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Where is Seko Fofana most suited – Newcastle, Burnley, Leeds

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The January Transfer Window has got off to a flying start with deals being finalized left, right & centre. Teams, especially those who are locked in relegation scraps at the lower end of the table are in dire need of reinforcements. The likes of Newcastle & Watford  are rigorously working their socks off to get deals over the line & salvage their campaigns. The Upper half of the League Table has also seen a number of teams bring in reinforcements as they look to secure European Football for next season. A team worth mentioning is Aston Villa who are having an unbelievable window having brought in Coutinho & Digne. With almost half of the window still left, it seems like a frantic second half of the Transfer window is looming in the background.

The teams we’re going to focus on today are Leeds, Newcastle & Burnley who are locked in battle for the signature of a talented Ivorian midfielder. All of the aforementioned teams are struggling for form & have lost key players to injuries in the first half of the season. With a huge struggle for survival coming up in the 2nd half of the season, there is surely a lot of work that needs to be done for all of them. New signings will be the key for each of these teams & let us look at how a certain midfielder can help one of them.

Who is Seko Fofana?

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Born in Paris, the 26 year old Ivory Coast International currently plays for Lens in Ligue 1. Seko started his playing career at the age of 9 when he joined the French 2nd division outfit Paris FC. After rising through the ranks at Paris, Fofana moved to Lorient before joining Manchester City in 2013 . He became a regular starter in the Under 18 side but failed to earn promotion to the first team. In search of regular first team football, Seko joined Championship side Fulham on loan for the 2014-15 season. He made 25 appearances for the club but injuries prevented him from cementing a place in the first 11. After returning to City, the player was again loaned out in the 2015-16 season to Ligue 1 outfit Bastia.

He made 32 appearances for Bastia & became an indispensable figure at the club. Bastia wanted to sign the player on a permanent deal but lost out to Udinese in Italy. His move to Italy worked wonders for him as he went on to make a 112 appearances for the club during his 4 seasons in Italy. He became an instant fan favorite at the club, cementing his position as the club’s talisman. In the summer of 2020, Lens offered a 4 year contract to the player but Udinese were reluctant to sell. Ultimately the player’s desire to return to his homeland pushed the deal over the line.

Playing Style:

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Seko Fofana can be best described as a versatile box to box midfielder who is a beast on both attack & defense. Fofana started out as a Number 10 during his initial days but during his time with the Manchester City Under 18s he was deployed as a deep lying playmaker. This move has immensely benefitted the player’s development as he has now developed into a brute midfield force. Fofana’s brilliance on the ball is unparalleled as he is able to weave his way out of tight situations with relative ease. His quick footwork coupled with amazing dribbling skills helps him create chances for his team. On the defensive side, Fofana’s presence in the middle of the park acta as a reassurance for the Back 4. He has the knack of putting in a tackle when needed & breaking the oppositions build up play. He can also break the opposition’s press & carry the ball forwards.

Fofana has earned laurels at Lens & now looks set to depart with 3 Premier League Clubs locked in negotiations for his signature. Let us now delve into the intricacies & figure out the best possible destination for the player.

Is he the real deal for Bielsa & Leeds?

Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds are lingering in the Premier League. Having managed only 4 victories, the mood around Ellan Road is filled with disappointment & anguish. Bielsa has not been helped by serious injuries to senior players in the squad with the likes of Cooper, Philips, Rodrigo & Bamford to name a few. Leeds have failed to build on the highs of last season & seem destined for a relegation scrap if they fail to reinforce their ranks in this window. Having already secured the signing of young forward Mateo Joseph Fernandez from Espanyol, Leeds are in the race to sign Seko Fofana.

In Bielsa’s expansive 3-4-3 formation, the only sensible position for Fofana to paly will be in the Midfield pivot besides Philips or Klick. Kalvin Philips is expected to be out for another 6-8 weeks at least, so Fofana may find himself in the starting 11 as soon as he arrives. But with Bielsa, he always likes to integrate new arrivals into his team over a period of time. Even if Fofana arrives, his prospects as a regular starter don’t look great. Fofana athleticism, endurance & ball playing ability will complement Bielsa’s style of play without a shadow of a doubt but he will need reassurances over his playing time. It remains to be seen whether a player of his calibre, at the age of 26 will be eager to take up an uncertain role at a club like Leeds with no guaranteed playing time once the big hitters return.

How will he possibly fit in at Turf Moor?

Burnley have endured a rough beginning to their Premier League campaign this season. Sean Dyche’s men find themselves in the relegation zone at the halfway mark of the season & are in desperate need of reinforcements in January. Having lost their talisman Chris Wood to relegation rivals Newcastle, Burnley are looking for a source of inspiration to salvage their season. 

Fofana is a player who can tremendously benefit & complement Burnley’s style of play. Sean Dyche sets up his team in a compact 4-4-2 formation & Fofana can blend into this formation as a box to box central midfielder. Dyche prefers highly aggressive players in his team & Fofana will be an instant upgrade on either Cork or Westwood in the middle of the park. Further, his aerial ability will also add a different dynamic to Burnley’s set piece situations. Burnley are a team who have lacked creativity in the middle of the park, something which the signing of Fofana promises to address. It will be interesting to see whether Fofana will fancy his prospects at Turf Moor &  make the switch during the January transfer window.

Will Fofana fit in at St. James’ Park?

Newcastle are working actively in the transfer window to salvage their campaign. The new Saudi ownership at St. James’ Park have already addressed 2 of their major problems in defense & attack with the signings of Kieran Trippier & Chris Wood respectively. They are also locked in negotiations with numerous targets to sign a centreback & a central midfielder. Seko Fofana is highly admired by the Newcastle board & he can prove to be a major asset in their bid to survive in the top flight.

Seko Fofana will ideally line up in the middle of the park alongside the likes of Jonjo Shelvey or Joelinton as the primary Number 8. He will be an instant upgrade on the likes of Hayden & Longstaff & add a creative dynamic to the Toons’ midfield. His ability to carry the ball forwards will allow Newcastle to build out from the back & play through the opposition press. Further, his tenacity in the middle of the park can help the Magpies playing more aggressively & pressing the opposition ball carrier. His aerial ability will help the team on set pieces & his ability to distribute the ball in all directions can enhance Newcastle’s prospects of survival.

Denouement:

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A player of Fofana’s stature will always attract many suitors looking to secure his signature. After analyzing all the teams who are looking to bring him into their squad, it seems that the player will be best suited to a team like Newcastle. Leeds will certainly not offer him a starting role & Burnley as a project doesn’t seem that attractive for Fofana. Newcastle’s quest for resurgence in the League seems to be a more promising project for the player who can certainly cement a position for himself in the starting 11. He certainly fits the bill for the player that Eddie Howe desperately needs, a ball playing controller in the midfield. If he manages to act as a midfield catalyst and propels Newcastle to Premier League survival then he might find himself as an indispensable figure in the new era at St. James’ Park.

         












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Manchester United Transfer Rumours: Rangnick left to fail?

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Manchester United Transfer Rumours: Manchester United’s failure to sign their primary targets is known to everyone. The Red Devils are struggling in the Premier League. Yet, they are doing nothing to land the player’s Ralf Rangnick’s wants.

Amadou Haidara is high on Rangnick’s list of things to get. Moreover, United’s interval manager has effectively placed in calls to his old club to arrange the signing.

Rangnick is very eager to reinforce his midfield and sees Haidara, 23, as a fair securing for both the short and long haul.

Leipzig is available to sell the Malian worldwide. He is addressing his country at AFCON and has verbally agreed to a £33million charge with Rangnick right now.

Manchester United Transfer Rumours: United in danger of losing out on Haidara?

Manchester United Transfer Rumours: Rangnick left to fail?

United is yet to make a proper bid to the German club and could miss out on Haidara after all.

Their advantage has gotten the attention of Newcastle’s new owners. They are anxious to show their muscle in the January window.

That could demonstrate United’s weakness, with club bosses delaying over burning through cash while Rangnick is in charge. The United board is hesitant to give Rangnick free reign in the exchange market.

Rangnick is very irritated with United’s inability to move in the market so far, yet the fates of a few United players are yet hanging out there.

Which players want to leave United?

Jesse Lingard is out of the agreement in the next 6 months. Newcastle, Tottenham, and West Ham pursuing his signing this month. However, he could hold on until the late summer to see who is willing to pay him the wages he wants.

Paul Pogba is living in his own world. The midfielder is out injured and showing no signs of signing a new deal with the club. His deal also ends in 6 months’ time and his agent can talk to other clubs.

Donny van de Beek has additionally become baffled with life at the club. However, Rangnick has encouraged the Dutchman to remain until the finish of the season.

The possibility of Lingard or Van de Beek being sold this month isn’t with regards to the inquiry. Still, United bosses are making it difficult for the interim manager. not eager to supply Rangnick with the funds to finish his transfer business.

Is Rangnick having doubts?

All things considered, Rangnick is presently scrutinizing the degree of impact he will have on signings going ahead. His consultancy job will be starting from this summer itself.

He really loves Borussia Monchengladbach’s Denis Zakaria, who will be a free agent in the summer. The Swiss international is available for a meager transfer fee of 6m pounds.

Brighton’s Yves Bissouma is also scouted. However, the decision will be made in the summer window only after the appointment of a new manager.





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Liverpool Transfer News: Barcelona are monitoring Roberto Firmino as they look to replace Sergio Aguero

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Liverpool Transfer News: Roberto Firmino has had a torrid season owing to injuries. But it looks like Barcelona are monitoring the Brazilian as they look to sweep him in the summer. 

FC Barcelona signed Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero in the summer. But tragedy struck the Argentine within months of making his debut for the Spanish Giants. 

The striker fell to the pitch in the match against Deportivo Alaves after he complained of chest pain. He was diagnosed with cardiac arrhythmia following which he announced his retirement in December last year.

Barcelona have since signed another Manchester City striker in Ferran Torres. But now they are looking to add another striker to their roster, for which they are targeting Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino. 

Barcelona look to swoop Roberto Firmino in the summer

Liverpool Transfer News: Barcelona are monitoring Roberto Firmino as they look to replace Sergio Aguero

According to Spanish news outlet El Nacional, FC Barcelona are looking to sign a striker in the summer. And as per the report, the Spanish Giants see Roberto Firmino as the perfect replacement for Sergio Aguero. 

The report states that Roberto Firmino would be in the last year of his contract in the summer transfer window. Hence, the Brazilian would cost only around €20m if Barcelona were to sign him. 

Roberto Firmino has had just 4 Premier League starts in the 2021/22 season. The striker has been sidelined for almost half the games owing to injuries. Hence, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has replaced the striker with Diogo Jota in the attack. 

Jota has made the most of Roberto Firmino’s misfortune. The Portuguese forward has scored 10 goals in 19 Premier League games this season. Of which, the Portuguese have started 16. 

Roberto Firmino though has got to play a key role for Liverpool in January. With Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane participating in the Africa Cup of Nations, Firmino would be leading the lines for the Reds. 

The 30-year olds resume has also been impressive with Liverpool. Having joined in 2015, Firmino has scored 94 goals in 309 appearances in all competitions for the Reds. He has also played a key part in the club winning the UEFA Champions League and Premier League titles in recent years. 

Should the Reds let Firmino leave?

As stated earlier, Roberto Firmino is in the last 18-months of his contract with the Reds. To add to this, there is still no update of an extension from Liverpool or the forward. 

Though Roberto Firmino has not scored more than 9 Premier League goals in the last three seasons, his gameplay is crucial. The Brazilian is one of the few low-lying center forwards who helps get the winger’s score. Hence Liverpool should surely try to keep Firmino if he wants to extend his stay in Merseyside.



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Algeria vs Equatorial Guinea: Match Preview

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After that disappointing game against a less fancied, Sierra Leonean side, Algeria comes up against Equatorial Guinea for their second round of matches in the group stage.

Equatorial Guinea also lost to Ivory Coast by a lone goal scored by Max Gradel very early in the game. Max Gradel’s 5th-minute opener is the fastest goal so far in the competition.

Thus, both teams come into this game without a win. A win will increase the chances of both teams towards securing qualification to the knockout stages. This match is a chance for the Algerians to get back to winning ways after being given a reality check by 108th ranked Sierra Leone earlier in the First Round of Matches.

Algeria huffed and puffed looking at a momentary lapse of concentration from the Sierra Leoneans but were left disappointed at the end of the game. The Desert Foxes created few chances and were wasteful even with the few chances they created. Bounedjah, Benrahma and Mahrez were the culprits. Algeria are on a quest to become the 4th nation after Egypt, Ghana and Cameroon to win the AFCON title back to back.

For Equatorial Guinea, this is their 3rd AFCON appearance and their 1st without being hosts. They will be seeking to equal their Quarter-final appearance at the 2015 AFCON.

WHERE AND WHEN?

Time: 7 pm.
Date: Sunday, 16 January 2022.
Venue: Japoma Stadium.

TEAM NEWS

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Youcef Belaili took a knock in the first half of the game against Sierra Leone and was therefore sluggish and lethargic.

Record goalscorer for Algeria, Islam Slimani really offered nothing to the Desert Foxes against Sierra Leone and will be replaced in the starting lineup by Baghdad Bounedjah.

PRE-MATCH ANALYSIS

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Even though they lost their opening game, the Equatorial Guinea team gave a good account of themselves and are expected to lineup in the 4-3-3 formation. They have a lot of quick players in attack who also have great shooting abilities and can wreak havoc from long range as they will be offered very limited spaces against Algeria.

The team’s weak spot is in defence as displayed against the Ivory Coast where they succumbed to incessant attacks from their Ivorian opponents. Coach Djamel Belmadi is obviously disappointed with the lacklustre performance of his team in general and how blunt his attack was.

The Desert Foxes will be alternating between the 4-3-3 and the 4-1-4-1 formation with Haris Belkebla acting as the anchorman. In a 4-3-3 formation, the Algerian front three consisting of Mahrez, Bounedjah and Benrahma will be very pacy and will maraud the defence of the National Thunder. Abdelkader Bedrane, centre-back for the Desert Foxes was also very poor, making several defensive errors in the Sierra Leone game and was hauled off.

He should be replaced by the experienced Djamel Benlamri. Bounedjah is expected to start over Islam Slimani.

PREMIER LEAGUE PLAYER FEATURE

RIYAD MAHREZ

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The Manchester City forward was spiritless, and passive in the Sierra Leone game. He was man-marked throughout the game and offered next to nothing to the Desert Foxes. He will need to go the extra mile to be the creative spark in the team so as to make the work of Baghdad Bounedjah very easy.

SAID BENRAHMA

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West Ham forward, Benrahrima was brought with about a quarter of an hour left to play and missed a glorious opportunity to give the defending champions the lead. He made all the needed runs and was always in the right positions to wreak havoc to the opponents. He has been rewarded a starting berth against Equatorial Guinea.

PREDICTED LINEUPS

Algeria possible starting lineup: M’Bolhi; Bensebaini, Atal, Mandi, Djamel Benlamri; Belkebla, Brahimi, Boulaya; Mahrez, Bounedjah, Benrahma.

Equatorial Guinea possible starting lineup: Sapunga; Ndong, Coco, Akapo, Obiang; Salvador, Ganet, Buyla, Machin; Nsue, Hanza.

MATCH PREDICTION

Algeria 3- 1 Equatorial Guinea












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