Returning Sanchez a big boost for Arsenal in BPL

Sportsnet's James Sharman takes an in depth look at the signing of veteran Premier League goalkeeper Petr Cech and his first season with Arsenal.

Every week, will chat with Sportsnet soccer commentator James Sharman about the big stories and issues in the Premier League, and preview the weekend’s games.

What do you make of Swansea City hiring Italian manager Francesco Guidolin?
It’s certainly an interesting hire, as just two weeks ago Swansea said that interim manager Alan Curtis would remain at the helm until the end of the season. They followed that up with two back-to-back losses, with Curtis confirming his earlier suggestions that he didn’t want the job long-term.

I am a big fan of Guidolin. Back when I covered Serie A closely his Udinese side was an excellent team that played a wonderful style of football. Swansea has also played a great brand of football in the past and I really hope the Italian gets the best out of them. However, as I recently mentioned on Sportsnet’s Soccer Central podcast, when you are trying to stave off relegation, getting a man who has limited knowledge of the league is a gamble.

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John Terry scored a late equalizer for Chelsea against Everton last week, a goal that should not have counted because he was offside. What’s your view on using video replay in soccer? Should the sport use it to review controversial goals?
I am all for goal-line technology, and I am also okay if we expand the use of technology to judge offside calls on goals. That is it though—no more, none of this reviewing handballs or fouls in the box, as the referee’s discretion is important on such calls, and often even replay wouldn’t be able to determine whether a player had intent. In these cases it needs to be accepted that borderline calls will be made. But with offside, it really is a black and white issue, and technology could be beneficial.

Liverpool signed Simon Mignolet to a new long-term contract this week. Was this a good move by the Reds? Or should they have gone after another goalkeeper this summer in the transfer market?
I understand Mignolet takes a lot of heat, but I think he is still a decent enough goalkeeper. Having said that, he is clearly not world class, and if Liverpool intend on rivaling the big boys over the next few years then they should go out and procure someone else. Mignolet is a great shot stopper, but he is a liability on crosses at times, although the acquisition of a top centre back this summer should help that.

If you look around soccer nowadays you see a lot of top-notch goalkeepers in back up roles—surely one of them would rather play every week for Liverpool? The recall from Aberdeen of Danny Ward is interesting. He will soon be the backup, the club rates him highly and the added pressure on Mignolet one will be fascinating to watch.

Tottenham visits Crystal Palace on Saturday. The Eagles are winless in their last five league games and have dropped to eighth on the table. What’s going on a Selhurst Park?
Nothing is wrong according to manager Alan Pardew. However the stats speak for themselves and goal scoring is a major issue. Yannick Bolasie’s injury absence is a huge reason for this, but perhaps this is simply a case of a team over-performing for much of the season and this is the inevitable crash? Rumours have Pardew linked with Nicklas Bendtner and Emmanuel Adebayor. If that is the case I’d be very concerned if I was a Palace fan.

Arsenal hosts Chelsea on Sunday. How do you see this marquee match playing out? Who has the advantage?
Arsenal should be the big favourites here, as both Mesut Ozil, and Alexis Sanchez are touted to return. Chelsea showed last week against Everton that defensively they still have major problems, and that Gunners’ attack will cause them fits. I’m looking forward to the Petr Cech circus, as so far this year he has massively outplayed the man who replaced him at Chelsea, Thiabaut Courtois. That’s not to say the deal didn’t make sense, but selling Cech to a league rival was a bit of a head scratcher and the results speak for themselves.

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