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The Round Up

Arsenal celebrate FA Cup glory, Europe’s elite warm into UCL return, Domestic 2019/2020 season ends across Europe, transfer stories and more.

Ciro Immobile clinched the European Golden shoe, as the last domestic game of the 2019/2020 season for the top European Leagues was played over the weekend. With all league and cup games concluded – as Arsenal defeated Chelsea in the FA Cup final over the weekend – football has now fixed their gaze on the return of the UCL campaign and other scintillating transfer stories.

Here is the round-up of all the stories, gist and trivia as they have happened over the course of the last footballing week. Enjoy!

Arsenal celebrate FA victory as Lampard still nursing growing pains in fairly new job

What was shaping to be a colossal disappointment of a debut season for Mikel Arteta at his maiden senior managerial role has turned to be a dream of a season, even bearing in mind the failure to make Champions League football.
Many would have favored Lampard’s side to edge out the gunners and clinch the FA Cup trophy from themselves, seeing as they were still riding the euphoric wave of having finished in the top four, and were of course OD’ing on confidence. But as it would so appear, a remarkably poor showing from the blues and a certain talismanic Arsenal forward firing on all cylinders was all it took to tip the trophy to the North Londoners.

The reality of the events, amidst claims of poor officiating, injury problems and what not, was that Chelsea was simply bettered on the night. And all adulations must go to Arteta for astutely setting up his side in a way that enhanced their abilities and hid their deficiencies.

Lampard lined up his team in his somewhat signature 3-4-3 formation, and while the Chelsea defence was not tested much too much all through the course of the game, the few times they did, they were found wanting.

Chelsea opened the books on the night with a goal that quite simply made a mockery of the entire Arsenal defensive fold. From defensive midfield to outright defenders, almost every man in the Arsenal shirt was culpable for the Chelsea opener.

As Pulisic practically walked into the final third, one couldn’t help but wonder where the protection to the Arsenal defense – in person of a DM – was. With no one picking up his run, the American had all the time in the world to casually stroll through, nick a neat pass through to Mount who was also poorly closed down by Holding, and will then slip a return pass back to Pulisic who sweetly caressed the ball round the lot of Arsenal players and slid it home.

The Arsenal equalizer was a goal that saw Chelsea suffer, yet again, from a long ball. It was craftly pinged across by Tierney and as Aubameyang sniffed the opportunity and was making inroads into a comfortable position to strike home, Azpilicueta quite unwittingly escorted him from just outside the corridors of the 18 right into the box, before deciding to foul him. Such a naive move from one one of Chelsea’s supposed trusted figures typified how almost no-one has been reliable in the defensive lines for Chelsea all season long.

The error will for the umpteenth time have Chelsea compatriots chanting and clamoring for the addition of a quality defensive personnel to the roster, as yet again another team – Arsenal this time – exposed the frailties that is the Chelsea backline.

But this was not to be the end of Chelsea’s woes on the night. Aubameyang will once again have the Chelsea defenders tied up in knots as he undressed Zouma haven received a perfectly weighted pass from Nicolas Pepe before chipping it home for the winner.

Many narratives could be tied to this Arsenal victory: the brilliant job Arteta seems to be doing, the importance of Aubameyang in the Arsenal fold, the Chelsea defensive lapses that need to be fixed in the transfer window…but perhaps the most vital take away would be the growing pains Lampard seems to be nursing as he tries to build a team ready and able to take on the European elites in the biggest of stages.

Speaking of the European elites…

Europes’ finest welcome the return of UEFA Champions League

Much to the disappointing anguish of some (see Chelsea in caps), and to the sumptuous delight of many others, the Champions League return is only a few days away.

It took more than just a little tinkering for the responsible associations and bodies to find a way, but they did find a way, and kudos to them. And as we give props to them for making it possible for us to enjoy what is looking to be a most exciting end to this year’s UCL campaign, we can’t but look with anticipation at the already exciting features lined up for us.

As the Champions League returns, what are the talking points that have flooded all the sports tabloids and which ones are worth giving any credence to? Here is the latest:

Favorites for the year
You know it’s a really peculiar year indeed when for maybe the first time in over a decade, neither of the two Spanish giants or Atletico Madrid even are outright favorites for this year’s UCL trophy. With Barcelona all over the place in terms of football on the pitch and footballing direction off it, they are in no position to make any claims to UCL glory this year. Real Madrid, as rejuvenated as they look, seem to have reached the end of their own road, as an overturn of the Man City defeat isn’t all too likely.

With Juventus looking like an incredibly disjointed side, Atletico Madrid lacking any form of X factor and PSG being constant bottlers that they are, the odds are looking incredibly in the favor of Bayern Munich or Manchester city. What both teams lack in defensive gusto, they equally make up for in stellar attacking firepower. If all goes to plan, they ought to lock horns in the semi-finals and one can only think that whoever wins that game is likely to go on and win the whole thing.

Injuries, suspensions, absentees
PSG will be without their star Kylian Mbappe for almost the rest of the UCL campaign as he picked up a knock in their cup final win last week. Josep Illicic is also unlikely to feature for Atalanta as he still nurses psychological discomfort.

In Spain, Sime Vrsaljko will also be MIA for Atletico as he is down with a knee injury. Ousmane Dembele, Antoine Griezmann and Clement Lenglet are all racing to fitness while Samuel Umtiti is all but completely out for Barcelona. Sergio Busquets and Arturo Vidal are both out suspended for the Napoli game and Arthur Melo has absconded from duties for Barcelona. Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos is out suspended for the return leg against Manchester City, while Marcelo is said to be racing to fitness.

In Bayern, Jerome Boateng and Corentin Tolisso are racing to fitness, from calf and ankle injuries respectively. While Paulo Dybala, Douglas Costa, Semi Khedira and Mattia De Sciglio are all doubtful for Juventus. Napoli are also likely to be without star player Lorenzo Insigne, while Marco Llorento is a doubt as well

In England, City are without Aguero for the Madrid game, but should be back afterward, should they progress to the latter stages of the campaign, while Bravo is also out with a muscle injury. Chelsea are likely to be without a host of their players for the return leg against Bayern. These include Willian, Pulisic, Kante, Pedro, Billy Gilmour and Cesar Azpilicueta.

Players/Teams/Coaches on a mission
Without doubt, this year’s Champions League will mean more to some than others. While teams like Chelsea have likely resigned to their fate of being out, Zidane’s Madrid will be looking to show that they can win the biggest trophy in Europe without their former star player, Ronaldo.

Ronaldo himself will be looking to show he can do it with his third club yet, and his eternal rival Messi will be looking to bring the trophy to Catalunya for the first time since 2015.

Bayern Munich and PSG will also be looking to complete respective trebles while teams like Napoli and Atalanta will love to shock the world and steal the trophy in dramatic fashion.

Guardiola will like to reacquaint himself with the treasured silverware for the first time in nearly a decade, and fellow veteran, Diego Simeone, will feel entitled to the trophy haven knocked out the current Champions.

As the return of the Champions League looms, we can’t wait to be treated to the best of football Europe has to offer.

Ginter tells off Chelsea, Sancho to United drags, Lautaro to Barcelona unlikely, Man City flaunt latest additions and other transfer stories

Nothing says drama like the football transfer window: unlikely deals going through, ‘completed’ deal falling apart in the last minutes, painful anguish of waiting…it’s all coming to us in earnest in the next few days.

What are the latest stories in the transfer world? What deals have gone through, and which ones are looking all the more likely? Here is the breakdown:

Bayern pulls out of Haverts race: The German champions have deemed the on-the-rise midfielder as surplus to requirements, and won’t be breaking the bank to secure his services.

Aubameyang renewal looking likely: In the wake of their FA Cup glory, Arsenal is set to renew the Gabon internationals contract, and as it seems all the pieces might be coming together for Arteta, attack-wise.

Ginter turns down move away from Germany: The Monchengladbach Center-half has reinstated his claim that he is not interested in any move away from Germany, amidst rumors of interest from Inter Milan and Chelsea.

Willian turns down Chelsea’s contract offer: With his starting place far from secure, the veteran Chelsea winger is set to be looking for pasture outside Chelsea and has turned down a 2-year contract offer from his current employers.

Aurier courted by Italian side: The Ivorian full-back is said to be attracting interest from AC Milan. It is yet to be seen how the Hotspurs’ man will respond to these rumors.

Bartomeu hints at zero additions to Barca: The Barca President in his latest interview all but said that club is in no financial position to move for any major signings in the current transfer window. As such, neither Neymar nor Lautaro Martinez are likely to join the Barca side this summer.

Napoli stars laud latest Nigerian signing: Current players and cult heroes of Napoli have all endorsed the latest Napoli addition, Victor Osimhen, and there is great expectation for him to hit the ground running for the Serie A side.

United fans agitated over delayed deals as neighbors splash the cash: Deals for German stars Jaden Sancho and Kingsley Coman are still at negotiation stage, and this has United fans displeased, as neighbors, Manchester City, haven completed the signings of former Valencia winger Ferran Torres, and the Dutch Center half Nathaniel Ake.

Enjoy the footballing week ahead, and if your team is still in any European competition, good luck to them!

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