The issue of Neymar and Edinson Cavani arguing over who was going to take the penalty in Paris Saint-Germain’s win over Lyon, it was weird to see at this level.
I think we can call it ‘Penalty Gate’. Two big international players with a lot of experience. Neymar is not a kid anymore and Cavani is older, so it was surprising to see two professionals go against each other. It’s disturbing for PSG fans and also their teammates.
It shows they both have desire to score goals and put Paris on the right path by scoring the most goals they can, but it’s selfish behavior in front of cameras and the media. It’s not good for their image or the team spirit. But it looks like it’s been handled internally by the players, which is the best way.
It is a worry though. I see two things. You wonder about the penalty taker order at PSG, how it is handled. It wasn’t clear, maybe that’s what led to the altercation. Unai Emery decided who it was, it looks like it was Cavani, but Neymar decided otherwise. Number two, the penalty itself. Anybody can take one but it is a moment of concentration.
For Cavani or Neymar to go into a childish battle between who’s going to take it, it’s not the best way to prepare an attempt on goal. You don’t want to see that in the quarter-final, semi-final or the final of a Champions League so perhaps, in a way, it’s good the incident arrived early in the season. There’s enough pressure on penalty takers’ shoulders, so going through this seconds before taking the penalty, that’s why I find it very curious.
It was always clear when I was at Manchester United who was taking penalties. Number one when I arrived was Becks (David Beckham). He would take them. Then it was Ruud van Nistelrooy. Then Wayne (Rooney) or Cristiano (Ronaldo). The gaffer would always say number one and number two, and nobody would question his authority. Definitely not. No-one would dare to go against the manager. It was a different time for sure, especially with Sir Alex there. There was a clear understanding about who were the main penalty takers and it was never an issue there in my time.
PSG’s opponents on Wednesday night are Bayern Munich and for their coach Carlo Ancelotti, he’s under pressure. But he’s been under pressure at Real Madrid, AC Milan, Chelsea and PSG too. When you manage at one of those clubs you need to deliver and Bayern is no different. I think he can deal with the pressure. He doesn’t look stressed but the team have to respond to the critics and the doubts because there’s a lot of doubts.
Players individually and collectively are not in the best shape at the moment. The form of some is reflecting on the team’s performance. So the momentum is not positive going into the game. But it is an occasion where they can put everything behind them. I don’t believe in miracles though so I would expect Paris to come out on top.
As for my old club, United, they go to Russia to play CSKA Moscow and I expect them to do a professional performance with a lot of discipline. Jose Mourinho knows exactly how to set up the team for these types of games in Europe.
Romelu Lukaku talked at Everton of wanting to play in the Champions League and I expect him to thrive on this stage. That’s one step higher for him and I think he’s ready for it. In the group games I expect him to score almost every game.
It will be interesting to see how he deals with the knockout stages when he has less chances, because I still think he still needs a good amount of chances to score. He’s not been totally clinical so far. The Champions League will be the competition where he can really improve. But he’s 24 so I’m fully optimistic Romelu will deliver. Maybe not this season but the next or the one after.
Alexis Sanchez’ future at Arsenal has been uncertain right from the start of the summer transfer window.
While the Chilean is still a key player for the Gunners, Arsenal must decide whether to cash in on star forward now, or risk losing him on a free.
Should he be sold?
Let us know your thoughts as our two writers discuss the topic.
Get in touch!
MATTHEW JONES, SAYS YES
Philippe Coutinho has a tiny tattoo of an anchor etched onto his neck just below his left ear. This is apt as whether Liverpool enjoy success or endure another season of frustration is intrinsically linked to the diminutive Brazilian remaining tethered to Anfield.
Similarly, the future of Alexis Sanchez at Emirates Stadium, though required, would not be ruinous to Arsenal’s Premier League title chances should he depart.
Statistics surprisingly show that since Sanchez left Barcelona for London three summers ago, Arsenal’s record without their talisman is actually better – winning 74 per cent of games without him as opposed to just 58 per cent with.
His sale might not be sought by Arsene Wenger or the Arsenal fans but its sanction would be eminently more sensible than that of Liverpool’s own South American schemer Coutinho – who so intricately links the Reds’ attacks.
As fine a player as Sanchez is, he is a forward who finishes off moves rather than sparks them. The brilliant Brazilian is far more irreplaceable.
Sanchez was a huge player for Arsenal last season but the Gunners proved in victory against Leicester they have sufficient firepower to cover his loss.
Four goals from four different players against the Foxes is encouraging and, even though their porous backline remains a concern, they’ll be entertaining going forward this season.
They had 15 different scorers in 2016/17 – only Watford, Hull, Leicester, Everton and Manchester City had more personnel find the net.
Alexandre Lacazette scored and generally looked lively in his first competitive start, which should give Wenger and the fans cause for optimism that the Frenchman will go some way to replacing the 24 Premier League goals bagged by Sanchez last term should they cash in.
Selling him paves the way for Monaco forward Thomas Lemar to come in and help compatriot Lacazette – with Wenger confident he, Olivier Giroud, Mesut Ozil, Aaron Ramsey, Theo Walcott, Granit Xhaka, Alex Iwobi, Laurent Koscielny, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Sead Kolasinac could all help carry the weighty goalscoring burden.
MATT MONAGHAN, SAYS NO
The vacant look on Alexis Sanchez’s face as he watched Arsenal’s first-half collapse against Leicester City from an executive box spoke volumes.
No matter his familiarity with the sinking feeling the Gunners regularly serve up, this latest disappointment resonated with the injured Chile superstar.
This, of course, was before the rousing fightback which crowned another instalment of the Emirates Stadium soap opera. But for anyone associated with the home side, such happy endings will be far fewer if Sanchez’s absence becomes permanent.
For Arsene Wenger’s men to have any pretension of making a first genuine Premier League title challenge in more than a decade, their only world-class player must be retained.
Even if this means an asset worth north of £50 million (Dh237.5m) is allowed to leave for nothing next summer. Sanchez is the figure who adds stardust to a talented squad.
Exciting new addition Alexandre Lacazette can still only aspire to the achievements of a forward who scored 24 times and assisted 10 more in the 2016/17 top flight. Arsenal only scored on 77 occasions, meaning Sanchez accounted for a whopping 31.2 per cent.
No team can hope to succeed if such a contribution is taken away. Even more so if the asset heads to a direct rival. Links to Manchester City and a reunion with Pep Guardiola refuse to go away. His arrival would make the Blues almost unstoppable.
When Manchester United sold Cristiano Ronaldo, the fact he went abroad to Real Madrid helped continue the most-successful spell in the club’s history rather than stop it in its tracks.
Another aspect is what are the chances of Arsenal being able to buy a replacement of similar calibre if they sell Sanchez? Especially if they remain outside the Champions League?
As manager Arsene Wenger has repeatedly, and optimistically stated, hopes of a contract renewal remain as long as Sanchez stays. Surely the retention of that dream is a price worth paying even a small fortune for?
The opening day of a new football season is always special, but this one is particularly significant for me.
After moving back to Everton this summer, the chance to pull on the Blue shirt again and play at Goodison Park in the Premier League, in front of my family and friends, really excites me, which is why our opening game against Stoke cannot come soon enough.
I have always been a fan of Everton Football Club so when the opportunity arose to come back to my boyhood club this summer, I jumped at it and the last few weeks have certainly lived up to my expectations.
The Everton fans have been brilliant since the news of my return was announced. The reception they gave me was fantastic.
Hopefully, now I can start to repay them with good performances and goals as we all strive to take the club to the next level.
After a busy summer in the transfer market – manager Ronald Koeman has made seven new signings so far and there could be more to follow before the transfer window closes – our fans are excited about the season ahead, and rightly so. In terms of the Premier League, our first aim must be to improve on last season, when we finished seventh in the final table.
We also want to go as far as we can in the cup competitions and we’ve made a good start on that front, beating the Slovakian team MFK Ruzomberok over two legs to reach the Europa League play-offs later this month.
For me personally, to win a trophy at the club I’ve grown up supporting would be great. The last time we won something was in 1995, so to bring some silverware back to Goodison would be right up there.
We know it’s going to be challenging competing on four fronts but the manager has made some great signings, bringing in the likes of Davy Klaassen, Michael Keane, Jordan Pickford and Sandro Ramirez, meaning the competition to make the starting XI is going to be intense.
As players, we all know we will need to play well to keep our place in the team. Our preparations for the new season have gone well – we are unbeaten in six matches – and I, personally, feel good going into the opening weekend.
Pre-season is always a difficult time for a footballer. Because you are training hard before and after the games, you never really feel match sharp. But that is precisely why we play friendlies and you could see all the hard work starting to pay off in training this week, where there was an extra sharpness and quality in our sessions.
Now we need to show that today. We know we’re in for a tough start.
Stoke are never an easy team to play against but if we can begin the season with a win, it will give the squad that extra bit of confidence and belief going into a tough run of fixtures against Manchester City, Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester United.
And, of course, an early return to Old Trafford, where I spent 13 fantastic years playing in great teams and winning trophies in front of fans who never ever stopped supporting me, will be a strange feeling.
But I hope they understand that playing for Everton was the only way I would be back there playing for an opposing Premier League team. We must all concentrate on getting a good league run going and achieving some consistency in the Premier League.
If we can do that then we’ll see where we are at Christmas time and reassess our goals.