Can Southampton finish in the top four?

Finishing eight last season was considered a wonderful achievement for Southampton, who showed promising signs of developing into a top half Premier League team, but very few expected them to go even further in 2014/2015. Losing a number of star players and the manager who made them produce eye-catching football was a real indication that the South Coast club had become a victim of their own success. However, Ronald Koeman has done a wonderful job in not only showing shrewd business acumen to bring in new arrivals who have made a real impact, but also take their performance levels to a whole new level. It resulted in Southampton making a wonderful start to the season against all odds, with their early momentum and form carrying them towards a potential top four finish. They have surprised everyone by remaining in Champions League contention throughout the season, and with just ten games remaining in the current campaign, Southampton are firmly in contention amongst a five-horse race to dine at Europe’s top table of football.

Southampton football

Recent form

While Southampton enjoyed a superb start to their campaign, many expected them to tail off and finish in a respectable top half position for the second season in a row. However, despite losing four league games in a row in early December, they showed excellent character to bounce straight back and recover the quality of football that got them in an excellent position in the first place. Another recent blip, in which they lost to Liverpool and West Brom, did come with consequences, as Southampton’s closest rivals jumped ahead of them in what could be the closest race for a top four finish in recent years. Their drop in form coincided with a number of injuries to key players, particularly Morgan Schneiderlin and Victor Wanyama, who are integral to how Southampton tick in midfield and allow the more creative players to express themselves. Both played a crucial role in their recent 1-0 victory against Crystal Palace which could be the turning point in their season; not only did the three points end the run of consecutive defeats which threatened to cut them adrift of the top four, but Sadio Mane’s late winner could provide a much-needed confidence boost that gets Southampton firing on all cylinders again.

Prospects

The upcoming trip to leaders Chelsea could be a true indication of whether Southampton have the quality to maintain their challenge for the top four and realise the dream of playing Champions League football. They are currently four points adrift of Manchester United in fourth, and while the 2014/2015 Premier League season promises to throw up even more twists and turns between now and May, Southampton have to focus on their own results and let the rest take care of itself. Coming away from Stamford Bridge with a positive result would be a real statement of intent from Koeman’s side and make the likes of Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United aware that Southampton are not to be taken lightly.

Tottenham 1-2 Arsenal player ratings

After another pulsating north London derby where Spurs emerged victorious over Arsenal, the race for the top four has heated up even more.

Just ten points separate 2nd place Manchester City and 7th place Liverpool and after Harry Kane’s double, Spurs fans can be expectant of a top four place for the first time since 2012 if they keep their performances up.

tottenham_arsenal

Here are the player ratings for the game:

TOTTENHAM

Hugo Lloris – 6

Couldn’t do anything about Ozil’s excellent finish but other than that, had very little to do but did well when called on to action, saving a decent Danny Welbeck effort.

Kyle Walker – 5

Offered pace and drive but wasn’t as effective as Danny Rose getting forward.

Eric Dier – 6

For a first north London derby, the 21-year-old did well against the in-form Olivier Giroud.

Jan Vertonghen – 6

Made some good tackles and overall had a decent game.

Danny Rose – 6

Was at fault for Arsenal’s goal after being outpaced by Danny Welbeck but other than that, had a very good game. Rose was effective going forward, troubling the defense and was unlucky not to score as well.

Nabil Bentaleb – 7

Had a very good game after returning from the African Cup of Nations. Protected and dominated the midfield battle and provided a great cross for Kane’s winner.

Ryan Mason – 7.5

Was everywhere, pressed relentlessly and offered a lot of energy. Also had a good effort saved by David Ospina.

Erik Lamela – 5

Relatively quiet game and didn’t offer much of a threat.

Moussa Dembele – 5.5

Tried to create openings but largely ineffective. However, he played a role in Kane’s equalizer.

Christian Eriksen – 6

Had a surprisingly quiet game but always looked dangerous and capable of creating something when he had possession.

Harry Kane – 8

He worked hard, kept pressing and was a nuisance for the Arsenal defense after his brace sealed the win. Stunning header as well, taking his tally to 22 goals in all competitions this season.

ARSENAL

David Ospina – 6.5

Despite looking nervous and his parry leading to Kane’s equalizer, Ospina kept the scoreline to just two goals with some stunning diving saves.

Hector Bellerin – 5

After an impressive game against Aston Villa, the young Spaniard had a night to forget with his flank dominated throughout.

Per Mertesacker – 5

His performances have declined this season and Mertesacker was at fault for a free Kane scoring the equalizer. He really needs to improve especially with new signing, Gabriel waiting on the bench for his chance.

Laurent Koscielny – 5.5

Should have done better for Kane’s winner but was good overall. Had a free header straight at Lloris which should have been a goal.

Nacho Monreal – 6

One of the few who had a good game with no real threat coming from his flank. Unlucky to get a yellow card.

Francis Coquelin – 6

Played well initially until Spurs took control of the midfield.

Aaron Ramsey – 5.5

Like Mertesacker, his performances have regressed and seems like a liability in midfield now. Maybe he needs a rest?

Santi Cazorla – 5

A surprisingly poor game from Arsenal’s most in-form player, creating nothing and offering no influence on the game.

Danny Welbeck – 6.5

Made a smart run, outpacing Rose to contribute to Arsenal’s goal. Also had a good effort saved by Lloris and had good ball retention but offered nothing else up front.

Mesut Ozil – 7

Another one who can hold his head high, Ozil looks back in good form with 3 goals and an assist in 4 starts in 2015. Well taken goal and could have gotten an assist if not for the finishing of his teammates.

Olivier Giroud – 5.5

Quiet game from another of Arsenal’s in-form players. Not given enough space and had a good header go wide but assisted Ozil for the goal.

Cristiano Ronaldo named 2014 Ballon d’Or winner

2014 was another wonderful year in the football calendar, with many of the best players stepping up to plate to produce scintillating quality that had fans on the edge of their seats. It was almost inevitable that Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo would continue their long-standing rivalry for supremacy, as the two best players on the planet delivered the sort of performances that separates them from the rest. Fans and pundits alike have become divided on who they consider to be number one, with the Fifa Ballon d’Or award seemingly the only way to officially separate the pair. However, they faced a severe threat from Bayern Munich goalkeeper Manuel Neuer who made the final shortlist for 2014 following a wonderful year in which the 28-year-old won the Bundesliga and lifted the World Cup with Germany in Brazil.

Ballon d’Or winner

Wonderful 2014

Ronaldo arrived at the awards ceremony in Switzerland as the defending champion and favourite to retain his crown after a breath-taking year for the Portuguese superstar. The 29-year-old duly beat rival Messi and Neuer, who was unable to be the first goalkeeper since Lev Yashin in 1963 to be crowned the world’s best player, following a staggering 61 goals in 60 appearances for club and country, including the final goal in Real Madrid’s Champions League triumph over city rivals Atletico. Although he failed to live up to expectations as Portugal flattered to deceive once again at a major tournament and exited the World Cup at the group stage, 2014 was the year when Ronaldo came into his own as a player who has worked assiduously on all facets of his game to be the best.

neuer messi ronaldo

Scoring 28 goals in just 17 La Liga appearances for Real Madrid this season is merely one of many outstanding achievements Ronaldo has managed as records have tumbled by the wayside. Very few defences were able to stop the ominous threat of Ronaldo in 2014 who was involved in an incredible 83 goals for Real Madrid and Portugal (61 goals and 22 assists); although World Cup glory continues to allude him, winning the Champions League for the second time in his career after setting a new tournament record with 17 goals more than made up for the disappointment which followed in Brazil. There was almost an inevitability that something will happen whenever Ronaldo receives the ball, with unmatchable speed, power and shooting ability from almost anywhere inside the opposition’s half of the pitch making him virtually unstoppable.

What does 2015 hold in store for Ronaldo?

For the 2014 Ballon d’Or winner who is the complete player, it is difficult to think that the future will be anything but bright for Ronaldo who has fulfilled a lifetime ambition to be recognised as the best footballer in the world once again. There is no doubt that 2014 was Ronaldo’s year, but if early signs in 2015 are anything to go by, then Real Madrid and Portugal fans could be about to see their star man become even better. Ronaldo did, however, increase speculation that he could return to Manchester United by stating that anything is possible in football when asked where his future lye during a recent press conference. He has made no secret of his love and connection for his former club, but for now, Ronaldo must focus on being on top of his game for Real Madrid who are in a wonderful three-way battle with Barcelona and defending champions Atletico Madrid for the La Liga title. It is inevitable that Ronaldo will add to the 28 goals he has already scored in the league, and may has his eye on surpassing his own personal record of 46 which he managed during the 2011/2012 season.

Arsenal Jan targets

After the mixed season that the Gunners are having, they have been linked with a host of names as the January transfer window opened earlier this month. We’re taking a look at some of these rumours and whether they hold any value/potential.

Edinson Cavani

Edinson Cavani

Linked with Arsenal for a while, social media and news sites claim that this is the month that Cavani will finally be a Gunner. Disappointed at playing out of position at PSG while being left out of their winter camp, speculation is rising everyday.

The Uruguayan would certainly be a top signing – he is a born goalscorer and a huge upgrade over any of Arsenal’s recognized strikers, but he’s also a very expensive target. Arsenal would have to break their transfer record to get him and whether that happens remains to be seen.

Suitability? 10/10

Likeliness? 5/10 - Maybe in the summer.

Loic Perrin

Loic PERRIN

Another player from Ligue 1 who has been linked is ASSE captain and central defender, Loic Perrin. In light of Arsenal’s (annual) defensive crisis, the 29-year-old has been linked as a stop gap but experienced cover for the Gunners’ back four.

With reports of positive talks, it could be a signing that could very well happen in the next few days and one that would certainly plug some defensive holes.

Suitability? 7.5/10

Likeliness? 8/10

Krystian Bielik

Krystian-Bielik

One deal that is all but certain to happen could be Arsenal’s chase for Legia Warsaw’s 17-year-old, Krystian Bielik. A defensive midfielder – regarded as a wonderkid – the Polish player could very well slot in for Arsenal right away with Mikel Arteta, Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere injured.

Rather than sign an established presence in the midfield, it looks like Arsene Wenger is preferring youth on this occasion with the latest reports stating that Arsenal’s £2m bid has been rejected.

Suitability? 6/10

Likeliness? 9.5/10 - Arsenal’s latest bid may have been rejected but expect the Gunners to seal the deal soon unless something drastic occurs.

Do you think any of these transfers will happen? Let us know!

Picking the Right Place For Sports Betting Is Important – Here´s How to Do It

Winning in the sports betting world is always exciting. Who doesn’t like to watch their favorite teams go head to head, and then check the results after the scores are uploaded? In the past, it might have taken the local sportsbook a little bit to check the results but in this digital age, that information is presented faster and faster. The more that you work on finding the best place to play, the more likely it is that you’ll be able to collect wins over the long run.

Why is this the case? Well, it’s actually straightforward: a quality sportsbook focuses on fairness rather than squeezing out every drop of profit. After all, if players feel that there’s no money to be made then they will stop playing and find another sportsbook to place bets on. The online sportsbook isn’t just a place to make all of your bets; it’s truly a community.

You don’t have to be the world’s most experienced sports gambling fan in order to use a sportsbook. Plenty of newbies come to place bets and get deeper into the games. Some sportsbooks even offer live updating of scores. So even if you can’t catch a game, you can get updated on what’s going on with the game.

Sports Betting

If you want to get deeper into the game, you can start tracking statistics. This is a great way to really add depth to your bets, but you don’t have to do it. We’re just including this as a helpful suggestion.

We have a suggestion if you’re in the market for a sportsbook: Allpro sportsbook. They are devoted to giving you quality entertainment. That’s what this should be categorized as in the long run: entertainment. But this is a unique form of entertainment that can put money in your pocket. You get to place as many bets as you want. If you only want to put in a handful of bets, you can do that as well. Sometimes there are friendly challenges in the forums, where you can talk with other players. If you make new friends on the betting forums, many of them may help you place better bets.

We also recommend starting out with parlay bets, because the format is pretty easy to understand. That always helps when you’re really trying to get started and stay in motion. Good luck with your bets, and if you win big don’t forget to come back! We love hearing all of your victory stories!