Chelsea picked up a much-needed three points with a comprehensive 1-0 victory over Crystal Palace on Sunday.
The Blues were on top throughout and could have easily had a few goals, but had to settle for Kai Havertz’s second-half header to seal the victory.
Chelsea began with real energy as Carney Chukwuemeka and Lewis Hall both played dangerous balls into the box inside the first few minutes. The early stages were dominated by the Blues although Graham Potter’s side found it tough to create space in the box.
The first real scare for either side was created by Palace. Michael Olise weaved his way into the box and his lofted cross led to some unconvincing goalkeeping from Kepa, who redeemed himself with a nice reaction save to deny Tyrick Mitchell.
Soon after, Olise sent a thunderous strike crashing towards Kepa’s top corner and the Chelsea stopper did well to get over and tip it wide.
Vicente Guaita was not to be left out and had to make his own excellent save to deny Thiago Silva, who won the ball no fewer than three times from a corner before sending a fizzing volley towards Guaita’s bottom corner.
Meanwhile, Chelsea were busy announcing Mykhaylo Mudryk behind the scenes. No biggie, just a €100m signing.
Havertz should have broken the deadlock on the half-hour mark as a glorious cross from Mason Mount found the German’s head, but he sent his effort over the bar.
Hall then failed to convert from a narrow angle after Conor Gallagher’s cross went fizzing across the box. The youngster’s strike came straight back across goal with an unspotted flick from Guaita.
The goalkeeper show continued until the last minute of the first half as Kepa had to react quickly to keep out an excellent Jeffrey Schlupp header, bringing an enthralling first half to a close.
Kepa made the first save of the second half as he punched away a fierce effort from Wilfried Zaha, but Guaita couldn’t match it as Havertz buried a header following another brilliant cross from Ziyech just after the hour mark.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang got himself through on goal soon after but was stretching to get off a shot which crashed into the onrushing goalkeeper, before Havertz failed to convert another header from a Mason Mount cross.
Palace were scrappy as they gave away too many free-kicks but they nearly grabbed a late equaliser as Cheick Doucoure’s strike from range needed an excellent save from Kepa to tip over the bar, with the Chelsea stopper playing a major role in this victory.
GK: Kepa Arrizabalaga – 7/10 – A wobble with his first real involvement but soon redeemed himself with some outstanding saves to keep Palace out.
RB: Trevoh Chalobah – 7/10 – The first real example of Potterball as he played as a centre-back, right-back and defensive midfielder. Handled his hybrid role pretty well.
CB: Thiago Silva – 8/10 – Impressive defensively and an absolute force in attack. Caused havoc from corners and free-kicks. Some outstanding defensive blocks.
CB: Benoit Badiashile – 7/10 – A great debut. Looked composed defensively and willing to spray passes around the pitch.
LB: Lewis Hall – 7/10 – Cooked by Olise in the early stages but calmed himself down to make a nice impact at both ends. Yet again, should have scored.
DM: Jorginho – 7/10 – Completed each of his 43 passes in the first half and constantly kept things ticking after the break,
CM: Conor Gallagher – 7/10 – A big, much-needed performance. Played with real energy and regularly pushed Chelsea forward, winning plenty of free-kicks.
CM: Carney Chukwuemeka – 6/10 – Not as involved as he was in his recent cameos off the bench but didn’t really do much wrong.
RW: Hakim Ziyech – 8/10 – Chelsea’s most dangerous player by a long way. A great bit of skill early on to torch Mitchell and a regular source of creativity. A fantastic assist.
ST: Kai Havertz – 7/10 – Put in a real shift. Should have had a few goals but buried his header when it mattered most.
LW: Mason Mount – 5/10 – Still looks off his game. Could see the work rate but offered very little of actual note.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (62′ for Chukwuemeka) – 6/10 – A few nice moves in his limited spell.
Kalidou Koulibaly (77′ for Hall) – 6/10 – Didn’t get much time to make an impact.
Mateo Kovacic (88′ for Ziyech) – N/A
Cesar Azpilicueta (88′ for Havertz) – N/A
Graham Potter – 7/10 – Got his selection right here and his methods were on show with Chalobah’s tactical role. Some pressure off his shoulders.
GK: Vicente Guaita – 7/10 – A busy first half. Some fantastic saves to prevent Chelsea from going ahead but could do nothing about the goal.
RB: Nathaniel Clyne – 5/10 – Didn’t have a whole lot of fun against Hall. Regularly caught out of position.
CB: Joachim Andersen – 6/10 – A solid first half but limped off shortly before the break.
CB: Marc Guehi – 6/10 – Did well to keep Havertz quiet but wasn’t exactly pushed out of his comfort zone. Did all the basics well.
LB: Tyrick Mitchell – 5/10 – Really struggled to keep up with Ziyech and was put in a spin-cycle by the Moroccan as he drove into the box.
DM: Cheick Doucoure – 7/10 – A monster showing in the first half but somewhat spoiled things by declining to compete with Havertz for the opening goal.
DM: Jeffrey Schlupp – 5/10 – Looked a little lazy off the ball, perhaps amplified by Doucoure’s massive shift. Struggled on corners against Silva.
RM: Michael Olise – 6/10 – Really dangerous early on and could have scored a spectacular goal. Quieted down a little once Hall grew into the game but still looked a threat.
AM: Jordan Ayew – 6/10 – Put himself around really well in this role. His energy and pressing was a real problem for Chelsea in the first half.
LM: Ebere Eze – 6/10 – Some nice moments but mixed in with some frustrating ones. Divided opinion among fans before being hooked after the opening goal.
ST: Wilfried Zaha – 5/10 – Didn’t enjoy this central role. Rarely involved given Palace’s willingness to concede possession.
James Tomkins (38′ for Andersen) – 5/10 – Didn’t look comfortable after coming on, but will be happy to know he’s ahead of Chris Richards in the pecking order.
Jean-Philippe Mateta (69′ for Ayew) – 5/10 – Couldn’t get involved much as Palace lost control in the second half.
Odsonne Edouard (69′ for Eze) – 5/10 – Similarly, couldn’t get involved.
Will Hughes (69′ for Schlupp) – 4/10 – Looked more interested in a fight than anything else.
Patrick Vieira – 5/10 – Hard to be too critical with the squad at his disposal. Will have been very happy with the first half showing but, once again, couldn’t maintain that level.
Player of the match – Thiago Silva (Chelsea)
Moises Caicedo appears to post farewell message to Brighton
Brighton midfielder Moises Caicedo appeared to post a farewell message to the club on Friday night, only hours after Arsenal had a £60m bid rejected.
The Seagulls, who are sixth in the Premier League, have no interest in selling Caicedo this month and 90min has reported they are not looking to entertain further bids.
Brighton boss Roberto De Zerbi seemed to suggest on at his Friday press conference that Caicedo’s preference would be to leave but that he and the club are trying to persuade him otherwise.
“I spoke with him on Wednesday and I told him my opinion. It is always difficult to change during the season. For our way, it is important for him to stay a few more months,” De Zerbi explained.
“He is relaxed. I spoke with him like a father, not a coach. I understand when one player has the possibility to change to a very big team. But my work is to give the style of play but also advice for his career and his life.”
Speaking about his own future recently, Caicedo had said that his focus is on Brighton.
“I am here, I’m playing every day. Things from outside don’t trouble me, nor does it take that focus away because I’m focussed only on here,” he commented.
Yet taking to social media now, Caicedo made clear a desire to leave Brighton and speaking of his pride at being able to bring in a huge fee in what came across as an attempt to force the club’s hand.
“I am grateful to Mr. Bloom and Brighton for giving me the chance to come to the Premier League and I feel I have always done my best for them. I always play football with a smile and with heart. I am the youngest of 10 siblings from a poor upbringing in Santa Domingo in Ecuador,” he posted.
“My dream always to be the most decorated player in the history of Ecuador. I am proud to be able to bring in a record transfer fee for Brighton which would allow them to reinvest it and help the club continue to be successful.
“The fans have taken me into their hearts and they will always be in my heart so I hope they can understand why I want to take up this magnificent opportunity.”
On this edition of TCOAG, Harry Symeou is joined by Arsenal presenter Nicole Holliday to preview Man City vs Arsenal in the FA Cup, discuss the transfer window, our midfield needs, Leandro Trossard & more! A more informal preview show than usual but it was plenty of fun! If you can’t see this embed, click here to listen to the podcast!
Player ratings as single Ake goals knocks Gunners out of FA Cup
Manchester City knocked Arsenal out of the FA Cup at the Etihad Stadium as the fourth round kicked off on Friday night, with Nathan Ake the unexpected star of the show with the only goal.
The Gunners made a bright start and right-back Takehiro Tomiyasu stung the palms of City goalkeeper Stefan Ortega after only a few minutes. Leandro Trossard was the architect of a few moves down the left in those early stages, exposing City’s preference to have right-back Rico Lewis operate as an auxiliary central midfielder.
The hosts caught their first sight of goal courtesy of a loose ball that threatened to let Erling Haaland in. Matt Turner was quick to rush out, but as the ball popped up into the air, Haaland attempted the acrobatic – think Zlatan Ibrahimovic vs England in 2012 – but Tomiyasu dropped back onto the line.
Midway through the first half, Ortega’s strong left hand stopped Trossard putting Arsenal ahead after the £27m Belgian drove in-field from his flank. City had their own chance from a Belgian soon after when Kevin De Bruyne whipped a left-footed shot just wide of the far post.
Trossard made another Arsenal chance when he put a teasing cross into Eddie Nketiah at the near post, with the in-form striker sending his flick just wide. It didn’t really feel like an action-packed first half, yet the opportunities kept coming as Haaland missed the target under pressure from Gabriel.
Trossard aside, none of the big players on either side had particularly stood out in the first 45 – the likes of Haaland, De Bruyne, Riyad Mahrez and Bukayo Saka had all be disappointingly quiet.
Given that, it was perhaps fitting that the eventual breakthrough came from an unlikely source. Substitute Julian Alvarez changed things by taking on a shot from distance that rebounded off the post. Jack Grealish recycled it and found left-back Ake, who passed the ball into the far corner of the goal like a seasoned striker.
Both managers made numerous changes to try and shift the balance of the game in their favour as the minutes ticked away. It achieved little as far as the spectacle was concerned, breaking up any potential for a bit of rhythm or momentum.
City dug in in the closing stages, squeezing Arsenal out whenever the Gunners threatened to make something happen in or around the box – in particular Ortega made a couple of vital smothers when Arsenal sub Gabriel Martinelli injected some pace for the hosts.
GK: Stefan Ortega – 8/10 – Needed to make saves from the start, keeping City in it when Arsenal were arguably stronger in the first half. Stayed strong throughout and never looked as though he was going to be beaten.
RB: Rico Lewis – 6/10 – Spent a lot of time in the middle of the pitch as per instructions from his manager. Clearly a good player but it gave Trossard too much space, albeit not his fault.
CB: John Stones – 5/10 – Often looked vulnerable because of how Lewis was playing. A suspected hamstring injury then ended his night before half-time.
CB: Manuel Akanji – 7/10 – Had to switch positions after Stones was taken off but put in a dominant performance regardless.
LB: Nathan Ake – 8/10 – Finished with great composure to put his team ahead and put in a solid defensive shift as well, with Saka hardly given a sniff.
CM: Kevin De Bruyne – 5/10 – Narrowly missed with a great curling effort in the first half and slightly improved after half-time but was far from his best.
CM: Rodri – 5/10 – Unusually sloppy with the ball by his standards.
CM: Ilkay Gundogan – 6/10 – Did both sides of the ball pretty well but not always on the same page as the forwards ahead of him.
RW: Riyad Mahrez – 4/10 – Not really himself. Didn’t have enough of the ball to make any real impact and was withdrawn before an hour had passed.
ST: Erling Haaland – 5/10 – Attempted the spectacular early on and also took a whack to the back of the head before half-time. Didn’t get his usual quality service.
LW: Jack Grealish – 6/10 – Gets an assist for his layoff to Ake and City’s best forward on the night.
SUB: Aymeric Laporte (45+4′ for Stones) – 7/10
SUB: Julian Alvarez (58′ for Mahrez) – 7/10
SUB: Kyle Walker (58′ for Lewis) – 7/10
SUB: Bernardo Silva (75′ for De Bruyne) – 6/10
Pep Guardiola – 7/10 – The way he set up the team didn’t make sense when Trossard kept causing problems down City’s right. Changed shape early in the second half and the substitutes definitely did make a positive impact overall.
GK: Matt Turner – 6/10 – Stood little chance with the only goal. Always keen to come for crosses or rush off his line.
RB: Takehiro Tomiyasu – 6/10 – Had the first early chance with a good foray forward.
CB: Rob Holding – 5/10 – Got physical with Haaland and took a yellow card for it with 50 minutes still left to play. The danger of getting another saw him removed at half-time.
CB: Gabriel – 6/10 – Did enough to put Haaland off in a key moment.
LB: Kieran Tierney – 6/10 – Would have expected a tougher test from Mahrez. Didn’t offer much going forward to take advantage of that.
CM: Fabio Vieira – 5/10 – Had one shot that missed the target and didn’t do enough otherwise.
CM: Thomas Partey – 5/10 – Didn’t stand out and was surprisingly replaced at half-time.
CM: Granit Xhaka – 6/10 – Successful in stopping City play their usual sparkling game, although a couple of hesitations in key moments were almost costly.
RW: Bukayo Saka – 4/10 – Just 23 touches of the ball tells its own story.
ST: Eddie Nketiah – 5/10 – Couldn’t find the target with a chance in thef first half. The service wasn’t there for him and he touched the ball only slightly more than Saka.
LW: Leandro Trossard – 7/10 – Gave City real trouble from the start and created a number of chances in the first half. Much quieter after the break.
SUB: William Saliba (46′ for Holding) – 6/10
SUB: Albert Sambi Lokonga (46′ for Partey) – 6/10
SUB: Gabriel Martinelli (66′ for Trossard) – 7/10
SUB: Oleksandr Zinchenko (66′ for Tierney) – 6/10
SUB: Martin Odegaard (74′ for Saka) – 5/10
Mikel Arteta – 6/10 – Took no risks with Holding on a yellow card and later responded to going behind by making chances immediately. Couldn’t get one over on his old mentor.
Player of the match – Nathan Ake (Man City)
Wolves finally set to sign Brazilian talent from Flamengo
Wolves are finally set to conclude the signing of Joao Gomes after winning their stand-off with Flamengo, sources have confirmed to 90min.
90min revealed earlier in January that Wolves had agreed terms with Flamengo, but at the point of exchanging contracts the Brazilian club did not return documents at their end.
Wolves then struggled to communicate with Flamengo and it emerged that talks had begun with French side Lyon, who made a bid worth €19m (£16.7m) – that was €2m more than Wolves offered.
However, despite Lyon’s determination to persuade Gomes otherwise, the player refused to move to France. Instead, he insisted he wanted to move to the Premier League and even new Lyon owner John Textor made a personal trip to try and convince him to no avail.
Now, after accepting the Lyon move won’t happen, Flamengo have greenlighted the Wolves deal and given permission for Gomes to join them. The transfer is on course to be finalised over the weekend.
On this edition of Talking Transfers, Scott Saunders hosts Toby Cudworth & Graeme Bailey to discuss some of the latest transfer news. On today’s agenda: Dusan Vlahovic, Anthony Gordon, Enzo Fernandes, Amadou Onana, Malo Gusto, Nicolo Zaniolo, Pedro Porro, Weston McKennie, Milan Skriniar, Maiximo Perrone & more! If you can’t see this embed, click here to listen to the podcast!
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