Five worst EPL signings this season

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Okay, so this is one those end of season awards that, as a player, you do not want to receive.

With so much money spent last summer, plenty of Premier League sides splashed the cash with varying degrees of success.

Manchester United spent almost $40 million on Robin van Persie and that paid off, big time. But other clubs took similar gambles and well, Sir Alex Ferguson ended up looking like a genius, once again.

So with the 2012-13 season in the books, shall we take a look at which players underperformed, weren’t worth the hype and proved to be pretty bad buys for their sides? Oh, go on then. Here are five of… well, not the best.

Christopher Samba (Queens Park Rangers)

Arriving to aid Queens Park Rangers survival bid, Samba hampered it. The towering Congolese center back was brought in for $19 million from Russian side Anzhi Makhachkala on wages in excess of $145,000 a week. Needless to say those figures look pretty stupid now. In the past Samba held Blackburn’s porous defense together but after moving to Russia for bucket loads of cash, he admittedly felt the differences in fitness levels when returning to the EPL. Two costly mistakes against Fulham and Twitter rants with fans further cemented his status as one of the worst buys of the season.

Mousa Dembele (Tottenham Hotspur)

Perhaps a little harsh on the Belgian, but after his $23 million transfer from Fulham, Spurs fans would have expected a lot more from him. Dembele has been hampered by injuries but when he was in the team he flattered to deceive, just two goals in 40 games tells the story. Usually his passing is efficient and sharp but it was so sloppy and wasteful. He will need to step things up big time to get back into Spurs staring lineup in midfield.

Marko Marin (Chelsea)

Well, not really sure why Chelsea bought Marin. But then again, we can say that about plenty of their signings. Yes the 24-year-old German winger arrived for a pretty small fee for someone once described as “the German Messi” however just 10 appearances and one goal to show for his efforts this season, suggests his future lies elsewhere. The likes of Eden Hazard, Juan Mata and Victor Moses have jumped ahead of Marin. Can the tricky winger get back into the Chelsea side under a new manager?

Jack Rodwell (Manchester City)

Perhaps one of the reasons why Roberto Mancini ended up losing his job, as the front office staff were rumored as trying to bring more homegrown English players into the squad without the Italian managers permission. Their was pressure on Mancini to sign such players, and so City signed Rodwell from Everton for a fee that could rise to $23 million. He scored two goals on the final day of the season against Norwich, his first for the club, after being injured from October to January. However the England international did little to suggest he will threaten the City regulars for their starting spots.

Danny Graham (Sunderland)

Switched Swansea for Sunderland during the January transfer window for $8 million. And not a lot has happened since. Well, apart from being berated by pretty much every Sunderland supporter at the Stadium of Light. Yes, he hasn’t become a bad player overnight. However Graham’s confidence levels are at an all-time low. The striker is from Newcastle (which immediately didn’t win him many friends with the Sunderland fans) and decided a move back to the North-East would be a good idea. Not so much. 11 EPL appearances and zero goals later, Sunderland could be hoping to offload Graham this summer.

CONMEBOL WCQ: Venezuela, Bolivia teetering on elimination

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CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying is always a challenge, and this World Cup cycle is no different.

With six teams currently separated by a mere five points under leaders Brazil, everything is left to play for as Round 14 hits South America.

[ MORE: Messi could face suspension from CONMEBOL ]

Here’s a look at what’s on the docket for Tuesday:

Bolivia vs. Argentina — 4 p.m. EDT

It wasn’t pretty at all, but La Albiceleste picked up a crucial three points against Chile, which could produce a morale lift for Argentina given their past struggles against the reigning Copa America holders.

Lionel Messi’s actions from the match could harm the Albiceleste though, with the Barcelona man reportedly facing sanctions from CONMEBOL for verbally abusing a linesman.

Meanwhile, Bolivia is in desperate need of a win in La Paz, and anything but three points could potentially end La Verde’s hopes of reaching Russia 2018.

Ecuador vs. Colombia — 5 p.m. EDT

It took a long time for Colombia to crack the Bolivia backline on Thursday but a late run from Juan Cuadrado helped set up the eventual winner from James Rodriguez, and kept Los Cafeteros in the top four.

Ecuador didn’t have the same fortunes though four days ago after falling to a very game Paraguay side. La Tricolor have gone winless in three of its last four World Cup qualifiers, leaving Gustavo Quinteros side with little margin of error against the Colombians.

Chile vs. Venezuela — 6 p.m. EDT

Chile’s qualifying struggles continued on Thursday after falling to La Albiceleste in a closely-contested match. Arturo Vidal’s six goals leave the Bayern Munich midfielder third in all of CONMEBOL this campaign, but the Chileans still sit on the outside looking in at the moment and in sixth place.

Venezuela is teetering on the edge of elimination, and a loss against Chile would all but seal their fate of missing out the World Cup. After reaching the quarterfinals at last summer’s Copa America Centenario, La Vinotinto have failed to replicate that form this qualifying campaign with just one win to show.

Top scorer Josef Martinez is no longer with Venezuela after suffering an injury in Thursday’s 2-2 draw against Peru, creating a major void in the side’s attack.

Brazil vs. Paraguay — 8:45 p.m. EDT

The Selecao continue to score at a lightning pace this qualifying campaign with 32 goals in the first 13 rounds of play. Despite conceding early to Uruguay on Thursday, Brazil responded emphatically with four goals, and most notably Paulinho‘s hat-trick.

Elsewhere, Paraguay kept itself within striking distance of the top five after its 2-1 win over Ecuador. The side is just two points behind fifth place Ecuador.

Peru vs. Uruguay — 10:15 p.m. EDT

Los Incas have not reached a World Cup since 1982, and although the team is just five points behind fifth, they need to pick up victories. Ricardo Gareca will be pleased with his side’s resiliency against Venezuela on Thursday, but more draws simply won’t do with only four rounds remaining after Tuesday.

Uruguay still sits in a solid second position after Thursday’s slip up against Brazil but another defeat could be potentially disastrous for La Celeste, who are just three points above sixth place Chile. However, Edinson Cavani’s nine goals leads all of CONMEBOL and Peru has allowed the third-most goals this campaign (22).

Ugly scene forces Ivory Coast-Senegal match to be abandoned

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Monday’s international friendly between Ivory Coast and Senegal turned out to be anything but that when the match was interrupted towards the tail end.

Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

The fixture was abandoned with two minutes remaining in regulation after pitch invaders disrupted the the match by getting past security guards and began chasing after players from both sides.

The score was level at 1-1 in the 88th minute when the disruptions occurred, causing the referee to halt play at the Stade Sebastien Charlety in Paris.

One of the intruders even managed to tackle Senegalese defender Lamine Gassama (as shown in the picture to the right).

Liverpool’s Sadio Mane gave Senegal the lead minutes into the second stanza after he converted from the penalty spot, while Cyriac Gohi Bi leveled the score at one apiece just minutes later.

Messi could face CONMEBOL suspension for verbal abusing official

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Already facing some uncertainty with a depleted roster, Argentina could face a significantly greater challenge.

[ MORE: Aguero left out of Argentina starting XI vs. Bolivia ]

Barcelona star Lionel Messi could face suspension after reportedly verbally abusing linesman Marcelo Van Gasse during the second half of Thursday’s 1-0 win over Chile.

UPDATED: Fox Sports Argentina is reporting that Messi will receive a two to four match suspension and will be effective for tomorrow’s match against Bolivia.

Messi was reported to CONMEBOL for yelling, “F*** off, your mother’s c***” at Van Gasse and refused to shake the official’s hand at the end of the match.

The officiating crew from the match didn’t initially include Messi’s rant in the post-match report, however, it was added on Monday and submitted to CONMEBOL.

The South American federation must now decide if and when it will punish Messi for his reported actions, and there is the potential that the world-class attacker could be suspended for Tuesday’s clash against Bolivia if the federation acts quickly.

There are several other scenarios though for CONMEBOL to action, including disregarding Messi’s verbal assault.

La Albiceleste currently sit third in World Cup qualifying on 22 points.

Arena speaks about USMNT turnaround, says “no secret formulas”

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It’s only been one competitive match since Bruce Arena regained control of the U.S. Men’s National Team and there’s already been a noticeable difference in form.

[ MORE: Three keys for the USMNT ahead of Panama clash ]

The former LA Galaxy manager wouldn’t have you believe that though following Friday night’s convincing 6-0 victory over Honduras in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying.

“It’s nothing I can write a book on,” Arena said about his team’s turnaround in form against Honduras. “You have a sense of your group, and you go about doing your business. There’s no secret formulas to this stuff. Work together, take ownership in what you’re doing, treat them like responsible professional athletes, and you get on with your business.

He added, “They want to be successful. They want to play in a World Cup. Is that a recipe for success? I don’t know. I’m sure Honduras wants to play in a World Cup too.”

Arena, who took over for Jurgen Klinsmann following the U.S.’ collapse during the first two matches of the Hexagonal, is unbeaten in his first three games in charge since getting his job back with the Stars and Stripes.

Although there has been a considerable turnaround in the way the USMNT has performed in the first three matches of 2017, Arena wouldn’t stoop to comparing his style to that of Klinsmann.

“I’m not doing anything differently,” he said. “I’m not taking a survey [of the players]. I know it’s different. We lose tomorrow, there will be articles written that, ‘This a—— is letting these guys run loose.'”

“I have spent no time on the past. There’s nothing I can do about it. I kind of have a sense about things, but there’s no point in me spending time investigating what went on in the past. The idea was to get it going the right way from the start.”

Arena’s next test with the U.S. will be on Tuesday when the Yanks travel to Panama City to take on Panama.