The Transfer Tailor Shop – Christian Benteke

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I can’t hide my love for the transfer market and everything it encompasses. Sure, the rumors are largely that, rumors, procured by one of the major British news outlets like The Guardian, Sky Sports, the Mirror or the least reliable but most creative, the Daily Mail. Point being, few topics within world football drive the banter like transfer talk.

One of the craziest things is that Pro Soccer Talk or any other soccer/football website can perpetuate a transfer rumor without any repercussion whatsoever. But why fabricate when you can evaluate? That’s the most exciting part of any transfer rumor – deciding whether or not the player fits the club and vice versa.

Cue ‘The Transfer Tailor Shop’ – the one place where we set forth the rumor, weigh whether it’s a good fit, and then ask your opinion on where the player should end up. Today we’re looking at everyone’s favorite hulking Premier League striker, Aston Villa front-man Christian Benteke.

On Tuesday night the rumor broke that Villa chairman Randy Lerner was prepared to double Benteke’s basic pay (from £1m to £2m a year) to ensure the Belgian stays at Villa Park. The fear, no doubt inflamed by the striker’s mind-blowing hat-trick in Villa’s 6-1 romp of Sunderland on Monday, is that if the Midlands-based club doesn’t show him some serious love he may leave The Claret and Blue for Tottenham or Arsenal.

Such a move would be devastating to manager Paul Lambert’s desire to return the club to Top 10 status. After having sold off stars Gareth Barry, Ashley Young and James Milner in recent years, Lerner is now poised to do whatever it takes to secure Benteke’s signature. After all, the 22 year old has been in scintillating form this season and with 18 league goals, is the primary reason Villa may avoid the drop.

If Villa were to sell Benteke the club would be left with Andreas Weimann, Darren Bent and Gabby Agbonglahor as its forwards. Weimann (7 goals, 27 matches) and Agbonglahor (7 goals, 25 matches) have enjoyed fine seasons – and may themselves be targets of summer transfer offers – but neither plays the same out-and-out striker role as Benteke. Only Bent covers that. And while the 29 year old England international has enjoyed a few fabulous years, the 2012-13 campaign has hardly been one of them. Overtaken by the Belgian after injury sidelined him in the fall, Bent has barely seen the field since Benteke’s emergence.

Of course, Villa would receive bountiful compensation if they sell Benteke – the figures vary wildly but most assess his value at £20m-£35m – but who’s to say that his replacement produces? After all, even if Villa were to shell out for a top replacement everyone remembers where £50m got Chelsea with Fernando Torres. In other words, losing Benteke would be a crushing blow to Villa, even with a pocket full of money.

But if Arsenal is able to strike a deal for the Villa hit-man, how well would Benteke fit in at the Emirates?

Since selling Robin van Persie to Manchester United, Arsene Wenger’s side has been frothing at the mouth for a world-class striker. In a semi-panic for cover the Gunners purchased Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud. Podolski has seldom been utilized up top and despite a love for the club and desire to play, may be sold in the upcoming transfer window.

Giroud has come into Arsenal and made the role of target-man his own, yet few Goonah’s are rushing to defend the Frenchman’s contributions. Yes, he’s showed spurts of talent but 11 goals in 33 appearances for a team that puts balls on silver platters is not a flattering stat line. It’s foreseeable that another year of Premier League action sees Giroud develop into a top striker but it’s objectively clear that when it comes to talent and production, Benteke is the far better asset.

Benteke’s game is built on speed and power, attributes not typically associated with Arsenal. One gets the sense that after this season’s experiment with Giroud, Wenger may be more likely to seek a more skillful forward who excels in pinpoint passes and link-up play. While the Gunners may pony up £15m-£20m for Benteke they seem more poised to break the bank for a striker like Edinson Cavani or Stevan Jovetic.

Turning to Tottenham, now.

There is perhaps no Premier League club in greater need of a striker than Spurs. Emmanuel Adebayor has dropped multiple levels over the last few seasons and his careless play and ridiculous antics has drawn the ire of the White Hart Lane faithful. He will undoubtedly be sold this summer, likely at a cut rate price.

The Lillywhites other striker, Jermain Defoe, will likely remain in the squad despite yet another disappointing and injury riddled season. When healthy, the England international is a dynamo for the Spurs offense, but seems better suited to a role off the bench.

Thus, there is plenty of room for Benteke in Andre Villas-Boas’ squad. The Belgian would provide a massive target for creative players like Gareth Bale, Gylfi Sigudrsson and Aaron Lennon to run off of and would be the ideal man to bang home service from the outside. Benteke would also nicely supplement the grit Spurs have down the spine with players like Sandro, Jan Vertonghen, Mousa Dembele, Michael Dawson, Steven Caulker, William Gallas and Tom Huddlestone.

Rumors have Spurs lining up a bid to bring in Brazil striker Leandro Damiao but I don’t think that necessarily prevents them from looking to bring in a second front-man. Benteke would be a wonderful fit for Spurs, who could be in the position to spend upwards of £25m to acquire his services.

Where do you think Christian Benteke is best suited to play?

 

 

Swansea 1-0 Liverpool: Last-place Swans shock Reds

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  • Swansea shock Liverpool in game of few chances
  • Mawson sweeps home the winner — 40′
  • Reds’ 14-game PL unbeaten run ends
  • Swans now 2W-1D-1L under Carvalhal

From the high of snapping Manchester City’s unbeaten run (30 games dating back to last season) and bid for an unbeaten 2017-18 Premier League season, to being beaten by last-place Swansea City… in back-to-back games… all in the span of eight days.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

On Monday, Swansea topped Liverpool, 1-0 at the Liberty Stadium, to claim just their fifth PL victory all season; two of the five have come in the first three weeks of new manager Carlos Carvalhal’s tenure (four games).

Virgil Van Dijk cost Liverpool $100 million, but he’s yet to arrest the Reds’ woeful set-piece defending. It was the big Dutchman who failed to head the ball clear from the Swans’ 40th-minute corner kick. After an unfortunate bounce in the box, the ball fell to Mawson just 10 yards out. The young Welshman swept his right foot through the ball and Loris Karius could do nothing about it.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

Liverpool’s first surefire chance of the second half came in the 60th minute, when Mohamed Salah delicately lifted just over the wall a free kick from 22 yards out. The ball quickly fell as it neared goal, but Lukasz Fabianski reacted quicker and pushed it over the crossbar at full-stretch to preserve the lead at 1-0.

Right on 94 minutes, with the referee staring at his watch, Roberto Firmino headed off Fabianski’s right-hand post and Adam Lallana missed an open-net follow-up, somehow booting the ball well over the bar from three yards out.

Despite holding over 70 percent of possession on the night, Liverpool put on target just four of their 21 total shots.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

With the defeat, Liverpool (47 points) fail to capitalize on Tottenham Hotspur’s 1-1 draw with Southampton on Sunday. Having ultimately gained a point in Round 24, Tottenham now trail Liverpool by just two points in the race for fourth. The two sides meet in two weeks’ time, on Sunday, Feb. 4, at Anfield.

Swansea (20 points), meanwhile, have done nearly enough to climb out of the PL cellar, but remain 20th out of 20 teams on goal differential. Three points stand between them and safety.

FIFA seeking sponsors for video replays at World Cup

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LONDON (AP) Video replays will be used at the World Cup for the first time and talks are underway with potential sponsor branding to appear when the technology is used, a FIFA executive said on Monday.

Soccer’s rule-making panel met Monday to assess recent trials ahead of video assistant referees (VAR) being officially approved by FIFA later this season for use in Russia in June and July.

“Definitely VAR will happen,” FIFA chief commercial officer Philippe Le Floc’h told The Associated Press. “It’s great to have technology in football because this is also a fair(ness) thing.”

Referees were assisted for the first time by high-tech aids at a World Cup in 2014 when goal-line technology was used. That system sees a message instantly flash on referees’ watches saying only whether the ball crossed the line.

Video review is used when there is a “clear and obvious error” involving goals, penalty awards, red cards, and mistaken identity.

Replays could lead to delays in games in Russia as different angles are reviewed, presenting an opportunity for FIFA to brand up the segment on the global broadcast feed.

“We are talking to various technological companies who are very interested with what we are doing on the technology side of things,” Floc’h said on board the World Cup trophy tour plane during a stop at London Stansted Airport.

The final decision on allowing replays to become part of the rules of the game falls to the International Football Association Board on March 3 when its annual meeting is held at FIFA.

Video review has been expected at the World Cup because FIFA controls half the votes in IFAB’s decision. The other voters are the four British soccer federations.

Monday’s meeting brought together IFAB technical experts, FIFA refereeing officials, and researchers from the University of Leuven in Belgium, who have studied use of video review in 804 games across more than 20 competitions.

“The discussions we had today do not indicate that further experiments need to be conducted,” said Johannes Holzmueller, FIFA’s lead official for technological innovation.

Watch Live: Swansea City vs. Liverpool

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Swansea City’s bid to slow down steamrolling Liverpool begins at 3 p.m. ET Monday at the Liberty Stadium (Watch live on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

The rampaging Reds are coming off a 4-3 win that ended Manchester City’s unbeaten Premier League season, and will hope to avoid a let down against desperate Swans.

The Welsh hosts are six points adrift in the race for Premier League safety, and look set for a 5-4-1 with Jordan Ayew the only forward. Wilfried Bony and Oliver McBurnie are on the bench along with attack-minded Luciano Narsingh.

LINEUPS

Swansea City: Fabianski, Naughton, Van der Hoorn, Fernandez, Mawson, Olsson, Ki, Fer, Clucas, Dyer, Ayew. Subs: Nordfeldt, Bartley, Roque Mesa, Carroll, Narsingh, McBurnie, Bony.

Liverpool: Karius, Gomez, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson, Can, Wijnaldum, Salah, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Mane, Firmino. Subs: Mignolet, Milner, Klavan, Lallana, Ings, Solanke, Alexander-Arnold.

Kevin De Bruyne commits to Man City through 2022-23

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Kevin De Bruyne is one of the best players in the world, and he’s committing his prime to the club which has taken him to the next level.

[ MORE: How will Arsenal, Man Utd line up? ]

Manchester City announced a new deal for the Belgian wizard, keeping him at the Etihad Stadium through 2023.

De Bruyne, 26, has posted 31 goals and 38 assists for Pep Guardiola‘s men since returning to England from the Bundesliga, and appreciates being given a lot more money. From ManCity.com:

“As I’ve said previously, my intention has always been to stay here at City, where I’ve felt at home from day one. Not only are we winning – we are playing great football. It’s a pleasure to be a part of and I’m really excited about what we can achieve in the coming years.”

De Bruyne is in the discussion for a Ballon d’Or finalist spot this year, along with Lionel Messi, Neymar, Gareth Bale, Harry Kane, and others (Hot take: This does seem to be year Ronaldo possibly knocked off, barring a remarkable run in the Champions League or World Cup).