90min’s Definitive European Player Power Rankings: Week 27 – Grace & Frankie Special

Torino FC v SS Lazio - Serie A
Ciro Immobile is Serie A’s top scorer | Stefano Guidi/Getty Images

Ligue 1 is long gone and the Bundesliga season may now be over, but there’s still been plenty of football for us to enjoy this week.

And when there’s football, there’s only one thing to do: rank the top 15 performers across Europe right now.

This week, it’s over to the glamorous Grace and Frankie to give us a hand.

Pierre-Emerick AubameyangPierre-Emerick Aubameyang
Aubameyang netted twice against Norwich | Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

“Have you met me? I avoid all hard conversations. It’s why I carry hard liquor.”

His contract conversation might be a tough one, but one thing which isn’t difficult for Aubameyang is scoring goals.

Two more against Norwich takes his tally for the season to 19. Decent.

Kevin De BruyneKevin De Bruyne
De Bruyne tore Liverpool apart | Pool/Getty Images

“Excuse me, have you ever wondered if Ben and Jerry make more than ice cream together?”

Ben and Jerry make outstanding ice cream and De Bruyne makes outstanding passes on the pitch.

He was unplayable in Manchester City’s 4-0 win over Liverpool, ending with one goal and an assist.

Special shout-out to Phil Foden, who’s playing like a man desperate to get in the power rankings.

Edin DzekoEdin Dzeko
Dzeko was not at his best this week | DeFodi Images/Getty Images

“Sol’s probably going to ask you to do an interpretive dance.”
“I don’t think I can. I mean, I could. I mean, I usually see where my body takes me in the moment. Kah! KAH! Kah.”
“Definitely don’t do that.”
“Okay.”

Whatever Edin Džeko did over this last week, he should probably try and do the exact opposite next week.

The Roma man drew blanks against both AC Milan and Udinese, and now his side are back in a Europa League battle.

Kai HavertzKai Havertz
Havertz may have played his final Bundesliga game | Pool/Getty Images

“Your struggle is an inspiration to all of us. Here are your Gucci loafers.”

Havertz spent the majority of Bayer Leverkusen’s 1-0 win over Mainz 05 on the bench, watching on as his slide failed to secure a spot in the Champions League.

If you can hear a ringing, it’s probably Chelsea, Bayern Munich or Real Madrid blowing up Havertz’s phone. Cha-ching.

FBL-GER-BUNDESLIGA-DORTMUND-MAINZFBL-GER-BUNDESLIGA-DORTMUND-MAINZ
Sancho’s season did not end well | GUIDO KIRCHNER/Getty Images

“Would you mind taking me back home or setting me on fire?”

Someone just pay up and bring Sancho back to England already.

He lost his spot in the Borussia Dortmund side towards the end of the season and managed just 45 minutes as his side were thumped 4-0 by Hoffenheim. Yikes.

FBL-GER-BUNDESLIGA-DORTMUND-HOFFENHEIMFBL-GER-BUNDESLIGA-DORTMUND-HOFFENHEIM
Haaland drew a blank against Hoffenheim | INA FASSBENDER/Getty Images

“This is not the energy I wanted to start my vision quest with.”

That 4-0 loss wasn’t kind to Haaland, who was forced to remember what it’s like not scoring a bazillion goals in 0.3 nanoseconds.

“I just prefer to have everybody like me.”

Nobody liked Sørloth during his time with Crystal Palace, but everyone at Trabzonspor worships the ground he walks on.

He added yet another goal this week, taking his tally for the season to 28 in all competitions – the same amount as parent club Palace have managed in the league this year.

Timo WernerTimo Werner
Timo Werner is already a Chelsea player | Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images

“I love spinning your bonkers ideas into gold!”

Werner’s decision to snub Bayern last summer was met with ridicule, but now he’s an elite striker and set to pocket close to £300,000-a-week with Chelsea.

Christian PulisicChristian Pulisic
Pulisic was one of few Chelsea players to impress against West Ham | Visionhaus/Getty Images

“Once you see the real me, you are gonna run for the hills.”

Chelsea tried to make sure fans didn’t see Christian Pulisic as a replacement for Eden Hazard, but that hasn’t really worked out.

I mean, he was forced to carry Chelsea in the 3-2 loss to West Ham as nobody else on the team turned up. Sound familiar?

Romelu LukakuRomelu Lukaku
Lukaku endured a tough week | Jonathan Moscrop/Getty Images

“I gained another pound today. But I think it’s a pound of knowledge.”

Once ridiculed for his weight, Lukaku is now slimmer and more prolific than ever.

Well, he didn’t score in either of Inter’s two matches this week, but that’s not the point.

Anthony MartialAnthony Martial
Martial has impressed since the restart | Michael Steele/Getty Images

“I am young. My joints are supple.”

Like Grace and Frankie themselves, Anthony Martial is living his best life now that he has met Bruno Fernandes.

He might not have found the back of the net against Brighton, but his general performance shows just how good he’s feeling these days.

Ciro Immobile, Marco ParoloCiro Immobile, Marco Parolo
Immobile has been unplayable this year | Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images

“Can we wrap this up? I have to do clubbing.”

One goal against Fiorentina. One goal against Torino. Immobile is a man possessed.

He’s still got a bit of work to do if Lazio are to wrap up the Serie A title – Juventus are four points clear – but there’ll be a whole lot of clubbing to do if he can pull it off. Maybe this weekend, seeing as he’s suspended…

Maurizio Sarri, Cristiano RonaldoMaurizio Sarri, Cristiano Ronaldo
Ronaldo netted twice this week | Jonathan Moscrop/Getty Images

“Sweet, muscular Jesus!”

The man looking to spoil Immobile’s party, Ronaldo was busy doing Ronaldo things this week.

One goal and two assists against Lecce was followed up by another goal against Genoa, keeping Juventus on track for a major league-record ninth consecutive title.

Lionel MessiLionel Messi
Messi did his best to keep Barcelona in the title race | David Ramos/Getty Images

“You can’t see me, you can’t stop me.”

Just imagine where Barcelona would be without Messi.

Made to do all the work for the billionth time this year, Messi bagged two assists against Celta Vigo and was involved in both goals against Atlético Madrid, but even that wasn’t enough to keep Barcelona from dropping behind in the title race.

Messi has now either scored or assisted 21 of Barça’s last 25 La Liga goals – a whopping 84%. Anyone else fancy stepping up?

Robert LewandowskiRobert Lewandowski
Lewandowski won yet another Torjagerkanone | Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

“You know, at my age I only have one speed: breakneck. Of course I don’t call it that. Because it is a very real fear.” 

The Bundesliga season is over and Lewandowski is sitting the power ranking throne.

He fired home one last goal against Wolfsburg – his 34th in just 31 games – and still has the DfB-Pokal final to look forward to.

For more from ​Tom Gott, follow him on ​Twitter!

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Arsenal Fined by FIFA Over Use of Sell-On Clauses in Transfers

Arsenal FC v Brighton & Hove Albion - Premier League
Arsenal have been fined for improper use of sell-on clauses | Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

FIFA have fined Arsenal 40,000 Swiss francs (£34,000) after the Gunners were found guilty of using sell-on clauses to influence future transfers.

Sell-on clauses are a normal part of transfer dealings, with a selling club often agreeing to a lower up-front fee on the condition that they are given an agreed percentage of any future transfer fee if the buying club chooses to offload the player.

Chuba AkpomChuba Akpom
One of the deals involved PAOK’s Chuba Akpom | Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

As noted by the Associated Press, Arsenal used this tactic in deals to sell Chuba Akpom to Greek club PAOK Thessaloniki and Joel Campbell to Italian side Frosinone Calcio in 2018, but the problem was that Arsenal’s clause would have seen them earn more money if either player was sold to an English side.

Arsenal demanded 40% of the future fee if Akpom was sold to an English team, but just 30% if he was sold elsewhere. Similarly, Frosinone could earn themselves an extra 5% by not selling Campbell back to an English team.

FIFA began investigating the deals back in January and have now found that Arsenal were guilty of using the clauses to influence PAOK and Frosinone’s future business.

Joel CampbellJoel Campbell
The other player was Frosinone’s Joel Campbell | Alessandro Sabattini/Getty Images

“The committee considers that, by the mere existence of these clauses, Frosinone and PAOK FC are influenced by Arsenal in employment and transfer-related matters,” FIFA disciplinary committee member Thomas Hollerer wrote in the verdict document.

“The committee considers that the relevant clauses undoubtedly grant Arsenal the ability to influence in employment and transfer-related matters the independence, policies and the performance of PAOK FC and Frosinone’s teams.”

Arsenal argued that the deals had received approval from both the Premier League and English Football Association and insisted that the sell-on clauses would have no impact on PAOK or Frosinone, but FIFA were having none of it. Obviously.

Mikel ArtetaMikel Arteta
Arsenal tried to dispute the fine | Harriet Lander/Copa/Getty Images

“It is evident that in a scenario in which PAOK FC and/or Frosinone receive two similar and/or identical offers for the transfer of the relevant players, one being from a club in the United Kingdom and the other one coming from a club outside the United Kingdom, PAOK FC and Frosinone would be more inclined to accept the offer coming from the club outside the United Kingdom, as it would make the operation most profitable from a purely financial point of view,” Hollerer explained.

Arsenal were also warned that any future infractions of this nature would lead to harsher punishments. Naughty naughty.

For more from ​Tom Gott, follow him on ​Twitter!

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Gabriel Martinelli Signs New Long-Term Arsenal Contract

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Gabriel Martinelli has signed a new Arsenal contract | DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/Getty Images

Arsenal have confirmed that Brazilian forward Gabriel Martinelli has put pen to paper on a new long-term contract at the Emirates Stadium.

The 19-year-old was an under-the-radar signing last summer but has since blossomed into a first-team regular for Arsenal, racking up ten goals and four assists in all competitions.

Confirming the deal on the club’s official website, manager Mikel Arteta admitted that he is excited to see what the future holds for both Martinelli and Arsenal as a result of this deal.

“I am very happy that Gabi has signed a new contract with us,” the boss said. “He is a very talented young player and he has impressed us with his performances, attitude and work-rate. We are looking forward to getting him back to full fitness and to watching his development at our club.”

Just one year and one day after first joining the club, Martinelli has proven exactly why Arsenal were so determined to land the Brazilian in the first place.

Initially made to wait for his opportunities under Unai Emery, Martinelli wasted little time in forcing his way into Arteta’s plans, starting in six of his last seven appearances before injuries began to slow his progress.

His rise to prominence was so impressive that Real Madrid were rumoured to be considering launching a £50m bid, so it’s not hard to see why Arsenal have worked tirelessly to ensure he remains at the Emirates.

Gabriel Martinelli, Alexandre LacazetteGabriel Martinelli, Alexandre Lacazette
Martinelli was a regular under Mikel Arteta before picking up an injury | Craig Mercer/MB Media/Getty Images

This latest development is further proof of Arsenal’s desire to turn their attention to young players. Bukayo Saka, who has impressed at left-back in his debut season, recently penned his own lucrative extension, with Arteta keen to build for the future.

The boss has regularly spoken of the long-term project at Arsenal, encouraging fans to be patient and allow the team to rebuild and improve in the future, and tying Martinelli down for a number of years will go a long way to helping realise that ambition.

For more from ​Tom Gott, follow him on ​Twitter!

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David Luiz’s Future at Arsenal May Be Salvaged By a Back Three Formation

Arsenal may be able to get the best out of David Luiz with a three man defence
Arsenal may be able to get the best out of David Luiz with a three man defence | DeFodi Images/Getty Images

With the ‘disasterclass’ still menacingly hovering over Arsenal’s dismal Premier League restart, whispers emerged from the Emirates that the target of such scorn and ridicule was being rewarded with a contract extension.

Manchester City mercilessly pounced upon David Luiz’s sloppy outing at the Etihad as the experienced Brazilian was at fault for Raheem Sterling’s opener before he conceded a penalty and received his marching orders in the space of 20 first half minutes.

Suffice to say, the reaction was not overwhelmingly positive when fans discovered Luiz and his exploits were to be tethered to the club for another year. Yet, Luiz’s future at the club may not exclusively consist of a personal quest to singlehandedly revive Danny Baker’s ‘Own Goals and Gaffs’.

Obviously he has his limitations – as any player does – but Luiz particularly struggles when he is forced to marshal large swathes of open space. A shift to a three man backline is not the divine solution to instantaneously absolve Luiz and Arsenal of any and all defensive woes, but it may be a step in the right direction.

If Luiz were to be flanked by two central defenders, the front-footed Brazilian would be able to rely upon one of his defensive colleagues to mop up behind him if – or, more appropriately, when – he misses a tackle. This role also allows Luiz to regularly unleash his booming diagonal switches of play – a perfect example of which came in the build up to Granit Xhaka’s second goal in Arsenal’s recent 4-0 win against Norwich City.

David LuizDavid Luiz
David Luiz had a reassuringly quiet game in Arsenal’s win over Norwich | Chloe Knott – Danehouse/Getty Images

After almost exclusively deploying a 4-2-3-1 following his arrival in December, the Norwich victory was the third successive game in which Mikel Arteta has deployed a back three, as the Spaniard uses the season’s addendum to decipher his best lineup.

Back in 2016/17, Antonio Conte decided his best Chelsea lineup would use a 3-4-3 with Luiz at the heart of the defence after suffering a first half pummelling at the hands of Arsenal. On the way to the Premier League title, Conte’s Chelsea won their next 13 consecutive league games – with Luiz playing every minute of each.

That season, Conte explained – as quoted by the Independent – why Luiz was so suited to this particular role: “I think this position is perfect for David to play as a central player in three defenders. This is the best position for him because he has good technique, he’s strong, he can start our possession and [he has] the personality to do this.”

David LuizDavid Luiz
David Luiz was instrumental to Chelsea’s last title triumph in 2017 | Soccrates Images/Getty Images

Conte’s tactical tweak spawned several imitations, including – surprisingly – at Arsène Wenger’s Arsenal. When the two London sides met in that year’s FA Cup, Arsenal lined up with a three man backline to face Chelsea – and Luiz – in the Wembley showpiece. On the right-hand side of Arsenal’s defence that sunny May day was Rob Holding, who delivered one of his best performances for the club – this points towards his ease in that system.

While Luiz’s recent extension inevitably grabbed the headlines, Arsenal also secured the services of Pablo Mari. The left-footed Spaniard may be ruled out for the rest of the campaign, but, in his short time at the club, he has already won over Arteta and would provide some balance to the defence on his favoured side.

Next season will also bring the arrival of teenage centre back William Saliba. Despite the 19-year-old’s limited exposure to first-team football, the Frenchman also has experience in a three man backline coming through Saint-Étienne’s ranks.

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William Saliba is set to join Arsenal next season after spending a year on loan with French side Saint-Étienne | NICOLAS TUCAT/Getty Images

This change of system did garner wins against a woefully out of form Sheffield United and relegation-bound Norwich. But with a devilish four match run against Wolves, Leicester, Tottenham and Liverpool on the horizon, there is no room for the defensive lapses which have peppered Luiz’s debut campaign in north London.

Simply turning to this tactic is not the solution in and of itself, but it may be the best way to maximise the defensive talent at Arteta’s disposal.

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The Arsenal Lineup That Should Start Against Wolves

Mikel Arteta
Mikel Arteta’s men have bounced back following a dismal return following the break | Harriet Lander/Copa/Getty Images

Arsenal have endured a mixed return following the three-month footballing hiatus.

A 3-0 thumping at Manchester City was followed by a disappointing defeat at relegation-threatened Brighton, though their packed schedule has seen them record three victories in just seven days to offer hope to the Emirates faithful.

Mikel ArtetaMikel Arteta
Mikel Arteta on the touchline during’s Arsenal’s 4-0 win over Norwich | Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Despite multiple injuries and suspensions since the restart, Mikel Arteta will be pleased at the character and strength-in-depth shown by his squad as they look to secure European qualification.

Saturday’s trip to Molineux sees the Gunners face one of the teams threatening to replace them as one of the Premier League’s top-six sides. Wolves have enjoyed a terrific campaign under the stewardship of Nuno Espírito Santo, and look well set to register their place in next year’s Europa League competition at the very least.

With just one place and six points between the two sides, this clash could prove crucial come the season’s final reckoning. Here’s how Arteta may set up as he prepares for arguably the most crucial game of his Arsenal tenure so far.

After conceding twice at Brighton, Emiliano Martínez has let in just one goal in the following three gamesAfter conceding twice at Brighton, Emiliano Martínez has let in just one goal in the following three games
After conceding twice at Brighton, Emiliano Martínez has let in just one goal in the following three games | Pool/Getty Images

Emiliano Martínez (GK) – Since conceding twice against Brighton in his first league start of the season, the Argentinian has since kept two clean sheets, with the only goal conceded coming against Sheffield United in the FA Cup. While Bernd Leno’s injury is not as bad as first suspected, Martínez is expected to deputise for the remainder of the campaign.

Héctor Bellerín (RWB) – The Spaniard looked impressive at wing back against Norwich, with the more advanced position definitely suiting his offensive style of play. Expect the Arsenal boss to experiment yet again as he looks to find a system to best suit his better players.

Shkodran Mustafi (CB) – Another defender who looked better suited in the new role against the Canaries. Mustafi’s defensive capabilities have been called into question during his time at the Emirates, though the added security of an extra centre back could see the German produce his best football.

David Luiz (CB) – If Mustafi’s defensive capabilities have been called into question, then Luiz’s have been lambasted. The Brazilian’s best form of his career came under Antonio Conte at Chelsea as the central figure in a back three, and Arteta may see this as the way forward with Luiz signing a new deal at the club.

Rob Holding (CB) – Far from Arsenal’s first-choice centre back, though the former Bolton man is doing his bid for a regular place in the first team no harm. With the permanent signing of Pablo Mari confirmed and a new deal signed by Luiz, Holding is under pressure to prove he belongs at the top level.

Kieran Tierney (LWB) – The former Celtic man has endured a rough first season at the Emirates. With first-team opportunities limited due to injury, the Scotland international is finally being afforded the chance to show just how good a player he can be.

Granit Xhaka grabbed his first league goal of the season against NorwichGranit Xhaka grabbed his first league goal of the season against Norwich
Granit Xhaka grabbed his first league goal of the season against Norwich | Chloe Knott – Danehouse/Getty Images

Lucas Torreira (DM) – With Arsenal still fighting on two fronts and the Premier League fixtures coming thick and fast, Arteta could utilise some of the players who didn’t feature against Norwich despite the fine performance. Torreira has been confirmed fit for the weekend’s clash and is expected to make a return.

Granit Xhaka (CM) – The Swiss midfielder notched his first league goal of the season at the 25th time of asking on Wednesday evening. After facing the brunt of the Arsenal fans’ frustration for much of the season, a few more performances like the one he produced against Norwich will no doubt go a long way to repairing relationships.

Dani Ceballos (CM) – With Mesut Özil looking surplus to requirements at the Emirates, the creativity and drive of the Real Madrid loanee looks even more crucial if the Gunners are to secure a place in the Europa League.

Aubameyang will be key to Arsenal's end of season run in if they are to qualify for EuropeAubameyang will be key to Arsenal's end of season run in if they are to qualify for Europe
Aubameyang will be key to Arsenal’s end of season run in if they are to qualify for Europe | Chloe Knott – Danehouse/Getty Images

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (ST) – Arteta has tended to push Aubameyang into a wide position to accompany his preferred 4-3-3 formation, though the introduction of wing backs could see the frontman moved inside. Regardless of where he plays, the Gabon international will no doubt be central to any success Arsenal enjoy between now and the end of the season.

Alexandre Lacazette (ST) – There’s been much clamour from the Arsenal fans for Lacazette to be brought back into the starting XI. Though he couldn’t cap his return to the league XI with a goal on Wednesday evening, his movement looked good and he really needs to start firing if he’s to prove his worth.

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