Archive for the ‘Football’ Category

Football

Arsenal in pole position to sign Luke Shaw – but do they need him?

By Stefano on December 30th, 2012

Arsene Wenger clearly has a thing for graduates from the Southampton Youth Academy. In 2006 he nabbed a young winger called Theo Walcott – what happened to him? Then in 2011 he paid a reported £15 million to land Alex Oxlade Chamberlain. Now Wenger apparently has another Saint on his radar.

The Daily Mail is reporting that Arsenal are now favourites to sign the 17 year old left back Luke Shaw. Since his graduation from the youth team Shaw has been a revelation at St Mary’s. The Saints’ defence is nowhere near as leaky as it was earlier in  the season and Shaw’s speed, direct approach and ability to take on and beat men have all been noted.

In many ways he sounds like a classic Wenger signing – but do Arsenal really need him? At the moment Arsenal have three left backs – Kieran Gibbs, Andre Santos and Jernade Meade. Gibbs is clearly the number one choice and recently signed a long  term contract with the club. Gibbs is quick, good going  forward and not afraid of getting in shooting positions and having a pop. He had a mixed game against Newcastle yesterday. He was partially responsible for one of the Newcastle goals but then his dogged resilience and quick feet created several chances at the other end.

He might have been injury-prone in the past, but this season that iffy metatarsal doesn’t appear to be troubling him. If Wenger does sign Shaw he will be Gibbs’ under study at least in the short term.

Left back two is Andre Santos who many fans consider to be a full on liability. Wenger is almost certain to off load him in the window.

The big question about whether Wenger signs Shaw is what kind of future does he predict for Jernade Meade? The youngster looked good in the Capital One Cup and also against Olympiakos in away leg of the Champions league and maybe he can play an important role as a squad player. He was originally a left winger, but has become the regular left back for the Under 21s. In some ways he is almost an analogue of Gibbs, tough, quick and not afraid to get forward. However an injury to Gibbs and a sale for Santos could propel him into an extended run in the team and maybe Arsene thinks that he just isn’t  ready for that responsibility. It will be a shame for Meade if Shaw does arrive, but it will give Arsenal three of the best young left backs in the country.

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Football

Nani to Arsenal – apparently it is back on, but what about Zaha?

By Stefano on December 29th, 2012

If you thought that the Nani to Arsenal rumour was just the figment of an over active sports writer’s brain you might be forced to think again. The Mirror is today reporting that the United winger might be on his way to Arsenal as Arsene Wenger looks to strengthen his squad.

Wenger has a bit of a dilemma about who he should play on the wings at then moment. Gervinho will shortly be off to the African Cup Of Nations ,while Andre Arshavin appears to be on his way to Reading. Alex Oxlade Chamberlain has looked impressive recently but clearly needs to be brought on slowly. And as for Theo Walcott, Wenger seems to be agreeing to his wish to play up front in a bid to keep him at The Emirates.

Nani, who has barely featured for the Reds this season, is a an experienced campaigner who would add depth to the squad. Not everyone would be keen on his arrival though. In the comments on this link he features as one of the five players Arsenal fans hate most of all.

There’s no direct quotes in the Mirror article so make of it what you will.

According to the paper Wenger is very keen on Wilfried Zaha, Pepe Reina, and Southampton Left back Luke Shaw. There alsoa appears to be a bit of a buzz about Yann M’Villa  again. Odd that there aren’t any strikers on that list though. Also the Zaha to Arsenal bandwagon seems to have stalled a little. The player, who has been in scintillating form for Palace this year, is an Arsenal fan who, according to hearsay, favours a move to London Premiership club, however only Spurs have declared their intention to sign the winger so far.

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Football

Who should start on the wings for Liverpool against QPR? Sterling, Suso or Downing?

By Stefano on December 28th, 2012
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Raheem Sterling’s impact for Liverpool this season has been highly impressive, but the young winger desperately needed a break from first-team duties. Signs of fatigue were creeping into Sterling’s game in recent weeks, while the psychological impact of being thrust into the media limelight can’t be underestimated, especially for a youngster that has shown signs of indiscipline. Constant speculation about his new contract didn’t help matters.

But now, Sterling is fresh having been only a substitute in the matches against Fulham and Aston Villa, and his new contract was signed last week. Brendan Rodgers will want to rotate his side after the disappointment against Stoke on Boxing Day, and Sterling is the obvious player to come into the side, providing a burst of pace and energy on the flank.

But if Sterling plays, which winger should Rodgers drop? Stewart Downing was quiet against Stoke, but was genuinely excellent against Fulham, and deserves a run in the side. Suso, meanwhile, was relatively quiet in both matches, and like Sterling, shouldn’t be overplayed at this early stage of his career. Rodgers has been determined to protect the young Spaniard: he’s started eight matches but hasn’t completed the 90 minutes in any, and will probably be rested against QPR.

Sterling and Downing can both play on either flank, but the former should get plenty of joy against QPR left-back Armand Traore, who is talented technically but woeful in a position sense, leaving too much space between himself and the centre-backs. Sterling’s decision-marking isn’t yet up to the required standard, but if he skips past Traore, he’ll have plenty of time to decide what to do next.

This post courtesy of Pick Our Team is by Michael Cox. PickOurTeam is a new type of football community giving fans an opportunity to have a meaningful say on the formation and selection of their team. PickOurTeam is the voice of the fans – collecting views on who should play where and ratings on how the players, manager, and referee perform each week. Every match the findings are compiled and presented back to the fans. The article was originally posted here.



Football

Atletico Madrid’s tricky winger Arda Turan tracked by Arsenal and Liverpool

By Stefano on December 28th, 2012

The latest news from Arsenal is that the club are apparently interested in signing Atletico Madrid’s Turkish winger Arda Turan.

Turkish paper Millyet says that the player’s agent Ahmet Bulut has received offers from both Arsenal and Liverpool, and the Turkish midfielder wants to continue his career in the Premier League.

Wenger (and Rodgers) was clearly reminded about what a talent the player is when he starred during the Madrid club’s recent thrashing of Chelsea in the Super Cup.

He is 25, plays on the left wing – an area where Arsenal have struggled this season with Lukas Podolski – and owing to the perilous financial nature of Spanish football he could end up costing less than £10 million.

He would also be a good player to link up with Santi Cazorla and certainly works harder tracking back than Podolski. He also has plenty of pace, something that is sorely lacking in the current Arsenal team.

From a marketing perspective it would be a very wise move to sign a Turkish player too. The area to the east of the ground is home to many Arsenal supporting Turks and Turkish Cypriots who would be hugely excited about one of their own starring at The Emirates.

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features, Football

Why Spurs now have a stronger squad than Arsenal – and this from a Gooner

By Stefano on December 27th, 2012

Up until this season if you had suggested to an Arsenal fan that their pals at the other end of the Seven Sisters Road had a stronger squad you would have probably been chased all the way back to Edmonton.

However, as the season progresses and Arsenal’s results and performances get weirder and weirder, it has become painfully obvious to a lot of Gooners that the superiority over their neighbours that they once took for granted, might be about to come to an end.

At the time of writing both teams are, along with Everton, the key contenders for that fourth Champions League slot. If you asked me though who I think will be hosting Champions League games next season I’d say it is more likely to be Spurs – and this from a Gooner. And it isn’t just me. Catch them in a more reflective moment and many Arsenal fans would agree that their worst fears might soon be about to be realised.

I have gone through both squads and compared the Arsenal and Spurs players (to be fair I am way more familiar with the Gunners, but I have watched a lot of the Spuds on the TV this season) and the sad part is that, while it is still pretty close, in certain key areas, Tottenham have the edge. There is probably a greater number of Spurs players who I wish were wearing red and white than probably since the late 80s, and fewer Arsenal men that Spurs fans covet.

So, take the tour and say what you think in the comments. Like most Arsenal fans I remain optimistic, but that optimism is born out of two things – 1 A feeling that we have managed to sneak a Champions League slot so many times before. 2 That Ivan Gazidis isn’t kidding when he says that Arsene Wenger has plenty of cash to spend in January. Whether Arsene spends it though is another matter.

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Goalkeepers - Spurs

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So who is the best North London keeper? It is a bit of a moot point recently given that Wojciech Szczęsny has been out for a chunk of the season with injury and that AVB can't decide if Hugo Lloris or Brad Friedel is his number one keeper. Friedel's contract extension though might partially answer that one though. To be honest it is hard to choose between the three of them. I really love Szczęsny and like most Arsenal fans are desperate for him to succeed. He is a step above Almunia at the very least. What gives Spurs the edge though is that they have two quality keepers, Arsenal have one plus Mannone... A quality signing - Reina? - could even things up a little, but at the moment Spurs have the edge.



Football

Robert Lewandowski on his way to Man United says German paper – but who is leaving?

By Stefano on December 27th, 2012

A pretty reliable source – German newspaper Bild – has claimed that Borussia Dortmund star Robert Lewandowski will join Manchester United this summer.

Polish striker Lewandowski had an impressive Euro 212 and has scored fourteen goals for Dortmund so far this season. Sir Alex Ferguson also sees a major advantage in linking Lewandowski with his former Dortmund colleague Shinji Kagawa.

Bild says that a €22million bid will be enough to land the 24-year-old, and he will pick up £100,000 a week at Old Trafford.

If true the big question then is who, if anyone, will be leaving Old Trafford in the summer? In Van Persie, Hernandez, Wellbeck and Rooney Ferguson already has the most potent striking force in the Premiership. Five strikers, three of which are on very sizable wages might be difficult to maintain from a financial point of view. Also would Rooney or Van Persie expect not to be an automatic starter. Rooney’s form has been inconsistent this season. He has been sporadically brilliant but then has disappeared in games too. Lewandowski’s arrival does raise the tantalising prospect that Fergie might consider cashing in on his English striker.

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Football

Lewis Holtby interesting Liverpool and Arsenal

By Stefano on December 27th, 2012

Well Schalke might have tied down one of major stars to a new deal in the guise of Klaas Jan Hunteklaar, but now they need to work hard to keep another of their key players at Gelsenkirchen.

According to Goal 22year old midfielder Lewis Holtby has decided against renewing his contract with the Bundesliga club and is eyeing up a move to the Premiership.

Holtby is high on the list of targets of Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers and Arsene Wenger is known to be an admirer (Holtby showed good form against Arsenal in the Champions League) and was linked with the player in November.

The German star, who has an English father, would be free to leave Schalke in the summer under the Bosman ruling and so a move in the January window seems a very real possibility.

Holtby, who is apparently an Everton fan, was reported to have demanded almost £5 million a year to commit to Schalke. The player’s agent Markus Noack rubbished those rumours, telling Goal.com that such a figure had been “plucked from the air”.

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Accessories, Football

Arsenal pursue French striker who has a knack of scoring spectacular goals

By Stefano on December 26th, 2012

With Arshavin apparently on his way to Reading and a number of clubs competing for Chamakh Arsenal clearly has space for a striker or two. One totally left field suggestion has come today from French radio station RMC.

In a story reported by LadyArse the club are being linked with a move for 21 year old French forward Anthony Knockaert. The player is currently at Leicester City and is under contract until 2015. He has had a good-ish season so far for The Foxes scoring five goals in 21 appearances and delivering four assists.

This seems like a bit of a long shot – but then so did Cark Jenkinson and Joel Campbell. This also might be an agent trying to get a bit of publicity for his client. It seems that the player is on his way out of Leicester as he is in hot water with Foxes boss Nigel Pearson after being arrested and bailed following a public order incident a few weeks ago.

Knockaert began his career at Guingamp and has represented France at both under 20 and under 21 levels.

He has a penchant for spectacular goals. Both of these beauties scored against Huddersfield in October are goal of the season contenders. Check out the outrageous flying back heel.



Football

Wesley Sneijder on his way to London? Spurs favourites, but don’t rule out Arsenal

By Stefano on December 26th, 2012

There have been some interesting rumours about Inter Milan’s Dutch playmaker in the last few days. His wife recently tweeted

“We are about to emigrate. It should happen in early January and we are looking for a nice place for our family.”

Though she did retract the tweet soon after.

Now Italian journalist Tancredi Palmeri has told TalkSPORT that Tottenham have agreed personal terms with Sneijder.  The Mirror has the story too. The rumour is likely to spark interest from Arsenal , whose manager Arsene Wenger reiterated yesterday that he was only interested in buying expectational players. Wenger has been keen on Sneijder before (he apparently talked to Inter about the player twice in the summer), but was unable to make a move for him because of lack of finance and the fact that Sneijder allegedly had ongoing issues with Robin Van Persie.

Sneijder would be available now at the cut price of £10 million – considerably less than the £24 million Arsenal secured for another 29 Robin Van Persie.

Whether the Spurs deal goes ahead depends on if the two clubs can thrash out a value for the player for the player and that other clubs don’t come in with bigger offers. Sneijder is thought to favour a move to the Premiership and apparently fancies living in London.

The only huge question mark hanging over the story is that Spurs are currently not in the Champions League and although they are in the mix to qualify this year, there is no certainty that they will finish in the top four.

Oh, that and the fact that he is paid £200,000 a week by Inter, a figure that neither of the London clubs would match.

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Football

Good news for Man United – six of the last eight Christmas Premiership leaders won the title

By Stefano on December 24th, 2012

So which Premiership manager has Santa for good news for this year?

It could have been so much better for Fergie. Well if United had sneaked a winner against Swansea and Mike Dean ruled out Gareth Barry’s last minute winner for City against QPR. But the United boss still finds his team four points clear of City at Christmas and five clear of Chelsea (and that’s assuming they win both of their games in hand).

United have been here many items before and if recent years are anything to go by, come May it will be the Red half of Manchester that will be celebrating. If you look at the statistics below six times out of the last eight seasons the club that is top at Christmas has gone on to win the Premiership.

The two exceptions are Liverpool who were overtaken by United in 2008-09 and 2007-08 where Arsenal threw away a winning position and ended up in third. That was famously the season in which Eduardo suffered his crippling injury in a game against Birmingham City in February, an incident that apparently shocked the team so much they never really recovered.

If you delve further back in the Premiership the number of Christmas leaders who went on to win the title declines a little – just seven times out of last twelve seasons.

So can we rule out Chelsea as title contenders then? Well if you look at the season 2008-09 United weren’t even in the top three at Christmas but went on to scoop the title that May. So in theory you can’t rule out any of the four teams currently on 30 points – but they would be a very long shot.

So what do you think will have the most impact on the title race in the coming weeks? I think how quickly Vidic settles again at United and how much he shores up what still looks like a porous defence. Keeping Van Persie injury free would help too and Rooney needs to re-capture some of his old form. I wonder too if the 8-0 thrashing of Villa might energise Chelsea to the point where their incredibly strong squad starts to deliver on their promise.

As for fourth place Arsenal would appear to be favourites. They have a few winnable games on the bounce, will strengthen in January and have been there many times before. If Spurs or Everton find some consistency they could run them close.

Here are the Christmas and final tables for the last ten years.

2002-03
1. Arsenal 39
2. Chelsea 37
3. Man Utd 35

1. Man Utd 83
2. Arsenal 78
3. Newcastle 69

2003-04
1. Man Utd 40
2. Arsenal 39
3. Chelsea 39

1. Arsenal 90
2. Chelsea 79
3. Man Utd 75

2004-05
1. Chelsea 43
2. Arsenal 38
3. Everton 37

1. Chelsea 95
2. Arsenal 83
3. Man Utd 77

2005-06
1. Chelsea 46
2. Man Utd 37
3. Liverpool 31

1. Chelsea 91
2. Man Utd 83
3. Liverpool 82

2006-07
1. Man Utd 47
2. Chelsea 45
3. Liverpool 34

1. Man Utd 89
2. Chelsea 83
3. Liverpool 68

2007-08
1. Arsenal 43
2. Man Utd 42
3. Chelsea 37

1. Man Utd 87
2. Chelsea 85
3. Arsenal 83

2008-09
1. Liverpool 39
2. Chelsea 38
3. Aston Villa 34

1. Man Utd 90
2. Liverpool 86
3. Chelsea 83

2009-10
1. Chelsea 41
2. Man Utd 37
3. Arsenal 35

1. Chelsea 86
2. Man Utd 85
3. Arsenal 75

2010-11

1. Man Utd 34
2. Arsenal 32
3. Man City 32

1. Man Utd 80
2. Chelsea 71
3. Man City 71

2011-12
1. Man City 44
2. Man Utd 42
3. Spurs 35

1. Man City 89
2. Man Utd 89
3. Arsenal 70

2012-13
1. Man Utd 43
2. Man City 39
3. Chelsea 32

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People dressed as Father Christmas take part in the Great Edinburgh Santa Run, at West Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh, in aid of the When You Wish Upon A Star charity.



Football

Arsenal in for yet another Spanish striker?

By Stefano on December 24th, 2012

Not a good 48 hours for Arsene Wenger in the transfer market with Barcelona confirming that they won’t be letting go of David Vila and Klass Jan Huntelaar signing a new contract at Schalke. There’s no updates on Ba, Llorente and Lopez either.

TalkSport, however, seem to think they have found the answers to Arsenal’s striking problems in the Seville striker Alvaro Negredo. The player has apparently been on Arsenal’s (and Spurs apparently) radar for some time now and TalkSport reports;

Now, economic uncertainty at the club means that the Andalucians are reportedly willing to listen to offers, and it looks like both Arsenal and Tottenham are ready to test their hand. Sevilla are believed to be holding out for around £17m.

Negredo made his first real impression at Real Madrid before signing for Almeria in 2007 where he scored an impressive 32 goals in 73 appearances. He then ended up at Seville, via a quick return to Real Madrid, and has been one of their star players ever since.

Negredo ticks many of Wenger’s boxes in that he is good at linking up with midfielders – so could be a great partner for Cazorla – is strong in the air and has a good engine. Just like Lopez, he is a quality player who Wenger might think he can help elevate to a great one.



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10 things we changed our minds about in 2012 – from red trousers to big phones

By Stefano on December 23rd, 2012

We are British, and let’s face it we can be fickle. We might have a thing for an underdog one year, but the minute they start realising their potential and being successful we enjoy nothing more than taking them down a peg or two.

Here then are ten things we changed our mind about in 2012. These are things that we accepted as wisdom for at least some of the year, but revised our opinions on. Some in a negative way, but a surprising number in a positive way.

What have I missed?

10 Draw Something

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There was a time last Spring where you couldn't go anywhere in public without seeing iPhone-toting 20/30 somethings trying to guess what each other were drawing. The company was snapped up by Zynga for $180 million and its future seemed assured. And then, quite weirdly, we got bored with it and Draw Something became not the must have app of 2012, but rather this year's Chatroulette.



Football

Spurs make the first move for Wilfried Zaha – but Arsene and Fergie are waiting in the wings

By Stefano on December 23rd, 2012

Last night Wilfried Zaha added a few more pounds to his price tag. In the game between Crystal Palace and Huddersfield he scored the kind of wonder goal (watch it here) that will have Premiership managers drooling.

It seems to have spurred at least one manager into action with The Daily Mirror reporting that AVB is about to hit Palace with £8 million bid, that’s a guaranteed sum up front of around £6m, plus extras and bonuses Although Palace boss Ian Holloway has continually stressed that Zaha is going nowhere in the window and has even sent hands off messages to Arsene Wenger, if the money gets too high the England starlet is likely be playing Premierhsip football in 2013.

Whether Fergie or Wenger, both long term admirers of Zaha, bid depends much on whether they keep or sell existing squad members. Fergie might need to offload Nani before launching his bid, while Wenger sees Zaha as the perfect replacement for Theo Walcott. Wenger has spent big on Championship players with big potential before. He paid £12million, plus another £3 million in add-ons, to secure the services of Alex Oxlade Chamberlain.

Zaha is reported to be an Arsenal fan, and has lived in London for most of his life, which ought to be music for Wenger’s ears. Then again plenty of Arsenal supporting kids have ended up at The Lane. This is going to be fascinating to watch.



Football

The lowdown on Adrian Lopez – Arsenal’s next striker?

By Stefano on December 23rd, 2012

A few days ago Arsene Wenger told the BBC that he was only looking to buy exceptional players during the transfer window. And then, in words that will haunt every Gunners fan for the next few weeks, he added that exceptional players were hard to come by. So there still remains a possibility that there will be no new additions to the squad in the coming weeks.

One player that Wenger rates as exceptional is Atletico Madrid’s striker Adrian Lopez. The player has been on Wenger’s radar for quite a while now and there seem to be encouraging noises coming from Spain that a deal to secure Lopez is more than a possibility.

But is Lopez the marquee signing that Arsenal fans have been dreaming of. There’s no denying that his form last season, in which he bagged 19 goals, was scintillating. Things however have become more problematic this season as he has been eclipsed by Radamel Falcao (now that would be a marquee signing) and Diego Costa.

The theory runs that cash strapped Madrid are desperate to cling on to Falcao and realise that by selling Lopez they can hang on to their star.

Lopez also fits the Wenger template in so many other ways in that he is young (24), not going to cost too much cash (he has a buy out clause of £15 million, but his wages would be much less than £100k per week demanded by Huntelaar and Villa) and will relish the opportunity to re start his career at another club. There were rumours earlier in the weekend that Arsenal were chasing Barcelona’s David Villa, but while a loan deal might suit both parties, the player is too old and injury-prone to be a long term solution for the Gunners.

So what would Arsenal be getting with Lopez? Firstly he has great positional sense in an around the goal. He is one of those strikers who always seems to be in the right place at the right time. He is also quick – many of the goals he scored for Atletico last year saw him burst through the middle, outpace defenders and then outwit the goalie.

Lopez also scores a lot of goals with his head. The pace and power he gets when heading the ball is astonishing and would give Arsenal another very serious attacking weapon.

What he doesn’t really offer is presence and power. If Arsenal want a striker who will dominate the area and who has the knack of winning that ball no matter what they would probably be better off with Demba Ba.

So while Lopez would be a very useful signing much would depend on how quickly he acclimatise to the Premiership. Arsenal have had mixed fortunes with Spanish players. Cazorla has settled quickly and has become the pulse of the team. But then Arsenal once fielded one of Lopez’s team mates at Athletic – Jose Reyes – and after a sensational start Reyes faded badly.

Yesterday saw two of Arsenal’s other transfer targets in action. Demba Ba put in a powerful performance for Newcastle, while Wilfried Zaha scored a wonder goal for Palace. he really does look like an English Aguerro and he would be a superb replacement for Arshavin. One thing that could tip the balance in favour of Ba is that he has Premiership experience.

Anyhow, here a video of Lopez’s goals last season. Is he the player to ensure that the gunners finish in the top four and start a real challenge for many honours next season?



Football

Who should Wigan play upfront against Arsenal?

By Stefano on December 21st, 2012

Wigan’s perennial ‘great escape’ means they are accustomed to their current proximity to the relegation zone, but Roberto Martinez’s side are on a particularly poor run. Only one win in seven, at home to bottom club Reading, leaves them just outside the relegation zone. And with Aston Villa and QPR showing signs of improvement, Wigan need to start picking up points.

This weekend’s fixture against Arsenal provides a selection dilemma for Martinez, who has been shuffling his pack in an attempt to provide a spark of excitement upfront.

His front three will be chosen from five players: Jordi Gomez, Arouna Kone, Franco Di Santo, Mauro Boselli and Shaun Maloney.

Boselli was given his first start of the season against Norwich last weekend, but he performed relatively poorly and was replaced by Di Santo, who continues to lack goals (he hasn’t scored in his last ten matches) but provides a good focal point for Wigan’s attacks. Expect him to return to the side, especially as he performed well in Wigan’s 2-1 win at the Emirates in April.

Goals have also dried up for Kone, who started life in the Premier League with three goals in his first seven games, but has now recorded just one in his previous ten. Still, his pace should be useful for Wigan’s counter-attacking, and since he hasn’t missed a game since August, he’s unlikely to be dropped here.

So, it’s a decision between Maloney and Gomez. The Spaniard scored an excellent hat-trick in the win over Reading, but Maloney was another who fared well at the Emirates last season, and scored last weekend after coming off the bench. A trio of Di Santo, Kone and Maloney looks likely.

This post courtesy of Pick Our Team is by Michael Cox. PickOurTeam is a new type of football community giving fans an opportunity to have a meaningful say on the formation and selection of their team. PickOurTeam is the voice of the fans – collecting views on who should play where and ratings on how the players, manager, and referee perform each week. Every match the findings are compiled and presented back to the fans. The article was originally posted here.




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