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Arsenal transfer targets: Rooney yes, Fellaini no

This summer is the first for many years that Arsenal are being talked about for signing other teams’ star players rather than losing their own, and two of the most commonly discussed names are Wayne Rooney and Marouane Fellaini. Even as recently as last summer the idea of Arsenal getting either of these, never mind both, would be laughed at, but this summer is different. Next season is when UEFA’s Financial Fair Play restrictions really kick in and this is what Arsenal have been preparing for over the last five years or so. Their payment schedule on the new stadium eases considerably and as they are so reliant on generating their own money they are in a strong position to take advantage of the FFP rules. So Rooney and Fellaini are affordable, they’ve got the cash sat ready and waiting. But how realistic is it for Arsenal to get them, and what would they bring to the team?

Wayne Rooney has asked to leave Manchester United. Rooney doesn’t want to play for David Moyes, his wife wants to live in London and Rooney wants to be the star striker. Arsenal could certainly satisfy the last two. In fact, not only would he be the star striker, he’d be their star player full stop. The arrival of Robin van Persie from Arsenal last summer saw Rooney drift further and further back towards, and even into, midfield. But he is openly unhappy about this. He still sees himself as a pure striker, and his goal scoring numbers back this belief in himself up. In the 2009/10 and 2011/12 seasons Rooney was deployed often as a lone striker, but always as a striker. He scored 34 and 35 goals respectively, by far the best output of his career.

Arsene Wenger

The strange thing with Rooney is that his best qualities are often overlooked in favour of his additional qualities. He works hard for a striker and has a good passing range for a striker, and this means managers are tempted to use him further back. But he’s best at scoring goals. At Arsenal, that would be exactly what he is brought in to do. With Santi Cazorla, Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott, possibly even Steven Jovetic, in place, they have no need for him to play deep. Olivier Giroud is a decent striker but no more. If Arsenal sign Rooney and play him up front they will have themselves the 30-goal striker they had when they sold van Persie. Even with all of the other talent, he would be the star of the show, and he would revel in that.

Would Manchester United be willing to sell though? Surprisingly the fee discussed so far has only been around £30m because he has just two years left on his contract. Arsenal sound like they can easily afford that. If they can also pay him the circa £200k a week he get’s at United, which again chief executive Ivan Gazidis has said they can, then this could happen. He’d be an excellent signing and a real statement of intent.

Marouane Fellaini

Where Rooney is a clear fit for Arsenal, the same isn’t necessarily true of Fellaini. For many years Arsenal’s supposed weakness was in defensive midfield, they had no shield and thus a flimsy defence. But last season they had the second best defence in the league. This was not least down to a transformed Aaron Ramsey who, over the last three months of the season, was as good a protector as any midfielder in the league. His tenacity in the tackle and particularly his interceptions marked him out. Arsenal fans bemoan his passing and lack of inventiveness, but in his new position he can keep it simple and focus on defending. What does Fellaini offer that is different? Like Ramsey, he is not a particularly good or subtle passer of the ball. He’s an athletic and tough presence when deep in midfield and although there is no doubting he is a little better at that than Ramsey, can you justify spending £24m on a minor upgrade?

Fellaini caused devastation as an attacking midfielder at Everton when supplied aerially. Does Arsene Wenger really want to use Fellaini as a number ten? He’d certainly offer them a Plan B but again, is that enough to justify spending so much on? Unless Wenger is convinced that Fellaini is a significantly better defensive midfielder than Ramsey then he should not make the move. Fellaini after all, gets most of his praise for the carnage he can cause if supplied correctly in the other team’s half. He’s a very good player, but not worth Arsenal spending £24m on when they still need a goalkeeper.

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Andrei Arshavin at Arsenal – where it went wrong

Andrei Arshavin arrived at Arsenal in the January 2009 transfer window as a superstar. He was to be the final piece of the attacking jigsaw that could win Arsenal the league. He had earned this reputation due to his performances in Zenit St. Petersburg’s victory in the 2008 UEFA Cup and then in Russia’s run to the semi-final of Euro 2008. In both sides he was the mesmeric string puller, shuffling around the pitch at high speed with the ball glued to his foot. Arsenal spent £15m to get him, and it looked an immediate bargain. In those last few months of the 2008/09 season he managed to score six and assist eight in just 12 games. Arsenal had seemingly signed a bona fide world-class player. And yet, Arsenal have just announced that they will not be renewing his contract and he is free to leave. The same contract he signed in 2009. So what has happened to turn a blistering start in to tomorrow’s scrapheap?

Arshavin’s name was made at Arsenal with his start to life at the club. He made his debut after the club had suffered successive 0-0 draws, and they had two more in his first two games. And then he exploded in to life. Arsenal then won seven of their next eight games, scoring 25 goals in the process. Arshavin was involved in 14 of those 25 goals. He was the saviour. The man who had resuscitated a dying Arsenal attack. He was already a hero and a Premier League star. He got sick and wasn’t effective in the final three games, Arsenal only won one of them. He had rapidly established himself as a key man. Most notable in this early barrage was the four goals he scored away at Anfield in a hectic 4-4 draw.

Andrei Arshavin

He made his name so quickly and with so little settling in period that some of his failings were overlooked. He was always a hit and miss player. In the early part of his Arsenal career he would waltz past three defenders and score, laterly he would blaze it over the bar. Right? The thing is, he did it early on too, but the sheer weight of goals, and the messiah effect meant it was missed. The blazed chances or dribbles off the pitch were a part of the settling in, part of sharpening up after not playing in the Russian winter. Except they weren’t. That was his game.

This started to become an issue in his second season. In his first few months he played 90 minutes every game, his patchiness forgiven. In the second year, he was substituted in 16 of his 38 matches in all competitions. He scored 12 and set up nine but the cracks were showing. He wasn’t producing the kind of explosiveness that had marked him out as a star in his first few months. His goals and assists came in ones. In drips. He was doing OK, but he wasn’t playing like a star. But he still had the good grace of the fans, he was still exciting, although increasingly frustrating.

It was the 2010/11 season that pretty much sunk Arshavin’s Arsenal hero status. Arsenal made a sluggish start to the season, not least because Wenger was cautiously resting World Cup finalists Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie. In the absence of the star duo there was more emphasis on Arshavin to step up and be the star, but he couldn’t do it. His frustrating misses, bad passes in good areas and more so than anything, questionable work ethic were no longer being overlooked as lovable eccentricities. Arsenal were out of the title race by October after four losses and Arshavin hadn’t stepped up. The pattern of substituting took on almost comical proportions. A seemingly always unfit looking Arshavin was substituted on or off in almost every game. In 36 starts in all competitions he was substituted off 27 times. On top of this, he also came off the bench 16 times.

In other words, Arsene Wenger wanted him to succeed, could see his talents, but he wasn’t delivering. Arsenal fans grew weary of his perceived lack of effort and off field distractions. He couldn’t produce consistently. His penultimate season summed up his ridiculous association with the bench. In 19 league games he came off the bench 11 times and was brought off in seven of his eight starts. He wasn’t producing but Wenger kept giving him chances to. Eventually he was packed off back to Russia.

Andrei Arshavin’s time at Arsenal was defined by his start. If he’d played those first few months as he did the rest of his Arsenal career he’d have been written off after two years. He lived on those early glories and got chance after chance to repeat them, but he couldn’t. He ended up spending more time coming on to or off the bench than he did producing on the field. A lost talent? Or a three month wonder who arrived at right time to become a hero all too quickly?

Should Arsenal push harder to keep Bacary Sagna?

Ever since arriving in England in 2007 Bacary Sagna has been regarded as one of the top right backs in the Premier League. His consistent play highlighted by inefficiency in central defence. However, over recent years he has suffered two broken legs and this has taken it’s toll on his fitness levels and performance standards. Once the epitome of robotic consistency, he has allowed errors, some of them ghastly, to creep in to his game. Even despite this though, Sagna was the right back in the second best defence in the league. A defensive unit that looks, for the first time in years, to be settled and able to operate to a high standard. Arsenal have a big decision to make on him. He is 30 years old, Arsene Wenger’s traditional cut off age for long term commitment, has suffered two big injuries, has one year left on his contract and is being openly courted by Monaco and PSG which would give him a shop window as he battles to get back in to the French national team.

Sagna recently told French newspaper L’Equipe that a move; ‘is possible. We would have to see in which conditions and, in sporting terms, what they propose. I won’t go just anywhere’. And on his contract impasse with Arsenal; ‘There are talks [with Arsenal], but I still haven’t extended my contract. I am talking, and I am not at a bad club either’. He is clearly torn on what his best option would be. In ‘sporting terms’ his best option would be to stay at Arsenal. He is the first choice, and playing in a settled unit. He knows the system and his team mates.

Bacary Sagna

A move to PSG would be dubious in sporting terms. If Sagna is concerned about winning back his place in the French national team it’s a big risk. PSG have Christophe Jallet, and more importantly Gregory van der Wiel already at the club. If he can oust them then it’s perfect, but if he gets stuck on the bench his World Cup will vanish. A move to Monaco would be solely driven by money at this stage of Sagna’s career. He maybe has two or three years left at the top, and Monaco aren’t going to win the Champions League in the next three years. Again, playing in France would have an appeal to him for both sporting and personal reasons. This could be his last big contract, and he’ll get a bigger one at PSG or Monaco than he will at Arsenal. He’ll also get a longer one than he will at Arsenal.

Sagna will be 31 at the end of his contract next summer and Arsenal would be unlikely to offer much more than a one or two year deal. PSG or Monaco could offer three or even four years if they wanted to. Arsenal have shown some flexibility on this rule compared to previous years, and in Sagna’s case they should do again. There are several reasons that Arsenal should push harder to keep him. They only have Carl Jenkinson at right back other than him, and although Jenkinson has promise, he’s not got the quality of Sagna. Just as pressingly, there is a lack of quality full backs in world football at the moment that are gettable for Arsenal. Their first choice, Lukasz Piszczek is having hip surgery and is out for 6 months. If they at least keep Sagna for this season they can re-evaluate based on his performances and then make a decision on Piszczek or give them time to scout out another right back.

Arsenal have too many other areas of need to have to make themselves another hole by selling Sagna. He clearly wants some security on his contract having suffered two broken legs and if Arsenal aren’t prepared to offer that they should just lose him for free next year unless PSG or Monaco make a huge offer. If Arsenal get an offer they are satisifed with, and feel sure on a replacement, they can sell, but otherwise it just creates a weakness that doesn’t currently exist.

Christian Benteke – Tottenham, Arsenal or Liverpool?

Last summer Aston Villa bought Christian Benteke for £7m from Genk, a move that even Belgian football pundits thought fraught with risk. Now, they have one of the most desirable players in the Premier League, who is being linked with Spurs, Arsenal and Liverpool. They have been attracted by his prototypical physique, speed, power, goals, heading ability and the fact that he improved so quickly last season. So if Spurs, Arsenal and Liverpool are the domestic suitors, where would be best for him to go to? Or would he better off staying at Villa?

Spurs are being linked most strongly with Benteke of the three so are a logical place to start. There is no doubt, and precious little secrecy about Spurs’ summer priority and that is to sign an upgrade on their current strikers. They have been linked with Leandro Damiao, Jackson Martinez, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Benteke most prominently. There is an obvious theme to all of these; physical presence combined with ruthless finishing. In other words, they want a hybrid of what they currently have. They want the power and pace of Adebayor with the finishing of Jermain Defoe.

What all of these options have in their favour is consistency, but what makes Benteke such an intriguing option is that he has done it consistently in the Premier League. He has already shown that he can score goals against the opposition Spurs will have to overcome to get back in to the top four. Now, despite his improvements, he is still very raw. There is real doubt as to whether he is quite ready to lead a team to the top four and the idea of Spurs signing him depends of Gareth Bale’s future. If Spurs sell Bale they can’t sign Benteke to be their main man. He is not ready to be that figurehead at the top of the league. If they keep Bale, then Benteke would be a great option. Spurs are Bale’s team, so if he stays Benteke can play and learn and improve without the pressure of carrying them on his back. He would have a dream supply line to help him find his feet.

Christian Benteke

Arsenal have also been linked to Benteke but it is unclear whether the Emirates would be the best landing spot for him. Arsenal play a different style of football to Spurs, where the striker is more involved in the build-up play. At Spurs he would be allowed to roam the penalty box as he was at Villa. At Arsenal he would need to be more sophisticated and versatile, and at this stage he is not ready to be that. Spurs bombard the box with crosses, Arsenal do not. They have got a big penalty box man in Olivier Giroud, supposedly to offer a different dimension but most of Arsenal’s goals still came with passing or quick counter attacking which is more reliant on the attacking midfielders. Benteke has more potential than Giroud, but at this stage is at best a minor upgrade. Arsenal seem to readying bids for players like Stevan Jovetic, who carry an expectation of a title challenge. They would be better off spending big money on a world-class striker for the time being.

Liverpool have supposedly joined the race on the basis that Luis Suarez could be leaving. But, since the arrival of Daniel Sturridge, Suarez has played either in behind or out left, his old Ajax position. Sturridge is the striker that Brendan Rdogers believes in. He wants three tricky attackers in behind a quick goal-scoring striker. He seems to be prioritising adding a third option to Philippe Coutinho and Iago Aspas rather than striker. There’s a possibility that Sturridge could be moved wide right but that’s not why he was bought. Benteke’s role at Anfield is undefined.

Villa will of course, not let him go lightly, if at all. The problem for any club trying to buy him will be finding a fee that Villa find acceptable. He’s probably worth £15m or so, given his raw talent and goal output, but he is worth more than that to Villa. If they sell him, who are they replacing him with? He was singlehandedly responsible for them staying up last season so selling him would be a huge risk. The best solution for Villa would be to keep him for this season, and if he’s scored another 20+ goals he will be worth £20m, and more. There is no reason for them to sell him this summer unless they get a mind blowing offer. For Benteke, another season as guaranteed starter could give him the edge over Romelu Lukaku in the race to start for Belgium at the 2014 World Cup.

Manchester United without Sir Alex or Wayne Rooney, Chelsea with Jose Mourinho – next season is set to be a cracker

As the 2012/13 Premier League season lurches towards its underwhelming end, the realisation for many a fan is that it left us with precious little memories, compared to other seasons – notably the most sensational ending in the competition’s 21-year history last term.

As Sergio Aguero slammed home the winner that gave Manchester City the Premier League over fierce local rivals Manchester United with the last kick of the game against Queen Park Rangers last season, Martin Tyler screamed: “I swear you will never see anything like this again.”

Tyler’s now iconic sound bite may have had some truth to it, certainly this season at least, he was right.

Sergio Aguero

As the season sleepwalks into its final day, there is only the tedious race for fourth place that is still to play for amongst London trio Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur. The champions United won the division as far back at April 22. Sir Alex Ferguson’s side took advantage of a lacklustre competition and they marched to their 13th Premier League title in an efficient, if unspectacular, manner.

Two of the three relegated teams’ fate were sealed a week later when Queens Park Rangers played out a dour 0-0 with Reading before Wigan Athletic joined them on Tuesday following a 4-1 defeat to Arsenal.

Indeed the most exciting events to happen in the league this season were announcements and decisions that will not come into focus until next season.

Happily next season is already shaping up to be mouth-watering, with a whole of changes sweeping throughout the league, giving it a fresh feel for the summer of 2013.

To begin with, four of the top six teams this season will be starting the 2013/14 campaign with new managers at the helm.

Manchester United will be without Alex Ferguson for the first time in 26 years, with his replacement David Moyes leaving Everton, where he served for over a decade himself.

Sir Alex Ferguson

Ferguson’s absence from English football is a concept millions of fans around the country have never known and Moyes’ adaptation to the country’s biggest club will be the most fascinating plot next season.

Everton chairman Bill Kenwright admitted that he will not be hasty in appointing Moyes’ successor, with the most reliable reports linking the Blues with Wigan’s Roberto Martinez, Porto coach Vitor Pereira and Swansea City boss Michael Laudrup.

Rafael Benitez will depart Chelsea, with Jose Mourinho seemingly set for a second stint at Stamford Bridge. The return of the ‘Special One’ is enough to excite every Chelsea fan and most neutrals. Love him or loathe him, Mourinho is pure box office and his return to England is sure to stir up feuds, drama and entertainment.

Man City are looking for a new manager with Malaga’s Manuel Pellegrini touted as the favourite to take over from the axed Roberto Mancini. Incidentally, the Italian was given his P45 just 366 days after he ended his side’s 44-year wait for a league title in the top division.

Pellegrini’s presence in English football would provide another interesting sub-plot to next season’s 38 act drama. The Chilean has won widespread plaudits for his work with the Andalusians this season, after guiding them to a Champions League quarter-final in their first season in the competition, despite working against a backdrop of financial meltdown at the club.

Away from the dug-out, the division will be without two players who will have played 1456 top-flight games between them by Sunday evening. Jamie Carragher will retire from Liverpool after 16 years of sterling service for the Reds, while Paul Scholes looks set to make the last of 718 appearances for United when they play West Bromwich Albion.

Between them they have won five FA Cups, three Champions Leagues, five League Cups, a UEFA Cup, a Super Cup and two World Club Championships. Scholes leaves United with 11 Premier Leagues and both players say goodbye to the game as archetypal one-club legends for their respective teams.

Wayne Rooney’s future is also subject to speculation with Ferguson admitting that the England international had asked for a transfer request a few weeks back. Rooney has been linked with moves abroad to Paris Saint-Germain amongst others, but there have also been reports suggesting that the former Everton forward could move to Chelsea.

Wayne Rooney

A move to Stamford Bridge would be another incredible development in United’s recent evolution, and perhaps it may seem incomprehensible that Rooney could turn out for the Blues next season. However, stranger things have happened in football, and Man Utd’s decision-makers have never been shy of selling a star player when they think his talent may be on the wane.

Next season will also have the fixture that pits Cardiff City against Swansea City, a game which will only add more spice to a division that already boasts the Merseyside, Manchester, north London and Tyne-Wear derbies.

Equate in all this with the fact that the transfer window is not yet even open and you get the feeling that next season could be one of the most intriguing all of time.

Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea should be looking at Adam Maher

Adam Maher is quickly becoming a household name in European football, and the prodigious 19-year-old showed why once more for AZ Alkmaar in the KNVB Beker final last week. The skilful playmaker is one of the hottest prospects in Dutch football, and showcased his ability on the big stage in his last outing, leading AZ to their first cup success in 31 years.

The attacking midfielder scored the first goal in his team’s 2-1 victory over PSV, with a sublime piece of individual skill and a composed finish, as shown here.

The bigger Eredivisie clubs such as Ajax and PSV themselves will be eyeing Maher as a possible summer signing, however the playmaker looks ready for an extra step, and a move to the Premier League. With four full Netherlands caps under his belt before his 20th birthday, Maher’s future looks extremely bright.

His fast feet and close control are exemplary, as shown by this piece of skill against Mark van Bommel in the cup final.

Manchester United have been looking for skilful players to play in the centre of the park and keep possession, and Maher would certainly fit the bill. Admittedly he would need to work on the defensive part of his game, however tutelage at Carrington could mould him into a top player.

Maher would also be a close match for Arsenal, with the teenager a youthful replacement for Tomas Rosicky. With the Gunners’ brand of possession football and intricate passing, the Dutchman would surely fit right in.

Finally, Chelsea have been putting an emphasis on youth in their transfer dealings, and seem set on the 4-2-3-1 formation. Although the dream pairing of Juan Mata, Oscar and Eden Hazard hold the three starting berths, Maher has the versatility and the quality to deputise in any of the three positions.

Premier League preview: Big games for Tottenham, Arsenal, Wigan and Aston Villa

With Manchester United sealing their 20th league title with a 3-0 win over Aston Villa on Monday, all the attention now shifts to the relegation battle and the top four places.

Arsenal v Manchester United

The Gunners welcome the champions to the Emirates for a big game in their battle for the top four. Arsenal currently have a two-point advantage over fifth-placed Spurs and are one point in front of fourth-placed Chelsea. After their vital win at Fulham last weekend, this is another huge game for the home side as Chelsea and Spurs both have a game in hand on them.

Robin van Persie

Some people may be wondering what sort of attitude Manchester United will have toward this game having already clinched the title. Sir Alex Ferguson has set them the target of winning their last four games to break Chelsea’s Premier League record of 95 points, and with questions also being asked about how good this United team actually is, they will want to put down a marker against one of the top teams in the division. With both teams wanting the win there is sure to be goals and you would expect there to be a positive result one way or the other.

Aston Villa v Sunderland

A massive relegation battle at Villa Park as Paolo Di Canio’s in-form Sunderland look to secure their Premiership safety. Following impressive back-to-back wins against Newcastle and Everton, Sunderland know a win here would take them to 40 points and all-but secure their place in the league next season. Di Canio has got them playing attacking football by getting the ball wide to their creative players like Adam Johnson and James McClean and getting more men into the box than under the previous regime. Di Canio has also got them well organised with two clean sheets in his three games in charge so far. His passion on the touchline seems to be translating to the players and the fans, the players seem to be enjoying their football again and have pride in the shirt.

Paul Lambert

For Villa despite their defeat at Manchester United they have been in decent form, with three wins in their last six games. The problem remains with their home form though, as they still seem to suffer from nervousness at Villa Park, with just two wins in their last six. Despite this fact Luxbet have them as favorites at 2.20. They need to start improving their home form, as come Monday night Wigan may be level on points with them and the Latics still have a game in hand at home to Swansea to come. Paul Lambert will be desperate to avoid having to go to Wigan on the last day of the season needing a result but it is hard seeing them getting the win here against a rejuvenated Sunderland.

Wigan v Tottenham

Arguably the biggest game of the weekend comes at the DW Stadium as relegation-threatened Wigan welcome a Spurs side buoyed by their 3-1 victory over Manchester City last weekend. Wigan’s usual good form at this time of the season has not come to fruition, with just two wins in their last six and with trips to West Brom and Arsenal still to come they need to find some better form quickly. Despite what Roberto Martinez has claimed, the upcoming FA Cup final may well be a distraction to the players as in the back of their minds the players will want to keep themselves fit for their big day at Wembley.

André Villas-Boas

Spurs meanwhile will be full of confidence after their comeback victory against Manchester City and know that they need to keep winning before their big showdown against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in a couple of weeks. With Gareth Bale another week further along in terms of regaining fitness and so much pace and so many goal scoring threats it is hard to see how Wigan will cope with this Spurs side.

By Chris Newman

Arsenal’s top four chances on line against Manchester United

Arsenal against Manchester United has a certain ring to it, and in past years it has been one of the most glamorous and exciting fixtures on the Premier League calendar. However, with the Red Devils winning the last three encounters between the sides, including an 8-2 thrashing at Old Trafford at the start of last season, the fixture has lost some of its sheen. When the Gunners host United this Sunday, the home side must buck the trend and get three points to keep their top-four ambitions alive.

Gone are the days of the Roy Keane-Patrick Vieira battles, and United have somewhat forgot their rivalry with Arsenal given that the north London outfit have not been challenging for the title for a number of seasons. Instead of a title challenge, the last number of campaigns have been all about securing Champions League football for Arsene Wenger’s men. The Gunners are an outside, bet here even at home; Arsenal are 3/1 with Ladbrokes to get a much-needed three points.

Arsene Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson

United wrapped up the Premier League title on Monday night with an easy 3-0 victory over Aston Villa, but in truth the league has been over as a contest for quite some time. Arsenal will hope that United take their foot off the pedal slightly on Sunday, and Sir Alex Ferguson has admitted that his side may well be shuffled for the fixture.

One interesting sub-plot is Robin van Persie’s return to the Emirates Stadium for the first time since his controversial transfer to United in the summer. Given that this is the first game since United clinched the title, the Gunners are set to give their opponents a guard of honour – which will not go down well with the home faithful.

Regardless of personal vendettas against former players, Arsenal must monitor Van Persie closely, or the Dutch forward could put a considerable dent in his ex-employer’s top-four chances. A hat-trick to round off the title and 24 goals in all this season mean that Van Persie will most likely be awarded the Player of the Year award, and with good reason.

With Chelsea and Tottenham only a point and two points respectively adrift of the Gunners in third, it is plausible that a United victory this weekend could see Arsenal drop to fifth place. Given the tight nature of the race for the top four, it is imperative that Arsenal stand up and be counted against a side that has had the better of them in recent times.

Manchester City, Arsenal, Tottenham, Chelsea and Liverpool – look to the Eredivisie for transfer targets this summer

The Premier League big boys will already have one eye on the impending reopening of the transfer market, with the likes of Manchester City, Arsenal, Tottenham, Chelsea and Liverpool looking to strengthen their squads.

A continued source of young talent is Holland’s Eredivisie, which has produced and nurtured such talents as Robin van Persie and Luis Suarez. Here are five exciting talents from the Dutch top flight that would make an impact in England.

Wilfried Bony

The Eredivisie’s top goalscorer this season with an unprecedented 30 goals in 27 games, Bony has been the catalyst for Vitesse Arnhem’s unexpected title challenge. The Ivory Coast international is the latest strong and quick forward from his nation, and looks sure to move to a bigger club this summer.

Wilfried Bony

Newcastle have been linked the African hitman, but the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham should both be monitoring Bony too.

Stefan De Vrij

Feyenoord’s captain and the leader of a home-grown revival in Rotterdam under Ronald Koeman. The assertive centre-half is one of the brightest defensive prospects in European football, and has made inroads into the Netherlands international set-up. At 21-years-old, De Vrij looks set to be a top performer and would suit the physical style of English football.

Stefan De Vrij

Arsenal, Liverpool and even Manchester United should be keeping tabs on De Vrij, who looks destined for greatness.

Alfred Finnbogason

The Iceland international has started to show up in scouting reports around Europe in the last 12 months due to his eye for goal and confidence on the ball. A loan spell with Helsingborg and 12 goals in 17 games earned him a move to Heerenveen in the off-season, and the Scandinavian has proved a bargain purchase. 24 Eredivisie goals in 28 outings is an excellent return for the 24-year-old.

Alfred Finnbogason

Heerenveen are very much a selling club and as such Finnbogason should be available at a bargain price. Liverpool and Tottenham could bolster their attacking options here, while a number of mid-range Premier League sides would have a prodigious talent on their hands.

Christian Eriksen

Arguably the best player in Dutch football at the moment, Eriksen has been repeatedly linked with a move away from Ajax, with England, Italy or Spain the destination. The Denmark international has played a significant role in the Amsterdam club’s title defence, and was influential in their recent 3-2 away win over PSV.

Christian Eriksen

Manchester United, Liverpool and Tottenham have been linked with Eriksen in the past, however the Dane has the ability to play at any of the big clubs.

Kevin Strootman

PSV’s central midfield of veteran Mark van Bommel and Strootman is much admired in Holland, and the 23-year-old continues to grow in stature. Now a firm fixture in the Netherlands international squad with 18 caps, the box-to-box midfielder has outgrown the Eredivisie and would be a fantastic purchase for a number of English clubs.

Kevin Strootman

Manchester United have not had a dominant central midfielder enforcer since Roy Keane – Strootman could be the man to fill the void. Arsenal would also seem like a match given that Arsene Wenger has failed to replace Alex Song.

Premier League preview: A big weekend for Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham, Manchester City and Liverpool

This weekend features three massive games in the race for the Champions League places as the season enters its final few weeks.

Fulham v Arsenal

Arsenal’s late season charge to make the top four takes them to Craven Cottage. After a midweek draw against Everton, the Gunners will feel they need three points from this away trip before Manchester United come to the Emirates next weekend.

Santi Cazorla

After their surprise away win at Spurs a few weeks ago guaranteed their Premiership status for another season, Fulham’s season is drifting towards its conclusion with no win in their last three games, which included a crushing home defeat to local rivals Chelsea in midweek. Arsenal’s greater desire and need to win should be enough to see them to a comfortable three points at the Cottage.

Tottenham v Manchester City

A huge game at White Hart Lane as Spurs host the current champions. Spurs have been feeling the pressure once again late in the season with their last two home games ending in defeat to Fulham and a draw with Everton, whilst also crashing out of the Europa League to Basel. This is a big opportunity for them to get themselves back in a prime position for the top four against a Manchester City side who looked jaded in their 1-0 home win over Wigan in midweek.

Gareth Bale

The crowd will certainly be up for this game as well and with the likely return of Gareth Bale, Spurs will fancy their chances of getting a positive result out of this game. City know that they are not going to catch Manchester United and that they have second place pretty much sown up. For them all the focus is now on the FA Cup final and they may make a few changes after playing three games in a week. Spurs know a win is vital as they still have tough away games to come against Chelsea and two teams who are battling for survival in Stoke and Wigan.

Liverpool v Chelsea

Rafael Benitez returns to Anfield for the first time as an opposing manager with his Chelsea side. The Spaniard is sure to get a terrific reception from the home supporters and it will be interesting to see how it affects the Chelsea team. When Gerard Houllier returned with his Aston Villa team a couple of years ago and got an amazing reception Liverpool cruised to a 3-0 victory. This Chelsea team though are a lot more experienced than that Villa side and you would expect them to be able to cope with what is sure to be a passionate atmosphere.

Rafa Benitez

On the pitch Liverpool have won four of their last five meetings in the league against Chelsea and they drew the other. Liverpool have once again saved most of their best performances for games against the bigger clubs this season, even though this may not be borne out by results. Benitez continues to rotate his squad well to cope with their demanding fixture list and their 3-0 away win at Fulham in midweek was certainly impressive, whilst they were unfortunate not to take Manchester City to extra time in last Sunday’s FA Cup semi-final. Liverpool’s recent record against the Blues may well swing this game in their favour and Daniel Sturridge may well be out to prove a point against the club who he feels never gave him a proper chance to make his mark in his time there.

By Chris Newman

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