8 Players Unlucky To Not Be at the 2018 World Cup

With only 23 players available for each squad, it means some players miss out for some particular reason. Whether it’s injury or manager had better options, these are players who would feel a bit unlucky that they won’t be in Russia this summer.

Mauro Icardi

When Sampoali was appointed the manager of Argentina, I thought this would be a chance for change in team selection. While Dybala is finally getting the chance he so rightfully deserves, Icardi is still not getting the same chances. Argentina have the joys of having so many attacking options, in Aguero, Messi and Higuain. It means other players getting a chance can be difficult. Icardi has for 4 years straight, been one of the most consistent strikers in Europe. He is a very good all around finisher, whether it is with his feet or with his head. He was the top scorer of Serie A last season, with 29 goals. It is just so surprising that the top scorer in Italy isn’t going to the world cup. I think he should be going instead of Higuain. Higuain is now 30, and Icardi is 26. Icardi has another world cup left in him. Bringing a much more inform striker, one who is still in his prime. Just makes much more sense.

Philipp Max

While many would say Alex Sandro is unlucky to miss out, it hard to argue when both Marcelo and Felipe Luis were both better last season. However an argument can be made for Philipp Max being taken to the World Cup. The Augsburg full back was easily the best left back last season in the Bundesliga. He averages a solid 3 tackles and interceptions per 90, but that isn’t why you play Max. His creative output is incredible. He averages an outrageous 2.4 key passes per 90. That’s more than David Silva and Paul Pogba. He also averages 3.2 crosses per 90, which is far superior than Plattenhardt’s 1.5. I completely understand that Lowe has a system and certain players he favours, but not taking the most inform German left back in Europe, is a huge mistake.

Radja Nainggolan

Another player who should be rightfully unhappy for not being selected. While Nainggolan did drop off compared to how incredible he was in the 2016/17, he was still very good. He averaged 2 shots per game and 1.9 key passes per 90. He still was more than good for Roma. I myself do not like Roberto Martinez in the slightest. He somehow has got the Belgium job, after 2 11th places with Everton. It doesn’t make any sense to me how a mediocre manager gets rewards with a team full of talented players. Why Nainggolan should feel angry is because Fellaini was chosen instead. My feelings on Fellaini have been made very clear. He is not good enough for the top level and never will be. Nainggolan offers so much more and definitely should have been chosen instead.

Aleksandr Kokorin

The hosts go into this tournament with no sort of expectations, except to make their country proud. Their squad has a serious age problem. The average age for their 23 man squad is 28.4, which is just too old. One big miss for Russia is the Zenit forward Aleksandr Kokorin. He was in outstanding form last season, scoring 16 and assisting 5 in all competitions. He is your classic big striker, winning 1.8 aerial duels per 90. Having such a physical prescence in the opposition box is always a plus. While having Dzyuba and Chalov, both who are also in pretty good form, is still fine, it would have been better to have a guy who has been consistent up until his injury. Kokorin suffered a terrible injury in the Europa league, ruling him out for the entire world cup. It will be a big miss and they hope they will still get through a relatively tough group.

Harry Winks

Another player who is unfortunately missing the world cup through injury. Winks has been a brilliant player to watch grow, from an occasional cameo, to an important squad for Spurs. One of my favourite things about spurs squad is their depth in midfield. Both Dyer and Wanyama can offer a very physical prescence, Sissoko might not have much talent, but does have a lot of energy, and Winks is a great passer of the ball. He has a great 90% pass accuracy, with 3 long balls per game, showing his range of passing. His progression was cut short when he suffered a serious injury early on in the season. His lack of games makes his stats look worse, such as his low 0.5 key passes. This could have been higher if more games were under his belt. I wrote a piece a couple of months ago saying that Winks should have start, but that injury has ruined a chance for him to show England and world that they have a quality player who could be the future for that team for years.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlein

When the Ox signed for Liverpool last season, many questions were asked. During his time in London, he always showed promise, but Wenger constantly played him in multiple positions, which would eventually lead to him wanting to leave the club. He then joined Liverpool, the club he supported as a youth and dreamed of playing for. From then on, he finally hit the heights we all thought he could reach. Oxlade-Chamberlein was brilliant last season, in playing as an energetic midfielder who would help transition by winning the ball back high up the pitch. His contribution of 5 goals and 7 assists really helped Liverpool advance to the champions league final. But when he suffered that ACL injury against Roma, it was not a shame for the Reds, but also for England. England’s midfield is easily their biggest weakness. While I like Henderson and Dier as defensive midfielders, but don’t offer much in an attacking threat, and Delph is a good box to box midfielder. Ox would add a bit of a direct player to that midfield, and help drive England forward up the pitch to speed up transition.

Ruben Neves

Originally I was going to include Neves in my players who could be become superstars, but then I found out he wasn’t even included in the Portugal squad. Neves was by far the best player in the championship last season, and shown why he was bought for £16m from Porto. What has shown him to be a player above the rest is his passing, He ranked 5th in the championship in passes completed. What’s important to note is all the players above are Fulham players, who played 3 extra games since they qualified through the play offs. He also takes 2.2 shots per game from defensive midfield. What’s most impressive is 2.1 of those shots are from outside the box, which resulted in 6 brilliant goals from outside the box. He also averages 4 tackles and interceptions per game, which proves he doesn’t let his defensive work go. He had one brilliant season, which makes it real shame he wasn’t picked.

Fabinho

The final player is a real surprising one. I have a lot of respect for Tite in the aspect of picking players to fit a particular system, but Fabinho should feel a bit hard done by. He had another brilliant season for Monaco. While many of the big stars like Mbappe, Mendy and Silva all left, he stayed, and continued to show his class. He’s averaged 4.7 tackles and interceptions per 90. What makes this even more impressive is his passing numbers. He averaged a good 1.1 key passes per 90 in Ligue 1, and averaged 4.7 long balls per 90, showing his range in passing. He also contributes to 8 goals and 3 assists. While Monaco themselves dropped off compared to their league winning season, Fabinho can be one of the high points. Tite has stuck with the experienced Fernandinho and Paulinho, and the dynamic Fred and Casemiro. Bringing Fabinho might have been too much, but such a good player should feel a bit unfortunate.

5 Players Who Could Become Superstars at the 2018 World Cup

James Rodriguez, David Villa, Diego Forlan, Wesley Sneijder. All players who’s careers were highlighted at the biggest competition in the world. And with the next world cup just around the corner, let’s look at 5 players who become superstars in Russia.

Wilfred Ndidi

When N’golo Kante left Leicester, it left them a hole which was difficult to fill. Leicester played their title winning season in a 2 man midfield. In the modern game, a 2 man midfield can give a lot of weaknesses, and advantages. If you have the right midfielders, it works, and in Leicester’s case, it did. Kante’s best qualities are breaking up play and giving it to a more capable attacking player. He gives such a good shield to the defence and makes the entire team more confident. In the first 6 months following the title win, they struggled defensively and in the middle of the park. They didn’t have any consistency, with Drinkwater, King, Amartey and Mendy all being rotated. In the following January, they signed a young Nigerian from Gent, and instantly became a regular. He added that solid workrate and grit in the centre of the park. His defensive work is absolutely outstanding, averaging 5.7 tackles and interceptions per 90. Those are some of the highest Europe. He also averages 3.5 aerial duels per game, showing his physicality in his defensive duties. He is also playing in a very promising Nigeria side, containing promising talent like Onyekuru, Iheanacho and Iwobi, as well already established players such as Moses and Mikel. It could be his chance to blossom. And with clubs like Lazio, Arsenal, and Spurs maybe needing a solid defensive midfielder, it could be his chance to shine.

Andrea Zivkovic

Serbia are going into the world cup with a relatively good team. They have a solid base in Matic and Fejsa and experienced full backs in Ivanovic and Kolorov. They also have some good players going forward, in Tadic and Mitrovic, who have both been much better in the second half of the season. While Milinkovic-Savic would make the most sense, with his breakout season putting him all over the front pages, with links to Manchester United. But I’m going for Andrea Zivkovic. The Benfica midfielder has been a huge part in their late season revival, playing as an advanced number 8 in the left side of a midfield three. With Pizzi and his fellow countryman Fejsa beside him, it gives him a chance to show his best qualities, being his dribbling and passing ability. He averages 2.5 dribbles per game, with a 68% success rate. He also averages 1.8 key passes per game, showing his involvement in the final third. All of the numbers mentioned shows all of the positive influences he has on this Benfica team, and for only 21, he has a bright future ahead of him. The main reason why I’m highlighting him as a potential superstar at the next world cup because of his efficiency in the final third. With Benfica known for being a selling club, it could be a real chance for a club to pick up a player with some real quality.

Pione Sisto

Christian Eriksen is the big player on the Denmark side, but one person who is also a big talent in that side is Pione Sisto. The Celta Viga winger has been very impressive during the 2017/18 season. He ending the season by scoring 5 and assisting 9 in an exciting Celta team. With other very good players beside him in Maxi Gomez and Iago Aspas, it shows his talent when he can perform at their level. Sisto has been a brilliant attacking threat, he averages 3.9 dribbles per game, with a 56% success rate. It’s his biggest strength by far, while his success rate could be higher, he’s still completing half of his dribbles which is still impressive. Another strength of the Danish international is his key passes. His nine assists have ranked him 5th out of all La Liga, equalling fellow teammate Daniel Wass and one behind Karim Benzema. It shows how much he has evolved as a creator, bettering his very small 3 assists last season. He is showing by each season he is improving and becoming a better player. He averages a solid 1.2 key passes per game. It is much better than his 0.5 last season. He has become a valuable member to his team. His gives his national team a player who isn’t afraid to take on an opposing player, someone who is willing to stretch the play and give his team a cutting edge.

Lucas Torreira

Uruguay are now facing a bit of a crisis. Their best players, Suarez, Cavani and Godin, all are now on the wrong side of 30. This could be the last world cup with these world class players. All hope isn’t lost though. Oscar Tabarez has been selecting younger players. Instead of playing an experienced Max Pereira, he’s choosing a younger Varela. One huge positive for their national team is their midfield. It is the position where they have a real future. Vecino from Inter Milan still has another world cup in him, and Bentacour looked very good for Juventus in the champions league. But the player I am highlighting is Lucas Torreira. The Sampdoria midfielder has been a revelation this season. He has shown to be a real talented box to box midfielder. As mentioned previously with Ndidi, players who are able to do the defensive work and contribute in any sense going forward are in high demand at the moment, with Keita, Fred, Jorginho and Saul all in demand this summer. The difference between Torreira and Ndidi is simple. Ndidi is excellent at tackling, interceptions and aerial duels, but doesn’t contribute much going forward (which isn’t a problem for him). Torreira on the other hand is good at everything, but doesn’t excel in much. His biggest weakness being something he can’t fix. He has a small frame, meaning his aerial duels are very low. His very good season in Italy has really put him on the radar, with Napoli and Manchester United linked to the young Uruguayan. He averages 4.8 tackles and interceptions per game. It shows how brilliant he is in his defensive work. What makes him a great box to box midfielder is he can also contribute going forward. He averages a key pass per game. While it isn’t a big number. It is still impressive considering he also does a lot of defensive work. He also is very tidy on the ball, with a solid 87% pass accuracy. With the solid season he had, he bound to start in that midfield alongside Vecino, and really show the world why he should be at a bigger club.

Bruno Fernandes

Half of this list so far have been players who do all the dirty work, but that is not the main reason why we watch football. The players we remember from the world cup are the ones who give us those moments of magic, and this certain player can deliver on that. Bruno Fernandes is another player who has had one hell of a season. He’s contributed to a brilliant 16 goals and 12 assists in all competitions. Fernandes was signed from Sampdoria for a very small €9.7m. And instantly hit the ground running. He scored 6 in his first 7 for his new club. Most of those goals also came from outside the box, leading to some really brilliant goals. His long shots are a normal part of his game. Out of the 3 shots he takes per game, 1.9 of those are from outside the box. He is also the team’s set piece taker so it might explain why they mostly are outside the box. Not only is he a great goal threat, he also is a brilliant creator. He has been averaging an elite 2.3 key passes per 90, that’s just as much as David Silva. His passing overall is vast. He averages 1.6 crosses and 2.8 long balls per game. It shows how he is able to create from multiple positions. His dribbling ability is also very good. He averages 2.6 dribbles per game, with a 57% successes rate. Because of dribbling, he gets fouled 2.2 times per 90, which clearly isn’t a problem, with his skill from a set piece. His versatility is another big positive. Throughout the season he played 5 different positions. While he usually plays as an attacking midfielder, he can drop deeper if sporting bring on an extra forward for more of a threat. Portugal now possess a player who is able to play in that number 10 position and give them a real creator, something they have lacked in recent years. With Sporting currently in a sticky situation regarding their players on strike after the chairman publicly insulted them, it could be a chance for Fernandes to make a big move after a hopefully successful world cup campaign.

2018 World Cup Debutants XI

The world cup is easily the biggest competition in the world, and on the big stage, it is a big chance for players to make a real impression. I will not be including players under the age of 23, because that will be saved for another list.

GK: Marc Andre Ter-Stegen

It’s actually quite incredible that this will be the first world cup for Ter Stegen. The Barcelona stopper has proven himself to be one of the stoppers around, making an already solid Barcelona defense into an absolute wall. With the big injury to Manuel Neuer, not only will he be on the plane, but he might also be starting.

RB: Dani Carvahal

This is by far the craziest addition, just because of the high level that Dani Carvahal has been playing at for the past 3 years. It is understandable why he wasn’t including. He only arrived back at Madrid half way through the season, after a successful loan spell at Bayer Leverkusen. The four time champions league winner is now one of the best right backs in the world, and now instantly starts for his team.

CB: Marquinhos

The next two players just about qualify for this, but still are eligible. While I don’t rate him as highly as he seems to be, I think he is still a very good defender. This Brazil team, defensively, seems to be going through a transitional period. Thiago Silva and Miranda are both near the ends of their long careers and Dani Alves seems to be finished for Brazil. Marquinhos is still only 24. He has a long career ahead of him in the middle of this strong Brazil team. He needs to be apart of this defense, to add some structure. He could be very valuable for Tito’s side.

CB: Samuel Umtiti

Another who just about qualifies for this XI. Samuel Umtiti has turned into one of the best defenders around. With a Gerard Pique who might be cultured on the ball, but lacks the positional play at times. Having someone so athletic and so confident in the tackle is so handy to have. If he is partnered alongside the equally brilliant Raphael Varane, France should have no issues in Russia.

LB: Danny Rose

While he hasn’t been at his best in recent months, it is still clear Rose is one of the best left backs in the Premier League. His solid athleticism and brilliant contribution in the final third has shown him to be a perfect modern left back. His place is for some reason, still up for debate, but if Gareth Southgate has a brain of any sorts, he is a must start.

CDM: Nemanja Matic

Since Serbia did not qualify for the 2014 world cup, it means this will be Matic’s first World Cup, and about time. The Serbian veteran has been a brilliant defensive midfielder over the years, and now will be his time to serve his country. He has such an excellent ability of reading the game, and most of all, composure. He is such a calm presence, and in a team full of young players, it will be a perfect addition, and a perfect addition in this team.

CM: N’golo Kante

With Kante’s relevance only appearing in 2015, there would have been no chance for him to be selected in the previous world cup. But after his terrific campaigns with Leicester and Chelsea, it is now time to add his brilliant aggression and tenacity to a France squad full of quality. What’s changed since the Euros is his improved quality on the ball. He has went from a very good destroyer, to a pretty good passer on the ball. With this clear improvement, it will add extra to an already well rounded defensive midfielder.

CM: Isco

Another player who was surprisingly left out of the last Spain squad. Even during that season, he was apart of the Madrid team that won La Decima. He has now transformed into one of the best attacking midfielders on the planet. His ability to find those small gaps, and use his close control ability to dribble past opposition players. He has been invaluable to Madrid in recent seasons. His contribution in front of goal had sky rocketed, and proved that staying and fighting for your place is the way to do it. When Verrati says that playing against Isco is harder than playing against Messi, that should tell you enough.

RW: Nabil Fekir

Another France player who didn’t have similar potential to other young players, Fekir has had the season of his life. Even with a horrific injury, he still was able to score 16 goals in the league. He is an absolutely powerful player who defines attacking at full speed. His place in the squad is completely deserved.

ST: Harry Kane

One of the best strikers in the world is going to his first world cup. Kane arrives as one of the most hotly anticipated players. With his future at Tottenham in slight doubt, clubs like Real Madrid might be watching this to see how he handles the big stage, to see if he is the Galactico they definetly need. Even though he didn’t get the golden boot, he still scored 30 goals, which puts him in the top 10 goalscorers in premier league history. He is leading the line for a very interesting England side. This could br his chance to show the world, just like Michael Owen.

LW: Mohammed Salah

Speaking of golden boots, Salah will be his countries hope in a competition they haven’t played in for 20 years. Salah is the talk of the world right now. With his record breaking season, and brilliant performances in Europe, everyone knows the name Mo Salah. He scored the winning penalty to send his country to Russia. He is able to handle the toughest of pressures. With him alone, they could go from scraping to get out the group, to getting to the quarterfinals.

2018 World Cup Russia Preview: Group A

Group A

Russia

Saudi Arabia

Egypt

Uruguay

From now until the world cup, I’ll be previewing the world cup by analysing each group, starting on A and finishing on I.

Let’s start with the hosts, Russia are a very hard team to predict, because they never went through a qualification stage. Since they are the hosts, they are guaranteed a spot in group A. All I can take from this team is their performance in the 2016 euros, which was poor all around. They were very poor defensively and failed to show any attacking quality. They are also the lowest ranked team at the World Cup. They are the hardest team to predict, and they will also do the worst in this group. They are the lowest ranked team for a reason. The players themselves are very old. The average age of this squad is 28.4. that is absolutely ridiculous. Many players, like Akinfeev, Kudrayshov and Zhirkov. The biggest miss for them by a mile is easily the injury to Kokorin. The Zenit marksman scored 16 in 31, and bagged 6 in 9 in the Europa league. He sustained an ACL injury in the competition in March, ruling him out of the world cup. It’s a big miss for them, but they still have some good options to fill his boots. No they will have to rely on Dzyuba, who has done pretty well for his new club after leaving Zenit, scoring 6 in 10 appearances, Chalov, who has scored 6 in 1020 minutes. And Smolov. Out of the three, he has been performing the best, scoring 26 in 29 for Krasnador. All could fill the boots of Kokorin very effectively. I predict they will finish bottom of their group, because of their aging squad.

Next up is Saudi Arabia, one of many teams no one thought make it. I will not pretend as if I have seen them play, but from looking up how they did in qualifying.They finished top of their group in the second round of the AFC, finishing above the United Arab Emirates, and joining Japan and Australia into the third round. They had plenty of success in the third round, finishing second in group B. They will be relying on their goalscorer Mohammed Al-Sahlawi, who finished top of the whole AFC to help Saudi Arabia quality for the World Cup. They will be hoping he will continue his form into the tournament, but it won’t help another team with a very old squad, only 0.2 younger than the Russians. Third will be their finishing position.

The next two teams will be much easier to discuss, since I actually know players from their teams. Egypt qualified in a very dramatic way, with Mo Salah scoring a 94th minute penalty in the play off game against Congo, to send them through. In fact, the only reason why I think Egypt will do well in the entire Competition, is because of their dynamic forward. He is having a season similar to Messi, by carrying his teams through games with his talent alone. While I do like some of the other players in the squad (Hegazi and Elneny especially), it is all on Salah to pull his team through this relatively easy group. If he has a good world cup, they will finish 1st

Uruguay seem to be getting better by the season. Their heavy reliance on Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani cannot last much longer, with both over the age of thirty. It could be their last world cup. While both are exceptional players, they still have other talents who have had excellent seasons. Torreira has shown himself to be a potential world class midfielder, with him already being linked as Jorginho’s replacement, and Vecino, who has had a very solid time in Milan. While he won’t be starting, Christian Stuani has been excellent for Girona, scoring 16 in La Liga. Even with Suarez and Cavani aging, Maxi Gomez at Celta Viga is starting to look like a real talent. Even in defense we have known that Varela and Gimenez both look like solid players in the team. While their big two players will start to diminish, their future is starting to look bright. While I do like this team, I think Egypt have the momentum from their dramatic qualification still fresh, and that will help them finish above Uruguay.

What Do Each of the Top 6 Clubs need in the transfer window?

Manchester City

Manchester City are in a spot of comfort right now. They do not need many additions this summer. All of the additions needed are for depth purposes, not for first team strengthening. They have enough depth at centre half, right wing, right back, goalkeeper, and upfront. What they need is depth on the left wing. Pep had made it very obvious that he likes to rotate his squad when given the chance to. His long pursuit for Alexis Sanchez showed that he still thinks that there is a gap to plugged in that left side. Sane has been absolutely incredible this season, but having another option wouldn’t hurt. As for this left winger, I am unsure. Leon Bailey makes a lot of sense. He’s been brilliant for Leverkusen this season and with the German club in the Europa league this season, Bailey might think it might be a good time to move club.

Another clear area they might need to resolve is depth in defensive midfield. Fernandinho, like the rest of the team, has been brilliant. He’s given Silva and De Bruyne a licence to roam, because they know that the Brazilian will be there to ensure that the danger is dealt with, if by any chance there is any at all. One such player who has been linked heavily is Napoli’s pass master Jorginho. He’s been averaging 90 passes, with a pass accuracy of 90%. He’s shown he is able to dominate a game and keep possession very effectively. Pep likes players in this mould, like Sergio Busquets and Thiago before him. If a player like Jorginho is signed, then their midfield will have plenty of reinforcements.

Manchester United

Where do I even begin here? Even though many United fans will say that second place and a cup final is progress, it isn’t. With a lack of balance in midfield, very poor fullbacks, and centre backs who have no idea how to control a ball. The red devils need to plenty of reinforcements this summer.

The first key area to resolve are the full backs. Many can criticise Man City for spending over £100m on fullbacks, but the method has clearly worked. United currently have 2 ex wingers over the age of 32 starting every game, and 2 others who are clearly out of favour. They will never challenge for a league title next season if Valencia and Young are the starting full backs. Alex Sandro is the obvious choice for the left back slot. While I would like us to consider Philipp Max, with his insane amount of crosses per game, Sandro would still be a perfect addition. The right back that could help United next season would also be from Italy, being Elseid Hysaj. The Albanian is part of a Napoli team that play football in such a delightful way. Hysaj has been excellent for Napoli for the last 2 seasons, and at only 24, he could be a long time right back for United.

As mentioned. United lack a centre back who is able to control the ball and put some balls through the opposition midfield. Every time an opponent marks Matic, it leaves the back four to pass between each other in this frustrating line until an option opens. Having a defender who is able to pass the ball effectively could be very beneficial. Toby Alderweireld is the player constantly linked. With contract troubles at Spurs, a move seems very likely for the Belgian.

Another key area would definitely be central midfield. With Carrick retired, and Fellaini and Herrera both potentially leaving the club, it is an area that needs reinforcements. Two players that have been heavily linked are Fred, and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic. Both are brilliant players and would be a welcome addition to the squad, but with the Serbian costing a potential £80m, only one would be financially available. While I think Milinkovic-Savic is a wonderful, with his brilliant ability in the air and his dribbling ability. My problem with signing him is we wouldn’t be able to get the best out of him. We already have a world class midfielder we struggle to use correctly, so why by another who wouldn’t be fulfilling his potential? Fred would be my personal choice. He has Moussa Dembelle levels of successful dribbles, and wins the ball back more than the Lazio midfielder. Fred is still only 25. He can fill in multiple positions and even if Pogba is injured the same way he was earlier in the season, Fred could easily fill that role. He has such a brilliant ability of transitioning play, and would help us function without our star midfielder. A player with his talent is needed in a squad filled with imbalance, to give us another edge in catching up to our blue rivals.

Tottenham Hotspur

Spurs have a real issue. They have hit a ceiling that they seem unable to break. Their two biggest games of the season, Juventus in the champions league and Man United in the FA Cup, both ended in defeat. They were arguably the better side in both games, yet failed to seal the wins. They need to begin to sell some of the current crop of players, and find improvements. The problem is buying these improvements. Spurs have an owner who only sells to buy. The problem that arises from this is buying improvements for this squad.

To improve on players like Dembele and Alderweireld, a lot will need to be spent, even if both are sold for a lot of money. One suggestion is Milan Skriniar. The Inter Milan defender has been absolutely fabulous this season. He’s been apart of a very solid Inter team. They have conceded the same amount as title challengers Napoli. So why is he a good fit for Spurs? Well he averages around the same amount of passes as the current three defenders, but the difference is his pass accuracy is higher. Skriniar averages a brilliant 91% pass accuracy, while Vertonghen, Alderweireld and Sanchez all averages around 86-88%. While it isn’t exactly a massive improvement, it does show he can compete with them on his passing ability. The only issue is Skriniar averages 2.6 long balls per game. While it is still a very good number, it doesn’t come near Vertonghen’s 4.6 or even touches Alderweireld’s 7.9. Skriniar is more of a destroyer type defender, similar to Vertonghen. With Sanchez seemingly playing the more sweeper role, having someone similar to Vertonghen, while the Belgian is starting to show his age, could be great. Skriniar could cost up to £40m, but like the signing of Davidson Sanchez, it could definitely be worth it.

The other key area to improve on would be central midfield. It is seemingly clear that one of Dembele or Wanyama are leaving the club this summer. With Dier already having a similar role to the Kenyan, Dembele is the player that is needed to be replaced. The problem is finding a player who can fill his role. Geoffrey Kondogbia would be a good addition. He has been an absolute monster in midfield. He’s been averaging 5 tackles and interceptions per game. Which is much more than any spurs player. This may be because Valencia play in a two, which gives him more of a workload, but those are still brilliant numbers that show he knows how to do his job. He averages 2.1 dribbles per game from a defensive position. This is lower than Dembele, who has 2.6 dribbles per game. But they still have the exact same success rate, being 85.7%. He would be a fine replacement for the Belgian.

Liverpool

Many mainstream pundits are seeing Liverpool as the challengers to Man City next season, and for good reason. While they actually did worse in the league, they also progressed into a champions league final (albeit an easy run in compared to their opponent). They have clearly progressed from last season. With Van Dijk, Oxlade-Chamberlein and Mohammed Salah all being successes, the only way is up for the reds.

The most obvious area to improve in is midfield. I think that midfield is easily their biggest weakness. I believe the whole perception of Liverpool having a really poor defence is out of the window by now. With Van Dijk there, Liverpool have much more solid and most importantly, more confident. Due to Van Dijk arriving, Even the goalkeeper has looked so much more confident in himself. Many say that a confident goalkeeper helps a defence, but it also happens in reverse. Seeing a defender so composed must fill them with confidence. But there is still a gap in that squad. While Lovren has improved, he is 28, and he isn’t a long term solution. Klavan is no where near good enough, and Matip seems to have clear injury problems. I’ve identified one player. A central defender who is showing similar traits to the current Liverpool players, being aerial duels, and that is Dayot Upamecano. The young Frenchman has really had his breakout season,starting 25 games for Leipzig this season. What makes him perfect for Liverpool is his aerial duels. He specialises in this area, winning 3.3 per 90. While it is lower than Lovren and Van Dijk, who complete 3.5 and 5.2 respectively. It is still a high number, considering he’s still only 19. The issue with their defenders is they’re all in their prime. It isn’t an issue in the short term, but when you want to create a dynasty, bringing in someone who has the potential to succeed is perfect for the team.

Even with Nabi Keita arriving, there is still a clear issue in that midfield. Liverpool have players who are brilliant at following a game plan and do not need the ball. The problem with this is in some against teams who play a similar way, you need a player who is able to not only do that, but is also able to show some ability on the ball and not to rely on the forwards so heavily. Keita can definitely do that, but he also specialises in his defensive work. Having someone else who can also do this would be perfect. Napoli players seem to be a key theme in suggested players, but there’s a reason for it. Sarri has Napoli playing in an energetic, and quick way. One player for them who has excelled in recent years is Allan. The Brazilian has had yet another stella campaign. He’s 27 and is at an age where he will be ready to do what is asked, and help the reds challenge city closely next season. What he is brilliant at is regaining possession and using it in an effective manner. He averages 2.8 tackles per game, which is something players in a pressing system usually average. He averages 3.2 dribbles per 90, having a 65% success rate. While not as high as someone like Dembele, it is still a good number that shows he is able to drive the ball forward, and would help in a game that Liverpool would be dominating. It would keep Liverpool playing at full speed, and that is what they need.

Chelsea

The blues have went from Champions to fifth. It is such a drop considering everyone thought this team was unbeatable. I think Conte should get a lot of blame for it. Him selling Costa when he didn’t have a replacement available, and not playing David Luiz. Both were key for Chelsea last season. Costa was at his best, showing his strength and power in the air, and winning games for Chelsea. Conte’s biggest problem is rotation. He seems to not trust his team in the slightest. Whether he changes the formation to play a front two of Hazard and Morata, or changing the midfield to put Bakayoko or Drinkwater in there. He needs players with consistensy. Chelsea have made so many bad decisions in the market. It is time to go through how they can resolve it.

A young wide player should be one of the first priorities. With Hazard turning 28 soon, and both Willian and Pedro over the age of 30, it is time we rejuvenate that forward line with someone much younger. One player should attempt to go for is Ousmane Dembele. While he has struggled with injuries this season, Barca have looked great with him in the side. The only reason why is because of the Antoine Griezmann rumours. If the Catalan giants are to sign Griezmann, it could mean the end for the young Frenchman. When a moment like this arises, it is a chance to capitalise. Dembele is an excellent dribbler and also a brilliant creator. At Dortmund, he was second to only Muller in assists, and was not far behind Messi in dribbles per game. It is clear that there is a world class player there. Even though signing him could prove difficult, he would still be a brilliant addition.

Central midfield is the other key area that needs improvement. With Matic leaving, it left Chelsea with a real problem. They have no central midfielder who is able to connect midfield to attack. It also has put more pressure on Kante to create, when he should have never had that obligation. They need a player who is able connect the attack and defence, with Kante already being able to do the defensive work. My suggestion might be an odd one, but it could work. Aaron Ramsey might just be what Chelsea need. He would be the perfect partner to Kante. Because of Ramsey’s solid attacking prowess and Kante’s superior defensive numbers. The problem with having Bakayoko is it means Kante has to contribute going forward. It’s something he should never be doing. Ramsey is already averaging 3.1 tackles and interceptions per game, and taking 2.7 shots per game. His key passes are just over 1. This could definitely be higher, if he had a better midfield partner than Xhaka. If he had Kante, he would be able to add so much more, and with his contract running out next year, he would be achievable at a very low price.

Arsenal

Easily the hardest one, since they have so many positions to resolve. This season exposed so many weaknesses in their squad. They have very low widthz because of the system they play. They seem to be short on quality centre halves. All of their goalkeepers are not good enough to be starting for a champions league fighting team, and their midfield is almost as bad as Liverpool’s. I’ll be sticking to their two weakest positions, being midfield and goalkeeper.

Last season, Cech dropped like an anchor. He began conceding more than he was saving, and his distribution was only getting worse. People are saying to spend a lot on a goalkeeper, when all they need is a very good stopper, not a world class one. I say this because any average goalkeeper is an improvement over Cech. The replacement I have chosen is Timo Horn. Currently relegated with Koln, it is a chance to snap up a very good goalkeeper for a very low price. He is averaging 3.9 saves per season, more than Nick Pope and Jordan Pickford. I compare to the two Englishman because they play for teams that also face a lot of shots. Koln were very good last season, and he still performed exceptionally. His relegation clause is only £3m. If Arsenal can persuade him to leave his club, it’ll be one of the bargains of the season.

Arsenal are also at a point where attracting talent might be difficult. With Arteta seemingly being the main target as Wenger’s replacement, it’s important to stop buying big, and start buying smart. One such player would be Zambo Anguissa from Marseille. Arsenal have one key issue right now, and that is lacking a good box to box midfielder. Their midfield options are just too weak. Jack Wilshere cannot be relied on, Xhaka needs too much time on the ball to be effective, and Ramsey seems to need a certain player near him to be at his best. Anguissa this season has been part of a Marseille team that have performed very well under Garcia. The Cameroonian is only 22, and yet is already showing qualities of a top level player. Discounting his mistake in the final, Zambo was very good. He was brilliant in moving the ball forward, while still doing his defensive work. He averages 3.7 tackles and interceptions per game, while having a very solid 87% pass accuracy. He is very good at taking the ball from an opponent, and giving it to a more talented player. In Marseille’s case it’s Payet or Thauvin. He would be effective in this Arsenal team because they don’t have anyone like him. They don’t have anyone who isn’t afraid of doing all the dirty work to help the team. If Xhaka is going to continue playing for Gunners, they will need to sign a player like Zambo, if they wish to go back to champions league football.

How Germany Should Line Up at The 2018 World Cup

The reigning champions go into the tournament as one of the favourite, having experience, yet also containing plenty of young players. Let’s go through the team I believe they will start.

GK: Marc Andre Ter-Stegen

This all depends on whether Neuer is fully fit to travel. Neuer would usually automatically start, since he has been the number one for the past 8 years, but if he isn’t available, then Marc Andre Ter-Stegen will be the first choice. Ter-Stegen has easily been the second best keeper on the planet this year. He is averaging 6 saves per goal, which is absolutely insane. Ter-Stegen for years has been that player who has always looked like he will become a top keeper. He has finally reached that top bracket and it couldn’t have happened at a better time.

RB: Joshua Kimmich

While the left back slot is much more difficult to decide, right back picks itself. Kimmich is not only the best right for Germany, but one of the best in Europe. This season he has been one of Bayern’s best players, in a team full of quality footballers, it’s been a young German player who has excelled. This season he’s earned 12 assists for his team, with 3 of those in the group stages of the champions league. He’s averaging 2.2 key passes per game. That’s a midfielders numbers. In fact James Rodriguez, who has been brilliant this season, is averaging 2.5 per game. Kimmich has been outstanding and can’t be questioned when starting in this eleven.

CB: Matts Hummels

A centre back who has continued to flourish even though he is beginning to age, Matts Hummels is a guaranteed starter. He has been one of the most consistent centre halves for Germany and for Bayern Munich for a couple of years now. Hummels is a very talented defender, who is not only able to defend like a top defender, but is also able to distribute the ball like all the defenders who are so sought after. Hummels is a player who is a guaranteed starter in this side, alongside his partner

CB: Jerome Boateng

Boateng is a player who is full of talent, but over the past couple of years has struggled with injury. During Bayern’s last title win, Boateng suffered a terrible injury and has finally recovered from it. Bayern Munich currently have three top centre backs in Hummels and Sule. Boateng has had less pressure to return from injury and has able to return at a steady pace. He is now becoming ready for the world cup, and to prove why he is one of the best defenders around.

LB: Jonas Hector

If we are basing this truly on form, then Philipp Max would be starting automatically, but since Joachim Low has a system and certain players he keeps faith in, he will stick with Jonas Hector. The Koln captain has been a mainstay in the national team setup for a couple of years now, and has performed constitently ever since. The issue with choosing Hector right now is the fact he isn’t even playing at left back. He has been playing throughout the midfield for Koln this season. He is still averaging very good numbers however, getting 2.6 tackles and 1.8 interceptions per game. It is a slight issue, because players like Plattenhardt and Max have been very good this season, playing at left back. Hector however has been a consistent in this side, and will continue to be.

DM: Sami Khedira

Another player for Germany who has been an ever present, Khedira will continue this trend by being the first choice for the holders. While he is beginning to decline, he is still a brilliant footballer. The Juventus midfielder is a bit of a jack of all trades. He can be a very good goal threat, from his 9 goals scored in 26 games for the old lady. He has a very strong pass accuracy with 87%, and he has the experience and know how in a tournament where wisdom can be a very good asset. Low will stick with Khedira, but an honourable mention should go to Leon Goretzka. The Schalke midfielder has been absolutely superb. If we are judging this on this season alone, Goretzka should start. But since Low has a system and wants to stick to it, Khedira will be in the starting XI.

DM: Toni Kroos

One of the best midfielders on the planet. Kroos is the definition of elegance on the ball. He has a frankly ridiculous pass accuracy of 93%. He also averages 1.8 tackles per 90 and a very healthy 2.3 key passes, one more than David Silva. What makes Kroos so brilliant to me is his ability in transitioning play. Any team in the world needs Toni Kroos. He is able to pick a pass, whether short or long, to his teammates. Even though Madrid have had a poor season, Kroos’s numbers have been superb. A player on his level has to start, no debate.

RM: Thomas Muller

While he might be slightly out of position, Thomas Muller has to start. Not only because of his brilliant qualities as a footballer, with his 32 goal contributions this season for the champions. But it’s more than that. Muller has been the center piece of this German dominance for this decade. He could well and truly break Klose’s record, with the form he is on in world cups. Muller is a real leader for the current crop of talented players, and it will help his team when seeing him on that right side.

AM: Mesut Ozil

A player that gets way too much stick for the odd bad performance. Ozil is one of the best creators on the planet. He is averaging a frankly ridiculous 3.6 chances created per 90. That is around as many as the world class Kevin De Bruyne. Germany seem to get the best out of Ozil. He is always allowed to be given the time and space on the pitch to pick out the players in those good pockets of space. He is a genuinely world class player who also gets right into this team.

LM: Leroy Sane

Sane justifiably won the young player of the year, when he even deserved a shout for player of the season. The ex Schalke winger has been absolutely incredible. The way he plays reminds me of a young Ronaldo. The speed in which he carries the ball and strength and power he possesses is simply so unique for a winger in the modern era. Sane was always going to live up to this potential. Last season he showed at moments how good he could be, but overall was very inconsistent. But Pep must have spoken to him before the season, because he has been an absolute monster. He is one of very few players to get over 10 goals and 10 assists this season. What I love about Sane the most is his flexibility in attack. He is able to cut inside and take a shot, or seek out a short pass, or even go very wide to stretch the defense and give players like Silva and Aguero space to run into. He has transformed into a potentially world class player. He might have not shown this quality in a Germany shirt yet, but this might be the tournament he shows the world what he is made of.

ST: Timo Werner

There is only one option here. With the national team struggling with strikers since Gomez began to show his age, Werner arrived at a perfect time to give the Germans a centre forward for the next 10 years. For Leipzig this season, he has scored 22 and assisted 9. What has changed the most for the young German is his shot numbers. Last season everything he hit was going in, now this season he is averaging 3 shots per game, which is a 0.6 increase. His numbers overall have dropped from last season. This could be because of Leipzig themselves dropping off this season compared to last. With the extra competitions Leipzig were playing wouldn’t have helped either. It does take some players time to adjust to playing more than one game a week, and this could be his transition into an elite forward. His energy and brilliant finishing will come in handy for Germany team looking to retain the World Cup

Best XI of players outside of the Top 6 (2017/18)

After speaking about the best eleven for the top teams, let’s discuss how some players in the lower half of the table are doing, and making an eleven of their best players.

Nick Pope (Burnley)

There isn’t much of a competition here. While I think Jordan Pickford has been very good, Pope has been head and shoulders above his competition. He had came into a very organised Burnley side after Heaton’s injury, and not even looked out of place. He’s been averaging 3.3 saves per game this season, which betters Courtois’s 2 saves per game. While Burnley themselves have been a brilliant defensive unit, they have relied at times on Pope to bail them out. Some that come to mind would be against United and City, where he made some brilliant saves to win his team some valuable points. I’ll be very impressed if Heaton will be able to get back into this team, with Pope being this good

Aaron Wan Bissaka (Crystal Palace)

It might be a bit odd to put a player who has only played 7 games in the premier league this season as the best right back, but for a 20 year old, he has been absolutely brilliant. Against Man United he was incredible in keeping Sanchez quiet. He was tight on him and blocked any pass that was attempted. He’s averaged 5.9 tackles and interceptions this season. Which is just absolutely unbelievable. Every time he has played he has not looked out of place, and could become a key player for Palace next season.

Christopher Schindler (Huddersfield)

Huddersfield in a defensive sense have actually been relatively good this season. For a team with a minus goal difference last season, to concede only 8 goals more than Arsenal is pretty impressive. They also top the table in tackles, ahead of champions league finalists Liverpool. It says a lot about how Huddersfield have been playing this season. They have been playing very risky football, which has given many defeats, but because of that, their defensive players have a lot of responsibility in ensuring that the opposition does not get past. He has been averaging 4.2 tackles and interceptions per game, and also 7.2 clearances. It shows that playing this open system has not affected the German. His defensive numbers are at a real high because of the responsibility he has. He’s been excellent in this system and deserves so much more credit than he gets.

James Tarkowski (Burnley)

Michael Keane was excellent last season. He completed the most passes for Burnley in the final third and showed himself to be a strong, intelligent and capable player. But systems are important in football and his move to Everton shows it. He has been exposed more this season because of style changes to the way Everton play. I bring this up to make a certain point, that playing in a certain system brings out your best qualities. Tarkowski might be in this similar mold as we speak. He has replaced Keane perfectly. It’s a another decision from Dyche that deserves as much credit as it is getting. A player no one heard of twelve months ago is now getting England caps. He’s shown himself to be a perfectly capable defender, who is able to keep the shape and do his job. I cannot call him a great defender by any means, because he plays in a system that favours a more pragmatic approach. The credit he is getting here is because of how flawless he has been, and anyone who does their job that good deserves my credit.

Patrick Van Aanholt (Crystal Palace)

Maybe a strange pick. Usually the Southampton fullbacks cover these positions. But because of their off season, other players have to be considered. Van Aanholt had always been an odd player to me. No matter how good he is going forward, the defensive frailties have always showed themselves. His positional sense had always been very off, having the possibility of getting caught out. This season has been different however. He has been averaging 3.4 tackles and interceptions per 90, and most impressively for me he only gets dribbled past 0.6 times per game. He’s a very difficult player to beat in a one on one. His passing numbers might not be great, but that can be explained by Palace themselves. Much of their game comes on the right side, with Zaha especially effective in this regard. It gives the Dutchman the chances to get in dangerous areas. He has scored 5 goals for palace this season, and some of them being very important. He have his inconsistencies, but has been an important player for palace.

Abdoulaye Doucouré

Doucouré has been a very consistent player in Watford’s team selection, and for justified reasons. He’s averaged 3.6 tackles and interceptions per game, while also completing 85% of is passes. He’s showing signs of a very well rounded midfielder. Not only has he been capable of playing in a deeper position, he also can play in a midfield 3. It shows him to be a very flexible player for any team who is thinking about adding depth in that area. He has been a towering figure in that Watford side. Most importantly he has scored 7 goals and assisted 3 for a team that hasn’t been too great in front of goal. In a season that started so brightly, and slowed down after the sacking of Marco Silva. Doucouré has been the only player to get constant praise.

Luka Milivojević (Crystal Palace)

Milivojevic has showed himself again to be the best midfielder in this side, and most reliable. He has been relied on for taking the teams penalties, which he has gladly repaid them for their trust, out of the 10 goals he has scored, 9 of them have been from the spot. He’s also completed 4.5 tackles and interceptions per game. Not only is he scoring goals, but his defensive work has been absolutely superb. With a midfielder like Cabaye next to him, he will be relied on for the defensive work. The Serbian has been brilliant again, and continues to be a key player for Palace.

Pascal Gros (Brighton)

Gros has been the signing of the season for me. Many will simply say it is Mohammed Salah. I disagree here simply based on the fact that premier league survival is worth so much to a club that has just been promoted, than any trophy Liverpool can win. Not only that, Gros costed nearly 10% of what Liverpool paid for Salah. For a player who has contributed to more than half of Brighton’s goals this season, it is clear to see why he should be considered the signing of the season. It wasn’t as if this wasn’t expected. He created the most chances in the Bundesliga last season, and Brighton clearly saw that and knew he was worth the small amount of money they paid. He has a relatively low pass accuracy for a creator, at only 76%. But that can be explained on his role. Gros’s role is to create, and seeing as he averages 1.8 crosses and 1.8 long balls per game, that is perfectly understandable. Crosses and Long balls are types of passes that usually aren’t common to complete. It’s pretty incredible that he was able to that, while also making 2.2 key passes per 90. He’s contributed to 8 goals and 8 assists. He’s been Brighton’s best player by a mile, and it’s clear to understand why.

Wilfred Zaha (Crystal Palace)

I’ve never been much of a fan of Zaha. He’s always had the talent, but his final product was always something to desire. This season however, Roy has clearly gotten the best out of him. He’s been the key player for Palace in an attacking sense. Because of the terrible form of Christian Benteke, Zaha has mainly been played as a striker, alongside Townsend. He’s scored 9 and assisted 3. Even though he has definitely improved, there is still more to improve on. He averages 2.2 shots per game, 1.8 key passes per game and most impressively, dribbles past his opponent 4.1 times per game. It’s clear to see that going wide is his speciality, with his incredible ability to take on players. His threat to the opposition can clearly be seen, based on him being fouled 2.6 times per game. He is winning the ball in good positions for his team. On a talent basis, he is one of the most talented out of the lower teams in the table, and while there are more areas for him to improve on, mainly his conversion rate, he has still been very good for Palace this season.

Riyad Mahrez (Leicester City)

I think Mahrez has been absolutely brilliant this season. Leicester themselves have been very on and off this season. At points they have reminded us why they won a league title, and others remind us why they were so poor last season. Leicester themselves haven’t been ruthless enough with their squad. It’s clear to see that there are players who shouldn’t be at the club. Players such as Morgan, Fuchs, and Simpson all need to be moved on. Their fragility as they begin to show their age is getting more and more clear. Mahrez is another example, but in an opposite situation. Mahrez has been brilliant this season for the foxes, and continued to be their main creator. He’s scored 12 and assisted 10. Thosr are very very good numbers for a wide player. Not only that, he has 2 shots per game, makes 1.6 key passes per game and also completed 2.3 of his dribbles. He’s quite similar to Zaha. The only difference being the strikers they play with. Vardy has scored 20 goals, which has put less pressure on Mahrez, but he has still been excellent. Zaha’s numbers have been much higher, yet he has scored and assisted less than the Algerian. It shows the difference in quality, and which player is ready for the transition to an elite club. With Arsenal looking for wide talent, this summer could be the only where Mahrez finally makes the big move.

Kenedy (Newcastle United)

While many would be including Vardy in this XI, I decided to be a bit different, and choose a player who decided the fate for a certain Northern club. Before the Brazilian signed, Newcastle were in a mess. They were struggling with scoring goals and defending. Rafa made two loan signings that changed both. Dupravka in goal, and Kenedy on the left side. While Matt Ritchie had that right side locked down, the left side was still much for debate. Atsu was very inconsistent, and Jacob Murphy seems to have been a mistake before he even played. Kennedy arrived and instantly showed what they were missing. He’s a player who wants to try things, and isn’t afraid to get involved. Kenedy has been averaging 1.8 shots per game. In a Newcastle side that overall hasn’t been too attacking, that is showing how much he is willing to attack. What I find most impressive is his defensive work. He’s been averaging 3.3 tackles and interceptions per game. For a wide player who is also taking plenty of shots, it’s unbelievable he’s able to do both. If he doesn’t sign for Newcastle, he would be perfect for a team with an intention to press. His ability to work the left side and contribute in front of goal is very valuable.