right, he looks to move inside both with the ball and with his diagonal runs. Despite only being on the pitch for 45 minutes, he successfully attempted more take-ons (4/6) than any other player on the pitch, whilst creating three chances in that time.

Pepe Heat Map v Burnley:

The passage below shows how he looks to move in from the wing and run diagonally towards the goal, and against the much slower Spurs defence, this is going to cause a lot of problems. The goals that Spurs conceded against Aston Villa and Newcastle are going to particularly worry Mauricio Pochettino, as both came through the space where Pepe utilises best. The image below shows the space between Rose and Sanchez which John McGinn was able to capitalise on to give Villa the lead, and it is these situations where Pepe will be at his best and most dangerous.

The following home game against Newcastle saw the same problem once again, with the space between Rose and Sanchez allowing Joelinton plenty of time to slot home past Lloris.

In order to alleviate these worries, Pochettino may opt to recall Ben Davies and Jan Vertonghen, however it is worth noting that neither has played much first team football nor blessed with the pace to cope with Pepe, Aubameyang and Lacazette, so the issues will still be underlying.

Nicolas Pepe may have been an expensive signing for Arsenal, however it is evident he does possess the raw attributes to become a priceless asset for Emery’s side this season, and Sunday is the perfect opportunity for him to become a favourite amongst Arsenal fans.

(Images from StatsZone, WhoScored & SkySports)

Mason Mount: England call-up deserved?

At the age of just 20, and in a large part down to Chelsea’s transfer ban, Mount has been thrust into the first team and has taken it all in his stride. Be it behind the striker, part of a midfield three, or placed out on the left wing, not once has the youngster looked out of place or out of his depth and for us, would be fully deserving of an England call up.

As we will see below, picking at parts of his performance from his first three matches, Mount’s versatility is key in helping him become a very unpredictable individual, couple that with an undying stamina and a relentless tenacity evoking memories of a certain Carlos Tevez approach at chasing the ball down, he appears to have a very bright future. An odd comparison I know, but one I stand by, Tevez defined the word tenacious on his good days.

Mason Mount vs Manchester United (4-0 loss)

Let’s start with the heat map. Lining up behind the striker, clearly a lot of faith had been put in him by Lampard. Despite the scoreline, Mount was one of the few players to shine.

The map below shows that Mount’s position knew no bounds, especially in the opponents half. If the ball was there, he wanted it, and he has already gained the trust of his teammates that they are more than happy to give him it too.

For the full 90 minutes, Mount strode across the pitch with an endless energy which gave his team a lift. Albeit a fruitless task come full time.

Heatmap: Mason Mount vs. Manchester United (SofaScore)

With his instructions seemingly being almost a free roam, go where needed kind of role, Mount had the freedom to chase down loose balls, pounce on the oppositions mistakes and ultimately win the ball back for his team in the oppositions half.

Looking at the image below through the app StatsZone (@Statszone) we can see that Mount recovered the ball for his side on 8 occasions, 6 of which were in the oppositions half. Now considering the 4-0 scoreline, that’s an impressive stat.

Winning the ball back in those positions was a bonus, and Mount seemed to flourish just as much when it came to productivity. Finishing the match with an 81.6% passing accuracy, making 4 key passes, and even testing the keeper with 2 shots on target. This was no mean feat when making your Premier League debut.

Then we come to his direct play during the match. When out of possession, he made the point of chasing down the opposition relentlessly. When in possession he was just as effective, moving into space and always wanting the ball.

Looking at the example below we can see Mason Mount on the left of the image. He has seen the gap between the four United players and has dropped into it. Knowing the ball is coming his way, his head is already up looking over his shoulder for a teammate in space.

With his first touch he knocks it straight out wide and turns and begins to run. Mount’s anticipation is key here, as he already knows the next pass is not intended for him. Although he knows he wont receive the first ball, he can see the space behind his teammate (just out of picture to the left), and sprints without hesitation.

Mount is now in full stride and is shrieking where he wants the ball. His teammate provides it and in the space of five seconds, the ball has past five United players in four touches. With the defenders being dragged towards the ball, Mount capitalises and relies on his teammates passing ability as he runs past the last man on the halfway line.

Now with the whole side of the pitch to himself, Mount bounds down the sideline with the United players struggling to gain anything on him.

Getting towards the edge of the area, Mount is already looking up and planning his next move. With no one in the box, he needs to drive in a further few yards before releasing the cross towards his teammate.

Unfortunately for Mount, this didn’t result in a goal, or even an opportunity. As he crossed the ball into the box, it was blocked by the covering Wan-Bissaka who incidentally had a fantastic match.

All in all, Mount put on a near faultless display in the face of a 4-0 defeat. How many players can say that?

Mason Mount vs Leicester City (1-1 Draw)

Second game of the season, a second start and a second position out on the left wing (until substitutions in the second half placed him on the opposite side of the pitch). This was a game where the Chelsea fans, along with the football fans watching on got to see a glimpse of the versatility of the 20 year old.

Looking at the heat map below there’s a distinct difference to the area covered in comparison to the United match, almost looking like he was hugging the line. With the primary focus attacking down the left, and tracking back on defensive duties. His boundless stamina is built for this kind of role.

Heatmap: Mason Mount vs. Leicester City

Once again, it was his defensive efforts that stood out. Pressing from the front keeping the opposition under constant pressure and forcing them into mistakes. This ultimately led to the goal and is a fine example of the kind of player Mount is developing into. Looking at the stat below, he recovered the ball on 6 occasions, mainly down the left wing. This stat obviously doesn’t take into account the amount of times he forced the opposition into making errors with his approach.

His attacking stats however, tell us a different story to the above images. His attacking third passes were not limited to the left wing, some were central, and some on the right wing. When out of possession, Mount was drilled in what was expected and where to cover. But after the transition into an attack, a different story emerges as he appears more central.

It’s easy to see, especially from the shooting stats, that Mount was always in the thick of it, and central during the attacking phase. Finishing the match with an 84.4% passing accuracy, making 1 key pass, and even testing the keeper with 3 shots on target and his first goal for the club. Mount continued setting the standard.

The below from the match against Leicester shows the relentless determination of the youngster when his team are out of possession. With Leicester in possession, Mount is highlighted in blue, initially next to Choudhury. But as he reads the game watching the player in possession he knows Ndidi is the target of the next pass.

The pass is played and Mount is already on his way to close down the defensive midfielder. Note the distance between the two players from when the ball is passed to when Ndidi has it in possession (use the cut of the grass to gauge distance).

The Leicester player has had to take two steps towards the ball to collect it. In that time, Mount has more than halved the distance between them. Whilst Ndidi is having to collect the ball, and turn to look for the next pass, Mount has been sprinting in a straight direction and it is obvious that within a couple of feet Mount will have caught up.

It doesn’t appear as if the Leicester player had received a shout from his teammates and was caught almost unawares. With little reaction time, despite the strength difference, he doesn’t have time to shield the ball from Mount, who’s agility and speed allow him to take the ball from the opposition with ease.

Now with the ball in his possession and the defensive midfielder breathing down his neck, the goalkeeper slowly advancing to cut off the angle, and on top of that Mount begins to lose his footing, you’d be forgiven for thinking that this had “scuff” written all over it. But somehow he managed to get enough power and precision on the ball as he was falling to the ground to slot it past the keeper. Ability beyond his years.

Mason Mount vs Norwich City (3-2 win)

In Chelsea’s last match against Norwich, Mount’s position appeared to be very similar to the way he set up against Leicester. However, with Jorginho, Barkley and Kovacic (no real ball winner) lined up behind him, and possibly a bit of a brazen approach at a perceived quality difference, the whole closing down approach was nowhere near as urgent as in previous matches. Which almost cost the club a victory.

Heatmap: Mason Mount vs. Norwich City

This is shown in the below stat when it comes to Mount recovering the ball for his side. Despite the perceived quality difference, the amount of recoveries the youngster made was very limited, which could be down to how the side were set up to play by Lampard.

It could also be thought that there was less ball recoveries because Chelsea had the lions share of the possession but this was simply not the case. Chelsea had 54%, Norwich 46%, most of which was in their own half. In the previous two games, Mount and the rest of the players would have been closing down constantly. But their approach was different in this match and as said above, nearly cost them the win against the newly promoted side. It surely can’t be fatigue already.

Mount’s passing side of the game, was once again extremely consistent finishing the game with 82.1% passing accuracy mainly in the oppositions half. Making 2 key passes, Mount showed once again what a creative force he is becoming, also getting 2 shots on target and another goal to his name.

Now the below is something that hasn’t been mentioned yet. He most certainly is a presence on the pitch, and we know he likes to drop within the space between the opposition to receive a pass. But the below shows his dribbling, technique and finishing.

With the midfield in possession, Mount has positioned himself goal side of the opposition’s right back, but just outside the centre back (highlighted blue).

Mount anticipates the pass forward to Pulisic and is already on the run. Knowing the centre back will be drawn out to close his teammate down, he bends his run staying on side as he waits for the ball to be fed to his feet.

The ball didn’t come straight away however, so Mount changes his run to come inside the centre back. As this is done he receives the pass and knocks it past the last defender with ease on the turn.

Already past the last man, his head is up and he sees there is space in the box to run into. He then looks at the keepers and sees that the keeper is still on his near post.

Without hesitation and only a couple of touches, Mount smashes the ball into the far corner of the net completely out of reach of the helpless goalkeeper.


Mason Mount’s attributes almost seem endless;

  • Tracks back when out of possession.
  • Closes down in the oppositions half.
  • Wins the ball back in the oppositions half.
  • Has played behind the front man, out on the left, and part of a midfield three. Very versatile.
  • Loves a give and go pass. As soon as he has passed it, he is sprinting into space further up the pitch.
  • Very consistent passing accuracy every game. Above 80%.
  • An eye for a pass. 7 key passes in three matches.
  • An eye for goal. 2 goals in three matches.

Does he deserve an England call up? Of course he does. The transition from Championship to Premier League is suppose to be a huge gap, but Mount has shown no sign of this being an issue as he continues to perform week in week out.

Alongside the knowledge that he can play in multiple positions can help Southgate out with any selection dilemmas, and his seemingly endless stamina and high workrate are every managers dream.

Hopefully, the knock he took at the end of the Norwich game isn’t a bad one and keeps him in contention.

Match Analysis – Inter Milan 4-0 Lecce – Conte Off to a Flyer

Antonio Conte’s reign as Inter Milan manager got off to a flying start with a comprehensive victory over newly promoted Lecce. Brozovic gave Inter the lead after 21 minutes, before Sensi doubled the advantage 3 minutes later. Lukaku topped off an impressive debut tapping in following a keeping fumble on 60 minutes, before a red card for Lecce’s Diego Farias made sure no comeback was on the cards. A wonder goal from Candreva rounded off a resounding opening day for Inter, who impressed under their new manager.

Line Ups:

Inter’s Line Up                                                          Lecce’s Line Up

Conte opted for his traditional 3 at the back, with Asamoah and Candreva playing wing backs, whilst Lukaku started up front with Martinez. Lecce started with a 4-2-3-1, with new signing Lapadia leading the line and top goal scorer from last season La Mantia on the wing.

Match Analysis:

Inter impressed in this opening day victory, and a number of tactical elements stood out. The role of Asamoah on the left wing brought back memories of Alonso during Conte’s Chelsea spell, fundamental to a lot of Inter’s attacking play, especially in the first half. Always offering up a switch to the play, his average position on the pitch shows just how high he was expected to play, whilst also showcasing his importance as an attacking outlet.

At half time alone, he had received the ball 32 times, often from long switches of play, and this increased to 54 by the end of the match. He assisted the opening goal, and created 2 chances in the match, showing his attacking output.

His positioning giving the Lecce backline a problem was compounded by the lack of tracking back from Falco (see influence map above), who left his defender 2v1 on a number of occasions. This was particularly evident for the goal, and as Lecce took a narrow shape against crosses, Inter overloaded the back post through Asamoah’s high positioning (highlighted below).

The cross came in, and Asamoah was able to lay it back to Brozovic first time (off picture), who finished expertly.

Sensi and Brozovic were particularly impressive in the three-man midfield alongside Vecino, often leading the high press when possession was turned over in the opposition half. Pressing as a three, they often turned over the ball high up the pitch, Sensi particularly impressing with his energy and willingness to press. His performance dashboard shows below that he was able to win the ball in the opposition half on a couple of occasions, key to creating chances.

Brozovic and Sensi’s partnership in midfield was also particularly impressive. In their first competitive game as a duo, they completed the highest number of passes between any two players on the pitch (37), always offering either player an outlet. Brozovic’s playmaking ability was also evident, as he completed 94 passes in the game. Like Sensi, he wasn’t afraid to do the dirty work, making 8 ball recoveries throughout the match, again with two in the opposition’s half as a result of the high press.

Whilst this high pressing did mean they were able to win the ball back higher on the pitch on a number of occasions, it did also lead to the midfield being caught high up on the pitch when Lecce were able to bypass it. This enabled them to utilise the pace of Lapadia and Falco, who despite the 4-0 score line, impressed for Lecce. The warning signs were there early on, as Falco showed his ability to take on defenders and expose the lack of pace at the back for Inter after 6 minutes. The image below shows how open Inter were once the press was broken, and this did occur on a number of occasions in the first half.

Falco’s ability on the ball was underlined by his number of successful take-ons in the match, the highest with 6. Falco and Lapadia were key to any attacks that Lecce had, and they did manage to muster 17 shots, all be it plenty from long range and only 3 on target, totally an xG of 0.58 (via Infogols). Falco managed to create 4 of these chances, with Lukaku jointly topping him in the stats for the match.

The other area of worry for Inter going into the next match is the amount of crosses Lecce managed throughout the game. Often afforded time and space as the midfielders were caught up pitch, Lecce managed 21 crosses throughout the game, although admittedly these were mostly dealt with comfortably by Inter’s back 3. However, this could be an area of weakness with better delivery in the forthcoming games, and the open nature of Inter’s midfield may need to be addressed, as it allowed for a lot of 2v1 scenarios out wide.

Finally, Lukaku impressed on his debut, with his pace and power up front troubling the Lecce defence, particularly shown by his strong run in the first half, where he burst past a number of Lecce defenders, before unfortunately picking the wrong pass. However, he underlined his importance, topping the chances created charts for Inter (4), whilst scoring from his only shot on goal in the game. His link up play with Martinez was promising, all be it one way, creating 2 chances for his fellow striker. He bullied the Lecce centre halves throughout, and his sharpness isn’t in question following his reaction to the goalkeeping error for the goal.

In a promising victory, Inter managed an xG of 1.72 throughout the game, and this was despite 3 of their goals coming from a combined xG of 0.11, showing promising signs for their attacking threat. Their exposure at the back may be a worry, and although xG of Lecce was low, it was still concerning to see how exposed their back 3 was at times. Against a Cagliari team who have bought well, they may need their central 3 in midfield to be more restrained at times, however it is a promising start for Conte’s team.

Tottenham 0-1 Newcastle – Ritchie & Dummett Impress, Spurs Disappoint

An excellent rear guard effort from Newcastle saw them come away from the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium with an unlikely 1-0 win as Joelinton’s first half strike sent them on their way to victory.

Line Ups:

Tottenham went with a 4-2-3-1, with Son returning from suspension replacing Eriksen, whilst N’Dombele missed out with injury and was replaced by Sissoko. Saint-Maximin passed a fitness test for Newcastle, however went off with injury after 17 minutes for Christian Atsu.

Atsu & Ritchie Impress:

Newcastle took a little time to settle into the game, but following Longstaff’s effort after 24 minutes, they never looked back. Playing a deep 5-4-1, they were clinical in taking their chances and restricted Spurs to long shots and hopeful crosses for much of the match. Despite only having 22% possession, they still managed to have 8 shots at an xG of 0.51 to Spurs 1.37, a testament to both taking their chances and how good their defensive display was.

Tottenham Shots:                                                    Newcastle Shots:

Bruce’s decision to go for a narrower 5-4-1 as opposed to the 3-5-2 he had opted for in the previous two games paid dividends, and had much to do with the role of the wing backs. Sitting in for long periods, Newcastle required an outlet to get up the pitch, and whilst Joelinton fulfilled this role well for periods of the match up front, it was Matt Ritchie and Atsu down the left have side exploited a weakness in Spurs’ side.

Tottenham’s Player Influence:                  Newcastle’s Player Influence:

The space that Newcastle were afforded when breaking was highlighted by the positioning of Walker-Peters and Rose (above), so when Newcastle did break, Ritchie’s and Atsu’s link up play was excellent in creating chances. Of Newcastle’s passing combinations throughout the match, Atsu to Ritchie (8) and Ritchie to Atsu (11) were both the highest on the team, demonstrating how key their link up play was. In Ritchie managing to play so high, it created 2v1s against Walker-Peters. The wingers of Spurs rarely tracked Ritchie’s run throughout, leaving Sissoko to deal with him and Atsu. The warning signs were there early and Spurs didn’t react. Below shows Longstaff’s effort, where he chose to shoot when Atsu and Ritchie hadn’t been tracked in the middle.

Ritchie and Atsu were once again key to Newcastle’s goal. Ritchie found Atsu who had drifted centrally, before overlapping to isolate Walker-Peters. The overload of Newcastle’s midfield down the left also meant that the Spurs defence had shifted across, however Rose didn’t, leaving a gap for Atsu to pick the pass, allowing Joelinton in to give Newcastle the lead.

It is worth noting that Atsu was only on the pitch due to Saint-Maximin’s injury in the opening 20 minutes, arguably a blessing in disguise given the influence Atsu went on to have.

Newcastle’s Defence:

Throughout the game, very narrow, forcing Spurs to either look wide or force the ball through the crowded penalty area. Newcastle’s defence were comfortable defending the crosses that Spurs looked to deliver, whilst crowding out anything worked through the middle. Newcastle stopped Spurs from getting to the byline too often, and as a result they were forced to cross from deep, a much easier scenario for defenders to clear (Spurs only completing 6 of 37 crosses). Almiron’s defensive contribution towards this was notable. Blocking 3 crosses (highest on the pitch) and making 2 interceptions, for a player who traditionally looks to play much higher up the pitch, it was an exceptional effort. Rose’s struggles are showcased below, being forced to cross earlier due to Almiron and Krafth’s defensive work.

Unsurprisingly, the defensive statistics for Newcastle were impressive, in particular from Paul Dummett. He topped the charts in the match for both defensive aerial duels (3/3) and headed clearances (7/7), whilst ranked second for interceptions (2). Below shows his and Lascelles’ main area of influence throughout the game, showing both how deep and compact they played, but also making them very hard for Spurs to break down.

Newcastle’s defensive dashboard once again demonstrates just how narrow they defended, as well as how effective they were once the ball went near the box.

Narrow Tottenham:

The choice to not play Eriksen will be questioned, however Tottenham didn’t help themselves in the tactics employed. They looked to play through the congested middle for large parts of the game, rather than try utilise the wide areas where Rose and Walker-Peters were in space. Although they did both see plenty of the ball, the build up to them was often too slow, allowing Newcastle’s wide defenders to close them down.

Lamela was asked to play the central role instead of Eriksen, and he struggled to add any creative edge before being replaced. He lost possession 17 times throughout the match, struggling to cope with the congested midfield. His forward passing into the box was disappointing, and in positions where it can be argued Eriksen would be the difference, he was found lacking.

Tottenham’s one dimensional build up play showcased their struggles in breaking teams down, especially without Eriksen. They lacked a change of pace despite having Moura and Son on the pitch, with players showing a reluctance to dribble at Newcastle’s defence and take players on. The compact nature of Newcastle’s defence won’t have been a surprise and a lack of space in behind should’ve been expected, and so the lack of take ons during the game (Moura and Son only completing 2 each) meant that they were predictable in their build up play. Although the introduction of Lo Celso and Eriksen did help create more (both creating 2 chances each in 28 minutes), it is worrying at this early stage for Spurs as they struggle to break teams down, both against Newcastle and Villa on the opening day. If Eriksen does go, Lo Celso will have big boots to fill, and with Arsenal on the horizon next weekend, massive improvements will be required.

Images and Stats from StatsZone, SofaScore and InfoGol (

Norwich 2-3 Chelsea – Chelsea’s Attacking Tactics

Line Ups:

Norwich                                                         Chelsea

Quick Paced Counter Attacks:

The game started at a frantic pace with Chelsea taking the lead after only four minutes through Tammy Abraham, in a well-executed move to create a 2v1 down Norwich’s right. Chelsea’s ability to move the ball quickly and commit numbers to a counter attack was key throughout the game, and the first goal epitomised this strategy. The image below shows Abraham winning a 1v1 in his own half, and having committed the centre half high up the pitch, this triggers a quick paced Chelsea break.

With Godfrey out of position, Lewis gets caught as to whether he holds or moves inside, creating space for Pulisic to run into to. Azpilicueta quickly capitalises on this, overlapping and creating a 2v1.

As he delivers, Chelsea have quickly committed three men into the box. Although not appearing to have overloaded the box, the speed of the attack means the defence hasn’t had the chance to reset. Abraham’s movement is also excellent, as he peels away to the back post to Aarons, where he has to be aware of onrushing midfielders as well.

Abraham finished brilliantly (an xG of 0.1), and the pace of this attack summed up Chelsea’s approach in the first half. Either looking to press early or counter quickly, the idea from Chelsea was to catch Norwich’s midfield out of position and break expose Norwich’s 4.

High Pressing and Extra Pace:

With Kante missing through injury, Chelsea had to adapt their pressing game to suit. The choice to start Abraham was key in this, as his higher work rate and extra pace compared to Giroud was fundamental to the success of the system. He was able to put Hanley and Godfrey under more pressure when Chelsea chose to press, whilst his pace created extra space for Chelsea’s front four. Godfrey and Hanley had to give Abraham an extra yard to avoid being caught out over the top, and this meant that the gap between Norwich’s defence and midfield was slightly wider. This created further space for Pulisic, Mount and Barkley, who exploited it very well. It was this extra space that also led to Chelsea’s second and third goals, particularly exposing Hanley’s lack of mobility. Mount for the second and Abraham for the third were able to run at Hanley, and as he wasn’t able to get close enough, it gave both of them plenty of space to pick their spot and score.

Chelsea’s Second Goal:

Chelsea’s Third Goal:

Attacking Down the Left:

Norwich Player Influence (90 Mins)                     Chelsea Player Influence (90 Mins)

Chelsea were unlucky to only score 3, and fundamental to their chance creation throughout the game were their full backs Azpilicueta, and in particular, Emerson. Although Azpilicueta provided the assist for the first goal, it was Emerson’s performance down the left that stood out, especially in the second half. Creating 4 chances all game (Barkley only higher with 5), his positioning out wide caused numerous problems for Norwich defensively.

Through being positioned so far out to the left, he was able to either occupy Aarons and create space for Barkley and Mount, or be left by Aarons and create a 2v1. Norwich’s midfield in particular struggled to cope, often opting to play narrow and allow Emerson the space, choosing to mark Mount and Barkley. However, this backfired as Emerson was able to link with the creative Mount and Barkley 18 and 19 times in the match, the two highest combinations on the pitch.

This was fundamental to further chance creation. As touched upon earlier, Barkley created five chances all game, the highest of any player on the pitch, whilst Mount created two. The pair also racked up the highest amount of shots of anyone on the pitch (five), showing how well this combination worked.

It was particularly in the second half where Chelsea had the most joy down the left hand side, and the influence maps below show why. Norwich focussed their attacks down the right and left a lot of space on the left, which Emerson (playing very high), Mount and Barkley moved into effectively.

Norwich’s 2nd Half Player Influence                      Chelsea’s 2nd Half Player Influence

In what was a deserved win for Chelsea, it is also worth noting their xG was 2.02 to Norwich’s 0.97. The goals that they scored equated to just 0.58 of this 2.02, meaning if they had been more clinical, a wider margin should’ve been expected.

Although there are worries at the back, it is promising for Chelsea’s attackers going forward, as they start to buy into Lampard’s methodology. Sheffield United visit Stamford Bridge next weekend, and if Chelsea can attack in a similar vain to this week, expect to see the goals flow once again.

Norwich v Chelsea – Why Chelsea’s Winger’s Will Be Key

Norwich City v Chelsea – Why Chelsea’s Wingers will be Key

Norwich take on Chelsea in the early kick off on BT on Saturday, and they will be full of confidence having picked up their first win on their return to the Premier League last weekend against an underwhelming Newcastle side. However, I can see their first half struggles against Liverpool coming back to haunt them as they take on a transitioning Chelsea side this weekend.


Looking at the influence maps from Norwich’s first two games, it can be seen just how narrow Norwich are in midfield, whilst the full backs are asked to play high and wide.

Liverpool 4-1 Norwich                                      Norwich 3-1 Newcastle

The idea is to dominate the possession and crowd out the opposition in the middle, whilst the full backs push high and offer the width. The wider two attacking midfielders are afforded relative freedom when they have the ball, however when they lose it, they are expected to drop in and help the full backs defend. This does leave them open to the counter, and against Liverpool it was worrying how many chances Liverpool were able to create through overloads on the wings. In particular, Buendia struggled often being caught too narrow and high up the pitch, subsequently being exposed by the energy of Robertson. Youngster Max Aarons was then left 2v1 multiple times, and this meant Liverpool could get in behind easily. Buendia’s lack of defensive involvement is shown below, and it is notable how little he was able to do high up the pitch, as well as how little support he able to give Aarons further back. If this trend is to follow against Chelsea, it could be a long afternoon for Aarons.

The first goal for Liverpool showed how much space they were being afforded out wide, and the lack of protection for the full backs. Although the goal came about fortunately, the images below show when Origi receives the ball and when he crosses. Although it was Buendia who was often guilty of leaving Aarons exposed, on this occasion it was the space at the front post that the open nature of Norwich’s midfield allowed Liverpool and led to the goal. Although Hanley was unlucky, the ball shouldn’t be allowed to travel that far across the box, and this is where a CM should’ve been looking to cover the space.

It is worth noting that this did improve against Newcastle, however Norwich’s system allowed them to dominate as the full backs were only 1v1 against Newcastle’s wing backs. It was their turn to create overloads and control the ball, as Newcastle’s tactics played perfectly into their hands. Newcastle lined up 3-5-2, and the Newcastle midfield struggled to get string any sort of consistent passes together due to being overloaded. Hayden and Ki were forced to drift out wide to try hold onto the ball and create attacking moves, opening up the space for the narrower attacking forwards to move into and create chances. This was particularly evident for Norwich’s second goal, where they won the ball back in midfield and broke quickly. The run of full back Jamal Lewis (far left) was key to the goal, and the image below shows how his position outside the wing back created the space for Pukki to score. This also highlights how fundamental they are to being high up the pitch, increasing the chances of being caught out against a much quicker and talented Chelsea attack.

Moving onto Chelsea, it will be expected they line up 4-2-3-1, and once again their wide men should be able to strongly influence the game. In their opening games, they have looked to press the opposition high in games, not allowing them to play out from the back. This reaped its rewards against Leicester, and against United they dominated the first 20 minutes before Zouma’s rash challenge on Rashford gave United a penalty. They went on to dominate both first halves, before tiring and being picked off in the second.

When they have possession, key to their attacks is moving the ball quickly and making the pitch as wide as possible. The striker acts as a focal point, whilst the three behind are fluid, with Pulisic and Pedro looking to drift inside the full backs off the wings. These runs are where the issues will stem for Norwich if they are to line up tactically similar to the last two, as they will be reliant upon their narrow attacking midfielders to help cope with the positioning of Chelsea’s full backs.

Manchester United 4-0 Chelsea                   Chelsea 1-1 Leicester City

As shown, in both games the two full backs have played very high and wide. This is with the intention of occupying the midfielders or defenders of the opposition out wide, allowing Pedro and Pulisic to drift inside. If the opposition full back moves inside with Pedro or Pulisic, it creates a lot of space for Chelsea’s full backs. This was particularly the case for Chelsea against United, highlighted by Emerson’s positioning above. He was a dangerous attacking threat throughout, hitting the bar in the first half, and had the most shots for Chelsea behind Pedro. He was also fundamental in building attacks, and where he completed passes below shows how key he was to keeping the ball high up the pitch.

What this shows is that if Chelsea can utilise their wide men once again against Norwich, they should be able to exploit the gaps left by their narrow formation. Expect to see Chelsea start quickly and press Norwich early on, and with their lack of a target man up front to help relieve some of the pressure, it may be hard to see them getting hold of the ball for long periods. This means they will have to try and break quickly, which ironically will leave them also open to being countered. This will lead to an open game once again suiting Chelsea’s wide men, so I expect to see them being the difference.

Charlton v Nottingham Forest – A Tactical Preview

Charlton have been one of the Championship’s dark horses so far; Lee Bowyer’s men beat Blackburn 2-1 on the opening day, going on to better that with a 3-1 win at home to Stoke seven days later. They lost on penalties to Forest Green in the Carabao Cup after a stalemate in 90 minutes but Lyle Taylor scored a late penalty in the 2-2 draw with Barnsley, taking his tally to three goals in as many games.

But taking a closer look into the tactics of Bowyer’s men, it’s not easy to see exactly what the young manager has up his sleeve on a game by game basis.

Three different matches in the league this season, three different formations played. Ranging from a 3-5-1-1, to a 4-4-1-1, and a 4-1-2-1-2 narrow. With no matches ending in defeat as an added bonus, we have to ask ourselves why there have been this amount of changes so early on in the season. However, when we look at the oppositions formations for those games in particular, a pattern does appear to emerge.

As you can see from the above formations, it almost appears as if Bowyer is planning his teams shape around the opposition’s formation, as though he is looking to find the perfect counter tactic.

For example; Blackburn Rovers lined up with a 4-2-3-1 formation, three attacking midfielders to support the lone striker. On this day, Charlton Athletic lined up with three central defenders and five across the midfield with the wingers acting as wing backs. With the sheer amount of players that filled the defensive zones, Charlton managed to nullify their opposition with a very solid a structured defence, and in turn exploit Blackburn’s willingness to throw more bodies forward. Very clever.

But it didn’t stop there; Stoke City lined up with a narrow 4-4-2 diamond. This time Lee Bowyer has his side set up in a 4-4-1-1, with Gallagher behind the striker. But Gallagher was actually much deeper than this formation suggests. It was more of a 4-5-1 with defensive midfielders. They crowded out Stoke’s narrow midfield and were quick to pass out wide to their wingers who had time on the ball. Again, a great counter formation set up.

Then there was their last game; Barnsley lined up in a 4-4-1-1 formation, not too dissimilar to how Charlton lined up the week before. This time, however, Bowyer had his men set up in a 4-4-2 narrow diamond. The way Charlton played against Barnsley was different from the previous two games and they took the game to Barnsley, possibly as they have just been promoted to the Championship together they may have fancied their chances more. Although, Charlton didn’t pick up the win, Bowyer’s philosophy appears to be taking shape in the Championship already.

Taking a look at the player influence stats below, you can see how Charlton set up in the first two games compared to the third.

When it came to the matches against Blackburn and Stoke, its clear to see that Charlton’s players were deeper in their own half the majority of the game. But this isn’t down to them being on the back foot because of better opposition, Bowyer had his side invite that pressure. After all, Charlton only conceded 40 goals in the league last season albeit in a lower division, Bowyer has every right to faith in what appears to be a solid defence.

Both centre backs stats have been impressive this season, with Lockyer making 9 clearances, blocking 3 shots, and making 2 interceptions, whilst Pearce has made 13 clearances, blocked 3 shots, and made 1 interception. Even more impressive is neither player has been dribbled past once in the three matches they have played. The partnership they have had in such a short period since Lockyer’s move from Bristol Rovers is a testament to Bowyer and his coaching staff.

Inviting the pressure against their opposition and frustrating them is exactly what they did relying on that solid back line, urging both Stoke and Blackburn to push players further forward, which in turn was a trap both clubs fell into. Be it the boldness of the clubs thinking that they were coming up against a club from the league below we’ll never know, but Charlton were able to exploit the space and took the lead in both games. Ultimately going onto win them too.

The Barnsley game although not a winning result, showed that Bowyer had some versatility up his sleeve as he abandoned inviting the pressure and took the game to the Tykes, almost to their detriment. It was an entertaining game but a completely different style to what we had seen in the first two games of the season.

The stats above back this up. Showing that in the first two games they appear to have been on the end of a back to the wall job. Fortunately, stats only tell half of the story and it’s the result that matters. The results that Bowyers men got for him racking up 7 points from a possible 9. Scoring 7 goals from 13 shots on target too, Charlton are proving to be one of the most clinical teams in the Championship right now with Lyle Taylor spearheading their attack.

So what can we expect from the Nottingham Forest game?

In contrast to Charlton’s usual array of different formations, Forest have been extremely consistent in how they have lined up this season, shown below.

Lining up in a 4-1-4-1 formation in every game so far, Forest’s structure is clear, and their style of play is established. It’s a formation that offers defensive cover but also the opportunity for their wingers to advance in support of the striker. It is also another formation that Bowyer’s side has yet to come up against so far this season, and it would not be surprising if he has his side line up in a fresh formation to exploit any holes left behind by the advancing wingers.

Forest’s season began with a 2-1 defeat to West Brom, but they responded by holding Leeds to a 1-1 draw, beating Fleetwood 1-0 in the cup and then displaying their ruthless streak on Saturday when Joe Lolley, Lewis Grabban and Michael Dawson scored in the 3-0 triumph over Birmingham.

Team News

Charlton boss Lee Bowyer could include new signings Tomer Hemed and Erhun Oztumer in his side to face Nottingham Forest on Wednesday. Hemed moved on a free transfer after leaving Brighton, while fellow forward Oztumer also joined without a fee after being released by financially-troubled Bolton.

Defender Chris Solly will need to be assessed after suffering a head injury in the 2-2 draw at Barnsley on Saturday. The on-loan Beram Kayal is likely to miss out again with a groin injury while Lewis Page, who has not played since October, remains sidelined.

Forest boss Sabri Lamouchi says he is considering freshening up his side despite an impressive 3-0 win over Birmingham at the weekend. Lamouchi is concerned about a round of midweek fixtures so early in the season and wants to ensure there are fresh legs in the side to face Charlton.

Portuguese midfielder Joao Carvalho will travel with the squad as he nears a return from the injury he suffered in pre-season, although – with only a couple of training sessions under his belt – he is unlikely to feature. Yohan Benalouane remains sidelined following surgery.


It is honestly a tough one to call. Forest have a solid squad, but Charlton’s unpredictability under Bowyer is currently paying dividends and there is no reason that can’t continue for a prolonged period this season. For me personally, this has to be one of the games to keep an eye on, on Wednesday.

All diagrams from StatsZone unless stated (@StatsZone)

Preston v Stoke – A Tactical Preview of Stoke

Preston North End v Stoke City – A Tactical Overview of Stoke

Stoke head into this game without a league win this season and at the bottom of the league after three games. However, it’s not time to panic yet for the Potters.

So far this season, manager Nathan Jones has opted for 4-1-2-1-2 in every league game. Lining up narrow, they have been reliant upon their full backs pushing forward and providing the width, whilst the three across the midfield have looked to link play between centre halves and full backs. The reliance on the full backs to provide the width in the three games so far is shown below on the influence maps, highlighting the narrow nature of the Stoke midfield. The choice of Smith, McClean and Ward as full backs shows the style that Jones is looking to implement, with all having a high work rate, as well as a willingness to cross the ball.

QPR (H) 1-2:

Charlton (A) 1-3:

Derby (H) 2-2:

In the last two games, Ryan Woods has been to provide the link between defence and midfield, allowing Clucas and Allen to play further forward. His competence on the ball is particularly impressive. So far this season, he has averaged 55.5 passes a game, with a success rate of 92%. His ability on the ball allows Stoke to play from the back, and have a strong base to start attacks from. Clucas and Allen also possess decent passing statistics in the opening games, with Clucas averaging 48 per game and Allen 45, both around the 80% completion mark, showing how comfortable on the ball their midfield is.

Against Derby, Woods’ and Allen’s link up play with Smith formed the basis of a lot of their attacks. The passing combinations of Woods and Smith, and Allen and Smith were 4 out of 5 of the most used on the pitch. This works with Woods receiving the ball deep before laying it out to Woods. He will then find one of Woods or Allen before running on down the wing, looking to receive the ball higher up the pitch from one or the other. Furthermore, Woods only passed Allen 4 times in the game, showing the reliance upon using the full back to pass around any pressing players.

These combinations led to the creation of a number of Stoke’s opportunities. Not afraid to put the ball in the box, Stoke often looked to get down both wings and put crosses in the box. In total, they attempted 35 crosses against Derby (shown on the left below), whilst against QPR and Charlton they saw similar patterns, attempting 21 and 29 respectively. This shows a clear reliance upon wing play and the importance of the link play between full backs and midfield are for Stoke. The influence of the full backs is also shown by the number of passes they complete in the final third, in particular Smith once again, who completed 19 passes in the final third. Preston will look to break these passing patterns, potentially by forcing the full backs further back and making it hard for them to push up, so don’t be surprised to see pacey wingers such as Andre Green start in an attempt to implement this, as well as their own full backs trying to push on and expose the narrow Stoke set up.  

However, the most interesting statistic heading into this game is Stoke’s XG stats (courtesy of Infogol). Against Derby, their XG was 2.56 to Derby’s 1.63 (which included a penalty). Against Charlton, it was 1.15 to to Charlton’s 0.26 (and conceded 3!). The result against QPR appears to be fairer, with an XG of 1.03 to QPR’s 1.57. What this shows is that Stoke are creating plenty of chances and expecting to score in all games, but not putting them away, whilst their defence is conceding more than is expected. The XG maps below (from Infogol) show the Charlton game on the left and Derby game on the right.

Stoke are averaging 15 shots per game, and although this can often be misleading, it is backed up by the XG that they should be converting more of their opportunities. In particular against Derby, Stoke had 21 shots on goal, and although they did manage to convert two of their chances, they should’ve put the game to bed earlier than they did. In an emotional post-match interview (taken from the Football League Paper), Jones said “I am distraught that we couldn’t get one more goal than the opposition because we created twice as many chances. I am sick and tired of us missing chances because this has cost us today. We should have six points, and instead we have one”.

One particular issue is who the chances are currently falling to. Sam Clucas, Liam Lindsay and Stephen Ward lead the way for chances per game in the side, rather than the strikers. In particular against Derby, Lindsay had five shots on goal, and although he did score one of these chances, it is not ideal to have a centre half dominating the shooting statistics. Gregory is a more than capable goal scorer at this level with 20 goals in last two seasons, so if they can find away to find him or Hogan with more of the crosses, they should be able to capitalise on their chances.

So going forward there is at least one clear plan. Transition the ball through midfield using Woods, Allen and Clucas before moving it out wide for one of the full backs to cross. They do have a plan B in their attacking midfielder, who in the opening games has been Tom Ince. He is only averaging 21 passes per game, however these are nearly all in the opponents half, and for example against Derby he had a 100% pass accuracy. His ability on the ball cannot be underestimated, and in him, and Mark Duffy off the bench, Stoke have players with the ability to unlock a defence, and in that role it can often be quality over quantity of passes. Stoke could still look to get him on the ball more given his quality, and this could be done by giving him more of a free role to drift out wide. Given the congestion in the middle of the three centre midfielders and two strikers, if Ince is able to drift out wide, he will be able to find more space and have even more influence on the game. Keeping that in mind, it would be expected that Pearson or Gallagher will pick him up from Preston’s point of view. Both highly competent midfielders when it comes to defending, he will be key to keeping one occupied. So although he may not have any direct involvement at times, his positioning and movement will be key to keeping them occupied, and if he can draw them away from the box, it will help create overloads in the box from midfielders running from deep.

However, Stoke’s defence is currently an issue, and their tactics do leave them open down the wings. Although the XG of other sides is showing that they have been unlucky to concede the amount of goals they have, it is worth noting that silly mistakes have been their downfall. Butland, arguably the best goalkeeper in the league, made uncharacteristic errors against QPR and Charlton, whilst young centre back Collins was beaten too easily for Eze’s winner for QPR. Two goals from crosses (shown below) against Charlton and Derby also shows their susceptibility to wide play.

If Stoke can cut out the silly mistakes, they are creating enough going forward to suggest their luck will turn. Preston will be a tough task on Wednesday, but as the players and manager have been saying in the press this week, a win in the league is coming, and a good opportunity awaits them on Wednesday.

All diagrams from StatsZone unless stated (@StatsZone)

Reading 3-0 Cardiff – Excellent Ejaria

Reading 3-0 Cardiff – Post Match Analysis

Reading put in an impressive performance as they brushed aside a poor Cardiff side. Georges Puscas (2) and John Swift netted in a comfortable win, and Meite even had a penalty saved in stoppage time, but how was the game won?

Line Ups:

Reading kept their 3-5-2 formation from the midweek League Cup penalty win at Wycombe, whilst Cardiff lined up with their normal 4-3-3.


Reading’s issue going into the game was using possession. Having dominated the ball in the first two games, they hadn’t been using it effectively. The introduction of Ejaria to the starting line up was key to Reading’s win as he excelled in the central midfield role. Furthermore, starting Puscas allowed Reading to stretch the game and hit Cardiff on the break effectively. They allowed Cardiff the ball for long periods, and their lack of creative midfielders was exposed. However, losing Marlon Pack to injury early on was also key to Reading’s success.

Cardiff had started the brighter of the two sides and dominated for the first 20 minutes, with Joe Ralls key to this as he was able to exert his influence on the midfield (as seen below). He was first to many of the second balls, and linked the play well to the full backs and wingers. Alongside him, Marlon Pack added defensive solidity and gave Ralls the license to press further forward. However, key to Reading gaining a foothold in the match was Pack’s injury after 23 minutes. He was replaced by Curtis Nelson who went to full back and Bacuna moved into the midfield.

The impact was almost instant. Where Pack had been covering the midfield, Vaulks was caught out as Reading broke quickly, and a fine solo goal from Puscas gave Reading the lead. The goal was indicative to how Reading were looking to play, as the quick transition on the break exposed Cardiff’s lack of pace at the back and the high positioning of their full backs.

The second goal also highlighted how John Swift was able to influence the game positively from higher up the pitch than in recent games. He was given a free role, and drifted out wide to provide a cross for the lively Puscas. This made him very hard to pick up, and whilst Pack had been covering him well in the opening 20 minutes, the Cardiff midfield struggled to cope after this. The wing backs also offered a wide outlet, whilst the Cardiff centre halves were occupied by Reading’s choice to play two strikers. This created overloads out wide when attacking, coupled with Swift’s willingness to roam wide.

In the second half, Reading were subsequently able to sit back and soak up large amounts of Cardiff pressure which was based around constant long balls. Warnock introduced Paterson and Vassell at half time for Vaulks and Hoilett, switching to a 3-5-2 to match Reading. As a result, Cardiff’s removal of a central midfielder meant that they relied on a barrage of long balls in the second half, which Reading were set up to cope with easily and subsequently overran the midfield. As the map shows below, Cardiff didn’t look to play through midfield, and this played into Reading’s plans.

Cardiff tried to target the wide areas with long balls, but Reading adapted by Miazga moving wider, and was subsequently involved in 20 aerial duels in the match, winning 17 of them. Morrison and Moore were less troubled but still played their part, winning 5/8 and 3/5 respectively. The map below demonstrates how Cardiff tried to target the right side of Reading’s defence, and how well Miazga coped against Bennett who was pushed further forward.

Attackingly, the influence of Swift and Ejaria and their link up was key to Reading’s success. Swift managed to create 7 chances in the game, a massive improvement from previous week. Ejaria was key to the supply line, and linked up with Swift more than any other player on the pitch, completing 15 passes to him in the match. As a result, this meant that Swift could influence the game in the attacking third, and this was shown by him completing 17 passes in the final third, more than any Reading player.

Ejaria moved the ball quickly to Swift throughout the game, and this link up, coupled with Puscas’ willingness to run in behind Cardiff’s defence created a number of openings, and perfectly demonstrated by the two goals scored in the first half. Puscas was also instrumental in linking the play, willing to drop in between Cardiff’s defence and midfield and pick up the ball from there, and his ability to drive on the ball made it extremely hard for the Cardiff backline to cope.

In what was a very impressive Reading performance, the change in system was fundamental to victory. Allowing Cardiff plenty of the ball with no one particularly capable of creating chances, Reading were able to soak up large amounts of pressure before breaking quickly against a slow Cardiff side. The choice to play Ejaria was key, as he was able to move the ball much quicker than Rinomhota had done in previous games. His link up with Swift was excellent, whilst his defensive work shouldn’t be underestimated (4 tackles and 3 interceptions), and this bodes well for Reading in the future. Cardiff on the other hand, were very one dimensional and the lack of a creative midfielder and reliance on direct football was evident today.

Reading v Cardiff – Tactical Preview

Reading v Cardiff


Kicking off at 12 on Sunday on Sky Sports, we will get the opportunity to see the favourites for relegation against one of the favourites for promotion.

Reading have started the league season with two disappointing defeats against Sheffield Wednesday (3-1) and Hull (2-1), before scraping past Wycombe in the Carabao Cup on penalties. Having struggled to stay up last season, the warning signs are already once again apparent, and a large turnover of the squad has led to a number of unknowns heading into the season.

Cardiff on the other hand are one of the favourites for promotion. Having kept together the bulk of the squad which battled valiantly against relegation last season, and importantly the manager in Neil Warnock, they head into the season optimistic of a promotion push. An opening day defeat in a topsy-turvy game at Wigan gave them a reality check, but a typical Warnock style victory at home to Luton has settled them down. They received a bye into the Second Round of the League Cup, so freshness is on their side.

Talking Tactics:

Reading finished 20th last season in the Championship, and the worries were two-fold. Scoring only 49 goals, only Stoke and Millwall managed less and survived. The defence didn’t fair much better, conceding 66 goals, which again was one of the highest of the teams that stayed up. So how have Reading looked to solve this problem this season?

Firstly, looking at transfer business, a lot of money has been spent on strikers. Lucas Joao has arrived from Sheffield Wednesday (having ironically netted against them on the opening day) for a sizeable £5 million, whilst George Puscas has arrived for an even higher £7.5m from Inter, coming off the back of a highly successful U21 European Championships Campaign for Romania. Top scorer Yakou Meite (12 goals last season) has remained, whilst Bodvarsson and McNulty have departed. At the back, Miazga has re-signed from Chelsea, whilst Michael Morrison has joined from Birmingham.

Looking at their first two league games this season, Reading have lined up in a 4-2-3-1/4-3-3 formation. They have dominated possession in both games averaging 58% across both games with a pass completion over 80%, but have lacked cutting edge. The play is often too slow, and their best chances have actually come when breaking on other teams and utilising the pace of players like Meite and Joao. The slowness and overuse of the ball at the back was particularly clear in the Hull game, completing 430 passes, but only 53 in the final third.

In order to solve this, between the CBs and CDMs, the ball needs to be moved much faster, and in particular move the ball to attacking midfielder John Swift quicker. When he does get the ball, he has been averaging 3 key passes in each game, however due to dropping behind in both games, he has dropped deeper and tried to influence from an earlier point in attacks. For an attacking midfielder, he averages 62 passes across the first two games, which is comparatively high for those in a similar role in this division. Whilst dropping deep can often work for these players, when chasing the game it can detrimental as they are not impacting the game far enough up the pitch and the defending team can get into shape in time. The map below shows the first half (left) v second half (right) against Hull, highlighting how he tried to drop deeper to see more of the ball. Although he does see more of the ball, a lot of his impact on the game is too deep, and if they are to get a result against Cardiff, he will need to see the ball higher up the pitch.

The main issue that Reading have going into this game is that their methodical approach perfectly suits Cardiff. Demonstrating how comfortable they are out of possession and how quickly they look to transition the ball, Cardiff won against Luton with only 37.5% possession. Despite this, they managed more shots (18) and clear cut openings (3), often picking and choosing when to press. They only completed 158 passes in the match, but 79 of these were in the final third. Pacey wingers Murphy and Whyte aid this, and attacking midfielder Patterson offers a great presence and out ball when required. This is particularly worrying for Reading, as the goals they have been conceding have been when teams win the ball high up and overload the defence. Moore and Miazga are comfortable challenging in the air, winning 6/9 aerial duals against a physical Eaves against Hull and 7/8 against a similarly robust Steven Fletcher. However, mistakes in holding midfield and losing the ball cheaply when overcommitted up front has been their downfall and Cardiff’s midfield of Pack and Ralls offer a lot of energy, with Ralls completing 9/9 tackles across to two games this season, the highest in the team.

Patterson’s influence on the game shouldn’t be underestimated either. He will look to isolate the Reading full backs and challenge aerially to avoid Miazga and Moore, which frees up space for Whyte and Murphy. As seen below, this was a tactic deployed against Luton acting as a wide target man, and they will once again look to isolate Yiadom and Richards of Reading.

Reading will need to find a way to break through Cardiff’s low block tactic, and there is a chance that Jose Gomes will look to change formation. He experimented with a 3-5-2 in midweek v Wycombe and could look to deploy this again. This could counter act the wide target man approach of Cardiff, but it does leave a lot of space for quick wingers like Murphy, and overlapping full backs Peltier and Bennett. Hull’s second goal showed how easy it can be to create quick overloads on the Reading box, so retaining possession and not losing it close to their own goal will be key, as Cardiff are set up to pounce.

The 3-5-2 does give an opportunity for Reading to start both Puscas and Joao up top together, and a positive from the last game is that both are getting into the right positions (see below). If they are more clinical, Reading should have a goal in them, demonstrated by their XG of 1.6 across the two games.


The stats are promising up front for Reading’s new signings, however finding a way to feed them the chances appears to be the issue. A change in system may suit and allow Swift more chance to influence the game higher up the pitch, however the current style of play looks to be playing into Cardiff’s hands. Comfortable without the ball for long periods and well structured, I’m predicting an away win. Cardiff 2-1.

Thank you to @BiscuitAnalytic for his extra insight into Reading’s tactics.

Huddersfield v Fulham Preview

Huddersfield Town A.F.C. logo.png
Fulham's crest since 2000


Friday night sees an early season clash between two sides relegated from the Premier League last season. Huddersfield, who finished rock bottom, will be looking for their first league win of the season and a first win since February. Fulham didn’t fare much better last season, after a well-documented summer of spending backfired and three different managers, they are looking to bounce straight back to the Premier League.

As is the case with most teams relegated from the Premier League, both teams have had a summer of transition. Fulham have looked to strip back to the core team that got them promoted in the 17/18 season before adding further proven Championship class. They have shifted the majority of high profile flops such as Seri and Anguissa (departing to Turkey and Spain on loan) and replaced them with proven Championship players such as H. Reed, Knockhaert, Cavaleiro and Arter. Bobby Reid’s move from rivals Cardiff is particularly eye catching, leaving them well stocked in the attacking department. The defence does still remain a worry as demonstrated in their opening day defeat against Barnsley, however in the main the likes of Mawson and Bryan should be able settle back at Championship level, Mawson particularly impressing in the win against Blackburn. Despite a poor performance on the opening day as they were outperformed by newly promoted Barnsley, Fulham bounced back to beat Blackburn 2-0, with Mitrovic and Cairney picking up their first goals of the new season.

Fulham's Tom Cairney celebrates scoring his side's first goal of the game
Credit: SkySports

Huddersfield have also managed to keep together a number of the squad from the previous season together whilst looking to add lower league talent, with only two new signings featuring in the opening day defeat to Derby. Goalkeepers Lossl and Hamer departed, whilst full backs Smith and Lowe have also gone. However it is in the midfield where the biggest miss will be felt, with Mooy and Billing leaving and it can be argued that they haven’t been adequately replaced. Goals were also an issue last season. Top scorer Karlan Grant joined in January, and not enough appears to be done to add further depth. Fraizer Campbell has arrived on a free transfer following 12 goals for Hull last season, whilst Josh Koroma has joined following a successful season in the National League but is unproven in this division. Collin Quaner didn’t set the world alight at a loan spell with Ipswich, whilst Mounie’s return of 9 goals in the Premier League over two seasons will need to be improved on. Grant appeared isolated in the first game against Derby, struggling to cope with the physicality of the Derby defence, and similar struggles would be expected against Ream and Mawson. Huddersfield’s opening day defeat followed by a lackluster draw away at QPR where they could only manage 5 shots has highlighted a number of worries Siewart will have with his forward line, and if he is to improve his record of 1 win in 18 games, he will need to see a vast improvement against top quality opposition. Tuesday’s League Cup defeat at home to Lincoln where they drew another blank has added further pressure, although its worth noting he did make 10 changes for this game.

Huddersfield crashed out of the Carabao Cup to Lincoln City on Tuesday
Credit: DailyMail

Talking Tactics – Huddersfield’s Midfield:

Key to Huddersfield going forward is Alex Pritchard, who showcased his class against Derby on the opening day. Often starting out wide, he is able to drift between the lines of defence and attack and pick up the ball in that space. However, the loss of Aaron Mooy to Brighton could impact upon his influence as Huddersfield will now require one of their remaining CMs to take control of games and create a supply line up to him.

This was highlighted in the game against QPR. Huddersfield’s goal came from a penalty won on the counter attack, whilst other major chances were restricted to long shots outside the box. They struggled to link midfield and attack, completing only 200 passes across the 90 minutes (at only 70% success), only 23 in QPR’s attacking third and only 1 in QPR’s box. The midfield 3 of Huddersfield particularly struggled to find Pritchard throughout the game, with only a combined 7 passes from the midfield 3 finding Pritchard. To contrast this, when Mooy played against Derby, the midfield completed 357 passes, with Mooy on his own finding Pritchard 8 times in the oppositions half. What this demonstrates is how Mooy would always give both the defenders and midfielders an outlet from  the back, whilst also having the ability to pick the passes required to keep hold of the ball. 

As a result, against Fulham, Huddersfield’s midfield two alongside Hogg should be looking to pick the ball up from deep and look to control the play much better. Chalobah, signed from Chelsea on Loan, is expected to do this and should come in, but it is a lot of pressure will be placed on the loanee. In an interview this week, defender Elphick did acknowledge the need for more control in the midfield, especially when leading games, and identified Chalobah as the main to come in and do this. However, his statistics last season for Ipswich suggest otherwise. Only averaging 0.4 key passes a game and a completion of 67.9%, it is massively under what Mooy (1.5 key passes and 80% success) was providing last season in the Premier League. It is worth noting that Chalobah was playing in a relegated side and is only 20 years old affording him a lot time to improve, however it doesn’t appear he has the quality to come straight in and replace Mooy which is what Huddersfield require.

Nullifying Pritchard’s threat will be fundamental to Fulham’s chances, and the lack of creativity following Mooy’s departure in Huddersfield’s midfield means that if Fulham can stifle the supply in a similar vain to what QPR and Derby did, it should improve their chances.

Last time they met:

Fulham ran out 1-0 winners thanks to a Mitrovic goal in the 90th minute.

Fulham 1-0 Huddersfield


It is currently hard to see past a Fulham win. In a game where they will expect to see little of the ball, Huddersfield’s midfield isn’t currently showing enough promise that they will be able to keep hold of the ball for long enough periods. Contrast this with the control that Arter, Cairney and Johansen will have for Fulham, and the attacking threat in front of them (in particular Mitrovic), it should be enough for Fulham to build on their win at home to Blackburn.

Prediction: Huddersfield 0-2 Fulham

Louie Barry – Barcelona


Name: Louie Barry

Club: Barcelona

Position: ST

D.O.B: 21/06/2003

Made Senior Debut?: No

Nationality: England/Ireland

Current National Level: England/Ireland U16 International

Last Season Summary

2018/19 – Last season as a 15 year old, Louie lit up the U18 league for West Brom being involved in 7 goals in 12 games, but he also made his mark on the International scene. Barry netted three goals to help England’s under-16s lift the Val-de-Marne trophy after beating Austria 4-1, Japan 3-1, and hosts France by the same scoreline.

Footy Files expectations this Season

2019/20 – Courted by some elite European clubs this Summer, it is rumoured that PSG offered the lad a £2.7m contract to join them. But he ultimately chose Barcelona and their famous La Masia academy. Who can honestly blame him? What to expect for him? Just work hard and enjoy it. We’ll keep an eye on your progression.

Netherlands v Brazil – a World Cup rivalry

The third place play off at the World Cup is often seen as an afterthought, a meaningless game before the much awaited final. The 2014 edition however was different, especially for the Brazilians. After being utterly humiliated on their home turf by Germany 7-1 in the semi-final (which overtook the Brazil v Uruguay match at the 1950 finals as the biggest shock in the history of Brazilian football) Brazil had a point to prove. The Dutch on the other hand had been unlucky to be defeated by Argentina on penalties in the other semi-final and wanted to end the World Cup on a high. What followed was a relatively straightforward 3-0 win for the Netherlands, the Brazilians seemed to give up after the second goal was scored and it was an easy game for the Dutch to see out. This was a World Cup full of contrasting records for the two teams, Brazil had conceded the most goals by any team since the 1986 finals, whereas the Dutch had secured a consecutive top three finish at the tournament and were unlucky not to reach the final.
The two nation’s respective World Cup records could not be more different however. The Netherlands have never been victorious, having recorded the unwanted stat of reaching the most finals without triumphing. Brazil on the other hand, have won the tournament five times, runner up twice and had, arguably, the best team to never win it in 1982. The matches between these two nations have surprisingly favoured the Netherlands; three wins (‘74, 2010 and 2014) compared to the just the one by Brazil in (‘94). They did however win on penalties in the 1998 semi-final. Aside from the previously mentioned 2014 third place play off, the other four ties have been classics and have gone down in history as a battle between footballs two most revered styles of play.
The first meeting in a World Cup match between the Netherlands and Brazil came at the 1974 finals in West Germany. The format of the tournament included a second group stage instead of a straight knock out competition for the first time. After the two nations had won their first two matches in the group, the meeting was effectively billed as a semi-final clash; who ever won was through to the final.
Dutch football was on a high in 1974. The European Cup had been won by a team from the Netherlands in four out of the past five seasons. Feyenoord under the great Ernst Happel had beaten Celtic in the 1970 final and Ajax led by the marvellous Rinus Michel (followed by Stefan Kovacs) and his star pupil Johan Cruyff had triumphed for three consecutive seasons (‘71-‘73). Ajax used a style of play termed total football, a system which is extremely fluid and allows any outfield player to take over the role of any other player on the team. Michel slightly reworked this style that allowed for the genius of Cruyff to use his creative ability to exploit the opposition team.
The Netherlands World Cup record had been, at a glance, abysmal up until 1974. They had only qualified twice, in 1934 and 1938, exiting at the first round both times. Compare this to Brazil’s record of having been present at all tournaments up until 1974 and having won three out of the last four editions, showed that they were one of the favourites to win the competition. The Selecao however had to deal with the retirements of several key players since their victory in Mexico, most notably Pele.
The Dutch qualified fairly easily for the second group stage by topping their section with two wins against Bulgaria and Uruguay whilst rounding off with a draw against Sweden. This match was to be remembered fondly by the introduction of the “Cruyff turn”. Cruyff had control of the ball facing his own goal; he feigned a pass and dragged the ball behind his standing leg and he accelerated away in the other direction, leaving the Swedish defender Olsson bewildered. Brazil didn’t have it all their own way in qualifying for the second group stage. They won against Zaire (making their debut) however they could only draw against Yugoslavia and Scotland, securing qualification by the tightest of margins as they had scored one more goal against Zaire than Scotland.
After two wins each in the second group stage, Netherlands would play Brazil to decide who qualified for the final. This game almost signalled the passing of the torch, from the beautiful game to total football. The first half was marked my some rough challenges and scrappy football, with chances relatively even for both teams. The Dutch got off to the perfect start in the second half, with Neeskens scoring his fourth goal of the tournament. This gave the Netherlands confidence and a second goal followed; Cruyff scoring a lunging volley past the Brazilian keeper Leao. This effectively killed the game and with the Netherlands defending well, Brazil suffered from Luis Pereira being sent off for a bad foul on Neeskens.
Netherlands had won with their swashbuckling style of total football, outplaying the Brazilians. The Dutch lost the final to the hosts West Germany, while Brazil finished in fourth place. The next meeting at the World Cup between these two nations wouldn’t be for another 20 years where the Brazilians would gain their revenge.
The fortunes of both nations at the World Cup had varied since their first meeting in 1974. The Dutch reached another final in ‘78, and ran Argentina close before ultimately losing in extra time. Then they didn’t qualify until 1990, marking a generation of Dutch players who would never play at a World Cup. Although under Michels, they did win the European Championship in 1988 with the one of the finest Dutch teams. The Brazilians had finished fourth in 1978, but then with arguably the greatest team never to win the competition, failed to even reach the semi-finals for the next three tournaments, making it 24 years since the Selecao had last won the World Cup.
Both teams moved towards an eventual quarter final showdown in Dallas relatively easily. The Dutch were beaten by Belgium in the second group game but won against Morocco to qualify for the last 16. Brazil topped the group and defeated the hosts USA to go through to the quarters. The match between the two nations was held in Dallas in scorching temperatures which slightly favoured the Brazilians.
Both nations were playing in their away shirts, Brazil in their changed blue kit and the Dutch in white. The match was to be a classic, after a slightly underwhelming first half with no goals; the game sparkled into life after the break. Romario and Bebeto leading the line for Brazil combined well for the first goal, then Bebeto rounding the keeper and scoring the second, and introduced the cradling baby celebration that has since become famous. The Dutch seemingly out of the match and the tournament struck back immediately with a goal by Bergkamp – a stunning solo effort, and they were level shortly after with a goal by Aron Winter. Extra time loomed, and with the temperature in Dallas draining, the Brazilians found their just reward with a winner by Branco, whose 25 yard free kick nestled in the corner, allowing Brazil to qualify for the semi-final.
Brazil went on to win the tournament, while the Netherlands could count themselves unlucky to go out. After two competitive matches the score between them was even at one win each and both nations would not have to wait long to edge ahead in the rivalry. The semi-final between them in Marseille at France 1998 was to be a cracker.
The Dutch and the Brazilians arrived at France ‘98 with two of the finest national squads at the tournament and were both heavily fancied to go far. The Dutch squad featured a group of players who had excelled in the famous Ajax side of the mid 90’s which won the champions league in 1995 and should have won it the following year but lost to Juventus in a penalty shootout. Dennis Bergkamp was their focal point; an outstanding talent who had helped Arsenal win the double a month prior to the finals starting. Brazil was on a high as they were the holders and had also won the Copa America in 1997 and they had arguably the best striker in the world in their side – Ronaldo (who was part of the ‘94 winning team but didn’t see any game time).
The Dutch were unconvincing in the group stage, beating South Korea 5-0, but drawing in a fiery clash with Belgium and also against Mexico. This was followed by two last minute winners against Yugoslavia and Argentina to see them through the semi-finals.
Brazil’s route was slightly easier, on paper at least, topping group A, they then beat Chile and Denmark to set up the semi-final clash with the Dutch in Marseille. Ronaldo was in fine form and they were desperate to retain their title.
The third meeting between these old foes at a World Cup started off tense; no goals were produced in the first half. Ronaldo saw his chance at the beginning of the second half scoring after receiving a fantastic pass from Rivaldo. The Dutch needed another late show like in their previous two matches if they were to salvage anything from this game, and they got it. De Boer pouncing on some slack Brazilian defending and sending a cross into Kluivert, who duly powered a header past Taffarel. Extra time ended without any further goals, so it was to be penalties that would determine who would face the hosts in the final. Brazil scored all four of their penalties, while Taffarel guessed the correct way four times, saving two spot kicks, from Coco and Ronald De Boer.
Netherlands disappointment at the World Cup continued, they still hadn’t won the competition. Brazil failed to be the first team to defend their trophy twice by losing to a Zidane inspired French side in the final 3-0. The next time Netherlands and Brazil would meet on the grandest stage of all, the world of football looked a lot different.
After losing in the ‘98 final, Brazil were the classiest team at the 2002 finals, in which was a World Cup of the underdog, with South Korea and Turkey providing big upsets to reach the Semi-finals. Ronaldo redeemed himself by being top scorer and resurrecting a career which was seemingly about to be cut short after several knee injuries. In what was almost like deja vue from ‘98, they went out after another uninspiring performance against a French team led by Zinedine Zidane in 2006.
The Netherlands hadn’t even qualified for the 2002 finals; semi-final appearances at Euro 2000 and 2004 were as good as it got for a Dutch team in transition before the 2010 finals.
This was also a Brazil team in the midst of change; this was the first World Cup since 1990 to not feature Cafu and first since ‘94 to not have Ronaldo in their squad. Therefore, the team had a relatively new feel to it compared to usual. They beat North Korea unconvincingly in their first match, followed by a 3-1 win against the Ivory Coast. They rounded off the group with a stalemate against Portugal. Their most impressive performance came against Chile in the last 16 where they won 3-0 in convincing fashion to set up a tie against the old foes the Netherlands.
The Dutch finished top of group E after winning all three of their games. Efficient rather than their usual entertaining philosophy, however this would lead them all the way to the final. A tight 2-1 victory over Slovakia set up a titanic quarter final tie against Brazil.
This was the fourth meeting at a World Cup between these two old enemies. Robinho opened the scoring in the 10th minute, slotting away a splendid pass from Felipe Melo. Brazil had chances to double their advantage before halftime but couldn’t capitalise. The Dutch, however came out for the second half with a different attitude, and on the 53rd minute it paid dividends as Sneijder’s ball into the box was turned into the Brazilian goal by Melo (the first own goal at a World Cup by Brazil in 97 games). Netherlands could smell blood, and on the 68th minute Sneijder scored his second to put the Dutch into a deserved lead. Further misery was compounded on Brazil as Melo’s Jekyll and Hyde match was over when he was sent off. The Dutch avenged their penalty shootout defeat in ‘98 and moved to the semi-final. Brazil exited at the same stage as in 2006 and with them hosting the tournament in 2014, massive change was needed in order for them to win their sixth title and banish the demons of the Maracanã in 1950 once and for all.
At the time of writing, the qualifying campaigns for both nations for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar have not yet begun, however if both nations qualify for the finals then we can only hope that they meet at some stage during the competition. The 18th of December 2022 is the final of the World Cup, and as a keen admirer of both the Dutch and Brazilian style of play, then it would be a fitting end to the tournament to see these two battle it out for the trophy for the first time.

Harvey Elliott – Liverpool


Name: Harvey Elliott

Club: Liverpool

Position: RW/LW

D.O.B: 04/04/2003

Made Senior Debut?: Yes (Fulham)

Nationality: England

Current National Level: England U17 International

Last Season Summary

2018/19 – Last season saw Elliott’s name hit the headlines as he became the youngest ever player in the Premier League era. However in the two games he played he didn’t really get to express himself as he had in the U18 games with involvement in 8 goals in 12 matches. His confidence in running at the opposition a real highlight along with his work rate.

Footy Files expectations this Season

2019/20 – A somewhat surprising transfer to Liverpool came this season and even some game time during pre-season to allow his new fans to see what the club has invested in too. What can we expect? Well with the calibre of player in front of him, it’s looking like a lot of hard work in the development team is needed. But at 16, and the amount of experience he already has, Liverpool’s youth system is one of the best places to be.

Karomoko Dembele – Celtic


Name: Karomoko Dembele

Club: Celtic

Position: RW/LW/AMC/ST

D.O.B: 22/02/2003

Made Senior Debut?: Yes (Celtic)

Nationality: Scottish

Current National Level: Scotland U17 International

Last Season Summary

2018/19 – Dembele initially caused a stir three years ago when he represented the Celtic U20’s of the age of just 13. Now three years on he continued to progress, when making his debut at the age of 16 as a second half substitute against Hearts.

Footy Files expectations this Season

2019/20 – With no disrespect intended towards the Scottish leagues, it is probably the perfect place for Karomoko to start seeing a few more minutes this season at such a young age. The unfortunate side of things being that he plays for by far the best team in the Country, so playing time will be at a premium. If he gets given the nod, hopefully the learning experience he will receive from it will be priceless.

Oliver Skipp – Tottenham Hotspur


Name: Oliver Skipp

Club: Tottenham Hotspur

Position: CDM/CM

D.O.B: 16/09/2000

Made Senior Debut?: Yes (Tottenham Hotspur)

Nationality: English

Current National Level: England U18 International

Last Season Summary

2018/19 – Last season saw Skipp brought into the first team by Pochettino. To have a manager like the Spurs man must be an absolute dream for a youngster. Playing in a holding role for Spurs in his eight appearances, Skipp held his own and was not afraid of a challenge. He was by no means a stand out player, but he gave a solid account of himself, with high passing accuracy with short precise passes, and only allowing 0.3 dribbles past him per game.

Footy Files expectations this Season

2019/20 – This season, it’s looking increasing difficult for any youngster to get into that midfield. With the signings of Ndombele and Lo Celso, coupled with Dier returning from injury the squad depth is quite crowded. Maybe a loan should have been on the cards? But at the age of 18, training with them players week in week out can only improve you. Hopefully we’ll get to see him in some cup games. He has had an impressive pre-season, with comparisons to Scott Parker..

Fikayo Tomori – Chelsea


Name: Fikayo Tomori

Club: Chelsea

Position: CB

D.O.B: 19/12/97

Made Senior Debut?: Yes (Chelsea)

Nationality: English

Current National Level: England U21 International

Last Season Summary

2018/19 – Last season saw Tomori shoot to prominence on loan in the Championship as part of Frank Lampard’s promotion hunting Derby County. Tomori was ever present starting 43 matches in the league, even grabbing a goal and an assist, but it was his defensive prowess which wowed the onlookers. Only being dribbled past 0.5 times per game, making 3.9 clearances per game, making 1.6 interceptions, and making nearly 60% of his tackles, he has certainly given himself a nice platform to build on.

Footy Files expectations this Season

2019/20 – This season, training with the Chelsea first team, and with Frank Lampard at them helm, Tomori may just get more game time than expected. We were thinking another loan may be on the cards to a Premiership side, but with Cahill, and now David Luiz out the way, the depth a centre back is relatively shallow, perfect for Tomori to step in when called upon.

Josh Tymon – Stoke City


Name: Josh Tymon

Club: Stoke City

Position: LB

D.O.B: 22/05/99

Made Senior Debut?: Yes (Hull City)

Nationality: English

Current National Level: England U20 International

Last Season Summary

2018/19 – Last season being loaned out to MK Dons, Tymon didn’t enjoy the best of seasons as the club were relegated after making only 9 appearances. Unable to break into the first team the youngster had also expressed his discontent, however when given the opportunity against Preston, he really didn’t fare well.

Footy Files expectations this Season

2019/20 – Tymon needs game time, simple as that. A player at his age can not progress with little competitive game time. At the time of writing this Josh has just been loaned out to Famalicao in Portugal, a newly promoted side. This could do wonders for his confidence.

Ben Knight – Manchester City


Name: Ben Knight

Club: Manchester City

Position: AMC

D.O.B: 14/06/2002

Made Senior Debut?: No

Nationality: English

Current National Level: England U17 International

Last Season Summary

2018/19 – Last season as a 16 year old, Knight enjoyed regular game time for the Manchester City U18’s netting on 7 occasions and setting up one goal. Showing no shortage of confidence, his slightly older team mates have no trouble entrusting the ball at his feet. He also added two games for the U23’s, one coming in the EFL trophy.

Footy Files expectations this Season

2019/20 – Knight just needs to carry on what he id doing. The simple fact that the coaches have seen enough in him to give him some minutes at the U23 level speaks volumes about his potential. Just turned 17, we expect him to get more minutes under his belt, and progress well at a top academy.

Troy Parrott – Tottenham Hotspur


Name: Troy Parrott

Club: Tottenham Hotspur

Position: ST

D.O.B: 04/02/2002

Made Senior Debut?: No

Nationality: Irish

Current National Level: Ireland U19 International

Last Season Summary

2018/19 – Parrott hit the mainstream in Youth football last season as he went on an absolute goal rush in the U18’s league, netting 14 times in 9 games, averaging a goal every 56 mins. In the UEFA Youth League, Parrott proved he could do it against some of the best academies in Europe netting 3 times and assisting 1 in 5 matches. The coaches at Tottenham were that impressed that he was soon promoted to the U23 side where he did manage a couple of goals under limited time on the pitch. Parrot was also called up to the Republic of Ireland U21 side, but unfortunately had to withdraw due to injury.

Footy Files expectations this Season

2019/20 – Tottenham have a very exciting youngster on their hands. Pochettino obviously aware of this took Parrott among other youngsters on the clubs pre-season tour, giving Parrot game time against the likes of Real Madrid, Bayern Munich (who’m he hit the post against), Man Utd and Juventus. He did not look out of place at all. What can we expect this season? More than likely to continue his development with the U23 squad. An optimist might say that with the departure of Janssen and Llorente, there may be a place in the first team squad for him, but with recent links to Dybala, it’s looking unlikely. Regardless, we are keen to see how he develops.

Sam Greenwood – Arsenal


Name: Sam Greenwood

Club: Arsenal

Position: RW/ST

D.O.B: 26/01/2002

Made Senior Debut?: No

Nationality: English

Current National Level: England U17 International

Last Season Summary

2018/19 – Greenwood last season was part of the Arsenal U18 squad, featuring regularly for them at the age of 16, and the England U17’s. His versatility is a key attribute for a player of such a young age, seeing him line up as a right winger, a striker, and even a centre midfielder. With a clear eye for goal, Greenwood netted 10 goals in 21 games for his club, whilst he has a superb record of 12 goals in 14 games for the England U17’s.

Footy Files expectations this Season

2019/20 – This season we expect much of the same. Continue as he means to go on. The U18’s seems to be an adequate level, and at a push he could see a few games in the U23 development side.

Tommy Doyle – Manchester City


Name: Tommy Doyle

Club: Manchester City

Position: CM/CDM

D.O.B: 17/10/2001

Made Senior Debut?: No

Nationality: English

Current National Level: England U18 International

Last Season Summary

2018/19 – Last season was massively important one in Tommy Doyle’s development. Not only did the 17 year old feature regularly for the U18’s, he also seen himself promoted to the U23 development side. The coaches clearly see potential in the lad. With an eye for a pass, and late runs into the box, he shown he has an intellect beyond his years when it comes to being in the right place at the right time.

Footy Files expectations this Season

2019/20 – At 17 years of age, in the Man City development system there is not much more we can wish for the Tommy, other than to continue his development and getting minutes under his belt at the U23 level. He is maturing quickly as a footballer and we are looking forward to tracking his progress.

Mason Greenwood – Manchester United


Name: Mason Greenwood

Club: Manchester United

Position: ST/LW/RW

D.O.B: 01/10/2001

Made Senior Debut?: Yes (Manchester United)

Nationality: English

Current National Level: England U18 International

Last Season Summary

2018/19 – It wasn’t really until Solskjaer began to speak publicly of the youngster that your average fan really took on board exactly who Mason Greenwood was. At youth level last season, he was taking penalties with his left foot, with his right foot, scoring free kicks with his left and right foot, from distance. He is deceptively quick and one of the most confident players of his age when the ball is at his feet. This led to him being brought into the senior squad towards the end of the season when United had lost their spark. He made his senior debut last season and left United fans wanting more.

Footy Files expectations this Season

2019/20 – Greenwood is the real deal. He looks absolutely phenomenal. With Lukaku’s impending exit and only slight murmurs of a replacement, could Solskjaer be leaving the door open for Greenwood to step up at the age of 17? Do we think he’s capable? Yes. Are we excited? YES! If there is just one player you’re thinking of following this season. This guy is our pick.

Bukayo Saka – Arsenal


Name: Bukayo Saka

Club: Arsenal

Position: LW

D.O.B: 05/09/2001

Made Senior Debut?: Yes (Arsenal)

Nationality: English

Current National Level: England U19 International

Last Season Summary

2018/19 – Starting the season in the development team, Saka showed his creativity laying on 8 goals in 20 matches, scoring 5 in the process. Arsenal’s lack of Champions League football also benefitted him greatly as he was given some much needed game time at a senior level for his club. He shown that he likes to run at the full backs and looks to play the pass rather than shoot on most occasions.

Footy Files expectations this Season

2019/20 – Saka has really impressed on the clubs pre-season tour, but thanks to the signing of a certain Nicolas Pepe, game time may be limited again. Fortunately for the youngster, Arsenal failed in the drive for Champions League qualification last season, so Europa League minutes are very possible.

James Garner – Manchester United


Name: James Garner

Club: Manchester United

Position: CDM/CM

D.O.B: 13/03/2001

Made Senior Debut?: Yes (Manchester United)

Nationality: English

Current National Level: England U18 International

Last Season Summary

2018/19 – Garner, towards the end of last season stepped up from training with the development side, to training with the first team. Solskjaer really has took an interest in the youth players at Manchester United and Garner was one of the first to benefit from his watchful eye. At 18, and very little experience, it was always going to be tough to break into that first team when you’re up against the likes of Matic. But Garner did make his senior debut in United’s win over Palace, albeit for a minute.

Footy Files expectations this Season

2019/20 – Garner was taken on the clubs pre-season tour playing in quite a few games, and notably scoring against Perth Glory with his first touch from outside the area. This season, we believe that Garner may be a bench warmer for long periods of United’s campaign, but we certainly think he will see plenty more minutes due to the clubs Europa League campaign.

Tyreece John-Jules – Arsenal


Name: Tyreece John-Jules

Club: Arsenal

Position: ST

D.O.B: 14/02/2001

Made Senior Debut?: No

Nationality: English

Current National Level: England U18 International

Last Season Summary

2018/19 – Last season, Tyreece took the jump from U18 to the U23 Development side at Arsenal and did not look out of place. Averaging a goal every 60 mins in the U18’s, the step up couldn’t have come sooner and he took it in his stride. Playing 17, scoring 6 and laying on 2 assists, also appearing in the EFL Trophy too, getting involved in 5 goals, in 4 games.

Footy Files expectations this Season

2019/20 – When you look around the youngsters coming through the Arsenal academy, most clubs would be envious. John-Jules looks set to have a bright future, and was taken on the clubs recent pre-season tour, playing into two matches. Emery is obviously aware of him, but we think this season he will continue in the U23’s. He looks to have a bright future.

Ellis Simms – Everton


Name: Ellis Simms

Club: Everton

Position: ST

D.O.B: 05/01/2001

Made Senior Debut?: No

Nationality: English

Current National Level: England U18 International

Last Season Summary

2018/19 – Ellis Simms record last season for the Everton development team was phenomenal. Playing ins 21 matches for the U18’s, scoring 32 goals, Simms averaged a goal every 55 minutes. Eye watering stats. Scoring 5 in 4 FA Youth Cup games it is obvious to everyone that the youngster certainly has an eye for goal.

Footy Files expectations this Season

2019/20 – We expect Simms to be promoted to the U23 side this season and play in the PL2. A loan move is unlikely, yet not off the cards. If he continues how he has started his short career, Everton have a pedigree for bringing through youngsters, so he is already at the right club to climb the ladder.

Arvin Appiah – Nottingham Forest


Name: Arvin Appiah

Club: Nottingham Forest

Position: RW/LW

D.O.B: 01/01/2001

Made Senior Debut?: Yes (Nottingham Forest)

Nationality: English/Ghanaian

Current National Level: England U19 International

Last Season Summary

2018/19 – Last season as a fresh faced 17 year old Appiah made his senior debut for Forest. The attacking winger, looks confident on the ball, likes to run at a defender, and despite looking a little rough around the edges, showed glimpses on quality and trickery leading to him taking a few kicks, albeit winning free kicks.

Footy Files expectations this Season

2019/20 – With six games, two starts under his belt from last season, we expect the youngster to be on the periphery of the First Team, making the bench most games. He will definitely be seeing a lot more minutes this season due to the sheer volume of matches in the English Championship and cup competitions.

Reece Oxford – Augsburg


Name: Reece Oxford

Club: Augsburg

Position: CB

D.O.B: 16/12/2000

Made Senior Debut?: Yes (West Ham United)

Nationality: English

Current National Level: England U20 International

Last Season Summary

2018/19 – Reece Oxford is a name that a lot of football fans in the UK would have heard of before. Bursting onto the scene for West Ham as the man that marked Mesut Ozil out of the game, he was player that Hammers fans grew quite excited about. For some reason at West Ham, things never really panned out and he saw himself loaned out to Reading, Monchengladbach and Augsburg (where he ended up at last season). You’d be forgiven for not realising that Oxford is still only 18 years old and has bags of experience behind him now at a top level. Still only regarded as a rotational player, when called upon last season Oxford was a rock. No errors leading to goals, 4.5 clearances per game, winning 75% of his tackles per game, and being dribbled past 0.3 times per game. He really stepped up when called upon.

Footy Files expectations this Season

2019/20 – Augsburg snapped Oxford up in a heartbeat and were quick to give him the number 5 shirt. We think we will see a lot more game time for the youngster this season, and with a real lack of depth at the centre back position for England, give him an outside chance of a call up. One to watch.

Callum Hudson-Odoi – Chelsea


Name: Callum Hudson-Odoi

Club: Chelsea

Position: LW/RW

D.O.B: 07/11/2000

Made Senior Debut?: Yes (Chelsea)

Nationality: English

Current National Level: England International

Last Season Summary

2018/19 – Last season, unless you followed youth football or are a Chelsea fan, it was unlikely that you had heard of Hudson-Odoi until Bayern Munich came in with a “surpise” bid for the youngster. Honestly, it was not a huge surprise, Callum has been hailed (along with Greenwood, Foden and Sancho) as one of the stars of the English generation. He was just unfortunate to have a player like Eden Hazard ahead of him in the pecking order. Subsequently, the bid from Munich instantly saw him thrust into the limelight, and even given more game time, a long with a genuinely surprising couple of England call-ups..

Footy Files expectations this Season

2019/20 – This is HIS season. With Hazard out of the picture, and a transfer ban for the club, Hudson-Odoi has to be one of the first names on the teamsheet. His potential seems unrivalled by most youngsters (apart from those named above) and Chelsea could have a new look young, fresh faced side that would be very interesting to follow this season.

Jonathan Panzo – AS Monaco


Name: Jonathan Panzo

Club: AS Monaco

Position: CB

D.O.B: 25/10/2000

Made Senior Debut?: Yes (AS Monaco)

Nationality: English/Ivory Coast

Current National Level: England U19 International

Last Season Summary

2018/19 – Last season Panzo did exactly what a lot of youngsters have been doing recently, leaving the English academies and looking for a quicker route to the Senior level in different leagues around Europe. So did it pay off for the young centre back? Well, yes and no. Panzo spend the majority of last season playing for Monaco II, but he did make his senior debut in the Coupe de Ligue for Monaco. Also, training with the first team, he was always on the periphery.

Footy Files expectations this Season

2019/20 – During pre-season, I don’t remember Panzo missing a game. Sure he never got a full 90 mins, not many of the squad did, but he has been used repetitively. Be it in a back 4 or a back 3, Panzo has been trusted during the pre-season. We at Footy Files think this could be the season where he could break into the first team on a more regular occasion, and will be watching in anticipation.

Ethan Ampadu – RB Leipzig


Name: Ethan Ampadu

Club: RB Leipzig

Position: RW/LW

D.O.B: 14/09/2000

Made Senior Debut?: Yes (Exeter City)

Nationality: Welsh

Current National Level: Wales International

Last Season Summary

2018/19 – Last season was a bit of an odd one for Ampadu’s progression. Getting the odd game in the FA Cup, Europa League and Premier League, it was clear that Sarri saw something in Ampadu. But a full match was rare. This didn’t stop him from being called up to represent his country again, after doing so from his loan period with Exeter. When he did play, he looked solid and made no errors leading to goals, what more can you ask from a centre back?

Footy Files expectations this Season

2019/20 – With the departure of Gary Cahill, and the transfer ban at Chelsea, we believed this might be the year that Ampadu broke onto the Premier League scene. This was not the case, and he has gone out on loan to RB Leipzig, and by all accounts turned down numerous English clubs to do so. With Leipzig’s reputations of playing youthful teams this could prove to be a very useful season for Ampadu as he looks for more game time. although Upamecano and Mukiele wont exactly step aside for the Welshman. Time will tell if he can break into the starting eleven..

Rabbi Matondo – Schalke 04


Name: Rabbi Matondo

Club: Schalke 04

Position: RW/LW

D.O.B: 09/08/2000

Made Senior Debut?: Yes (Schalke 04)

Nationality: Welsh

Current National Level: Wales International

Last Season Summary

2018/19 – After appearing on a few occasion for Man City’s U23 side, Matondo was purchased in the Winter Transfer Window by Schalke 04. Turning a lot of heads due to what happened that last time a City youngster moved to the Bundesliga (Sancho), there was a lot of eyes watching the youngster. Three days later, he makes his Senior debut as a late substitute and has made a solid, if unremarkable start to his career. Despite only having limited game time, Matondo also made his International debut.

Footy Files expectations this Season

2019/20 – At 18 years old, he has made his debut in the Bundesliga and represented his Country. This season is all about racking those minutes up and becoming a more complete footballer. We have complete faith that as we watch this season, he will show that he belongs in this division.

Angel Gomes – Manchester United


Name: Angel Gomes

Club: Manchester United

Position: AMC

D.O.B: 31/08/2000

Made Senior Debut?: Yes (Manchester United)

Nationality: English/Portuguese

Current National Level: England U19 International

Last Season Summary

2018/19 – Angel Gomes has been a name known in the U23 development league for a short while, but it was last season that the youngster got the call up to the senior squad after Solskjaer took the helm. Making his senior debut, last season can definitely be put down as a success, and whilst it was only a few short minutes in a couple of games, it is an experience that every young player craves.

Footy Files expectations this Season

2019/20 – Having played in 3 of United’s International Champions Cup games, and bagging a goal, Gomes’ confidence has to be sky high. Coupled with the fact that United have not managed to get any major business done in the transfer window besides Maguire, Wan-Bissaka and James, Gomes may just be afforded more opportunities this season. Hopefully we’ll get to see him rack up more minutes this season.

Reo Griffiths – Olympique Lyonnais


Name: Reo Griffiths

Club: Olympique Lyonnais

Position: ST

D.O.B: 27/06/2000

Made Senior Debut?: No

Nationality: English

Current National Level: England U17 International

Last Season Summary

2018/19 – Last season saw Griffiths continue his development in Lyon II, playing regularly in the French youth league whilst also featuring for the side in the UEFA Youth league. Noteably scoring 2 goals in 4 appearances, coming off the bench in the Quarter Finals to net against Barcelona within two minutes of appearing.

Footy Files expectations this Season

2019/20 – Lyon have one of the best youth systems in the world so Griffiths is in the right place for his development. With teammates such as Maxenc Caqueret and Amine Gouiri graduating towards the first team there is a clear route to the senior level and if Griffiths gets his head down the opportunity could still arise for him. At 19 years old, he should be looking to make his Senior debut as soon as he can, if not at Lyon, then possibly elsewhere on loan.

Phil Foden – Manchester City


Name: Phil Foden

Club: Manchester City

Position: AMC

D.O.B: 28/05/2000

Made Senior Debut?: Yes (Manchester City)

Nationality: English

Current National Level: England U21 International

Last Season Summary

2018/19 – Last season, Foden got to show glimpses of what he is capable of for Manchester City. Whilst he is such an exciting prospect, the task of breaking into the first team must appear daunting at times. But Foden has taken everything in his stride so far. From Pep’s press conferences which place plenty of weight on the youngsters shoulders, he has never been one to shy away from the ball during the game. Always wanting the ball to his feet, and a real eye for a pass, along with trickery and great ball control you can see why Guardiola raves about him..

Footy Files expectations this Season

2019/20 – We can almost guarantee that Foden will see a lot more game time this season. Two seasons ago he averaged 9 mins a match, last season he averaged 26 mins. This season will only increase further as Pep continues to nurture the youngster. Bleeding Foden into an already world-class side can not be easy but Pep appears to be doing a fine job. We’re calling it now, England call up before the season is over. One to watch.

Ryan Sessegnon – Fulham


Name: Ryan Sessegnon

Club: Fulham

Position: LW/LWB/LB

D.O.B: 18/05/2000

Made Senior Debut?: Yes (Fulham)

Nationality: English

Current National Level: England U21 International

Last Season Summary

2018/19 – What a difference a season makes. From blowing up in the Championship, to a slight murmur in the Premier League. Few would be forgiven he may just be a one season wonder. But two season’s ago Sessegnon came to prominence when he was pushed forwards into the attacking left wing role. But last season, Sessegnon was given a bit of a utility role before falling out of favour with the manager, appearing at left back, striker, support striker and right wing, as well as his natural position of left wing. For an 18/19 year old, inconsistent positions can lead to inconsistent performances unfortunately. However Sessegnon still managed 2 goals and 6 assists in the league last season.

Footy Files expectations this Season

2019/20 – We think that Sessegnon is onto a winner regardless of what happens this transfer window. If he stays, he’ll get regular first team football at a high level. If he leaves, he appears to have one main suitor in Tottenham, and whilst usually this could limit opportunities, having a manager like Pochettino should excite anybody who enjoys seeing youngsters given an opportunity to thrive. We’ll see where he ends up when the window closes.

Rhian Brewster – Liverpool


Name: Rhian Brewster

Club: Liverpool

Position: ST

D.O.B: 01/04/2000

Made Senior Debut?: No

Nationality: English

Current National Level: England U18 International

Last Season Summary

2018/19 – Last season Brewster appeared for the Liverpool U18, and U23 development squads on 36 occasions, netting 15 times and providing 13 assists. The youngster has proven that he is already above the youth level and is in dire need of more competitive football. Klopp has acknowledged this by naming the youngster on the bench a few times last season.

Footy Files expectations this Season

2019/20 – Whilst Brewster appears happy to wear his Champions League Winners medal on social media, he must be thinking about needing a loan move this summer. With the quality ahead of him in the squad; Salah, Firmino, Mané, Origi and Shaqiri, can we really say he will get adequate game time above youth level next season? For the sake of his development he needs a loan move, possibly to the Championship. At the age of 19, these games can prove the most beneficial when it comes to a youngsters development. Rhian definitely has the potential to become a top level striker, he just can’t afford to waste it waiting for an opportunity at Liverpool this season.

Jadon Sancho – Borussia Dortmund


Name: Jadon Sancho

Club: Borussia Dortmund

Position: RW/LW

D.O.B: 25/03/2000

Made Senior Debut?: Yes (Borussia Dortmund)

Nationality: English

Current National Level: England International

Last Season Summary

2018/19 – Who could’ve seen what last season would bring for Sancho? Towards the end of his first season in the Bundesliga he had made 12 appearances, scored one and set up four. But last season was a season of epic proportions. Breaking into the England squad, becoming one of the most creative and prolific forces in the World. Boasting a goal and assist tally (26 combined in the league alone) that would make most world class players envious. The only thing that could have improved the season would have been lifting the League Title.

Footy Files expectations this Season

2019/20 – What is there to expect this season? The German Super Cup was played this weekend just gone with Dortmund defeating Bayern 2-0, Sancho with a goal and an assist. It looks like Sancho will continue to thrive in the Bundesliga. With Brandt and Thorgan Hazard by his side, I firmly believe that his side will be challenging for the Title this season, and Sancho will be at the forefront of that challenge.

Rekeem Harper – West Bromwich Albion


Name: Rekeem Harper

Club: West Bromwich Albion

Position: MC/AMC

D.O.B: 08/03/2000

Made Senior Debut?: Yes (West Bromwich Albion)

Nationality: English

Current National Level: England U19 International

Last Season Summary

2018/19 – Harper’s start to the last season was nothing to write home about. Named on the bench a few times, but very few minutes and a lot of time in the U23 development squad. But as he shone in the developments, the manager took notice and at the turn of the year he was given plenty of game time. Appearing in 16 matches towards the end of the season in the league, starting 13 of them.

Footy Files expectations this Season

2019/20 – Harper possesses an eye for a pass, and already has ball control beyond his years. The Championship is definitely the correct league for him right now. With West Brom aiming to be battling at the top this season, this could be a very exciting season for Harper. Providing he still gets the nod from the manager, this could be one of the most important seasons of development any youngster could dream of.

Morgan Gibbs-White – Wolverhampton Wanderers


Name: Morgan Gibbs-White

Club: Wolverhampton Wanderers

Position: AMC/MC

D.O.B: 27/01/2000

Made Senior Debut?: Yes (Wolverhampton Wanderers)

Nationality: English

Current National Level: England U21 International

Last Season Summary

2018/19 – Gibbs-White had a slow but steady season. Almost always on the subs bench, starting just 5 games in the league out of 26 appearances. Averaging 25 minutes per match, it’s clear that he is well within his Managers thoughts. The unfortunate thing for the youngster is Ruben Neves, Joao Moutinho and Leander Dendoncker are the men who are filling the roles in the middle of the pitch. A tough crowd for any 19 year old to push their way in to.

Footy Files expectations this Season

2019/20 – With Wolves’ successful season behind them, this Season will definitely see Gibbs-White get a whole lot more game time. The Europa League will have the squad stretched for fitness and will hand Morgan the perfect opportunity to fight for a place in the first team. I’d expect Wolves to go deep in the competition too if they avoid an injury crisis leaving Gibbs-White a definite one to watch this season.

Mason Mount – Chelsea


Name: Mason Mount

Club: Chelsea

Position: AMC/MC

D.O.B: 10/01/2000

Made Senior Debut?: Yes (Vitesse)

Nationality: English

Current National Level: England U21 International

Last Season Summary

2018/19 – Last season Mason Mount really did burst onto the scene despite being sidelined for two months with a hamstring injury after an FA Cup game against Accrington Stanley. Still, he started 38 games in the league, grabbed himself 8 goals and provided 4 assists. He became one of the brightest names in the league as he helped Derby in their bid for promotion.

Footy Files expectations this Season

2019/20 – This season could really be his season. With Chelsea’s enforced transfer ban, the lack of additions has Chelsea looking more and more towards their youth for depth. With Frank Lampard now at the helm too, the relationship that the pair have from Derby could prove very beneficial for the youngster as he looks for more game time. If he continues to progress on from last season, we could be seeing an England call up before this season is over. Very exciting season ahead.

Max Aarons – Norwich City


Name: Max Aarons

Club: Norwich City

Position: RB/RWB

D.O.B: 04/01/2000

Made Senior Debut?: Yes (Norwich City)

Nationality: English

Current National Level: England U19 International

Last Season Summary

2018/19 – Last season Aarons started an impressive 41 games in the league last season, playing to a consistently high standard. Grabbing two goals for himself and providing 6 assists, the young full back has shown that he has the potential to take it to the next level. Not just on the attacking side either, he intercepted and tackles once per game on average, and was dribbled past 0.4 times per game.

Footy Files expectations this Season

2019/20 – This season, after Norwich’s promotion Aarons has opted to ignore all the speculation and stick with the club who gave him his first opportunity. This will be a learning experience for the youngster and we look forward to seeing how he fares.

Reiss Nelson – Arsenal


Name: Reiss Nelson

Club: Arsenal

Position: RW/LW

D.O.B: 10/12/1999

Made Senior Debut?: Yes (Arsenal)

Nationality: English

Current National Level: England U21 International

Last Season Summary

2018/19 – Nelson came on leaps and bounds last season whilst on loan at Hoffenheim. Pace, trickery, an eye for a goal and accurate passing are all well within his capabilities and he was only too happy to show the Bundesliga last season. Being used much as an impact sub, Nelson only managed 5 starts from 23 appearances, but the youngster managed to bag 7 goals in the process averaging a goal every 92 mins.

Footy Files expectations this Season

2019/20 – This season, the rumours are that he will be stepping up to train with the first team. Whilst Reiss could provide Arsenal with cover for the wingers, we really think it would be beneficial for him to get a loan move where he is guaranteed first team football. However, given the opportunity at Arsenal, he may just give Emery a selection headache.

Dwight McNeil – Burnley


Name: Dwight McNeil

Club: Burnley

Position: LW

D.O.B: 22/11/1999

Made Senior Debut?: Yes (Burnley)

Nationality: English

Current National Level: England U20 International

Last Season Summary

2018/19 – McNeil burst onto the scene last season for Burnley making the left wing his own. Starting 19 games in the league, scoring 3 and creating 5 it is clear to see how effective he can be in a game. With his direct running, and eye for a pass he has set a precedent of what to expect next season.

Footy Files expectations this Season

2019/20 – Dwight McNeil just needs to build on what he started last season. Causing full backs all manner of problems last season with his pace and trickery, McNeil looks very promising. Given consistent game time at the top level, I don’t think it will be too long before we hear his name mentioned with a transfer to a bigger club.

Joe Willock – Arsenal


Name: Joe Willock

Club: Arsenal

Position: MC/AMC

D.O.B: 20/08/1999

Made Senior Debut?: Yes (Arsenal)

Nationality: English

Current National Level: England U20 International

Last Season Summary

2018/19 – Last season Willock managed to play in both the Europa League and Premier League for Arsenal, albeit limited minutes. He did however make the most of his game time and managed to bag himself a goal in the Europa League.

Footy Files expectations this Season

2019/20 – Given that Ozil tends to consistently disappear over the past few seasons, this season could be the perfect opportunity for the youngster to step up and make that spot his own. Having the opportunity to ply his trade behind the trident of Lacazette, Aubameyang and Pepe, this could be the season that Willock comes into his own.

Eddie Nketiah – Arsenal


Name: Eddie Nketiah

Club: Arsenal

Position: ST

D.O.B: 30/05/1999

Made Senior Debut?: Yes (Arsenal)

Nationality: English/Ghanaian

Current National Level: England U21 International

Last Season Summary

2018/19 – After impressing in the PL2 with the Arsenal development team last season, Nketiah found himself on the bench for Arsenal on numerous occasions. Making 5 appearances in the league, averaging 13 minutes per game, Nketiah didn’t get a lot of time on the field. However, this didn’t stop him from netting once and gaining a lot of experience from playing with strikers like Lacazette and Aubameyang.

Footy Files expectations this Season

2019/20 – If it wasn’t for the signing on Nicolas Pepe we would have higher hopes this season for Nketiah. Luckily for him though, Arsenal are likely to play 50+ games this season thanks to Europa League involvement. Being on the periphery of the team, Nketiah can expect some game time, and will hopefully make it count. A loan move to a Championship could do wonders for his development though.

Keanan Bennetts – Borussia Mönchengladbach


Name: Keanan Bennetts

Club: Borussia Mönchengladbach

Position: LW

D.O.B: 09/03/1999

Made Senior Debut?: No

Nationality: English/German

Current National Level: England U19 International

Last Season Summary

2018/19 – Making the move from Tottenham to Monchengladbach, the media had been keeping a close eye on Bennetts thanks to the emergence of a certain Jadon Sancho. Unfortunately the first team was not the expectation of the youngster as he plied his trade with the clubs B team, playing 22 games, scoring 1 and assisting 2.

Footy Files expectations this Season

2019/20 – With the sale of Thorgan Hazard to Dortmund, whilst unlikely it would be good to see Bennetts given a few minutes in the Bundesliga this season, but the arrival of Marcus Thuram may hamper any hopes of this happening. However Bennetts has had some game time this pre-season in the defeat to Bilbao, proving that he is on the periphery on their thoughts. All eyes on Keanan and his progress this season.

Marcus McGuane – Barcelona


Name: Marcus McGuane

Club: Barcelona

Position: CDM/CM

D.O.B: 02/02/1999

Made Senior Debut?: No

Nationality: English/Irish

Current National Level: England U19 International

Last Season Summary

2018/19 – McGuane made 24 appearances for the Barcelona B team last season in the Spanish Second tier. Clearly he is rated quite highly to be training amongst the top youngsters in the world at Barcelona and he repaid their faith with some solid perfomances as a defensive midfielder.

Footy Files expectations this Season

2019/20 – Marcus needs to continue to perform for Barcelona B, but we would love to see a Championship side or La Liga side take a punt on him. He does have quality, and just needs regular football in a tougher league to realise his potential.

Declan Rice – West Ham United


Name: Declan Rice

Club: West Ham United

Position: CDM

D.O.B: 14/01/1999

Made Senior Debut?: Yes (West Ham United)

Nationality: English

Current National Level: England International

Last Season Summary

2018/19 – Declan Rice was a mainstay in the West Ham midfield last season starting 34 matches and being the anchor man they so desperately needed. Receiving plaudits all season, coupled with two caps for England it is clear to see Rice looks to be the heart of the midfield for England for a long time to come.

Footy Files expectations this Season

2019/20 – Two months ago, we at Footy Files probably would’ve said we would like to see Declan get a transfer to a team higher up in the league. But with Pellegrini at the helm, a first team place all but secure, and new signings like Haller and Fornals in the attack, this season could prove very successful for West Ham. We look forward to following Rice’s progress during this promising campaign.

Marcus Edwards – Tottenham Hotspur


Name: Marcus Edwards

Club: Tottenham Hotspur

Position: RW/AMC

D.O.B: 03/12/1998

Made Senior Debut?: Yes (Tottenham Hotspur)

Nationality: English

Current National Level: England U20 International

Last Season Summary

2018/19 – Last season Edwards was sent out on loan to Excelsior in the Eridivise. After a slow start being used as a bit part player, Edwards managed to force his way into the starting eleven and he didn’t look back. Averaging the most dribbles per game (3.2), more than likes of Ziyech, Neres, Bergwijn and Lozano, Edwards was always exciting to watch. He appeared in 25 games, starting 19 of them, scoring 2 and setting up 4.

Footy Files expectations this Season

2019/20 – Back at Tottenham this season, it would seem that working under Mauricio Pochettino and his staff would be the perfect combination for the youngster. However, rumours of Edwards not having the best ‘attitude’ have recently seen him training with Brentford United. Marcus really needs to progress on last season, and a loan or permanent move to the Championship may be just what he needs.

Trent Alexander-Arnold – Liverpool


Name: Trent Alexander-Arnold

Club: Liverpool

Position: RB/RWB

D.O.B: 07/10/1998

Made Senior Debut?: Yes (Liverpool)

Nationality: English

Current National Level: England International

Last Season Summary

2018/19 – Superb to watch last season, Trent’s progress over the last few years has been nothing short of phenomenal. Last season the youngster was near on faultless and enjoyed being part of a Title race, and picking up a Champions League winners medal. Playing 29 games in the league and providing 12 assists for his teammates too.

Footy Files expectations this Season

2019/20 – What can he do this season to improve? Just remain consistent. It’s clear to see he is already among the elite when it comes to his position and he should have that position nailed down at National level too. The good thing is with Aaron Wan-Bissaka beginning to develop, he is sure to keep TAA on his toes.

Ronaldo Vieira – Sampdoria


Name: Ronaldo Vieira

Club: Sampdoria

Position: CM/CDM

D.O.B: 19/07/1998

Made Senior Debut?: Yes (Leeds United)

Nationality: English/Guinea Bissau

Current National Level: England U21 International

Last Season Summary

2018/19 – Originally signed by Sampdoria as a possible replacement for the departing Lucas Torreira, a lot was made of Vieira. Unfortunately last season, his game time was limited, but he did have a stand out display against AC Milan. Ronaldo appeared 14 times for the Italians last season, starting 6 matches.

Footy Files expectations this Season

2019/20 – Last season has definitely given the youngster something to build on this season. Hopefully Ronaldo can cement his place in the starting eleven as he continues to build on the start of an impressive career in the Serie A.

Stephy Mavididi – Juventus


Name: Stephy Mavididi

Club: Juventus

Position: ST/LW

D.O.B: 31/05/1998

Made Senior Debut?: Yes (Charlton Athletic)

Nationality: English

Current National Level: England U20 International

Last Season Summary

2018/19 – Stephy Mavididi has been a regular for Juventus U23’s last season featuring in the Serie C, Girone A 32 times, scoring 6 goals. Towards the end of the season Mavididi was afforded the opportunity to make his Juventus agains SPAL when he came on as a sub in the 70th minute.

Footy Files expectations this Season

2019/20 – We would love to see Stephy given a loan move at a higher level than the Serie C, possibly to the Serie B or a Championship side. At 21 years of age Mavididi still has a lot of time to progress, and the step up could benefit him greatly if he is not in Sarri’s plans.

Chris Willock – Benfica


Name: Chris Willock

Club: Benfica

Position: RW/LW

D.O.B: 31/01/1998

Made Senior Debut?: Yes (Benfica B)

Nationality: English

Current National Level: England U20 International

Last Season Summary

2018/19 – Chris Willock has been with the Portuguese giants for two seasons now after signing a 5 year contract when he moved from Arsenal. Playing with the clubs B team he featured in the Portuguese second tier on 34 occasions, netting 11 times.

Footy Files expectations this Season

2019/20 – At the age of 21 we would really like to see Willock making that step into the first team. The unfortunate thing for Chris is the sheer quality that comes through the Benfica academy may limit his game time. A loan mover to a top tier Portuguese side would definitely help, or even if a Championship side picked him up, he definitely has the makings of a great winger.

Aaron Wan-Bissaka – Manchester United


Name: Aaron Wan-Bissaka

Club: Manchester United

Position: RB

D.O.B: 26/11/1997

Made Senior Debut?: Yes (Crystal Palace)

Nationality: English/DR Congo

Current National Level: England U21 International

Last Season Summary

2018/19 – Aaron started 35 league matches for Crystal Palace last season, bursting onto the scene in his debut season. During that time he provided 3 assists, whilst winning over 2 tackles and 2 interceptions per game with a minimal foul count.

Footy Files expectations this Season

2019/20 – At Footy Files we think that there has been far too much made of the comparisons with Trent Alexander-Arnold. Both are very good in their own right but Wan-Bissaka’s strengths come in his defensive ability. This season we look forward to seeing his progression as one of the main starters for United and would not be surprised if he is used as a centre back now and again.

Daniel James – Manchester United


Name: Daniel James

Club: Manchester United

Position: LW

D.O.B: 10/11/1997

Made Senior Debut?: Yes (Swansea City)

Nationality: Welsh

Current National Level: Wales International

Last Season Summary

2018/19 – Playing in the Championship for Swansea last season, James made 33 appearances in the league averaging 75 mins per game. In that time he found the net 4 times, and provided an assist 7 times.

Footy Files expectations this Season

2019/20 – There has been quite a lot of intrigue this season with Manchester United landing the signing of Daniel James. In what appeared to many as a shock signing not too much was expected of the young Welshman, but during their pre-season tour he has gone on to become one of their most exciting prospects. We believe he will become a first team regular at United this season and are exicted to see how he develops.

Marcus Rashford – Manchester United


Name: Marcus Rashford

Club: Manchester United

Position: ST/LW

D.O.B: 31/10/1997

Made Senior Debut?: Yes (Manchester United)

Nationality: English

Current National Level: England International

Last Season Summary

2018/19 – Playing 33 matches in the league last season, starting 26 matches it is clear that Rashford is a fully fledged member of the first team. Scoring 10 goals he averaged a goal every 236 minutes in the league.

Footy Files expectations this Season

2019/20 – A lot of the time last season Rashford was used out wide, mainly due to his pace. We believe that if he gets used as a striker this season, we would see a higher return of goals for the striker. With Lukaku looking likely for an exit and the Welsh youngster Daniel James seemingly cemented the left wing position, hopefully Rashford will get time as the spearhead of the attack.

Ademola Lookman – RB Leipzig


Name: Ademola Lookman

Club: RB Leipzig

Position: LW/RW/ST

D.O.B: 20/10/1997

Made Senior Debut?: Yes (Charlton Athletic)

Nationality: English/Nigerian

Current National Level: England U21 International

Last Season Summary

2018/19 – Last season Lookman was a regular on the Everton bench, taking part in 21 games, but only starting 3 games. With an average of 29 mins per game it’s clear that Lookman was not given ample time to get any momentum going.

Footy Files expectations this Season

2019/20 – With his recent transfer to RB Leipzig in Germany, we are hoping that Ademola can pick up where he left from his loan period two seasons ago when he got 7 goals in 11 games. Lookman clearly has talent and the 21 year old just needs game time to develop into the player we hope he can become.

Tammy Abraham – Chelsea


Name: Tammy Abraham

Club: Chelsea

Position: Striker

D.O.B: 02/10/1997

Made Senior Debut?: Yes (Bristol City)

Nationality: English

Current National Level: England International

Last Season Summary

2018/19 – Tammy Abraham was loaned to Aston Villa from Chelsea. Abraham scored 25 goals in 37 games in the Championship helping guide Villa to promotion to the Premier League. Towards the end of the Season, Abraham also made his first two appearance for the English National team.

Footy Files expectations this Season

2019/20 – With Chelsea’s ongoing transfer embargo and with only Giroud & Batshuayi in the squad with a claim for the starting Striker spot. We would love to see Abraham take the bull by the horns and make that spot his own this Season.

Kieran Tierney: Hit or Miss in the EPL?

Scottish football has historically received criticism over the quality of football compared to other nations’ first divisions. But the Scottish Premier League has never been short of talent. The latest player to gather international scouts’ attention, especially Arsenal’s is the 22-year-old energetic left-back, Kieran Tierney. In this individual analysis, we’ll discover what makes him a top fullback, and what could be expected from him in the future.

Tactical Versatility

With Celtic lining up in a variety of formations such as a 4-1-4-1, 4-2-3-1 and 3-5-1-1  – it’s Tierney’s ability to play in defensive and attacking fullback roles to such a high standard that allows him to be so useful. His ability to play as a left-back supporting his midfield in transition is great. What is equally impressive is his ability to play as a left wing-back with no player ahead of him, something you usually see, with the 3-4-3 system become a trend in the last few years.

Tierney started 76% of games at LB and the remaining 14% at LWB. Underlining his versatility.

This image is the tactical shape’s Celtic used vs Leipzig.

Tierney is number 63 for Celtic. All through the game, he was the only player on the left-wing. In the first half, he played as a left-back with the task of supporting his midfield in transition.

In the second half, he was pivotal in the formation change. With Celtic going to a 3-5-1-1 in attempt to press more efficiently, Tierney pressed higher up the pitch. This aided his team massively in the press, allowing his side to trap Leipzig higher up the pitch. Or, setting up in a low block, which closed any space for the adventurous RB Leipzig to exploit.

What can he offer?

Sprint speed, work rate, and intelligence are the best three ingredients Tierney has to offer.

Kieran Tierney possesses very good pace. This allows him to be an even better player. He can make decisions at a fast pace, anticipate attacking situations, and attack players at speed. A combination that makes for a world-class full-back.

An Eye For A Pass

Like most top fullbacks, Tierney has an excellent eye for a pass – something incredibly vital for any attacking left-back that allows them to impact any big game.

Tierney has the ability to draw players in with his direct dribbling, this often opens up space for him to exploit. With an impressive pass success ratio of 80.4%, Tierney is a trusted and safe passer. With 8.38 passes into the final third per game, it’s proven that Kieran Tierney is a progressive passer who will pass into dangerous zones when the opportunity arises.

Credit: Evening Standard

Direct Comparison: Robertson v Tierney

With two special talents playing in one position, Scotland will have a tough job trying to decide who to play. Statistically, it’s a closely fought battle. With Andrew Robertson winning some, and Tierney winning another set of key stats. Lets’ compare some of the more important stats for fullbacks and we’ll let you decide for yourself.

Expected Assists

Expected assists is a metric that is becoming more common as the days go by. It is a metric based on the quality of chances. Roberton everso slightly wins this one. With an expected assist of 8.04 compared to Tierney’s 7.96. This metric predicted correctly, with Robertson boasting 8 assists over Tierney’s rightly so, predicted 7. This stat rightly so shows that Robertson is better going forward, and is a much more potent threat in the cross.

Crosses per 90

Tierney actually delivers more crosses per game than Robertson. Tierney whips in 4.41 crosses per game, as opposed to Robertson’s 3.73. Obviously Robertson’s quality in crossing is slightly better than Tierney.

Dribbles per 90

Nowadays the ability to dribble is becoming more and more beneficial as a full back (something Wan-Bissaka struggles with, along with crossing and I still fail to see the hype around him). Tierney has an impressive 4.26 per game. Robertson is a much more old-fashioned fullback and doesn’t boast such skills in his repertoire with just 1.61 per game. 

All in all, both Robertson and Tierney are pretty evenly matched and both bring a unique set of characteristics to their position. It will be a different opinion from every fan on who is better, but both have an argument to be backed for.

Defensive Ability

With 18.53 duels won per game, Tierney is a composed defender. 8.04 recoveries in the oppositions half is something Tierney also possesses, his work rate supplemented by his clean tackling makes him an impressive defender.

Tierney’s heat-map, such an impressive image.

Above is Tierney’s heat-map. this image underlines his extraordinary work-rate.

Kieran is a great ball-winner. With 5.06 interceptions per-game, he can win the ball back with his fast interceptions. His pace allows him to be an asset in attacking and defensive phases. Exactly the kind of player most managers would love in their teams.

Footy Files View:

At just 22, Kieran is ready to ply his trade in a top 6 Premier League side. With the ability to attack at pace, win the ball, and whip in crosses all throughout the 90. There is a real demand for complete fullbacks, and we would say that Kieran Tierney definitely ticks that box.

And with Robertson the competition for the left-back role in the Scottish national team, Kieran certainly has the motivation to move to the Premier League. And if he does, he could be one of the best left-backs in world football as he’ll playing with and against higher quality footballers. Arsenal would be silly to not follow through with this deal. Especially with how low his price is in comparison to that of the current market.

Bruno Fernandes: What do we know?

Bruno Fernandes, 24 years old has become a household name throughout Portugal in the past two seasons as well as one of the first names on the National team line up.

Taking a different approach to the majority of his Portuguese teammates, Fernandes began his senior career at Novara with their B team in the Italian Serie C.


After playing in the B team for just several weeks, Fernandes was promoted to the club’s first team in Italy’s second tier Serie B, and played in just over half of the league games during the 2012/13 season helping his side to a fifth place finish and a spot in the playoffs.

That summer though, Fernandes made the move to Udinese. He was beginning to make ripples in Italy, and the bigger clubs were starting to take notice. Fernandes went on to make 95 appearances for Udinese, scoring ten goals.


Sampdoria came in for Fernandes on loan in 2016 and he was given the number 10 shirt. Twelve days after his arrival the Portugese international made his debut as a late substitute in a 2-1 win over Atalanta. He scored five goals in 35 appereances and helped the club to a tenth place finish in Serie A.

Fernandes was slowly building his experience on the pitch and following the conclusion of his loan spell, he returned to his home country to sign for Portuguese giants Sporting Lisbon. He is coming off the back of a magnificent 2018/19 season, scoring 32 goals in all competitions and winning the Portugese Cup, the Taca de Portugal and Portugese League Cup, the Taca de Liga.


How does he play?

Fernandes operates primarily in a central midfield role, but can also be used in an attacking midfield role whilst showing he has a pedigree in front of goal.

The Portuguese is excellent at finding space between the lines and with a record of 38 assists in his two seasons with Sporting, he would use that space effectively to find his teammates and so his teammates can find him, especially when he is running to the edge of the box for a goalscoring opportunity.

Looking back at this seasons stats it is clear to see where he thrives. On average getting 77.5 touches per game it is clear he is the focal point of his team boasting a 75% passing accuracy throughout the whole season and providing 3.1 key passes per game. He is definitely the man that dictates the shape of the game. Also, averaging 3 shots a game he is not shy of taking shot, regardless of how far away from goal he is.

When it comes to set pieces and penalties, Fernandes is the man that shoulders the responsibility for Sporting. Showing his improvement in free kick accuracy as the weeks rolled on through this season, and his trademark stutter run up for a penalty becoming more renowned for making the keeper move before he even takes a shot.

Whilst he is known for his attacking abilities, Fernandes is not afraid to get stuck in. Thanks to we can see that in Liga NOS only Hector Herrera, formerly of Porto, has won possession in the midfield third more times than Bruno Fernandes. His work ethic and tenacity see him chasing the ball down if it is not in his teams possession. A trait that most clubs would love to have in their ranks.


Where does he fit in? Man Utd or Spurs?

From a Man Utd perspective I think it is quite simple where he can fit in since the departure of Ander Herrera. Fernandes could slot perfectly into a midfield trio provided there is a ball winning midfielder lined up with him. Matic or possibly McTominay is a must for Fernandes to play his game.

The signing of Fernandes would also take the onus off of Pogba allowing him to come into his element a lot more. Drifting in and out of channels, Fernandes is the type of player who would be able to pick him out. Not only that but allowing the likes of Rashford and Martial to thrive.

As for Spurs it may not be so simple due to their numbers in midfield. Competing with the likes of Eriksen, Alli, Ndombele, Winks, Wanyama and Sissoko it would seem that the only way to accommodate Fernandes would be by selling players. Eriksen and Wanyama appear the obvious candidates to be moved on and if that was the case Fernandes is more than capable of filling the monstrous hole that Eriksen would leave.

With Ndombele/Sissoko slotted in for muscle behind him, a strong passer of the ball like Winks alongside him, could lead to a great partnership to watch. This could also free up Dele Alli to play the attacking role he thrived in in his breakthrough season.

Regardless of where he goes, Fernandes will definitely be one to watch and will no doubt improve whoever he joins.