Is Lyon’s Alexandre Lacazette the man Arsenal should sign to win the Premier League? | The Boot Room

Is Lyon’s Alexandre Lacazette the man Arsenal should sign to win the Premier League? | The Boot Room

My Piece for The Boot Room on a possible Lacazette to Arsenal move.(I highly doubt it will happen but the primary source of an Arsenal fan’s sanity nowadays is hope so what the hell)

In the Arsene Wenger era, Arsenal and French forwards go hand in hand. Nicolas Anelka, Thierry Henry, Sylvain Wiltord and Olivier Giroud have been prominent in their compatriot’s plans since joining the club. It seems that this summer, they could be followed by another.

The Telegraph reports that Lyon’s Alexandre Lacazette is a now on the Gunners’ radar after they missed out on Jamie Vardy. In truth, missing out on Vardy may actual be a blessing in disguise if a move for Lacazette comes to fruition.

Arsenal have been in need of a top-level forward for the last few seasons and have missed out on a few targets in that time. Gonzalo Higauin and Luis Suarez are the two names that stand out and; while not on their level yet, Lacazette would still be a fantastic signing, and has the potential to become one of Europe’s most feared hit-men.

The Lyon star is only 25 years of age and yet to reach his prime, so Arsenal can expect to pay a premium. The Frenchman has all the hallmarks of a stereotypical Wenger forward – able to boast fabulous pace, techinque, finishing, solid dribbling and mobility. Those are traits that every one of Wenger’s previous French forwards; Giroud aside, possessed. Lacazette has been consistent in front of goal over the last few seasons and possesses European experience as well.

Lacazette had 21 goals and three assists in 2013/14 followed by 31 goals and six assists in 2014/15, while the 2015/16 campaign saw him score 23 goals at the same time as adding 3 assists. He has done most of this as a part of an impressive but youthful Lyon side, and would certainly benefit from playing with the likes of Mesut Özil and Alexis Sanchez.

Özil would thrive with another speedy target ahead of him, but it is the potential partnership with Sanchez that should excite Arsenal fans. Some of the Chilean’s best performances for The Gunners came when Danny Welbeck started up front for Arsenal. Lacazette would provide the Alexis with a similar partner who would be more productive in front of goal.

Sanchez has played his best when partnering another mobile forward, as he did with Antonio Di Natale for Udinese, and still does with Eduardo Vargas on the Chilean national team. If Wenger wants to get the best out one of the driving forces of his squad, then a move for Lacazette makes sense.

Lacazette has the versatility to play out wide as well if necessary, and that will aid the side when it comes to other line-ups. A starting front four of Lacazette, Sanchez, Özil, and one of Welbeck, Alex Iwobi or Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain should have more than enough creativity, pace and goal-scoring punch for the Gunners. With the ability to select the likes of Giroud and Theo Walcott instead to suit the opponent or situation, Wenger would have no shortage of options.

Welbeck is; unfortunately, likely to be out half the season, and that makes signing someone like Lacazette even more important. He too can mirror the high-energy game that Sanchez employs and make Arsenal’s pressing game that little bit more dangerous.

With doubts surrounding the futures of Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain, Arsenal need an injection of fresh blood. Targeting Vardy made sense, but Lacazette offers a better option for both the future and the present. The North London outfir will have to move quickly though, as interest in the Lyon forward is high.  ESPNFC reported back in May that West Ham had a bid for the forward rejected and the same source presented rival club Spurs’ supposed interest in the Frenchman.

Arsene Wenger has made steps, slowly but surely, to fill the holes necessary to get his squad to the level required to win the Premier League. Petr Cech, the essential top-level goalkeeper, was required last summer and Granit Xhaka is soon to join up with the squad to control the midfield. A defender and a forward are still required. The longer Wenger waits to pull the trigger on a deal like this could come back to haunt the Gunners.

Lacazette is reminiscent of many of Wenger’s forwards during his best seasons at the club. His versatility, finishing and overall play would be beneficial for key players and the entire team. He may not fit the bill of a superstar just yet, but he is a top striker and one who can certainly help the club to win the Premier League title.

Why Manuel Pellegrini to AC Milan Wouldn’t Be As Good as it Seems | The Boot Room

Why Manuel Pellegrini to AC Milan Wouldn’t Be As Good As It Seems | The Boot Room

My piece for the Boot Room on Pellegrini’s rumoured move to AC Milan

The transfer rumour mill is in full effect this summer, and that includes news about various managers.

Manuel Pellegrini is one of a few big-name managers being mentioned this summer following his departure from Manchester City at the end of last season. In one of the more intriguing managerial rumours of the summer, the Mirror reports that the former City boss is a target for AC Milan.

The Italian club has been in transition for the last few summers, and part of that is down to a lack of managerial stability. Sinisa Mihajlovic was hired last summer in a move that was expected to end that trend but he was sacked near the end of the season. Christian Brocchi, then the youth team manager and a former Milan player, took over but has failed to convince as well. Milan hasn’t had a long-term A-list manager since the days of Carlo Ancelotti. Current Juventus boss Massimiliano Allegri followed Ancelotti’s reign with for four partially successful seasons, but he did not have the reputation then that he does now.

Milan has disappointed since Allegri’s departure in 2014. Three of the four managers to take charge, Brocchi and Milan legends Clarence Seedorf and Filippo Inzaghi, were first-timers. Mihajlovic was far too pragmatic for president Silvio Berlusconi’s taste. None of these men at the helm provided the requisite results or performances to last long at the San Siro. That is where Pellegrini comes in.

Berlusconi knows Milan would be getting a manager with a vast amount of European experience and a generally good track record, should Pellegrini join. The Chilean also managed at Villarreal, Malaga and Real Madrid before his stint at The Etihad. Pellegrini’s teams have always played in the fluid manner Bersculoni prefers and have been successful doing so too.

There might not be too much silverware to show for his efforts, but Pellegrini won the Premier League at the first time of asking and challenged the might of Barcelona and Real Madrid while at Villarreal. The former Malaga manager is also used to constant pressure that inevitably comes while in charge of a big club. His tenure at both Real Madrid and Manchester City made sure of that. Milan fans would certainly have cause to be optimistic upon hearing Pellegrini being linked to their historic club.

Milan has finished in eighth, tenth and seventh in the last three seasons, with a revolving door of players accompanying the managerial carousel. The Rossoneri are heading into a third straight campaign without European football with one big question still to be answered. According to ESPN FC, Berlusconi started new negotiations concerning the sale of the club to Chinese investors. That article states the sale would need to be done by 15th June for normal service,;meaning transfer activity and coaching changes etc, to occur. The sale has been delayed due to Berlusconi’s recent health issues and that further hinders the club’s chances of improving as needed on and of the pitch.

Should everything be resolved; new ownership or not, it is unlikely to be all smooth sailing with Pellegrini in charge. The Chilean manager would be facing arguably his biggest rebuilding task and likely with little help. A new ownership group would need time to make any decisions in the transfer market though that may arguably be better than Berlusconi and his right-hand man, Adriano Galliani, staying on to continue their underwhelming work of the last few seasons.

Manuel Pellegrini himself has been rather hit and miss in the market when provided with money to spend. The arrivals of Santi Cazorla, Isco, Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema, Fernandinho and Kevin De Bruyne during his stints at Malaga, Real Madrid and Manchester City were effectively neutralized by the signings of Kaka, Raul Albiol, Wilfried Bony and Eliaquim Mangala, among others. It is fair to say that at Real Madrid in particular, some of the decisions may not have been Pellegrini’s and rather worryingly, he would face a similar situation should he join Milan.

The drop-off in talent would also be a big task for a manager who is in the same category as Carlo Ancelotti at this stage of his career – more caretaker than builder. One could argue that the talent Pellegrini had at Villarreal and Malaga was better than this current Milan crop and more balanced as well. Questions about his lack of tactical adroitness defensively came up during the latter part of his City reign and will surely pop up again in Serie A. He would have a young defence to work with and a midfield that lacks the inventiveness he would prefer. The shining light would be the solid Carlos Bacca spearheading the attack.

Pellegrini certainly wouldn’t flop at Milan if given the chance, but would find the task harder than expected given all the variables. The other big question that arose at the end of his City reign surrounded his motivational abilities. The Citizens’ performances during the two Champions League semi-finals spoke of a squad no longer listening to the manager though the situation was quite unique. Milan’s hierarchy would be wise to be wary about tasking Pellegrini with galvanizing a chopped and changed squad that has failed to live up to the very shirt they represented in the last few seasons.

As rumours go, Pellegrini to AC Milan is one that gets eyebrows raising. Anyone harbouring thoughts of a quick return to glory should be cautious as Pellegrini is by no means a sure thing.

Euro 2016: the complete guide to every squad and every player in France | Football | The Guardian

Why there’s more than just football to this summer’s international tournaments

Why there’s more than just football to this summer’s international tournaments

My Piece for The Boot Room on the off-the-pitch importance of these summer tournaments. The Copa, Euro 2016 and Olympics. Hopefully some good football throughout.

Football fans will have no shortage of quality football to watch this summer with three tournaments on the way.

The Copa America Centenario kicks us off on June 3rd, followed by Euro 2016 on June 10 and the Olympics on August 3rd. Much like the World Cup two years ago, many of the world’s best players will be on display even though they won’t all face each other. The first two tournaments will likely draw more attention despite an overlap, as the likes of Alexis Sanchez, Lionel Messi and James Rodriguez face off in the Copa while Cristiano Ronaldo, Paul Pogba and Robert Lewandowski battle it out in Europe. The Olympics is mainly a tournament for U-23 players but Neymar’s appearance for Brazil highlights the possibility of a few well-known senior players mixing it with a number of talented youngsters.

With the talent on display, and hopefully a high level of football, these tournaments are sure to draw plenty of attention, something that doesn’t always seem to be the case with international football.

The seemingly continuous qualification process for these tournaments aren’t met with favorable reviews by fans. The main reason being the propensity to break up club football seasons at what is always the worst possible time. When the summer comes around the fans bemoan the end of the club season even if there is at least one tournament on the way. The World Cup, for obvious reasons, is never met with such disdain but the various confederation tournaments seem to receive varying levels of interest at the best of times.

There are a good number of reasons to watch the tournaments this summer, though.

This celebratory Copa America was close to being cancelled when FIFA’s scandal was at its zenith. At least, as ESPN FC reported, that possibility was put forward by one CONMEBOL executive last summer. The Guardian also took a closer look at how former CONCACAF President, Jeffrey Webb, played a part in setting up the tournament. All the problems were ironed out it seems, and here we are with the tournament about to get underway. The Copa provides a chance for CONMEBOL and CONCACAF to focus on football as restructuring and reform begins. It also highlights the ease with which the US can put on a major tournament at short notice, something that might help when a final decision is made on Qatar 2022.

The sporting side of things is no less interesting. We will wait to see how  hosts, the USA, and CONCACAF in general perform. Chile will get a chance to add a second trophy in quick succession with their much-vaunted generation of players. Most of all, we may, surprisingly, be looking at the best chance for the world’s best footballer to win his one piece of senior international silverware. Lionel Messi will lead an Argentina side that are strong favourites. It is likely Chile will represent South America in next year’s Confederations Cup and the 2018 World Cup in Russia seems a tall task for a side where age will be a factor for key players.

Meanwhile, Euro 2016 may not have faced threat of cancellation but, as the Guardian reports, the possibility of playing behind closed doors surfaced before being ruled out.

As a nation, the French will be hoping that their host team featuring the likes of Paul Pogba and Antoine Griezmann can help relieve some of the stress as the 1998 World Cup winners did. That they will be facing the defending European champions, Spain, and the defending World Cup winners, Germany, makes for an interesting watch on the pitch. The inclusion and appearance of smaller nations like Iceland and Albania in an expanded tournament provides further intrigue. Like his rival Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo may also be facing his best chance to win an international trophy. If both fail in their attempts before their careers end the Argentinian can at least point to a FIFA U-20 World Cup and Olympic gold medal.

The latter achievement is something one of his club teammates will be looking to match as Neymar headlines the last tournament we’ll see this summer, the 2016 Olympics.

The Olympics is a tournament for U-23 players and the Brazilian’s participation adds plenty of excitement. He won’t be the only senior player likely to join any of the participating teams but it is important for a few reasons. Brazil will be hosting the Olympics and will look to the football team to provide one of their signature moments in the tournament. The organization of the tournament has come under much criticism not least because of the fear of athletes, fans or officials may encounter the Zika virus. A win for the football team will bring some joy to the Brazilians above all this and, more importantly, help erase the memories of the humiliating 7-1 loss to Germany in the 2014 World Cup semifinals. Brazil have never won the tournament and doing so would further enhance their reputation in the world game.

On the Women’s side, the women’s teams will be hoping to build on the high level of interest from the 2015 World Cup. The US Women’s team stands out in this regard as they will want to follow-up their World Cup victory and repeat as Olympic champions. Another title would add further strength to their fight for equal pay, as the team filed a claim against US Soccer earlier this year according to ESPN W.

The chance for a summer filled with good football is one reason these tournaments are worth the watch. The underlying social and sporting aspects make it even more worth the while. Club football may take up the majority of a fan’s year but, as these summer tournaments show, international football matters just as much if not more.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan future key to Borussia Dortmund’s transfer summer – ESPN FC

Henrikh Mkhitaryan future key to Borussia Dortmund’s transfer summer – ESPN FC

For the third time this summer? Why leave Dortmund? I just don’t get it. I think Mkhitaryan will end up staying, especially with Gundogan gone, but I guess I wouldn’t be surprised if one more big star leaves. Maybe Monchi should go to Dortmund.

Is Marcus Rashford England’s Brightest Young Prospect Since Wayne Rooney? | Bleacher Report

Is Marcus Rashford England’s Brightest Young Prospect Since Wayne Rooney? | Bleacher Report

I feel like all the Marcus Rashford loving is making me like Rashford even less. We all know he’s impressed since bursting unto the scene. Will all this extra attention help? I get everyone says he has the composure, and that does look true, but why not just let the boy play? Only time will tell if anything comes of it. I want to see a full season at United before anything else.

How Oscar Tabarez helped Uruguay reemerge as a South American power – ESPN FC

How Oscar Tabarez helped Uruguay reemerge as a South American power – ESPN FC

They’ve bored me at times but still good to see Uruguay’s  resurgence in recent years. They could get to another level if they didn’t rely on Luis Suarez so much. They’ve struggled in tournaments without him and that might continue in this Copa.

‘We have to get back to football’: Copa América begins amid ashes of scandal | Football | The Guardian

‘We have to get back to football’: Copa América begins amid ashes of scandal | Football | The Guardian

Really good read here. So annoyed with Jeff Webb words can begin to express. Hopefully things do start to change both in CONCACAF and CONMEBOL.

Copa America Centenario Top 25 Players as ranked by ESPN FC – ESPN FC

Copa America Centenario Top 25 Players as ranked by ESPN FC – ESPN FC

The Copa America Centenario starts tomorrow, June 3rd, and as we can see there’s plenty to talk about. We’ll do another similar big post before the Euros begin on June 10th even though there’s plenty of stuff already out there.

We’ll just touch on the articles below but they’re all worth a read. The fact that this is a centennial celebration tournament that occurs a year after the “real thing” does seem to take some glamour away from it but it’s still big.

I doubt Klinsmann will do much experimenting in this tournament, beyond trying the players he feel can make a difference if needed such as Nagbe and Pulisic. The US need a good performance in this tournament. It’s crazy to think that Rodriguez would need this tournament to alter what’s been a really bad season but that’s where he is. It’s also strange that this really could be Messi’s best shot at an international trophy. (I’m assuming Chile will still be the Confederations Cup representative regardless of who wins because they won the “real thing”.) We can hold out hope for 2018 but it’s tough to see Argentina repeating their 2014 feat in Russia. Brazil are trying to be low-key about things but this is big for Dunga. He may not be in the seat for the Olympics of Brazil fall flat. I wouldn’t mind that to be honest.

Looking forward to a great tournament.

What Can the US National Team Realistically Hope to Achieve at the Copa America?

Copa America Centenario Is Perfect Test for Jurgen Klinsmann’s Master Plan

Why 2016 Will Be the Year Lionel Messi Strikes Gold with Argentina

Can James Rodriguez Rejuvenate Himself and Inspire Colombia at the Copa America?

Dunga Must Find Perfect Balance to Restore Faith in Brazil Ahead of Copa America

Dunga and New-Look Brazil Side Ready for Centenary Copa America