Is Alan Pardew’s time up at Newcastle?

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With rumors of a meeting between Newcastle owner Mike Ashley and Chelsea interim manager Rafa Benitez, could Magpie manager Alan Pardew be in line for the axe?

The whispers for Pardew’s termination began rippling through St. James’ Park a month ago when Fulham nearly nipped a point despite the Magpies firing 28 shots on goal. On that day, Pardew was handed a reprieve courtesy of a 93rd minute goal by the king of late match heroics, Papiss Demba Cisse.

Since then, however, Newcastle has gone winless in its last four matches causing whispers to morph into groans and – after last weekend’s 6-0 shellacking at the hands of Liverpool – groans into cries. Following the loss to Brendan Rodgers’ side, former Toon boss Kevin Keegan tried to nip the problem in the bud by stating that Pardew “had enough credit in the bank from last season,” to justify staying on.

That credit extends back to last year’s 6th place finish and following Saturday’s loss to Liverpool, Pardew noted that one loss shouldn’t condemn him to termination. After all, Pardew pointed out, it was just two matches prior when his side drew with Benfica while pressing hard for the win.

Those seeking an end to Pardew’s reign must also consider the effect of Demba Ba’s sale, which only transpired due to Chelsea’s triggering of the Senegalese striker’s release clause. Combine this loss with the rigors of competing in the travel-heavy Europa League and extended injury bouts for Steven Taylor, Ryan Taylor, Fabriccio Colocinni, Tim Krul, Cheik Tiote, Yohan Cabaye and Danny Simpson, and leniency seems more reasonable.

Detractors will argue, however, that all three aforementioned ailments must be counter-balanced by Newcastle’s notable transfer market activity, which brought in five fabulous players from Ligue 1: Toulouse’s Moussa Sissoko, Nancy’s Massadio Haidara, Bordeaux’s Yoan Gouffran, Montpellier’s Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa and Lille’s Mathieu Debuchy. It’s a fair point to make yet incorporating five new players half-way through a season is no easy feat, especially when those players are unable to communicate in English.

When discussing Pardew’s possible termination, it’s also important to note Newcastle’s termination policy. Last fall the 51 year old was handed an eight year contract extension, which caused some to raise eyebrows. Managing director Derek Llambais explained the rationale: “You can’t keep changing your manager if he has a bad run – it doesn’t make any sense at all.”

“You can have a bad run,” Llambais continued. “Sir Alex when he first went to Man United, the first four years was tough for them as a club but they stuck by him and now look where they are. We have to stick by our manager and we want to.”

If Llambais’ words are to be believed then Pardew’s job should be safe, so long as the club avoids relegation. To ensure that doesn’t happen, the manager will need to collect as many points as possible from his next three matches against West Ham, QPR and Arsenal. If, however, Newcastle goes down to the Championship all bets are off as life in the lower league would almost certainly qualify as more than a mere “bad run.”

Bayern signs Germany midfielder Goretzka from rival Schalke

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MUNICH (AP) Bayern Munich signed Germany midfielder Leon Goretzka on Friday on a free transfer from Bundesliga rival Schalke effective from next season.

Bayern said the 22-year-old Goretzka signed a four-year deal from July 1 through June 2022.

Schalke, which Goretzka joined in 2013 from hometown club Bochum, said the player informed the club this week of his wish to join Bayern when his contract expired.

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“We think we did everything in the last months to convince Leon to stay with us,” Schalke sporting director Christian Heidel said. “In the end, it wasn’t enough.”

Schalke had long been engaged in trying to get Goretzka to extend his contract, but was aware of reported interest from Bayern, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Juventus and Liverpool.

“We’re very happy that Leon Goretzka, a German international with big potential, has decided in favor of Bayern despite big-name international competitors. This way it’s ensured that Leon Goretzka remains in the Bundesliga,” Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said.

Goretzka scored 19 goals and set up 13 more in 130 appearances for Schalke.

The club had previously expressed its displeasure with Bayern making public statements about its player after Goretzka was praised by sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic and coach Jupp Heynckes.

Heidel said “we don’t need to hear every day from the Munich people how good our player is.”

Goretzka has six goals in 12 games for Germany.

Pele hospitalized overnight in Brazil

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The most famous soccer player in the world had a scare last night as he was hospitalized in Brazil for “severe exhaustion.”

Pele, 77, was set to travel to London this weekend to be honored by the Football Writers Association, though it looks like that trip has now been postponed.

In the early hours of Thursday morning, Pele collapsed and was taken to a hospital in Brazil where he has undergone a series of tests which appear to point to severe exhaustion,” a FWA statement said. “He remains on fluids while doctors monitor his recovery.

“Thankfully, there is no suggestion of anything more serious than exhaustion.”

Here’s to hoping Pele makes a full recovery.

[MORE: USMNT centerback heads to Championship club]

USMNT centerback Carter-Vickers heads to Ipswich Town on loan

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Cameron Carter-Vickers has a new club to call home for the next five months or so after a rough first half of the season.

Tottenham announced Friday morning that it had loaned the U.S. Men’s National Team centerback to Championship club Ipswich Town for the rest of the season. Carter-Vickers spent the first five months of the season at fellow Championship side Sheffield United, starting 17 times though he struggled recently as Sheffield won just one game he played in during the month of December, losing three and drawing one.

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Carter-Vickers was then recalled earlier this week and now has a new home with a mid-table Championship club, with a new chance to impress. Hopefully Carter-Vickers can recover his form and continue to grow, potentially latching on to another Premier League side next year or breaking into the Tottenham first team.

There’s another interesting American tie-in to this. Carter-Vickers appears to be a short-term replacement for Ipswich Town’s Tommy Smith, who the club states is headed to join the Colorado Rapids ahead of the 2018 MLS season.

Sanchez, Mkhitaryan transfer still up in the air

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The player-swap/trade/transfer between Arsenal and Manchester United still appears to be heading towards completion, but it was further delayed Friday.

Multiple reports in England state that while Alexis Sanchez seems set to move to Manchester United, Henrik Mkhitaryan has yet to agree to move the other way, as talks between the player’s agent and Arsenal continue. Mkhitaryan was seen training at Manchester United’s practice facility on Friday, and because the latest delay, both players would be unable to debut for their new teams this weekend after missing the Premier League registration deadline.

[MORE: JPW’s Premier League picks]

Arsenal hosts Crystal Palace Manchester United travels to Burnley, both on Saturday at 10 a.m. (Watch Arsenal live on CNBC, Manchester United live on NBCSN, and both live on NBCSports.com)

The London Evening Standard reports that Mkhitaryan would command a $242,000-per-week salary but that as of Friday morning he had yet to undergo a medical for the transfer. Arsenal reportedly still wants a transfer fee included for Sanchez, while Manchester United would prefer to just swap the two players.

It’s also looking as if that won’t be Arsenal’s only business in the transfer market. While it seemed like a far-fetched rumor at first, the links between Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Arsenal have only grown stronger in the past few days, and the Gabon international appears to be in the Gunners sights. It appears that Bordeaux’s young striker Malcolm is now off the table.