Christian Atsu set to sign for Newcastle permanently for £6 million

“His fee of £6 million is worth the punt for someone who obviously has talent but has never had a club yet to call home”

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It looks like Newcastle are taking up the option to sign Christian Atsu on a permanent basis from Chelsea for around £6 million. The infamous ‘Sky sources’ are all over the story claiming the club and Atsu are in negotiations today as the deadline from his loan clause to make his move permanent is closing in. Atsu has been decent overall in the Championship but is he good enough for the Premier League?

Well if you look at his record for Ghana this season he has become arguably their most influential attacker and his impressive performances helped Ghana to the semi-finals of the African Cup of Nations.

In the Championship for the Magpies he has put in some decent performances and some memorable moments on our way back to the Premier League. None more so than the free kick that finished off Cardiff in the penultimate game of the season – what a beauty!

His fee of £6 million is worth the punt for someone who obviously has talent but has never had a club yet to call home, as he has been continuously shipped out on loan all across Europe. We might just be able to get the best out of him next season.

Follow me on Twitter @ToonBano. Also check out TheGingerPirlo.com

Claude Puel has taken Southampton backwards this season

Claude Puel has taken Southampton backwards this season and wasted any feel good factor the club had over the past couple of years.

Many were surprised to see Puel chosen as the man to replace Ronald Koeman after the Dutchman walked out to join Everton. A relatively unknown coach over here and not the big name many Southampton fans were hoping for to build on their impressive 6th place finish in 2015/16. Not many managers inherit a football club on such a high, given that most walk into a dressing room void of any confidence, half way through a season, as the club has just sacked the previous man in charge.

The Frenchman had a whole pre-season to bring in the players he wanted, to either develop a new style of play or to continue playing in the successful continental manner Southampton have enjoyed since Mauricio Pochettino replaced Nigel Adkins in 2013.

Looking at the performances so far this season he hasn’t really done one or the other. Any changes he has made have been small and detrimental to the team and players. For e.g. the first month or so he insisted on playing a natural wide player, like Nathan Redmond or Dusan Tadic, as the central striker of a front three with natural centre-forwards mainly played in the wide positions. It just didn’t make sense and now the players are suffering from it.

We need Hatem Ben Arfa back in the Premier League

“Hatem Ben Arfa is one of the most exciting players in Europe. He must play football to entertain the world. We want him back in the Premier League.”

I love Hatem Ben Arfa. He is a genius. An enigma. The ultimate maverick. We need him back in The Premier League as witnessing him sat on the bench at PSG every week is hurtful. A talent like HBA needs to be on the pitch to entertain the world.

OGC Nice are amazingly chasing the French League title this season as they fight the mega rich PSG and AS Monaco head on. This somewhat surprising challenge is based off the back of their previous campaign in 2015/16 where from absolutely no-where they were chasing the Champions League places despite only expected to be a mid table team at best. This was down to bringing in a player from the football scrapheap who didn’t have a club, who was unfit but did have amazing talent. That player was Newcastle and briefly Hull City outcast Hatem Ben Arfa.

Nice needed a player like Ben Arfa and Ben Arfa needed a team like Nice. A team with no expectations that would give him the platform to perform week in week out and potentially be their headline act if he got himself match fit. The enigmatic Frenchman did not disappoint as he tore through Ligue 1 almost from day one right through the whole season as the small French club were agonisingly close to qualifying for the Champions League. All of which was under the guidance of current Southampton boss Claude Puel.

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Ben Arfa has been linked to joining the Saints when Puel left Nice to go to the South coast club, Ben Arfa was also leaving Nice on a free transfer. However, with likes of Barcelona looking into his signature the chances of him landing at St Mary’s were extremely thin. It was PSG who finally gave Ben Arfa a 2-year contract in hope to he could re-create his blistering form for the French champions. Unfortunately for HBA he has not been given a genuine chance by new boss Unai Emery to show his talent and is consistently left on the bench and given 10-minute cameos near the end of games or left out the matchday squad completely.

This is a sorry sight for Ben Arfa as his blatant talent is a crime to be wasted sat on the bench as he was arguably the best player in the whole of France last season, definitely the most exciting. If Claude Puel could rescue the skillful winger from his PSG slumber next season, or any other Premier League club, it would be a glorious site to see the lad in full flow again.

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Ben Arfa had an amazing season in 2015/16 as he scored 18 goals in 34 games and had some of the best dribbling stats in Europe, he averaged 4 successful dribbles per game! Which is incredible. The French international would definitely add some quality to the Saints forward line as it has failed to ignite this season and got even worse when Charlie Austin was put out of action for four months. Ben Arfa ex-team mate Boufal has failed to live up to expectations, Redmond & Tadic have rare moments of quality, Rodriguez doesn’t seem up to full match speed and Shane Long hardly gets a kick.

Hatem Ben Arfa is one of the most exciting players in Europe. He must play football to entertain the world. We want him back in the Premier League.

The Premier League 10 Best Goalkeepers

“He has come a long way from the skinny kid who couldn’t deal with crosses that landed on these shores in 2011.”

There have never been so many top goalkeepers in The Premier League as there is now. We may not have the phenomenon of Buffon or the enigma that is Neuer but we have some crackers. The question is though, who is the best?

Here are my 10 best goalkeepers in the Premier League.

10. Ben Foster – West Brom

Not the most commanding of goalkeepers. You would think a team like West Brom with all the giants they have throughout their side, would have a beast of a goalkeeper. Foster is a great shot stopper on his day but can make the odd horrendous mistake. His opportunity at Manchester Utd was criminally wasted as he was swiftly moved on and succumbed to mid-table obscurity. He was outstanding at White Hart Lane recently but still had 4 goals past him so no one will really remember. The life of a goalkeeper.

9. Jordan Pickford – Sunderland

Pickford has proved himself to be a top-class shot-stopper this season. You have to be to play for Sunderland, let’s face it. His injury has been a massive blow for the perennial relegation battling north-east side. If they stood any chance of another great escape this season, then they needed this lad between the sticks to dig them out some precious points.

8. Kasper Schmeichel – Leicester City

Ask me to make this list last season and Schmeichel would be right at the top end. This season has been a spectacular fall from grace matching that of his club. To be fair to Kasper he has had an injury which has kept him out for a long period but even before this, he wasn’t as commanding as he was last season. Nowhere near in fact. The main reason he even makes this list is the Champions League performances shouldn’t be ignored. Leicester qualified after they conceded ZERO goals from the first 4 games. Impressive.

7. Fraser Forster – Southampton

If I was compiling this list at the start of the season Forster would be higher up, perhaps much higher up. His form over the last few months, however, has taken a startling downturn. The Saints fans on a weekly basis would sing “England’s No.1” but this chant hasn’t been heard in a long time. Perhaps the unbelievable EFL Cup campaign where Saints and Forster haven’t conceded a single goal on their route to the final will inject the 6″7 Geordie with some much-needed confidence. Plus bring back those chants!

6. Tom Heaton – Burnley

What a season Burnley are having in their return to the big league. Well, in home games that is. Away from Turf Moor, it’s not so rosy but a lot of their good work comes from the fact they have a solid base starting with Captain Tom Heaton. At a club like Burnley, you know you are going to be tested as a goalkeeper. Heaton is passing this test with flying colours. The Lancashire side has avoided relegation by being rock solid at home with many clean sheets from Heaton.

5. Jack Butland – Stoke

To complete a trio of England keepers back to back, Jack Butland is this countries Butlandbrightest hope to take over from Joe Hart. The sooner the better. He is extremely unfortunate to have been out all season so far as he had a spectacular 2015/16, where he won Stoke’s player of the year award and made huge strides at International level. To be No.5 on the list may seem generous given he hasn’t played yet this season but in fairness, it can also be seen as harsh as he could easily be in the top 3 if he had the chance to carry on his impressive form and development from last year. Let’s all hope for a speedy recovery and he can grab the England No.1 shirt off that Head & Shoulders enthusiast for good.

4. Petr Cech – Arsenal

Still a top keeper but his powers have undeniably diminished over the past couple of years. He still has a presence about him but he allows shots to go past him into his net that a Petr Cech in his peak simply wouldn’t do. He is a Premier League legend and now has the all-time record of 170 clean sheets to himself. However, the word legend is very apt. He is aged 34 now, which isn’t exactly ‘old’ for a keeper, but he is without doubt past his peak and his standards are slowly dropping with every season that goes by.

Tall, safe handling, good distribution and a solid shot stopper. An all round quality goalkeeper. The type that helps you win a record breaking 13 games in a row with only 4 goals conceded and TEN clean sheets within that run. The Belgian is set to smash the all-time Premier League record of 21 clean sheets in a season as he currently has 13 in just 22 games. Chelsea’s unbelievable run isn’t all down to him obviously, as the 3 man defence in front of him, along with wing backs and 2 holding midfielders have aided his record considerably. When Courtois has been tested at times this season he hasn’t looked entirely rock solid. The Spurs defeat is a standout moment as he seemed to be afraid of the ball as Dele Alli headed it past him. Was very strange to see

2. Hugo Lloris – Spurs

Very unfortunate to not be No.1 on this list but he does make the odd horrendous blunder. He made two in the same game at Man City which you hardly see from the man who is No.1 further down this page. No doubt though the Frenchman is one of the best keepers in the world and a big reason why Spurs have gone from top 4 dreamers to title challengers in a very short period of time. He is easily the best player the North London club have ever had in goal since the Premier League began, although this isn’t saying much as they have had some shockers. Kasey Keller, really? He has admirers all around the world and it’s a big statement from Spurs that he is totally committed to them, for the near future at least.

1.David De Gea – Man Utd

It just had to be De Gea for No.1. It’s pretty astonishing that he is even still in the Premier League as Real Madrid were more than close to taking him away last year. We are all grateful that they didn’t. Many would say he is the best in the world, that argument is up for debate as Manuel Neuer may have something to say about that, but no one can doubt the Spanish international’s abilities. He is an unbelievable shot stopper and adds countless points onto Man Utd’s Premier League total by saving them time and time again. What really sets him apart is De Gea makes seemingly impossible saves. How many times have we seen him claw a shot destined for the top corner away from goal? No one does it better. He has come a long way from the skinny kid who couldn’t deal with crosses that landed on these shores in 2011.

Who Is The Best Left Back In The Premier League?

“What a player he is these days. The best all-round full back, not just left-back, in the Premier League. I can’t remember the last time I saw him have a bad game”

The Premier League has a rich amount of excellent left-backs at the moment. But who is the best? Here’s my Top 5 and feel free to agree or disagree:

5: Aaron Cresswell – West Ham

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The young Englishman was in fine form last season and helped the Hammers qualify for Europe. This campaign hasn’t been as fruitful for West Ham or Cresswell in general, as they didn’t even get through the qualifiers to get into the Europa League and Cresswell is yet to register a goal this season. He has all the potential to a top left-back for years to come, though however, and many feel he should be in the England squad on a regular basis.

4. Patrick Van Aanholt – Sunderland

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One of the most underrated players in the Premier League. Outside of Jermain Defoe, Van Aanholt has been Sunderland’s second most dangerous player in attack…and he’s a left-back. He already has 3 goals to his name this season and has chipped in over the past couple of seasons which has been instrumental in keeping Sunderland a top flight team. He has ironed out those defensive mistakes significantly also, and this is why Sam Allardyce wants to spend big money on him and take him to Crystal Palace.

3. Danny Rose – Spurs

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England’s first choice left-back but not the first choice on this list. He is what I call a solid full back. He won’t score many goals, he won’t grab a hat full of assists but he doesn’t make too many mistakes at the back either. Many people would have him down as the best, but I like to have a bit more quality going forward from full-back. A lot of time when Rose gets forward he struggles to find that killer cross and chooses to take the easy option and cut the ball back. Kyle Walker does the same thing from the right so maybe it’s Spurs’ policy to do so. However, I like constantly dangerous full-backs flying forward who aren’t afraid to create goalscoring opportunities which bring me on to my top 3,

2. Charlie Daniels – Bournemouth

Charlie Daniels

Many people reading this will say ‘No.2? What?’ but it’s true. Daniels is an outstanding left-back and arguably the most talented on the ball going forward. He has been a key man in Bournemouth’s epic rise and is one of the first names on the team sheet every week. He got 4 goals last year as well as many assists as he is always an option flying down the left-wing, but also responsible for the defence. He already has 3 goals this season and will no doubt add a few more before May. Only his age and lack of pedigree have prevented him from getting an England call-up because he was, in my opinion, the best left back in the league last season. I get to see this kid week-in-week-out which also helps my knowledge of him and he really is that good. His goal against Arsenal this season was an impressive walk in the park for Daniels.

1.Ryan Bertrand – Southampton

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What a player he is these days. The best all-round full back, not just left-back, in the Premier League. I can’t remember the last time I saw him have a bad game or even make a mistake and I watch him every week. Class going forward, class at the back. Bertrand can play in a number of positions be it full-back, wing-back, left-wing or even at centre-back in a back 3. He must be in Gareth Southgate’s thoughts when it comes to who should be England first choice. The fact Danny Rose plays for a top 4 club does influence things in my eyes, and if Bertrand were still at Chelsea, he would be playing for them week in week out and showing everyone he is the man to take on Ashley Cole’s mantle

West Ham Reject £19.1 million bid from Marseille for Dimitri Payet

Marseille are ambitious but naive by making a bid for Payet. He isn’t remotely interested in moving back to France at this stage of his career. Arsenal are the club that are (should be) at the forefront for his signature taking everything into account. The Giroud partnership we all know works like a treat with France and should be the same at The Emirates. Sanchez attitude at the minute is disgraceful and cant be relied upon to play on that left hand side week in, week out. Plus Iwobi isn’t exactly a world beater.

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Great Double Act

If Arsene Wenger is serious about winning the title he has to bring in Payet to slot into that left wing role and have a real go for the second half of the season. The team as it is clearly wont win the league so bringing in Dimitri Payet could be the inspiration they need to turn from top 4 also rans to Champions of England.

Payet’s age of 29 shouldn’t be a factor as Wenger has lost many titles over the years by sticking with the kids and disregarding experience. Payet was the star man in the Euros and outside of the Leicester miracle of Vardy, Mahrez and Kante he was many people’s player of the year in the Premier League.

Get the cheque book out Arsene!

Alexis Sanchez Attitude Is Shocking. Arsenal Need To Cash In Now!

“Who does he think he is? Is he too important to warm up with his team mates like everybody else?”

I was at the Bournemouth vs Arsenal game where Sanchez had a hissy fit at full time throwing his pathetic gloves around and turning the air blue with Spanish swear words. This reaction from pulling a draw from 3-0 down was an absolute joke. Not because it was an impressive achievement but because he was as much responsible for being 3-0 down to begin with then anyone. Watching Arsenal warm up before the game I saw something I have never seen before at any Premier League game.

A first team player having complete disregard for his team mates or coaching staff as he decided to ‘warm up’ on his own. As the picked starting XI were on one side of the pitch going through a shooting drill together and the subs were on the other side going through their own warm up, in the middle of them both was a lonely figure lazily wandering around as he now and again kicked a ball into the goal. Never breaking sweat, never moving for more than 3 steps to either side as he just stood there on his own, ‘Doing his own thing’.

Not my fault…

Who does he think he is? Is he too important to warm up with his team mates like everybody else? Is he not interested in what the coaching staff want him to do as he knows better? I cant believe something like this can be tolerated and going on at a club like Arsenal. Does Wenger even know about this type of stuff going on? Something like a star man feeling he can do whatever he wants explains why Arsenal haven’t been good enough to win the league since 2004. Can you imagine Henry, Vieira or Pires not just doing this or be allowed to get away with it. It’s a joke.

Once the game started Sanchez then carried on his one man show of walking around the pitch as he was completely uninterested in doing his bit for the team. All of this in the first half was directly in front of Arsene Wenger as well with Sanchez over on his side of the pitch. Is he blind to it or accepts it? Either way Arsenal being 3-0 was of no surprise given the total lack of commitment by Sanchez in particular. The fact he then ‘kicked off’ at everyone else in the dressing room after the game is outrageous. If I were Wenger I would sell him to the highest bidder.

Great Double Act

Now that Payet has made it clear he wants to play for a bigger club then West Ham it should be a no brainer for Arsenal and go with the Payet/Giroud combination that we all know works extremely well. Payet may be petulant but at least he actually WANTS to play for a club like Arsenal. Which is more then can be said about Mr Sanchez. Get rid.