European Teams of the Week: Arsenal top and Borussia Dortmund sit in second

Alex Rea 22/01/2019
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Alexandre Lacazette celebrates his opener

The only thing in football more contentious than a dubious refereeing decision is a rankings system.

There are plenty of them out there – though many are deliberately divisive – but given the tribal nature of football they do drum up some interesting debates among supporters.

We’re going to add our twist to the list. Each week we pick out the 10 best teams from Europe’s top-five leagues.

It’s not cumulative, the rankings is based on a team’s performance in that particular game week.

So, who makes the top-10 this week? Check out below.

1. Arsenal (beat Chelsea 2-0)

A most impressive performance from Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium. Above a tactical triumph for Unai Emery, Arsenal’s intensity, drive and purpose harmonised for their most complete performance of the season. The technique for Alexandre Lacazette’s opener was pure art, the type which needs a piece from Mozart to accompany it, a contrast to Laurent Koscielny’s second which was pure fluke as it was diverted in via his shoulder. They are the clear number one this week after reinvigorating their hopes of surmounting Chelsea and moving into the Premier League top four.

2. Borussia Dortmund (beat RB Leipzig 1-0)

The Bundesliga winter break is finally over yet leaders Dortmund remain hotter than ever. The trip to fourth-placed RB Leipzig provided a real test of their title resistance, but Dortmund stood firm. Indeed, they’ve struggled in their recent travels to the Saxony side, failing to win in their last two away trips. And when mercurial captain Marco Reus added to Lucien Favre’s defensive crisis by pulling out with a minor knock, this fixture demanded their best. The master of tempo, Axel Witsel has been magnificent this season and was the difference, nailing a sweet finish from a first-half corner.

Axel Witsel celebrates his winner

Axel Witsel celebrates his winner

3. Paris Saint-Germain (beat Guingamp 9-0)

Only two teams, across all competitions, have defeated PSG this season. One is Liverpool in the Champions League, the other is Guingamp in the Coupe de la Ligue. Hard to comprehend then that the runaway Ligue 1 leaders would avenge one of those losses with a 9-0 thrashing. The crime almost doesn’t fit the punishment. Granted, Guingamp are rock bottom and PSG have practically cemented another league success yet scoring nine is absurd. This is going to sound slightly odd, but for many of the goals, the visitors weren’t even really at fault. PSG were just that good, which is no surprise really when Kylian Mbappe (three), Edinson Cavani (three) and Neymar (two) all scored. Thomas Meunier added the ninth if you were wondering.

4. Lyon (beat St Etienne 2-1)

The battle for first in Ligue 1 is currently being contested by one team. Different scenario for second and third though. Lille, Lyon, St Etienne, Strasbourg, Montpellier and Marseille are all in contention for two Champions League qualification spots. Two of those competing sides met in what is French football’s most fierce derby as Lyon travelled to St Etienne. The league gets a bad rep because of PSG’s domination but the battle beneath them always throws up a classic. This was another. Romain Hamouma’s 21st minute header put Saint-Etienne in front only for Nabil Fekir to equalise from the penalty spot after the break. Moussa Dembele then proved the old adage of try and try again, as the substitute atoned for missing an injury-time header by nodding in a 94th-minute winner. As one Lyon fan put it “their silence is the sweetest music”.

5. Napoli (beat Lazio 2-1)

Considering Napoli had virtually their entire spine ripped out of them before even kicking a ball, they showed tremendous backbone to consolidate second in Serie A by edging past Lazio. Carlo Ancelotti was without suspended tower of strength Kalidou Koulibaly, captain Marek Hamsik, the lethal Lorenzo Insigne and midfield metronome Allan. Yet they still managed to overpower Lazio who dropped out of the top four as a result. First-half goals from Jose Callejon and Arkadiusz Milik did the damage. Ciro Immobile pulled one back after the hour, but Francesco Acerbi was dismissed and they struggled through the last 20 with 10 men.

6. Real Madrid (beat Sevilla 2-0)

Los Blancos are in the top ten for the second week running and they can count themselves a little fortunate for that considering the performances. Santiago Solari’s side moved above Sevilla and into third with a 2-0 win at the Bernabeu, but it was a victory of persistence as opposed to precision. Although precise is precisely how you would describe Casemiro’s thunderous opener. It was an unforgettable late strike in what was a forgettable fixture as Real tailed off after a promising start. Luka Modric made it two in injury time as Sevilla, who are on a downward spiral, chased an equaliser.

7. Getafe (beat Alaves 4-0)

Getafe and Alaves have emerged as two remarkable revelations in La Liga this season. They both occupy European qualification spots, a scarcely believable feat considering their respective budgets, and are doing tremendously well with a robust style. Getafe have actually been criticised for their full-bodied philosophy under Jose Bordalas and then they went and smashed four past Alaves. Jorge Molina grabbed two of them and the 36-year-old striker is a fine spearhead for this team, a peer into the past with his vintage style of technique and size making him a nightmare to defend against.

8. Strasbourg (beat Monaco 5-1)

Ignore Monaco and the dire situation they are in, just admire Strasbourg for a moment. Down in the fifth tier of French football seven years ago after crippling financial trouble, boss Thierry Laurey is now guiding them in a fight for European football. They’ve only tasted defeat twice since late September and mauled Monaco to add Thierry Henry’s beleaguered outfit to their list of well-resourced victims. Indeed, their take-from-the-rich-to-feed-the-poorer mentality has seen them draw with PSG, knock out Lyon in the Coupe de la Ligue and now destroy Monaco. Ludovic Ajorque scored twice but the real pick was Ibrahim Sissoko’s screamer.

9. Bayern Munich (beat Hoffenheim 3-1)

Leon Goretzka was outstanding as Bayern Munich looked very impressive in swatting aside Hoffenheim to maintain pace with leaders Dortmund. Goretzka will form the fulcrum of future Germany success on the international stage and he gave a clear indication of his talent by dominating the midfield and scoring two clinical goals. Bayern are chasing a seventh straight league title and this performance showed they are in the hunt with the race far from over.

10. Atalanta (beat Frosinone 5-0)

A degree of freshness has been added to the top of Serie A’s goalscoring charts. A 33-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo and a 35-year-old Fabio Quagliarella have led the way but they are now joined by Atalanta’s giant striker Duvan Zapata. The 27-year-old smashed four past a sorry Frosinone and moved himself onto 14 for the season. The Colombian was the club’s first four-goal scorer in a single since 1952 and it’s easy to see why the likes of Roma, Inter Milan and West Ham are all said to be interested in acquiring his services.

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Scouting report of the future of football - Borussia Dortmund's Jadon Sancho

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Jadon Sancho has shone in the Bundesliga this season.

We’ve been examining five of Europe’s best attacking-midfield talents and Jadon Sancho is next in the series. Arguably the best player of the golden trio of Manchester City’s academy which includes Phil Foden and Brahim Diaz, Sancho is one of the most complete attacking midfielders of his age group. Find out why and read our methodology here

STYLE OF PLAY

Gifted with great technique, acceleration, balance and everything that’s essential to make someone a complete player, Sancho is the type who can change the game with incredible individual brilliance.

A winger who can function as a right attacking midfielder in a 4-2-3-1 formation can also play on the left and in the centre.

He banks on his pace and dribbling to get past players and an be effective in counters.

ATTRIBUTE RANKS (How the player ranks against the other players analysed) 

Shots: 5

Key passes: 1

Expected goals+assists: 1

Successful dribbles: 1

Chances created: 1

Overall: 1

Jadon Sancho Radar

STRENGTHS

The prodigy that he is, Sancho is as complete as a player could get and the Lionel Messi comparisons are bound to pop up some day.

Blessed with jaw-dropping dribbling skills and incredible acceleration, the Englishman can be a thorn in the foot for any world class defender in a one-on-one scenario.

The best part about Sancho is that pace and acceleration are not his primary strengths. It’s his vision and mature decision making that places him among the elites at that age.

Take his pace and acceleration away and he can still dictate terms from the half-space and create a lot of goalscoring opportunities.

The 18-year-old also likes to get into scoring positions and is an intelligent footballer in every sense of the term.

WEAKNESSES

Sancho is a gifted athlete with a wide set of attributes. But if one has to nitpick his weaknesses, the weaker left foot can be talked about.

He is a right-footed player who plays on the left. Hence he must be proficient with both his feet. This is something Sancho must work on to enhance his game.

In the long run, being a one-footed player can knock off his goal-scoring abilities, if he carries on in the same position.

Jadon Sancho

Jadon Sancho

NOTABLE PERFORMANCE THIS SEASON

Sancho came on as a substitute to help Dortmund beat Bayer Leverkusen 4-2.

He made an immediate impact, leading the counter which resulted in Dortmund’s second goal. That run by Sancho can be considered as one of the best individual efforts this season in any top league. Marco Reus finished it off after a quick exchange with the teenager.

Sancho also assisted Paco Alcacer’s second goal and that proved to be a confirmation Dortmund were going home with all three points that night.

It’s hard to pick one memorable performance by the Englishman as he has performed consistently at a top level.

The fact that he stepped up and delivered against Bayern Munich makes a case for him being a big-game player.

VERDICT

Arguably the hottest prospect in the world of football, Sancho has the potential to be the best footballer in the world at his peak.

The €70m that transfermarkt has priced him at is a joke and he could easily go for twice the amount.

Sancho is – without a shadow of doubt – the best player for this age range and his traits show that he can thrive in any system and at any age.

SUITABLE FOR

Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea

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Scouting report of the Turkish Conqueror at Roma - Cengiz Under

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Cengiz Under

We’ve been examining five of Europe’s best attacking-midfield talents and Cengiz Under is next in the series. The task of filling the void left by Mohamed Salah is frightening. But a 21-year-old has taken up the challenge and has done justice to Roma’s trust in him. Find out why Under is considered one of the best young players in his position and read our methodology here

STYLE OF PLAY

Under is more of a right-winger who can function as a right attacking-midfielder in a 4-2-3-1 system. Whether he cuts inside or takes the ball wide, he can prove to be a threat in the final third.

The Turk likes to play from the half-space and has been crucial in build-up. The wide midfielder’s deliveries into the box and cut-backs from wide positions are something to watch out for.

ATTRIBUTE RANKS (How the player ranks against the other players analysed) 

Shots: 2

Key passes: 2

Expected goals+assists: 3

Successful dribbles: 4

Chances created: 2

Overall: 2

Cengiz Under radar

Cengiz Under radar

STRENGTHS

The radar above clearly indicates that Under is an all-rounded attacking midfielder. However, there are some traits that stats don’t cover.

To start with, the 21-year-old shows great composure for a player of his age and reacts well when responsibility is thrown at him.

He was tasked with filling the void left by Mohamed Salah – arguably the best player in the Premier League currently – and has done a fair job.

Another strength of Under that the stats don’t show is his brilliant decision-making. Intelligent positioning, when coupled with great decision-making can be deadly.

His chance-creation abilities too deserve a shout here. The Turkey international delivers perfect crosses and the five assists he has bagged this season is testament to this.

WEAKNESSES

Under is not the best dribbler of the ball and can be one-dimensional at times. He tends to over-complicate things and ends up losing the ball.

In situations where he could pass it to a team-mate, he tries taking on defenders and fails.

Physicality is another aspect he could work on. The 21-year-old gets pushed over quite easily – something that can seriously work against him in Serie A and especially would in the Premier League.

However, these are minor weaknesses and the youngster has time to work on them.

AS Roma Turkish forward Cengiz Under

NOTABLE PERFORMANCE THIS SEASON

The youngster was arguably the best player on the pitch when Roma defeated Frosinone 4-0 earlier this season.

Under opened the scoring with a crisp, clean hit from distance following a spectacular dribble across Frosinone’s midfield.

He also picked up an assist in this game, as he set up Stephen El Shaarawy’s tap in and completed all three dribbles attempted, finishing with a passing accuracy of 91 percent.

VERDICT

Under has improved leaps and bounds at Roma and his eyes gleam of a bright future and a successful career.

He is priced at €35m by transfermarkt, but surely Roma won’t settle for such a low sum. €60m sounds like a suitable bid for this attacking midfield prospect.

SUITABLE FOR

Manchester United, Chelsea

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