BREAKING NEWS: Dani Ceballos rejoins Arsenal on loan

By Sports Desk September 04, 2020

Real Madrid have confirmed Dani Ceballos will spend a second consecutive season on loan at Premier League side Arsenal.

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  • Solskjaer 'delighted' with Tuanzebe's versatility and leadership qualities Solskjaer 'delighted' with Tuanzebe's versatility and leadership qualities

    Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has praised Axel Tuanzebe for his display against Paris Saint-Germain and backed the defender to have a long and successful career at Manchester United.

    Academy product Tuanzebe earned rave reviews for stifling Angel Di Maria, Kylian Mbappe and Neymar in Tuesday's 2-1 Champions League win at the Parc des Princes.

    The 22-year-old was playing for the first time in 10 months after battling back from injury and started on the right of a three-man defence, alongside Victor Lindelof and Luke Shaw.

    He made an unrivalled seven clearances – Layvin Kurzawa and Scott McTominay's four being the next best total on the pitch – and won both of his aerial duels in an impressive defensive performance in Paris.

    Solskjaer has now challenged Tuanzebe, who has previously spent time on loan at Aston Villa, to maintain that level to become a first-team regular at Old Trafford.

    "It was a great performance by a kid who's not played for 10 months," he said. "I'm delighted for him because he is such a professional character.

    "He wants everything, he works really hard, has been really, really thorough in his rehab, and I am very pleased for him.

    "Now it's about getting consistency in his performances – he's also got to stay injury-free, so we have to manage that.

    "That's my job, his job and the physio staff's job, of course. But I think he can kick on."

    Tuanzebe has made 10 Premier League appearances for United since his debut in January 2017 and has averaged 2.19 interceptions per game in that time.

    That is more than any other current United player, with Eric Bailly (2.11) and Harry Maguire (1.93) next best from 44 and 42 games respectively.

    He also tops the charts in terms of his tackle-success rate, albeit from far fewer matches than his team-mates, all of which Solskjaer believes stands him in good stead.

    "He can do most things and is such a leader," Solskjaer said ahead of Saturday's home league meeting with Chelsea.

    "He can play right-back, centre-back, central midfield – he can play many positions and he's a boy who takes responsibility for his own development 

    "I'm sure he's doing everything he can to have a long career at United. So hopefully we can get that consistency."

    Donny van de Beek is another who will be hoping to start this weekend as United look to win three straight top-flight meetings against Chelsea for the first time since 1965.

    The Netherlands international has been restricted to four substitute appearances in the Premier League so far and Solskjaer reiterated the importance of giving him more time to settle.

    "Donny is fit enough but of course it's about competition for places," he said. "It's about giving him time to settle in and adjust to his new team-mates. It's a new league.

    "He's an absolutely top footballer and top personality. So humble and hardworking, but also he's of course eager to play more. 

    "You'll see him throughout the season – it's going to be a long, long season and you'll see him. He has impressed me."

  • El Clasico: Barcelona treading new ground with Koeman's 4-2-3-1 El Clasico: Barcelona treading new ground with Koeman's 4-2-3-1

    Ronald Koeman will get his first taste of El Clasico from a dugout when Barcelona host Real Madrid on Saturday.

    The LaLiga champions head to Camp Nou after a pretty rotten week in which back-to-back home defeats to Cadiz and Shakhtar Donetsk have left fans and pundits alike thoroughly disillusioned with Zinedine Zidane's current approach.

    Barca also lost 1-0 in their previous league game, away to Getafe, but a 5-1 thumping of Ferencvaros in the Champions League was a tonic and, in truth, that defeat at Coliseum Alfonso Perez felt more like an aberration during what has mostly been an encouraging start under Koeman.

    The Clasico is always the acid test, though – and Barca, barring a dramatic change in system, will line up for this one in a 4-2-3-1 formation, something they have not done for at least the previous 46 meetings.

    BREAKING THE WHEEL

    Nobody need tell Koeman about Barca's traditional adherence to 4-3-3. He had enough experience as a player for the Netherlands and the Blaugrana to know such a system like the back of his hand, even if Johan Cruyff's peak 'Dream Team' – such as the one that won the 1992 European Cup final through a Koeman extra-time goal – thrived instead in a 3-4-3.

    The fact is, though, that Barca have doubled down on 4-3-3 since Frank Rijkaard took charge in 2003. He, Pep Guardiola, Tito Vilanova, Gerardo Martino, Luis Enrique, Ernesto Valverde and, eventually, Quique Setien – all have either stuck religiously to the system or at least made good use of it.

    That rings true in the Clasico, too. Since the 2005-06 season, there have been 46 matches between Barca and Madrid in all competitions, and Barca have started in a 4-3-3 in 39 of them. Four games have seen them set up in a 4-4-2, and one each in 3-4-3, 3-5-2 and 4-3-1-2.

    It's yielded mixed success, as you might expect. Barca won 17 of those 39 games in 4-3-3 – a 43.6 per cent winning rate – and lost 12. They scored 71 goals and conceded 53.

    In 4-4-2, they won twice, drew once and lost once, scoring eight goals and conceding four. The 3-4-3 was, fittingly, a 3-3 LaLiga draw in October 2007; the 4-3-1-2 was that famous 3-2 win for Barca at the Santiago Bernabeu under Luis Enrique in 2017, when Lionel Messi scored his 500th club goal; and the 3-5-2 was used by Valverde when they lost 2-0 in the Supercopa de Espana second leg in the capital three years ago.

    Koeman's set-up, then, is a big departure from the norm. But will it work against Madrid?

    FATI AND FRENKIE ON FIRE

    Koeman explained this month that 4-2-3-1 was preferable because of Barca's lack of wingers. "Looking at the quality that we have, this formation is perfect for the team," he told Barca TV.

    Fans may not have warmed to the idea at first, but Koeman's approach makes sense – and there are certain players thriving in this formation.

    For one thing, it gets Ansu Fati involved closer to goal. In four league games, the young Spain star has attempted 15 dribbles, created three chances and scored three goals. The freedom to cut inside from the left has also liberated Jordi Alba and Sergino Dest at left-back, each of whom have also created three goalscoring chances. Given Madrid presently have no fully fit right-backs, that should worry Zidane.

    Another to benefit is Frenkie de Jong, a player who admitted to underwhelming in his first season after joining from Ajax for an initial €75million. He has performed positively in a central axis, usually alongside Sergio Busquets, asserting himself in games far more even though Barca's average possession figure has dropped to 59.2 per cent, lower than in any of the past 11 seasons.

    He, too, has created three goalscoring chances and has a remarkable 100 per cent success rate from 11 attempted dribbles. He has also completed 216 passes, behind only the more possession-focused Gerard Pique (255) and Busquets (261). He is a player with renewed confidence in breaking lines in transition and getting the ball into threatening areas, and Madrid's midfield three will have a real test on their hands to cover the space of Barca's four forwards while keeping De Jong quiet.

    And Messi? Koeman said before the Ferencvaros game that his captain's form "could be better", and he had a point – one goal (a penalty) and zero assists from four league games is an unusually modest return. He is also averaging 3.9 shots per game, his lowest rate since 2007-08.

    Still, Messi has created more chances (six), attempted more dribbles (19) and more shots (15) than any other Barca player in the league this season, and he may be about to face a Madrid defence without Sergio Ramos.

  • Win over 'big rival' Chelsea would be huge for Man Utd, says Mata Win over 'big rival' Chelsea would be huge for Man Utd, says Mata

    Juan Mata feels a win over Chelsea would take on added importance for Manchester United as they continue to fight back from a difficult start to the season.

    Away victories against Newcastle United and Paris Saint-Germain have boosted Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side as they look to put the 6-1 home humbling against Tottenham behind them.

    United host Frank Lampard's team on Saturday and are looking to win three consecutive top-flight meetings against Chelsea for the first time since September 1965 under Matt Busby.

    The Blues are winless in their last seven Premier League outings at Old Trafford, but Mata is aware of the threat posed by his former club, particularly after adding Timo Werner, Kai Havertz, Ben Chilwell, Hakim Ziyech and Thiago Silva in a busy transfer window.

    "Of course we are aware of their dangers, as we know they have signed many very good and important players," Mata told the Pitch to Post podcast.

    "Attacking-wise, defending-wise they have got a great squad. So we know what they are capable of and we need to be ready for that.

    "But also we need to think we are playing at home and if we play our football hopefully we'll have chances and create scoring opportunities to get the three points. 

    "And of course, they're a big rival for us because they're challenging for what we're challenging. A victory against them will be important, although we know it's difficult."

    Mata also praised his old team-mate Lampard, adding:  "You could feel from the first day that I arrived to Chelsea's dressing room that he was a very intelligent man.

    "He knew a lot about football and he understood the game really well as a player. You could imagine that he would be a very good manager, like he's showing now."

    Only once in their league history – in 1930 – have United lost each of their opening three home league games, but Mata is more confident after wins in the top flight and on the continent.

    "It was exactly what we needed after the defeat at home," he said about the Newcastle and PSG triumphs.

    "You want the next game to come quickly but unfortunately there was the international break, so we prepared really well, we trained hard over that week and then we got two very good performances.

    "So we're very happy with the week – but we want to keep this momentum going."

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