Rumour Has It: Man Utd eyeing Oblak-De Gea swap, Barca make Messi offer

By Sports Desk May 28, 2021

Is David de Gea's time at Manchester United coming to an end?

De Gea has spent a decade with the Red Devils but his form has been scrutinised in recent years.

A swap involving Atletico Madrid goalkeeper Jan Oblak could solve United's problems.

 

TOP STORY – DE GEA OUT, OBLAK IN?

Manchester United are lining up a swap deal involving star goalkeeper David de Gea and Atletico Madrid's Jan Oblak, according to The Sun.

De Gea's future has been uncertain since Dean Henderson signed a long-term contract extension at United, who remain uncertain about the pair.

Spain international De Gea joined United from Atletico in 2011 and the Red Devils are prepared to offer the LaLiga giants a reunion in exchange for star Oblak.

 

ROUND-UP

- TV3 reports Barcelona have offered Lionel Messi a new contract. Messi's current deal is due to expire on June 30 and the superstar captain has been linked with Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain.

Saul Niguez is adamant he wants to leave LaLiga champions Atletico and Juventus lead the race to sign the Spaniard, claims Marca. United – long-term admirers – Bayern Munich and PSG are also interested.

- PSG head coach Mauricio Pochettino is the favourite to replace Zinedine Zidane at Real Madrid, says the front page of Friday's Mundo Deportivo. Zidane has announced his departure. Former Inter boss Antonio Conte, Castilla coach and club great Raul and Xabi Alonso – currently in charge of Real Sociedad's reserve side – are also on the list. Pochettino has also been linked with a sensational return to Tottenham.

Barca have held talks regarding goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, according to Fabrizio Romano. Donnarumma's Milan contract is due to expire and his departure is already confirmed. After talking with agent Mino Raiola, Barca are set to decide whether to sign Donnarumma, who has also been linked with Juve and United.

- Premier League champions City are looking to smash their transfer record to bring in £100million-rated Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish, reports the Daily Mail. City are also interested in Tottenham's Harry Kane – a target for rivals United, Chelsea, Madrid and Barca.

- The Telegraph says United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is set to sign a new three-year contract in Manchester. Solskjaer guided United to a second-placed finish in the Premier League, while the club were stunned by Villarreal in the Europa League final this season.

Barca are close to completing free transfers for Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum and Lyon star Memphis Depay, according to Mundo Deportivo. Ronald Koeman's men are also eyeing City's free agent pair Sergio Aguero and Eric Garcia.

- FootMercato reports PSG have made an approach for star Milan full-back Theo Hernandez.

Chelsea and Tottenham both have strong interest in Borussia Monchengladbach attacker Jonas Hofmann, claims Sport1.

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  • Arsenal v Tottenham: Is there any way back to the top for Aubameyang? Arsenal v Tottenham: Is there any way back to the top for Aubameyang?

    December 2, 2018. In the 56th minute of Unai Emery's first north London derby in charge of Arsenal, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang curled a sensational first-time finish beyond Hugo Lloris to level the scores at 2-2.

    Aubameyang's strike – his second goal of the game after a first-half penalty to open the scoring – sent the home faithful into raptures at Emirates Stadium, and the Gabon forward went on to tee up Lucas Torreira to score Arsenal's final goal in a 4-2 victory.

    Having arrived from Borussia Dortmund in January of that year, Aubameyang scored 22 Premier League goals in 2018-19, sharing the league's Golden Boot award with Liverpool duo Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane.

    It was a tally he matched the following season, trailing the competition's top scorer Jamie Vardy by one, but after prolonged contract negotiations finally resulted in Aubameyang signing a new three-year contract last September, his form has hit a wall.

    His league total dropped to just 10 goals last season, as Aubameyang netted just three times prior to the turn of the year.

    Despite featuring in each of Arsenal's league games so far this season, Aubameyang only has one goal, which came in the 1-0 win over Norwich City earlier this month. He had six attempts in that match, getting just two on target.

    At 32, it seems Aubameyang's prime is now behind him, though could Sunday's north London derby with Tottenham be the catalyst to spark his form and really get Arsenal's season up and running?

    Using Opta data, Stats Perform assesses if there is a way back to the top for Aubameyang, or is the end of the road approaching?

     

    Shoot on sight not always the right call

    Aubameyang's second goal in that derby in December 2018 was a moment of magic, as he caught Lloris out with a sensational first-time strike from outside the box.

    However, the shoot-on-sight policy is not seeming to be an effective fix for Aubameyang's fading form.

    Aubameyang has at least scored this season and has mustered nine attempts in the league, but those efforts have had an average worth of 0.14 xG (expected goals) – the lowest mark of his Arsenal career.

    Given the one successful strike – against Norwich – was a goal-line finish worth 0.96 xG on its own, the second-best chance of the entire Premier League season by that metric, it is easy to paint a picture of otherwise ambitious shooting habits from Aubameyang. His remaining eight shots have had a combined xG of 0.39 – or 0.05 per shot – signifying they came from chances where a player is highly unlikely to score.

    At odds with struggling Spurs talisman Harry Kane, who has had just four attempts so far this season and has recorded just 7.5 per cent of his touches in the opposition box, Aubameyang is taking a career-high 17.1 per cent of his touches in the opposing area, yet the Tottenham number 10 has matched his three shots on target so far.

    The Laca factor

    Arsenal have been blessed in recent seasons, with two – on their day – top-quality goalscorers to call on in the form of Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette. Though at times, that may well have resulted in both players having to compromise.

    The latter has made only one league appearance so far this term, replacing Aubameyang in the second half of Arsenal's 5-0 thrashing at the hands of Manchester City last month, and there has at times been an issue with fitting both strikers into the team.

    Aubameyang has often been deployed wide to accommodate Lacazette, who in turn has at times played deeper or had to settle for a place on the bench in order to fit his fellow striker into a central berth.

    Since Aubameyang arrived at the club, he and Lacazette have played in 92 of the same games, with the Gunners recording 40 wins, 20 draws and 32 defeats.

    That win rate of 43.5 per cent is significantly less than the 55 per cent success record from matches where one of the strikers did not play (22 wins from 40 such games).

    It would suggest the way forward for Arsenal now is to stick with one or the other. Lacazette outscored Aubameyang in the league last season, though as the Gunners skipper the latter is seemingly ahead in the pecking order.

    Arteta not helping?

    Both Emery and successor Mikel Arteta wanted to develop a style that focused on playing out from the back, though given pace is Aubameyang's main asset, it would seem a direct approach may well be the optimal way to get the best out of the attacker.

    Arguably Arteta's best games as Arsenal boss came in the 2019-20 FA Cup semi-final and final, with Aubameyang scoring a double in both matches to help the Gunners claim the trophy.

    Aubameyang's pace was crucial, with his second goal in the 2-0 semi-final win over City coming at the culmination of a run from the left, the forward latching onto Kieran Tierney's ball before finishing under Ederson.

    A similar trend followed in the final – Aubameyang winning a penalty by isolating Cesar Azpilicueta in that left channel, and he converted from 12 yards to restore parity before finishing deftly for a second-half winner.

    It seemed Arteta was utilising this tactic more in his first half-season in charge. In a campaign shared between Emery and Arteta, Aubameyang had seven shots from fast breaks in the Premier League, though he only scored one. He had five such attempts the previous season, though only managed three across 2020-21.

    Aubameyang also saw his touches in the opposition box drop off significantly last term, from 152 in 2019-20 to 125, while he had 149 in Emery's only full season in charge.

    The amount of shots Aubameyang is taking has also dropped from season to season, from 94 under Emery, to 93 the following campaign, to just 57 last term.

    While he outperformed his expected goals value (14.75) by some way in 2019-20, suggesting he finished some difficult chances, an xG of 10.22 last season seemingly reflects where Aubameyang is at.

    However, a 7.81 xG on target (xGOT) score, which rates the level of his shooting rather than the quality of the chances, hints the former Saint-Etienne man's finishes were not the best, and may suggest some poor goalkeeping contributed to his league total. Compare this to 2019-20, when Aubameyang's xGOT outperformed his xG value, and it points to a striker on the wane, who is perhaps not being helped by slower build-up play.

    Sunday's match could be crucial for Arteta, whose team have finally picked up victories after heading into the international break at the bottom of the table. For Aubameyang, it is a chance to prove he still belongs among the league's elite strikers.

  • Premier League Fantasy Picks: Bank on Bruno and De Gea this weekend Premier League Fantasy Picks: Bank on Bruno and De Gea this weekend

    The Premier League table already looks to be taking shape, with a thrilling title race potentially in store.

    Two of the favourites meet early on Saturday, as Chelsea welcome Manchester City to Stamford Bridge.

    At the same time, Manchester United – joint-top alongside the Blues and Liverpool – host Aston Villa at Old Trafford.

    With the season really kicking into gear, so are the title races in fantasy leagues. So, to avoid getting left behind, take heed of our Opta-powered picks for matchday six...

     

    DAVID DE GEA (Manchester United v Aston Villa)

    Despite their EFL Cup defeat to West Ham on Wednesday, United remain unbeaten in the league and moved onto 13 points thanks to some late drama last Sunday, also in a match against David Moyes' Hammers.

    Jesse Lingard came off the bench to score against the club for whom he starred on loan last term, but West Ham were awarded a last-gasp penalty and a chance to rescue a draw. However, substitute Mark Noble, with his first touch, saw his penalty saved by David de Gea.

    It ended a run of 40 penalties without a save from De Gea, who has now this season prevented more goals (2.5) than any other keeper in the Premier League, according to expected goals on target data.

    SHANE DUFFY (Crystal Palace v Brighton and Hove Albion)

    Has Graham Potter's luck at Brighton and Hove Albion finally changed? His team have impressed over the past few seasons, yet a clinical edge was often missing. Now, though, the Seagulls have won four of their five games and sit pretty on 12 points.

    A key figure in their strong start has been Shane Duffy. The centre-back's career looked to be petering out after a poor loan spell at Celtic last season, but he has come back strong this term.

    No Premier League defender has had more shots (10) or scored more goals (one) than Duffy so far this season, while only Man City have faced fewer shots on target than Brighton in 2021-22.

    REECE JAMES (Chelsea v Manchester City)

    Reece James is of course an expensive option for fantasy players, though it is an investment worth making, given his ability going forward and the fact he plays for one of the competition's strongest teams.

    Despite only playing 158 minutes so far in the league, James has been directly involved in three goals, more than any other defender.

    He has scored once and provided two assists, averaging a goal involvement every 53 minutes.

    BRUNO FERNANDES (Manchester United v Aston Villa)

    Given the hype around Cristiano Ronaldo's return to Old Trafford, it would be understandable if many fantasy players had elected to sacrifice his compatriot Bruno Fernandes in order to free up funds for the former Real Madrid and Juventus superstar.

    But Fernandes is still one of the most reliable players in the league when it comes to accumulating fantasy points, and he would have had an assist in the win over West Ham had Ronaldo's initial effort gone in before he netted the rebound.

    Fernandes has scored in all three of his Premier League appearances against Villa, with all three of his goals coming from the penalty spot. Only one player has scored more goals against an opponent with 100 per cent of them being penalties in the competition – Troy Deeney against United (four). No player has more goal involvements (49) than Fernandes since he made his debut in February 2020.

    DEMARAI GRAY (Everton v Norwich City)

    Rafael Benitez's unbeaten start at Everton came to an end at Aston Villa last week, before the Toffees then crashed out of the EFL Cup in midweek, with James Rodriguez's departure to Qatar completing a difficult few days.

    Benitez, a contentious pick as Everton manager, could do with a win on Saturday against Norwich City, who are on a 15-match losing streak in the Premier League.

    With Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison likely to miss the game through injury, Everton need Demarai Gray to carry on his fine form. He has scored three goals so far this season from just three attempts on target. Only in 2018-19 has the winger scored more goals in a single top-flight season (four).

    RAUL JIMENEZ (Southampton v Wolves)

    After winning at Watford to finally get their first points on the board, Wolves went down 2-0 at home to 10-man Brentford last time out.

    Wolves have played some exciting football under new boss Bruno Lage, but they need to start converting their chances, and Raul Jimenez coming back into form would be key to doing just that.

    Although he has yet to score or assist in the Premier League this season, Jimenez has been directly involved in 29 shots (14 shots, 15 chances created). Only Mohamed Salah (37) and Sadio Mane (31) have been involved in more. The Mexican has created the most chances without an assist and taken the joint-most shots without a goal, so surely his luck will change soon. 

    JAMIE VARDY (Leicester City v Burnley)

    It has not been a flying start to the season for FA Cup holders Leicester City, who have had some inconsistent results and performances to match.

    They lost to Brighton last week, going down 2-1, with Jamie Vardy scoring his 150th goal in all competitions for the Foxes.

    Vardy has been directly involved in six goals in his past six Premier League games (five goals, one assist), with these involvements accounting for 86 per cent of Leicester's total goals in that run (six of seven).

  • Rumour Has It: Barcelona still covet Torres, Xavi could replace Koeman Rumour Has It: Barcelona still covet Torres, Xavi could replace Koeman

    Barcelona need to add some attacking options to their squad, particularly with the Lionel Messi era now over.

    Ferran Torres is among those on their wish list. 

    Will Manchester City let him go? 

     

    TOP STORY – BARCELONA STILL COVET TORRES

    Barcelona are not ready to give up on their pursuit of Manchester City forward Ferran Torres, the Sun reports.  

    After being rebuffed in a previous overture for the 21-year-old Spain international, Barca are ready to try again next year.  

    Torres has done them no favours with his impressive showing for Spain at Euro 2020, plus his in-form start to this season for City. 

     

    ROUND-UP

    Xavi could be in line to replace Ronald Koeman at Barcelona, Marca reports. The Barca legend is head coach at Al Sadd after finishing his playing career with the Qatari club.  

    Liverpool plan to renew their pursuit of West Ham's Jarrod Bowen, the Liverpool Echo reports, after they reportedly bid £20million for him during the previous transfer window.  

    Alexandre Lacazette will have no shortage of suitors when the time comes for him to depart Arsenal. Atletico Madrid are interested in the France striker, says Le10 Sport, while West Ham and Crystal Palace may also bid for the 30-year-old, according to 90min. 

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