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Welbeck winner only highlights Emery’s options as Arsenal’s attacking machine rolls on – football news

As Arsenal touched down in Lisbon ahead of Thursday’s night’s clash with Sporting, the Gunners posted a video on social media of their last training session before leaving north London. A six minute clip showcased a squad in high spirits after 10 successive wins; confident in their ability to get the job done no matter what the data might suggest.

One man who took centre stage during the session was Danny Welbeck, finishing with unerring accuracy past young goalkeeper Dejan Iliev.

Fast-forward 24 hours, and Welbeck was wheeling away towards the corner of the Estádio Jose Alvalade having shown that same precision to net the only goal of the Gunners’ clash with the Portuguese giants after latching onto Lucas Torreira’s through-ball via an error from former Liverpool centre-back Sebastian Coates.

The England international’s 78th minute strike secured an 11th straight victory for Unai Emery’s side, and their third in this season’s Europa League. Many felt Welbeck’s main contributions over the current campaign would come in this competition, and thus far they have been proven correct. But does his form suggest he could be key domestically as well as on the continent?

In his last five starts for Emery’s side, Welbeck has been directly involved in five goals having found the net on four occasions as well as laying on a solitary assist. Not bad for a player who is essentially a third-choice forward.

Welbeck would been forgiven for pursuing opportunities away from the Emirates Stadium. It is unlikely he will move ahead of Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – who missed Arsenal’s two best chances before Welbeck’s goal in Lisbon – in the pecking order. There are other clubs in the Premier League’s top six – namely those across the capital – where Welbeck would, at the very least, be second in line.

Instead he has knuckled down after a horror run of injuries and made himself a key member of an Arsenal squad that continues to defy sluggish first-half performances and pick up wins.

Again here they struggled during the opening 45 minutes, with a frontline of Welbeck, Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan failing to trouble the Sporting backline, though the three defensive midfielders deployed by Jose Peseiro might have had something to do with that.

Arsenal celebrate 2018-19

At the other end both Rob Holding and Sokratis Papastathopoulos survived scares, with the latter perhaps a little fortunate that a less lenient team of officials were not in charge after pulling back Fredy Montero as he bore down on goal.

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That said, Bernd Leno was rarely troubled. In fact the Gunners did not concede a shot on target – a first in Europe since their trip to Monaco in March 2015 – as they recorded their first ever win on Portuguese shores in seven attempts.

With Lacazette and Alex Iwobi only making brief cameos off the bench and Mesut Ozil not even required, it is clear that Emery has a forward line the whole of Europe would fear. Having overseen the club’s longest winning run for a decade, the next challenge now is to find the complete performance to go with their raw results.

Whether he can or not remains to be seen. One thing is for sure, though – if Welbeck continues his own form they have every chance of challenging for more than just the Europa League this time around.

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Achraf Hakimi’s Atletico decimation whets the appetite for more – football news


COMMENT    By Solace Chukwu     Follow on Twitter
 


For a brief moment, it was tempting to wonder if the jumping and cavorting of the famous Yellow Wall had somehow caused the scoreboard to malfunction at the Westfalenstadion.

Had Borussia Dortmund really pulverized Atletico Madrid 4-0 in the Champions League?

Sure, the Germans have been installed as the new kings of fun in Europe, but Diego Simeone’s side was the rock against which all seafaring vessels, however rich with plunder, smashed and broke into bits. If there was a team guaranteed to stop all that swashbuckling momentum, it was Los Colchoneros.

More than most, Achraf Hakimi would have known this.

A product of the Real Madrid youth system and indeed on loan from Los Blancos, the 19-year-old is steeped in the traditions of the derby. Yet, it didn’t matter. Or perhaps it did: the Morocco international has quietly and impressively gone about his development in Germany, but it was against Atletico that he elected to make his big splash.

Achraf Hakimi Real Madrid

More than anyone else, the 4-0 was a result that had Hakimi’s fingerprints all over it. There were three different scorers on the night, but he was the common denominator, accruing a hat-trick of assists in an unplayable performance.

More than the telling contributions was the quality and daring of his play overall.

Atletico’s tendency to defend compactly and clog up the middle of the pitch should have caused him problems, as he was fielded at left-back here. It instead seemed to open up a new plethora of opportunities, providing Hakimi with the option of cutting in onto his stronger right foot and dribbling diagonally towards goal, as well as stretching play and going on the outside.

He was time and again the key player, overloading the visitors who seemed to have no answers at all. A strong run inside provided an opening for Christian Pulisic, who curled over. Then he held the width on the left, before finding Axel Witsel with a pass to the edge of the box, leading to the opener.

Achraf Hakimi

In the second period, he even took the ball of Marco Reus, the team’s nominal centre-forward, after a flowing move which he had engineered, underlining his willingness to get into central attacking areas.

He then laid on the second, this time by getting around Atletico on the overlap, before playing a precise ball across the top of the six-yard box for Raphael Guerreiro to turn home. It was ironic that he should assist the Portuguese, who is a natural left-back but came on here in midfield.

His third assist saw his diagonal runs finally bear fruit, as his pace and movement completely put Atletico out of joint. With Reus out wide, there would be no duplication of functions this time—he ran in behind unchecked, and squared unselfishly for Jadon Sancho.

A stunning display of attacking from the youngster, whose promise saw him break into the Real Madrid first team last season. However, the signing of Alvaro Odriozola, as well as the versatility of Nacho Fernandez, meant there was unlikely to be much playing time available to him this season, and so a loan move was really the only way to go.Hakimi

The choice of Borussia Dortmund and the Bundesliga, though, was less apparent. For that, Hakimi had help, both in advice and precedent: incumbent Real Madrid right-back Dani Carvajal similarly matured into a first-class player in a short spell in Germany, and is a fan of the Moroccan’s talents.

It is looking the perfect fit, as manager Lucien Favre is keen to add to his game while taking nothing away from his attacking instincts.

“He’s a coach who likes his teams to defend well and that’s what he’s asking me to do,” Hakimi told Marca last month.

Article continues below

“In attack, I’m ready, but the coach wants me to improve tactically and defensively and I think I’m getting it.”

And how! 

The balance was just right on the night against Atletico. Interestingly, this was his first Champions League start for Dortmund. To play with such confidence, and be so decisive, only whets the appetite for more. 

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Missing Lionel Messi gives Kwadwo Asamoah’s Internazionale reason to dream – football news


COMMENT    By Seye Omidiora     Follow on Twitter
 


If Luciano Spalletti wasn’t looking forward to the prospect of playing two huge clashes in the space of three days right after the international break, against AC Milan and Barcelona respectively, he definitely will have found a reason to smile after events at the weekend played out – albeit in unfortunate circumstances for the side they’re set to play on Wednesday.

A serious injury to Lionel Messi in Barcelona’s eventual 4-2 victory against Sevilla has somewhat put Ernesto Valverde’s side in dire straits for the visit of the Nerazzurri, as they are, frankly, a different animal without their talisman in the side.

When you take into account their poor performances (and results) over the past month or so, you begin to fear for Los Cules’ chances without the enthralling presence of their magnificent captain.

Lionel Messi hurt Barcelona SevillaInter Milan, via social media, sent out a statement of regret of not having the honour of playing against the five-time Ballon d’Or winner in what was a classy touch by the Italian giants.

However, deep down, the news of his injury has definitely changed the entire complexion of the game at Camp Nou, with Kwadwo Asamoah and his teammates definitely fancying themselves to shock an unsure side.

Furthermore, the last-gasp 1-0 win in the Milan derby serves as the perfect tonic for an Inter side that will still have fond memories of their last visit to the home of the five-time UCL winners, having seen off Pep Guardiola’s all-conquering side on their way to a treble in 2010.

Admittedly, both sides aren’t quite at the level they were eight years ago, neither are the stakes as high this time around, but the fact Inter have never (in 90 minutes) picked up a win against FCB in Spain will drive them to change the narrative on Wednesday. With the pair also neck-and-neck in the group with six points apiece, a victory will put Spalletti’s side in charge of the proceedings in Group B.Calabria Asamoah Inter Milan Serie A

For Asamoah’s part, he’s done brilliantly to buy seamlessly into what Spalletti is trying to do and has rarely put a foot wrong this season. There’s been a significant rise in the quality of his performances since cementing his place as the primary starting left-back, and he can only get better.  

The summer signing from Juventus has been one of Spalletti’s best players this term, but will face arguably his toughest test this season in the rapid Ousmane Dembele. Owing to the fact that Asabob’s best displays for the Cherished One have also come in Europe, this battle is definitely one worth keeping an eye on.

It remains to be seen if Valverde will stick to playing on the break like he did after Messi’s withdrawal against Sevilla. The idea was probably to utilize the threat of Dembele and Philippe Coutinho when attacking at speed, but it failed to work as well as he’d have liked and Barca were almost pegged back but for some amazing shot-stopping by Marc Andre ter Stegen.

Kwadwo Asamoah | 2018-19 Serie A stats

With a defence that has failed to keep a clean sheet since August, and an attack that can look toothless without their ace in the hole, this might be Inter’s chance to pick up two statement wins in succession.

The trio of Coutinho, Luis Suarez and Dembele, on paper, looks good, but when you take into account the fact Suarez has only scored two open play goals since May, and Dembele still prone to inconsistent performances, it isn’t as straight-forward as it seems.Kwadwo Asamoah Inter

Article continues below

Asamoah has impressed in his pair of European appearances for the Black and Blues, and he’ll aim to be getting the better of his direct opponents – likely the young Frenchman – in the meeting between the heavyweights.

Spalletti has spoken of his side needing to show character and personality against the Spanish giants, and they’ll seek to make it eight wins in a row and consequently end an atrocious winless run at Camp Nou which stands at 13 games.

With Messi absent, they won’t have a better chance!

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Lopetegui lives to fight another day but Madrid’s problems haven’t gone away – football news

After a five-game run without a win, any victory comes as a confidence boost, but that was about all this was for Real Madrid ahead of Sunday’s Clasico.

The European champions scraped past Viktoria Plzen 2-1 in the Champions League on Tuesday, keeping pace with Roma at the top of Group G, but the three points weren’t enough to cover their cracks.

Winning for the first time in over a month was welcomed by supporters but the sight of the 13-time Champions League winners running the clock down in the final minutes against the visiting Czech minnows sums up their situation.

One positive for Madrid ahead of their trip to face Barcelona at Camp Nou was seeing Karim Benzema back on the scoresheet.

The French forward has been heavily criticised during an eight-game goalscoring drought, but his powerful header in the 11th minute broke the deadlock and eased tension at the Santiago Bernabeu.

This was no perfect performance from Benzema, though. At one point, he wasted a good opening with Gareth Bale ready to receive the ball, while he also messed up a late chip, sending the ball spinning out of play.

But at least Real are scoring again, as they head into the weekend clash at Camp Nou seventh in the Liga table and in desperate need of a victory to kick-start their miserable campaign.

A closer look at this victory, though, suggests their defensive deficiencies have not gone away.

Karim Benzema, Real Madrid

In the first half, the Czech champions sliced open Madrid’s defence on three separate occasions and only poor finishing stopped them from beating Keylor Navas.

A lot of the danger came down Madrid’s right flank, where under-fire coach Julen Lopetegui deployed Lucas Vazquez out of position at full-back.

The winger was caught out of position by Milan Petrzela, who was denied by Navas. Another run in behind Vazquez saw David Limbersky facing Navas but the Costa Rican put off the left-back, who fired wide.

And shortly before half-time came the best chance of the lot, with Patrik Hrosovsky somehow missing when it was easier to score. The forward, left with a tap-in inside the six-yard box, fired over the bar after taking his eye off the ball.

With just an ounce more composure, Viktoria Plzen might have gone in level and the boos would have reigned down at the Bernabeu.

The visitors started off the second half in similar fashion, with Ales Cermak volleying wide when left alone in the area, instead of controlling the ball and taking a safer shot.

Madrid were rocking but the man who ended their eight-hour run without scoring, Marcelo, popped up again to calm nerves in the Spanish capital, his dainty finish from Bale’s flick tranquillising the game, until Hrosovsky made amends for his earlier miss with a late strike.

Madrid’s bad luck with the woodwork continued too, with Sergio Ramos striking the post in the first half with a header, as he did against Levante in their defeat on Saturday.

Article continues below

Los Blancos have hit the woodwork 11 times in all competitions this season, implying their bad form at least contains a little bad luck.

However, Lopetegui still has plenty of work to do but very little time to work with

Indeed, he needs to sort out his defence by the weekend because Barcelona wouldn’t just create chances against such a ragged Real, they’d take them too.

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With Ronaldo gone and Bale injured, Benzema has forgotten how to play as the main striker – football news

They say actions lead to habits and habits form character. Over the past two years, Karim Benzema has provided excellent support for superstar duo Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale.

Now, with the Portuguese hitman gone and the Welsh winger injured, Benzema has been asked to play the role of Real Madrid’s leading man. Worryingly, he seems to have forgotten his lines. Benzema doesn’t seem to remember how to play as a main striker.

It has left los Blancos firing blanks in their past four matches, without a goal in nearly seven hours of play.

Benzema has not scored in seven appearances and although he forced Fernando Pacheco into a save in Madrid’s 1-0 defeat by Alaves on October 6, in the six previous games he did not manage a single shot on target – an appalling statistic for any forward, let alone an undisputed starter for arguably the biggest club in the world.

However, the 30-year-old, who notched four goals in two league games at the start of the season, is not entirely to blame for his own malaise. He was conditioned over the course of several seasons at the Santiago Bernabeu to become increasingly subservient; to put the team’s goals before his own.

Under Carlo Ancelotti the Frenchman’s game morphed from central striker to a more fluid role in which he was tasked with moving freely around the final third in order to create more space and opportunities for his illustrious attacking partners.

At his peak, in 2014, Benzema was the glue that held the BBC strike-force together, offering goals and assists in equal measure.

“He is very important for us, not only because he scores, but because we can ask different things of him sometimes,” Ancelotti enthused at the time.

“Sometimes, I ask him to slow things down a little and he does that well too. He is a very complete player.”

Karim Benzema Lopetegui PS

With Rafa Benitez taking over in 2015, the Spanish coach encouraged Benzema to become more selfish, telling him he had to deliver at least 20 goals.

Even though Benitez only lasted until January, Benzema obliged and hit a career-high 24 league goals, and Madrid went on to win the Champions League with Zinedine Zidane at the helm.

However, as Ancelotti’s former No.2, Benzema’s compatriot had seen first-hand what the Italian had extracted out of the French forward and wanted more of the same.

Zidane looked to Ronaldo for goals, so he essentially asked Benzema to become Cristiano’s assistant, the man tasked with aiding the Portuguese’s pursuit of one record after another.

It proved a successful strategy for Madrid, who went on to defend the Champions League title twice more, but everything changed this summer.

Ronaldo Madrid’s all-time top goalscorer, left for Juventus and Benzema watched Bale ascend to the throne. This was fine by him, as he could continue to play the foil to the main attacking threat.

With his early burst of goals – two against Girona and two against Leganes – it seemed like he was going to up his output to help account for Ronaldo’s departure. After all, he had only managed a pathetic five goals across the entire 2017-18 Liga campaign.

However, Bale suffered an injury at half-time of the derby clash with Atletico Madrid on September 29, and it essentially left Benzema as Madrid’s only striking option – bar summer signings Mariano Diaz and Vinicius Junior, neither of whom have yet earned the trust of new coach Julen Lopetegui.

Bale missed the 1-0 defeat by CSKA Moscow in the Champions League, which left Benzema looking lost without a star to play off.

Although the former Spurs ace returned for the Alaves defeat, he was below his best and Madrid never looked like ending their goal drought, with Benzema again caught adrift.

Karim Benzema Real Madrid PS

“When it comes to scoring goals, you go through spells,” said Lopetegui. “Benzema made a great start to the season, and now, just like the rest of the team, he’s not managing to find the net.

“With hard work and by keeping calm, we’ll get back on the goal trail. However, it’s not just down to Karim; it’s the whole team’s responsibility.”

While the former Spain coach has a point, with the likes of Toni Kroos and Luka Modric not chipping in many goals from midfield, he could not explain why Benzema suddenly has a problem.

The man who once fought off Gonzalo Higuain to take the No.9 berth at the Bernabeu is no longer capable of taking centre stage. He has spent too much time toiling away in the background.

Benzema has previously argued that strikers in the modern game don’t always need to be frequent scorers.

“It depends how you see football,” he mused. “For me, goals aren’t everything. A modern forward has to have many other facets: passing, movement, goals and assists. I always think about the team and what I can bring.”

Article continues below

It’s not that Benzema is wrong but what his team needs now is goals and he doesn’t look like he can provide them.

The former France international is the joint-fourth top scorer in European Cup history, netting 56 goals for Lyon and Madrid, alongside another former Real player in Ruud van Nistelrooy, and trailing only Lionel Messi, Ronaldo and Raul.

He belongs among the elite but it might be too late for Lopetegui to coax the clinical goalscorer back out of Benzema.

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WATCH: Algeria breeze past Benin Republic in Blida – football news

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Nigeria vs. Libya: Who should Gernot Rohr start in defence? – football news


COMMENT    By Seye Omidiora      Follow on Twitter
 


There are hardly never questions asked in the aftermath of every Nigeria squad announcement, and it was no different following Gernot Rohr’s latest 23-man group for the upcoming double-header with Libya.

Laden with five center-backs and four full-backs, Rohr’s decision to invite nine defenders in total raised eyebrows in some quarters. The CBs include: Leon Balogun, William Troost-Ekong, Kenneth Omeruo, Chidozie Awaziem and Semi Ajayi. While the full-backs are: Brian Idowu, Abdullahi Shehu, Ola Aina and Jamilu Collins. William Troost-Ekong, Leon Balogun and Alex Iwobi of Nigeria

Based on the antecedent, you sense that the pair of Balogun and Troost-Ekong will play in central defence, with Idowu and Shehu occupying both full-back roles, if Rohr opts for four at the back. While electing to play with a back five will see the introduction of Leganes loanee Omeruo in central defence to complete the trio.

Given Rohr’s rigid style of not wanting to overly tweak things, irrespective of players’ form, it won’t be hard to think he’d plump for his tried and trusted side against Libya. In all honesty, owing to the fact that few changes (in the South Africa game) led to a 2-0 home defeat, you’d understand the German tactician’s line of thought in sticking with those he trusts. On the other hand, one might ask if those options would be the right choice given their varying levels of form and fitness.

While Troost-Ekong, irrespective of a recent dip in form, has had a bright start to life in Italy with Udinese, Balogun hasn’t had the rub of the green with Brighton & Hove Albion, with Chris Hughton continuing with his preferred pair of Lewis Dunk and Shane Duffy. An injury to Dunk in the Seagulls’ 3-2 win over Manchester United saw Balogun replace the Englishman for the remainder of that encounter, before reprising his role in a 1-0 defeat at Anfield a week later.

But the former Mainz defender hasn’t featured for the Albion in the Premier League since Dunk’s accelerated return, and you fear his lack of fitness could hamper him against the Mediterranean Knights.

In other circumstances, Rohr might, unusually, have had doubts about his other central defensive pick against the North Africans, but the fact that Omeruo and Awaziem are barely getting reasonable game time for Leganes and Porto respectively will probably make his choice an easy one. The former has only seen 61 minutes of football in the Spanish topflight, while the latter hasn’t made a single appearance for the Blue and Whites. Semi Ajayi - Rotherham United

In fact, of the other three center-backs in the squad, only Ajayi – who has just two Super Eagles caps – has gotten ample appearances this term, with Rotherham United in the English Championship. When you take into account the fact his pair of appearances came against Seychelles (where he was introduced for the injured Awaziem for the last quarter of the game) and a watered down friendly with Liberia (a game in which he conceded a penalty), then you probably wouldn’t begrudge Rohr for sticking with the ‘Oyibo wall’ at the expense of the in-form, but inexperienced Ajayi.

It’s a lot less complicated in the full-back positions where the incumbents are unlikely to lose their starting berths in the side. Shehu, who only just returned from a layoff and has impressed with Bursaspor, will occupy the right-back spot, while Idowu should retain his place on the opposite side.

The challengers to the aforementioned incumbents are the wet behind the ears duo of Aina and Collins, and their inexperience will ultimately count against them. Ironically, though, the aforementioned pair have seen more game time than the primary occupants of both full-back roles, and might feel their superior match fitness levels gives them a fighting chance. Ola Aina

Article continues below

A higher case can be made for Torino loanee, Aina, given his beyond impressive performances with the Maroons since his temporary move from Chelsea in the summer. Oddly though, his eye-catching displays for Walter Mazzarri’s side have come at left wing-back, as opposed to his primary position on the right flank – where he strangely delivers below-par performances when played there.

Going by the aforementioned fact; the in-form Aina, as opposed to Collins, then seems to be as a more suitable replacement for Idowu if Rohr elects to switch things up – which is unlikely to happen. It should however be noted that the Blues loanee, like Idowu, is right-footed and the fact that Collins is the only natural left-footed full-back in the squad gives him a slight edge over Aina.

In all honesty, it wouldn’t be so hard to second guess Rohr, but picking a team based solely on form will see him select a back four of Shehu, Troost-Ekong, Ajayi and Aina. However, going by the importance of the Libya fixture, and given the German’s reluctance to make chances if he isn’t backed into a corner, you sense his picks in defence will be Shehu, Troost-Ekong, Balogun and Idowu. Tried and trusted it is then.

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Man City academy update: Matondo & Simmonds among the goals – football news

Manchester City’s youth teams had their ups and downs in September, with an injury-depleted Under-23s side often borrowing the U18s’ better players.

The club do not have high hopes for the Elite Development Squad this season; with a number of players out on loan, surviving in the Premier League 2 is said to be the aim behind the scenes. However, the EDS are actually third in the table, just one point off the top.

To sum up their somewhat strange predicament, they are the division’s top scorers with 20 goals, but they have also conceded 20 goals, more than any other team.

There was also a big victory in the Checkatrade Trophy, but the U19s were well beaten in the Uefa Youth League, the priority competition for City this season.

The U18s showed that there is plenty of talent coming through the ranks at the Etihad Stadium, with several youngsters starring after stepping up to the U23s, although the team itself only won one of four games in September.


Elite Development Squad (Under-23s)


Rabbit Matondo Manchester CityRabbi Matondo (Credit: Manchester City)

Rabbi Matondo, who scored three times for the EDS in August, bagged a hat-trick in September in what was an up-and-down month for Paul Harsley’s side.

City made strides forward in the Checkatrade Trophy but were resoundingly beaten in the Uefa Youth League, a competition that the club had hoped to do well in having reached the semi-finals last season.

After starting September with a 2-0 defeat at Tottenham, despite dominating possession, shots, shots on target and corners, City’s U19s were then beaten 4-1 by Lyon. 

The Blues were chasing the game throughout and they were unable to build on Felix Nmecha’s goal, which had cut the French side’s advantage to just one. 

A young EDS side, with several players borrowed from the U18s to cover for injuries, then bounced back with a 3-2 victory against Derby. Felix Nmecha, 17, and 18-year-olds Lorenzo Gonzales and Benjamin Garre bagged City’s goals. Nmecha opened the scoring with a fine curling effort and also set up Gonzalez, while Garre finished off a fine assist by Adrian Bernabe, who made his debut for Pep Guardiola’s senior side against Oxford in the Carabao Cup.

City then beat Crewe 4-1 in the Checkatrade Trophy, with Tom Dele-Bashiru, Gonzalez, Taylor Richards (penalty) and 17-year-old Henri Ogunby getting the goals.

They rounded off the month with another 4-1 victory, at Swansea, where Matondo grabbed his hat-trick. The 18-year-old proved deadly when put through on goal, with Tom Dele-Bashiru and Ian Carlo Poveda (twice) providing fine through balls. Jeremie Frimpong, 17, also got on the scoresheet.


Under-18s


Manchester City Under-18s(Credit: Manchester City)

Keke Simmonds was the stand-out performer for City’s U18s in September, although it was a poor month results-wise for the team.

Simmonds scored four of City’s six goals last month, although only one of those came in victory.

City began the month with a 2-2 draw against Derby, with Simmonds scoring both, and were unfortunate to draw 1-1 with Sunderland in their next game, as the 17-year-old again got on the scoresheet.

Simmonds has been at City since he was eight and has proven to be a dangerous option whether playing on the left or through the middle of a front three as he has come up through the ranks.

The Blues slumped to a 3-0 defeat at Everton – with several players called up to the U23s to cover for injuries – before bouncing back to beat Leicester by the same scoreline in the Premier League Cup. Simmonds opened the scoring before Lewis Fiorini, who had scored in each of City’s first three games, added a double.

D’Margio Wright-Phillips and highly rated Fisayo Dele-Bashiru, who both trained with Guardiola’s senior side last month, also showed flashes of their potential.

Henri Ogunby, who hit a hat-trick in August, did not get on the scoresheet for the U18s but did when coming on as a substitute for the U23s.


Loanees


Manu Garcia Toulouse

Manu Garcia was named in L’Equipe’s team of the week following his performance in Toulouse’s 2-1 victory over Guingamp at the start of September. The 20-year-old Spanish playmaker picked up his first assist for the club in a 66-minute appearance. He played regularly in Ligue 1 last month, featuring in every game and completing the full 90 minutes for the first time, albeit in defeat to Saint-Etienne.

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Brandon Barker, 22, also kicked off the month with an assist for Preston, but he sat out the next game and was restricted to late appearances off the bench for the club’s two following Championship games, before being reinstated, in a central striker role, for defeat at West Brom.

Girona, City’s sister club, won their first match of September and grabbed an impressive 2-2 draw at Barcelona in September, before losing to Betis and drawing with Huesca. Douglas Luiz was named on the bench for the draw at Camp Nou but started Girona’s other three games last month, while Aleix Garcia started against Barca and Huesca, though he was withdrawn at half-time against Messi & Co. Patrick Roberts came off the bench for 17 minutes in the win against Celta and draw with Betis.

Tosin Adarabioyo started five games for West Brom in August, but of the Baggies’ five league games in September he played just two minutes. He did play 90 minutes in the Carabao Cup, though that was a 3-0 defeat to Crystal Palace.

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Liverpool academy update: Adam Lewis next in line for first-team call as goals flow for U18s – football news

As Liverpool’s senior side maintain their strong start to the campaign – aided, of course, by the wayward Riyad Mahrez – behind them the club’s Academy teams are enjoying mixed fortunes.

Neil Critchley’s Under-23s and Barry Lewtas’ Under-18s continue to develop, with Academy director Alex Inglethorpe enthused by the progress made by both sides – as well as those below them.

Jurgen Klopp is regularly updated on events up at Kirkby, and is looking forward to the amalgamation of Liverpool’s first-team and youth setups. The Reds boss attended a special ‘breaking ground’ ceremony last month as work began on the club’s new £50million training complex. Work is expected be completed in time for the 2020/21 season.

In the meantime, Goal continues to keep a close eye on Anfield’s emerging stars of the future. With Trent Alexander-Arnold continuing to shine for the senior team, and the likes of Harry Wilson making their mark out on loan, who will be next to step up from the youth ranks? There are plenty of contenders right now.

Here’s all the latest…


Under-23s


Adam Lewis, Liverpool U-23s

Critchley is nothing if not honest, a straight talker who values the development of footballers over the pursuit of personal glory.

But the Under-23s boss has been far from happy with what he has seen from his side so far this term.

It’s been a disrupted campaign, in fairness, with Critchley asked by Klopp to give minutes to first-teamers in some games, then denied their services in others.

After failing to win any of their first four Premier League 2 games, the Reds benefited from the presence of senior strikers Divock Origi and Dominic Solanke, both of whom scored in a 3-0 win over Swansea City. Nathaniel Clyne, once a contender for England at right-back, also started. 

If Clyne’s struggles – he has not featured in the Premier League this season – are notable, then the demise of Lazar Markovic is even more stark. The one-time £20m signing has been training with Critchley’s team on a permanent basis after being told he was surplus to requirements by Klopp, and has featured twice so far for the Under-23s.

Unfortunately, both of those games ended in defeat. Liverpool were thrashed 4-0 at Arsenal, for whom Eddie Nketiah starred, and went down 1-0 at West Brom in the Premier League Cup on Saturday. 

“We lacked quality, invention and urgency, and ultimately struggled to break them down,” Critchley said. “We need an improvement in the next game.”

He’s not wrong. The Reds sit eighth in the Premier League 2 table having won just two of their first seven games. A settled side would benefit Critchley, for sure, but a lack of firepower continues to haunt the young Reds – can Bobby Adekanye, Liam Millar or Glen McAuley step up to the plate in terms of goalscoring?

Or will Rhian Brewster, back in training after a lengthy lay-off due to a knee injury, be the answer to Critchley’s prayers? The England Under-17 World Cup star is desperate to get back into action, and will do so with Critchley’s side, though he will be eased into action gently after such a long absence.

Rhian Brewster, Liverpool, 17/18 pre-season

It was left to a midfielder, Matty Virtue, and a winger, Rafa Camacho, to grab the goals in the Reds’ most impressive win of the season so far, a 3-1 triumph over Chelsea last month.

Camacho, along with Curtis Jones, continues to look more than at home at this level, no doubt benefiting from being around Klopp’s first-team squad at Melwood on a regular basis. Another Under-23s starlet, Adam Lewis, has been pictured with the senior side in recent weeks, and is tipped by many to make the step up permanently in the future. 

An aggressive tackler who is comfortable in possession and delivers quality, whether from left-back or as a midfielder, Fazakerley-born Lewis will have his eye on Alberto Moreno’s spot as understudy to Andy Robertson, surely? Moreno is in the final year of his contract at Anfield, and Liverpool may well have a local lad ready to step into his place if he does depart.


Under-18s


Barry Lewtas, Liverpool

For Lewtas, things are going a little more swimmingly. 

His Under-18 side have lost just one of their first 10 games at home and abroad – and we’ve been guaranteed goals along the way!

Lewtas’ side have scored an incredible 36 goals so far, though they needed only one to see off Manchester City at Kirkby on Saturday.

The goalscorer was inevitable, Bobby Duncan netting against his former club. It was the England Under-17 international’s eighth goal of the season already – he and captain Paul Glatzel (seven goals) continue to look a potent partnership.

The goals have been shared around though, with no fewer than 13 different scorers so far. Thrilling wins over Newcastle (4-1), Blackburn (4-3) and Stoke (4-2) have shown a team packed full of attacking intent.

Equally impressive was the way Lewtas’ team began their UEFA Youth League campaign, running over Paris Saint-Germain 5-2 at St Helens, with first-team prospects Camacho (2) and Jones among the scorers. 

Article continues below

Liverpool’s second European game, away at Napoli, ended in farce with a controversial late equaliser denying the Reds victory in a 1-1 draw. Lewtas, to his credit, kept his cool after the hosts’ leveller was absurdly allowed to stand despite there being two balls on the pitch. Bobby Adekanye had earlier given Liverpool the lead, and continues to shine in continental football.

For the Under-18s, the emergence of young forward Fidel O’Rourke has been noted. Liverpool-born, the 16-year-old has netted three times already this season including a dramatic late winner at Blackburn, and this weekend was called up by the Under-23s for their Premier League Cup tie at West Brom, replacing Markovic from the bench. We can expect to hear a lot more about him in the coming weeks and months, he is sharp, quick and has an eye for goal. 

The same goes for Tom Clayton, a towering a centre-back who has already represented Scotland at Under-19 level. Strong and rapid with a sweet left foot, Clayton forms a strong partnership with Rhys Williams at the back, while Lewtas also has high hopes for Ki-Jana Hoever, a versatile defender brought in from Ajax in the summer. Hoever has so far been eased into action, but is expected to play a big role as the season progresses.

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Why Arsenal’s £16m Chambers gamble hasn’t paid off so far – football news

Calum Chambers won’t face parent club Arsenal when Fulham host the Gunners at Craven Cottage this Sunday, which will at least provide him with some time to reflect on a whirlwind few months.

Chambers, a composed, versatile defender who possesses an excellent passing range, made 24 appearances for Arsenal last season and, following an impressive pre-season campaign under new manager Unai Emery, which saw him start in an unfamiliar central midfield position, he was rewarded with a new contract at the end of July.

It appeared as if the 23-year-old, who joined Arsenal from Southampton in 2014 for £16 million, was set to belatedly become a regular at the Emirates, with Emery publicly expressing his faith in Chambers’ ability.

“I’m delighted Calum has extended his stay with us,” the former Paris Saint-Germain coach enthused. “He played an important role last season and will be part of my plans this season.”

However, a month later, Chambers signed a season-long loan deal with Premier League new boys Fulham, much to the surprise of many supporters.

Indeed, on paper, it was a deal that didn’t make much sense. Arsenal had signed Sokratis Papastathopoulos from Borussia Dortmund but were left with only Shkodran Mustafi, Rob Holding and the Greece international as their senior centre-backs.

Chambers

Konstantinos Mavropanos was expected to head out on loan but Emery decided to keep him as the reserve option alongside Holding, with Laurent Koscielny still recovering from his long-term Achilles injury.

Last season’s impressive performances from Chambers came towards the back end of the campaign, but he also shone in the 3-2 win over Crystal Palace in December, when a solid defensive game against Wilfried Zaha endeared him to the north London faithful.

“He’s done well – he’s more mature,” former Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger said last season. “[Last year at Middlesbrough] he gained the belief that he has the [requisite] level to play in the Premier League; that he can do it. 

“That gives you confidence and from that confidence, you can express your qualities. For Calum Chambers, those qualities are immense.”

Unfortunately, Emery clearly wasn’t sufficiently convinced to hold on to him. The manager qualified his decision to send Chambers out on loan by saying that the defender has a “bright future” and that the spell at Craven Cottage “will be an important part of his development”.

However, after spending the 2016-17 season at Middlesbrough, Chambers understandably assumed that he’d seen the back of loan moves and would, thus, be in a position to push for a regular starting berth in the Gunners’ defence this season.

When asked about playing in central midfield during pre-season, Chambers conceded that he had to improve in several areas, acknowledging that anyone who operates in the engine room needs to learn how to break the opposition lines and kill their press – something that Emery impresses upon the current midfield unit.

However, despite his admirable willingness to embrace a new role, doubts remain over whether Chambers could feasibly force his way into the Arsenal starting 11 as a midfielder, particularly as Lucas Torreira looks increasingly likely to make the position in front of the back four his own. 

Chambers’ hopes of establishing himself as a first-choice centre-half look equally bleak, with Holding’s impressive performances in the Carabao Cup and Europa League having solidified his own case for regular game time.

Then there is Mavropanos, who is currently sidelined with a groin injury and may well be sent out on loan himself next season. However, GBP Sports understands he remains confident of eventually becoming a first-team regular at the Emirates.

Article continues below

So, with Sokratis, Mustafi, Koscielny, Holding and Mavropanos as Emery’s senior centre-back options this season, it’s impossible not to wonder whether Chambers really has a “bright future” at Emery’s Arsenal, given how far he has fallen down the pecking order.

Of course, successful spell at Craven Cottage could yet convince Emery of his “immense” qualities.

At the same time, though, it could just easily convince Chambers that four years after arriving at Arsenal as a teenager of enormous promise, he would be better off elsewhere if he is to achieve his obvious potential.

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