ProSoccerTalk’s Top 5 Goals – English Premier League (Matchweek 31)

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It was yet another mind-blowing weekend for goals in the Premier League.

While some clubs fought for spots in Europe, others challenged to get themselves in the Top 10 while others battled to avoid the dreaded relegation zone. Regardless of the motive, there’s little doubt that the final-stretch intensity has set in across the Premier League. The result was goals, goals and more goals – many so fantastic in nature that to do them justice we’re reviewing the Top 5 of Matchweek 31.

The list is so good that it’s worth mentioning who didn’t make it. You won’t see Jan Vertonghen’s silky finish against Swansea, or Jay Rodriguez’ clinical opener that turned the Chelsea defense inside out. You won’t see Jordan Henderson’s relaxed poke against Aston Villa or Hal Robson Kanu’s suicidal diving header against Arsenal. You won’t see Gary O’Neill’s incredible swerving game-winner against West Brom or Christian Benteke’s first-time rip that cut open the Liverpool defense like a Ginsu. And you won’t see Michu’s snap header to the far post or Yaya Toure’s bust-through the box and near-post finish from next to no angle.

All of those were fantastic goals – but these are the best.

5. ANDY CARROLL – WEST HAM UNITED

Welcome back, Andy Carroll! The West Ham striker was an absolute beast in his club’s 3-1 destruction of West Brom on Saturday, hitting a sensational brace for the first time in nearly two years. He opened the scoring in the 20th minute when he slipped his defender and pounded a frightening header past Ben Foster. He outdid himself in the 80th minute when James Collins lofted a free-kick from half field into the box. Carroll took his run from the top of the 18 yard box to the right side of goal, let the ball float over his right shoulder and slammed a first-time volley into the far corner to seal the Hammers’ victory.

4. GARETH BALE – TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 

Gareth Bale’s been getting so much press lately that I tried to avoid putting the Spurs dynamo into this list, keep the boy’s ego in check a bit. But to do so would be an injustice to football and an unreasonable denial of the truth – that Gareth Bale is a truly remarkable footballer capable of truly remarkable feats. On Saturday his 17th goal of the season was not only another game-winner but it marked his seventh Premier League goal scored from outside the 18 yard box. Seven? That’s just plain silly. The strike was unlike any goal I’d witnessed in a long time. After receiving Jan Vertonghen’s pass with his right foot, the Welshman rabbit-hopped into an outside of the left foot shot that corkscrewed into the top corner, leaving Swansea keeper Michel Vorm helpless and fans breathless.

3. RICKIE LAMBERT – SOUTHAMPTON 

If you’ve watched Rickie Lambert play then you already know why so many people (myself included) are busting vocal chords over Roy Hodgson’s repeated refusal to call him into the England squad. The 6’1″ striker is not only lethal in the air and in front of goal but he’s making quite a name for himself from 25 yard spot kicks. One match removed from his strike that found the back of the net against Liverpool, Lambert was at it again on Saturday. Merely two minutes after John Terry leveled the match for Chelsea, Lambert stepped to the free-kick and unleashed a calculated pill that dipped over the Blues wall and bulged the net. The goal handed Southampton a crucial 2-1 victory and confirmed Lambert’s status atop the charts for English goal-scorers with 14.

2. AROUNA KONE – WIGAN ATHELTIC

The Ivorian was mentioned in the Narratives leading up to Matchweek 31 and he didn’t disappoint. With the match locked in a 0-0 stalemate in the 80th minute, Kone burst past his marker and latched on to Jordi Gomez’ through-ball to smash home the game-winner from the top of the box. With the goal Wigan grabbed all three points and wiggled itself out of the relegation zone.

1. KEVIN MIRALLAS – EVERTON 

Ask any Evertonian and he will tell you the same thing – Kevin Mirallas is the next great footballer at Everton. With Steven Pienaar and Marouane Fellaini out for the Stoke clash, it was up to Mirallas to bring home the points and the Belgian did so in fantastic fashion. Stoke’s Marc Wilson lofted in a free-kick in the 28th minute that Everton keeper Tim Howard punched out to Mirallas, standing about 20 yards outside the box. The winger collected the ball, fought off Steven N’Zonzi, and torched Stoke’s defense with eight touches across 70 yards before slotting the ball home with aplumb.

Hazard and Co. set up NASL club in San Diego

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Soccer in SoCal continues to boom.

[ MORE: Sanchez, Aguero swap deal?

The North American Soccer League (NASL) announced Monday that San Diego will have a second-tier team for the 2018 season as professional soccer returns to San Diego County.

In a statement from the NASL it was revealed that San Diego’s new expansion franchise is owned by star players Eden Hazard, Yohan Cabaye, Demba Ba and Moussa Sow, as well as executives with experience of the San Diego market.

Hazard, a star for Chelsea and Belgium, revealed exactly why he believes San Diego deserves a soccer team.

“San Diego is a beautiful place and the love and passion that the people have for soccer made this an easy choice for us,” Hazard said. “My friends and I are honored to turn this dream into a reality and we can’t wait to get started and win some games.”

The quartet do not have a name, logo or colors for the team, but that is expected to be announced in the coming months. Bob Watkins will serve as the club president and Ricardo Campos, former technical director for thew New York Red Bulls, will serve in the front office alongside Katy Temple as the pieces are put in place for another new soccer team in California.

NASL will have 10 teams for the 2018 season with Orange County also joining the league that currently shares second-tier status with the much-larger USL which boasts 30 teams.

With Orange County and San Diego arriving in NASL in 2018, LAFC to join Major League Soccer in 2018 and a consortium led by former USMNT star Landon Donovan hoping for an MLS expansion team in San Diego in the years to come, soccer in SoCal is booming.

How involved Chelsea star Hazard, Crystal Palace midfielder Cabaye, Shanghai Shenhua striker Ba and Al-Ahli forward Sow get remains to be seen but they’ve obviously seen a gap in the market in San Diego.

Bakayoko to Chelsea, Matic to Man United close

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Two defensive midfielders will have new homes very soon.

[ MORE: Aguero, Alexis in swap deal? ]

Tiemoue Bakayoko, 22, is closing in on a move to Chelsea from AS Monaco as he is set to replace the outgoing Nemanja Matic who will link up with his former boss Jose Mourinho at Manchester United.

Multiple reports, including this one from the BBC, state the deal for Bakayoko is close to completion with Chelsea and Monaco agreeing the $41.8 million fee and the French midfielder is expected to be a Chelsea player in the next 48 hours.

As for Matic’s imminent arrival at Old Trafford, the Serbian destroyer, 28, will reportedly complete his move this week with the Guardian stating the clubs have agreed a price of around $50 million and wages of $197,000 per week have also been agreed between the player and United.

United badly needed a defensive reinforcement in central midfield and Matic (who has won two Premier League titles in three seasons since rejoining Chelsea in 2014) would fit the bill. Able to start attacks and possess the ball as well as a fine reader of the game who uses his lanky frame to intercept passes and sweep up in front of the defense, Matic would surely be the perfect foil for Ander Herrera in United’s engine room and they’d allow Paul Pogba to roam free.

As for Chelsea, there’s no doubt that losing Matic is a blow but Bakayoko is rated as one of the top defensive midfielders in Europe after excelling for French champions Monaco in Ligue 1 and the UEFA Champions League last season. He’s a more composed version of Victor Wanyama and alongside N'Golo Kante he’d provide Chelsea’s defense with a formidable shield. This is just the type of midfielder Antonio Conte loves.

Both United and Chelsea would considerably improve their central midfield areas with these additions.

Frank de Boer named new Crystal Palace manager

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The Eagles have gone Dutch.

Crystal Palace appointed Frank de Boer as its new manager Monday, announcing the Dutch legend has signed a three-year deal at Selhurst Park.

De Boer, 47, previously won four consecutive Dutch titles in charge of Ajax from 2010-16 before a less successful spell in charge of Inter Milan last season as he lasted just three months (and just 14 matches) in charge of the Italian giants.

“I am thrilled to be appointed as manager of Crystal Palace Football Club. It is a great honor to take charge of such an historic club, a club that is known around the world for its hugely proud and passionate fan base,” De Boer said. “This role is a hugely exciting opportunity for me, and I cannot wait to get started in the Premier League with the players and staff here in south London.”

There’s no doubt De Boer’s playing career means he will demand the utmost respect from Palace’s players — he won five Dutch titles, a UEFA Champions League and Europa League at Ajax, a Spanish title at Barcelona and was capped 112 times by the Netherlands — but adapting to a new league may be difficult for the Dutchman, although he did spend time with Glasgow Rangers and had stops in Turkey and Qatar during his illustrious playing career. He’s no stranger to change.

Palace chairman Steve Parish revealed that De Boer’s arrival aligns with the ambitious plans for the club who also aim to develop their young players.

“We have undertaken a thorough interview process to ensure we are in a position to appoint a manager of the caliber and experience that Frank brings with him,” Parish said. “I am pleased to welcome him to Crystal Palace and I know he cannot wait to get started and prepare for our record breaking fifth season in the top flight.”

After Sam Allardyce announced his retirement at the end of the 2016-17 season after keeping Crystal Palace up in the Premier League, the Eagles have been searching for a new boss diligently. Parish is said to have favored former Hull boss Marco Silva to take charge of the south London club, but Silva opted for Watford.

Palace stretched out their managerial search with Mauricio Pellegrino, appointed by Southampton on Friday, also on their shortlist, but De Boer has now arrived to take charge of the ambitious London club.

With big money spent on the likes of Christian Benteke and Yohan Cabaye in recent seasons, the Eagles were supposed to be challenging for a top 10 finish. The past two seasons they’ve flirted with relegation under Alan Pardew and then Allardyce, with new American majority owners Josh Harris and David Blitzer yet to see the success they’d hoped for.

De Boer stated he would give every player at Palace a chance before making signings, but judging by the inconsistent displays by a squad largely built by Pardew and then patched up by Allardyce the Dutch coach will have a big job on his hands to turn the squad around and create a new identity for the Eagles.

He is a big name in the soccer world and Palace’s passionate fans will no doubt be excited by the prospect of De Boer bringing a new possession-based playing philosophy to Selhurst Park.

Alexis Sanchez, Sergio Aguero swap deal in place?

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A huge swap deal for two of the Premier League’s biggest stars is reportedly being discussed.

[ MORE: Mourinho’s father dies ]

The Daily Star reports that Alexis Sanchez and Sergio Aguero could involved in a swap deal between Arsenal and Manchester City this summer.

Per the report, the deal would be a straight-swap and when you think about it for a moment, it would be the perfect solution for almost everyone involved and with Aguero aged 29 and Sanchez 28, it’s a close to a perfect swap as you’ll find for both clubs.

The South American superstars are both in tough situations with their current teams, but this would also be a tough deal to get done.

Arsenal do not want to sell Sanchez, especially to a Premier League rival, but with the Chilean superstar having just 12 months left on his contract his transfer value is rapidly diminishing each week he doesn’t sign a new deal. And with Aguero dropped by Pep Guardiola on multiple occasions last season despite scoring 33 times in all competitions, the Argentine would get the chance to be the main man at Arsenal.

Everything should be on board with this, right?

Well, Aguero would have to sacrifice UEFA Champions League action for at least one season with Arsenal in the UEFA Europa League in 2017-18 which could throw a considerable spanner in the works of this rather outrageous deal. However, Arsenal would be getting one of the greatest finishers of his generation, and in Premier League history, which would mean they’d finally have the prolific forward they need to finish off the multiple gilt-edged chances per game they create.

Wenger went after Jamie Vardy last summer but failed and with Danny Welbeck, Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott around, all three are far from prolific. Aguero would be one of the missing pieces of the jigsaw for Arsenal but both clubs would argue they’d want to keep their stars and add the other. The only way City would be able to add Sanchez is if they offer up Aguero.

Sanchez was signed by Guardiola at Barcelona and the Chilean would perfectly slot into City’s fluid front three alongside Gabriel Jesus, Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling. Aguero didn’t fit that system well last season and despite Pep stating the Argentine striker would be at the club in 2017-18, you have to think he’d pick Alexis over Aguero.

Although this swap deal seems to suit almost everyone, it still seems incredibly far-fetched. That said, both Premier League clubs would save face in losing a star name and financially there would be no huge losses.

Hmmm. The more you think about it, the more this makes sense.