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Riyad Mahrez

Riyad Mahrez

A tired-looking Leicester City slumped to defeat against Watford after taking the lead against Watford thanks to a Riyad Mahrez header.

But who, if anyone, impressed on the defeat and who did not? Here are our ratings…

Kasper Schmeichel: Will feel disappointed to be beaten from such an acute angle. Rating 6/10

Aleksandar Dragovic: Made his Premier League debut at right back and found it tough. 5

Wes Morgan: As a collective City must improve their defending of set-pieces and the skipper must play his part. 6

Harry Maguire: Booked very early on and had to be careful. Can switch off at set-pieces. 6

Ben Chilwell: Caused Janmaat loads of problems in the first half with his marauding runs from full-back, but defensively had some wobbly moments. 6

Andy King: Did a composed, controlled job in midfield. 6

Wilfred Ndidi: Time and again he got his foot in to win the ball back. Combative. 6

Riyad Mahrez: Kept up his excellent scoring record at Vicarage Road. 6

Shinji Okazaki: Didn’t do a lot wrong. Had one header tipped over the bar early on. 6

Marc Albrighton: Didn’t deserve to be on the losing team. Was at the heart of everything positive about City. 7

Jamie Vardy: Had a great chance to opening the scoring but he was uncharacteristically off target. 6

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Henrikh Mkhitaryan

Henrikh Mkhitaryan

Broussia Dortmund would need to be ‘imaginative’ in order to bring Henrikh Mkhitaryan home, according to the club’s CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke.

The Armenia international joined Manchester United the summer before last but has struggled to cement a place in Jose Mourinho‘s strongest XI.

Mkhitaryan was dropped from eight of the last nine Premier League matchday squads before he made a late substitute appearance in Saturday’s frustrating 2-2 draw with Leicester City.

The playmaker is said to have fallen out with his manager and the pair were reportedly involved in a training ground bust-up after a video analysis session highlighted a defensive mistake Mourinho claimed the player had made during a match against Brighton at Old Trafford.

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Chelsea FC

Chelsea FC

That’s according to former Blues captain turned Sky Sports pundit John Terry.

Antonio Conte’s side have struggled in their title defence this season, losing four times already as they sit 14 points shy of City in third place.

Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United lie in second, three points ahead of Chelsea.

But Conte came out on top when the two sides met at Stamford Bridge last month and Terry insists that despite his old side’s disappointing first half of the season, they’re still superior to the majority of the league.

“I think if you look at it, pretty much Chelsea haven’t done too much wrong at all,” he explained on Monday Night Football.

“I know City have gone there and won, which they would have been disappointed with.

“But I think on the whole when you look at it, great squad of players, and probably bar Man City the best side in the league still.

“Manchester City have just raised the bar and I think everybody’s got to catch Man City now, that’s the only problem.

“They’ve got some great individual players, great going forward, great defensively, great midfield.

“I think bar City, that are setting the tone and tempo of the Premier League at the moment, they are the best squad of players in the Premier League.”

Chelsea bounced back from a shock defeat at West Ham with two consecutive wins last week, which will breed confidence as they approach a busy run of games.

They’ll hope to continue their impressive form when they host Bournemouth in the Carabao Cup tomorrow (7.45pm) before travelling to Everton in the Premier League on Saturday (12.30pm).

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Arsenal FC

Arsenal FC

Arsene Wenger believes Mesut Ozil is enjoying his best run of form in an Arsenal shirt ahead of a hectic festive period which will see his side face West Ham, Liverpool, Crystal Palace and West Brom.

Ozil, who is currently involved in a contract stand-off with the Gunners, scored a spectacular winner against Newcastle United on Saturday to help Arsenal to a tenth league win of the season.

The German superstar now has three goals and five assists for the campaign and Wenger insists he is in the form of his life ahead of Tuesday’s Carabao Cup clash with West Ham and Friday’s Premier League fixture against Liverpool.

Asked whether Ozil was enjoying his most consistent spell for the club, Wenger said: ‘Yes. Certainly, I think he takes responsibilities and that is what you want from him.

‘He is mature, he guides the team, they are aware he is on the ball a lot – always your heart rate goes down when he has the ball.

‘Not only his goal but I would say more important is the quality and the influence he has on the collective game.

‘You cannot score a goal like that every week, but you can play like he plays usually every week. So that is more important. If he adds that to his game then that is even more important.’

Ozil is yet to put pen to paper on a contract extension at the Emirates but Wenger remains confident that the 29-year-old, who has been linked with Manchester United and Barcelona, wants to stay put.

And the French boss refused to be drawn into whether Ozil staying was more or less important than a clarification over Alexis Sanchez’s future.

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Sevilla FC

Sevilla FC

The winter transfer window does not open until January 1, but clubs across Europe are busy planning for potential ins and outs.

Our friends at Football Whispers have scoured the European newspapers and websites to bring you the latest transfer gossip and news from the continent.
Spain

Steven N’Zonzi, a former Tottenham transfer target, looks set to be heading to Arsenal after the Gunners agreed to pay £35.3million to secure his services. (El Gol)

Real Madrid are preparing a player-plus-cash deal to take Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah to the Bernabeu. The La Liga champions and are willing to send Lucas Vazquez in the other direction as they prepare to freshen up their attacking options. (Don Balon)

Zinedine Zidane also expects to sign Athletic Bilbao goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga in January with an offer of €25million (£22.07m) being made as soon as the transfer window opens. It would mean long-term transfer target David de Gea would remain at Manchester United. (Marca)

Everton and Valencia are haggling over a fee for striker Sandro Ramirez. The Spaniard looks set to leave Goodison Park in January after struggling to settle following his move from Malaga in the summer. The 22-year-old wants to return to Spain and Valencia want to bolster their attacking ranks as they push for a Champions League place next season. (Cadena Cope)

Barcelona could be set to enter the chase for young Ajax defender Matthijs de Ligt as a replacement for veteran Javier Mascherano. The Argentine is free to negotiate a move away from the Nou Camp in January. (Sport)

Barcelona are wanting to take up the option they have with Palmeiras to sign centre-back Yerry Mina for €9million (£7.9m) during the winter window. Manager Ernesto Valverde wants to bring in defensive reinforcements. (AS)
Italy

Juventus, the masters of the free transfer market, had hoped to sign Athletic Bilbao goalkeeper Kepa in the summer when his contract expired. The Turin giants viewed him as a long-term successor to Gianluigi Buffon. However, with Real Madrid prepared to go all out and pay as much as €30million (£26.4m) to sign him in January, the Serie A champions have ruled themselves out of the running. (Calciomercato)

AC Milan are keeping a close eye on a player dubbed ‘the next Christian Eriksen’. Ajax midfielder Donny Van De Beek has caught the eye over recent weeks having scored five goals in his last four matches, including one in the 3-0 win over PSV. The 20-year-old versatile midfielder is seen as the ideal player to inject some creativity into the middle third for Gennaro Gattuso’s team. (Calciomercato)
Germany

Touted as a future Bayern Munich manager, Hoffenheim’s Julian Nagelsmann is a possible candidate to takeover at Borussia Dortmund in the summer. Having just sacked Peter Bosz, the club appointed Peter Stoeger on an interim basis as they look to identify a new long-term manager, and Nagelsmann is one of the names being mentioned. (SportBild)

France

Lille manager Marcelo Bielsa is currently suspended after a poor start to the Ligue 1 season. The reason they are yet to sack ‘El Loco’ was recently revealed by the manager’s agent who claims there is a clause in his contract which prevents him from being sacked for serious misconduct: “The pure and simple execution of his contract that runs until June 2019 (note: about €400,000 gross monthly). Which excludes besides, it is written black on white, any possibility of dismissal for serious misconduct. For now, we are in a legal battle with the LOSC. But an arrangement is always possible.” (Le10Sport)

Jurgen Klopp has already identified a replacement for Barcelona transfer target Philippe Coutinho. The Liverpool manager wants to bring Monaco’s Thomas Lemar to Anfield having failed to do so during the summer transfer window. The former Borussia Dortmund manager feels the Frenchman has the ideal profile to replace his midfield maestro. (L’Equipe)

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Manchester United FC

Manchester United FC

MANCHESTER, England — Three thoughts on Manchester City’s 2-1 win vs. Manchester United in the Premier League.

1. City take derby spoils, go 11 points clear

Manchester City took a huge stride toward the Premier League title by ending Manchester United’s 40-game unbeaten run at Old Trafford.

Goals from David Silva and Nicolas Otamendi, either side of Marcus Rashford’s equaliser, also secured a 14th successive league win for Pep Guardiola’s side, equalling the record previously set by Arsenal.

A late double save by City goalkeeper Ederson, to deny Romelu Lukaku and Juan Mata, ensured victory but the winning margin does not tell the story of City’s dominance over their neighbors.

For long periods, United could not get a foothold, with City retaining possession and forcing the home side to hit long, aimless balls to Lukaku. Rashford’s strike shortly before halftime gave United hope of an unlikely win but Otamendi’s goal, following a defensive mistake by Lukaku, kept them firmly in control of the game.

Having gone unbeaten in the league this season, it will now take an incredible collapse by City for the chasing pack to have any hope of catching them. And with a trip to Swansea on Wednesday, Arsenal’s record will be erased from the record books with another win.

Such is City’s form that another Gunners achievement could be under threat; Guardiola’s team are in with a genuine chance of going through a league season unbeaten, as Arsene Wenger’s “Invincibles” did in 2003-04.

2. United miss suspended Pogba as Silva stars

When Robin van Persie signed for United from Arsenal in 2012, the Dutch forward’s ability when defending set pieces impressed many at Old Trafford. He offered a reliable and disciplined presence in the six-yard box when facing corners or free kicks, proving he was about more than just scoring goals.

Almost six months into his United career, the same cannot be said of Romelu Lukaku, especially after his defensive horror show against City. The former Everton centre-forward went into this game having scored just twice in 13 games, so he is clearly not delivering in front of goal as Jose Mourinho would expect.

But when asked to do a shift at the back, Lukaku is proving just as unreliable and both of City’s goals coming from his basic lack of defensive nous.

The opener came when he allowed himself to be out-muscled and outjumped by Nicolas Otamendi, whose header gave David Silva an easy strike at goal. Then, in the second half, a lazy hack at a clearance from a free kick saw the ball bounce off the back of Chris Smalling and into Otamendi’s path, who scored from close range.

He was unable to make amends at the other end, which means two basic mistakes cost Lukaku’s team dearly; his manager may be well served by showing him clips of Van Persie defending set pieces as he has much to learn.

3. Lukaku flops at both ends

Paul Pogba’s absence was always going to be felt by United, but City’s quality truly exposed just how much Jose Mourinho’s team rely on the £90m midfielder.

United had no like-for-like replacement to fill the gap caused by Pogba’s red card against Arsenal, so Ander Herrera was selected to play in the holding role alongside Nemanja Matic. Herrera is all-energy and commitment, but he is no Pogba. Then again, neither are Marouane Fellaini, Juan Mata or Michael Carrick, so Mourinho had little choice.

Too often, though, Herrera was outsmarted by the outstanding David Silva and left chasing shadows. When he did catch up with a City shirt, Herrera would dive in and win the ball or, more often, commit a foul; his 14th-minute challenge on Nicolas Otamendi was a case in point and surprisingly didn’t result in a penalty.

Pogba’s greatest asset is his ability to stretch the game and instigate the devastating counter-attacks that proved so deadly at the Emirates, but Herrera is a destroyer rather than a creator and his limitations were highlighted time after time. City were able to dominate in midfield and maintain almost constant pressure.

For a team of United’s stature to be so reliant on one player being able to stretch the game is an indictment of their shortcomings. In January or next summer, Mourinho has to find a player who can add greater quality to the midfield in order to support Pogba and Matic.

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Riyad Mahrez in action with Stephen Ward

Riyad Mahrez in action with Stephen Ward

Forget the Jamie Vardy movie, the makers of Being John Malkovich should start planning a sequel.

Instead of a portal into the mind of a Hollywood actor, it would be a great idea if the protagonists tapped into the complex mind of a professional footballer – and Riyad Mahrez would be a perfect candidate.

Just what Mahrez is thinking right now as we head into what is expected to be another tumultuous transfer window is anyone’s guess?

A penny for your thoughts Riyad? I think it would cost a lot more than that. A fortune beyond even the enormous wealth of Leicester City owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha.
Mahrez was poorly advised in summer

There was no doubt about his mindset last summer. Poorly advised, he declared his intention to leave early on in the summer.

For what purpose that decision was taken, again who knows? It seems illogically to put Mahrez in a position where he was potentially alienating himself from the club and the supporters when there was no deal for him to leave on the table.

Then there was the transfer deadline day dash back from Algeria to sit in some airport terminal, like Tom Hanks’ character Viktor Navorski in the film The Terminal (there is a cinematic theme here) waiting for a transfer that never came.

That move, however, seemed more logical as he would have been caught on a long-haul flight for an international game and impossible to contact had a deal emerged at the last minute.
Mahrez was made to look a little foolish

But it did result in him looking a little foolish, and on his return his City team-mates certainly made the most of it with their dressing room banter.

Since then Mahrez had made all the right noises. He doesn’t speak publicly often, but when he has stopped to speak to reporters he has spoken about his love for City, his connection to the club having experienced so much at the King Power Stadium and has insisted he is settled.

However, then he made three moves which through everything back into the balance.

Firstly, and not surprisingly, it is understood he has changed his agent.
New advisor was behind Coutinho-Barca moves in summer

He is now understood to be working with Kia Joorabchian, who is described as an advisor rather than an agent, who was said to be behind Philippe Coutinho’s attempts to join Barcelona last summer.

The agent who was trying to get his move away from City last summer, Kamel Bengougam, has recently insisted that he still represents Mahrez. Awkward.

Then, last week, Mahrez gave an interview to the Daily Mail in which he again stated his desire to get ‘to the top’ of the game was strong, regardless of the bumper contract he has with City, which still has two-and-a-half years to run.

He also spoke of talks held with Arsenal and how he thought a deal was going to be done. I doubt that interview went down well with City.
Was blond haircut also a transfer clue?

Finally, he turned up for the game against Burnley last Saturday with a bleached blond haircut which made him stand-out even more on the pitch.

Was it tactical? It certainly led to plenty of attention and to a few newspaper references to his ‘blond ambition’.

His performances in recent weeks have certainly been more like those fantastic displays City fans saw two years ago when he was crowned PFA player of the year and was nominated for the Ballon d’Or award.

Claude Puel has spoken of his desire to ‘seduce’ Mahrez into wanting to stay at City.

Puel will try to persuade Mahrez to stay

With both being French speakers, it was hoped Puel could sweet talk him using the language of love, but the indications are Mahrez could be about to spurn his advances.

Puel says he hasn’t been given any indication by Mahrez that he still wants to leave, but he hasn’t said he wants to stay either.

Puel is currently using an interpreter to help him understand the journalists a little better during press conferences, but when it comes to dealing with Mahrez he might want to consider a mind reader.

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Joo-Ho Park has had his contract with Borussia Dortmund terminated by mutual consent.

Park joined Borussia Dortmund from 1. FSV Mainz in 2015. However the South Korean defender never really made his mark at the club. He made 11 appearances for the club but was told he was surplus to requirements by Peter Bosz at the start of the season.

He started the season with the U-23s and featured six times for them, with his last game coming on November 17 against Essen.

The 30-year old’s best and arguably only memorable moment at Dortmund came against FC Krasnodar in the Europa League on his debut in 2015, when he assisted and scored a last minute winner on his debut.

However he became a forgotten figure after that as Thomas Tuchel only used him against the lesser teams in the Europa League. Peter Bosz decided that he didn’t need Park in his team, and demoted him to the U-23S side. Park was always a model professional and a great character, despite the circumstances.

Joo-Ho Park’s contract was set to expire in the summer. But with the FIFA World Cup coming up at the end of the season, Park wants to play regular football in order to compete for a spot on the plane to Russia.

He is likely to move back to his native South Korea. If successful, Park could face a few of his former teammates from Borussia Dortmund as Germany have been drawn in the same group as South Korea.

We would like to wish Joo-Ho Park good luck for the rest of his career and hope that he makes it to Russia for the FIFA World Cup next summer.