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What should Thomas Vermaelen do?

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With Arsenal’s rumored interest in Swansea center-back Ashley Williams, the focus shifts to out-of-form Gunners center-back Thomas Vermaelen.

For the last two months of the season, the Belgian’s backside was firmly planted on the bench as Arsene Wenger opted for a center-back partnership of Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny. Wenger implemented the decision following Vermaelen’s horrid showing in the 2-1 loss to rivals Spurs on March 3rd.

Since that match, the Arsenal captain has only appeared in a single Premier League fixture, the 3-1 victory over Norwich City (Mertesacker was suspended for the match). Wenger’s decision to bench Vermaelen proved a stroke of genius, as the Gunners finished on a brisk run of form going undefeated in their last 10 matches (winning eight and drawing only twice) to finish in 4th place and capture a coveted spot in the Champions League.

So what’s prompted Vermaelen’s drop in form this season?

Mainly, he’s been too aggressive making runs out of the back. This overly zealous desire to get forward leaves the rest of the Arsenal defense exposed. Then, when Vermaelen tries to recover he’s either unable to do so or commits daft fouls. Good teams punish these mistakes.

So the question becomes – If Arsenal do snap up the £12 million rated Williams, what should Vermaelen do?

With the Brazil World Cup now a mere 12 months away, the decision will prove vital to Vermaelen’s career.

If he stays at Arsenal and reclaims his starting spot in a club with four (above-average) center-backs, it’s highly likely that Belgian national team coach, Marc Wilmots, will call Vermaelen into his squad for next summer. If, however, Vermaelen stays at the Emirates and his form fails to improve, there’s little chance that he’ll be suiting up for Diables Rouges come June 2013.

The other option is to leave North London and look for a rebirth at another club. If you believe the rumors, clubs like Barcelona and Manchester United are both interested in Vermaelen’s services.

The Catalan giants are desperate for a new center-back to partner with Gerard Pique and Vermaelen’s speed and offensive capabilities could be a tremendous fit for the Blaugrana. But again, if the Belgian’s form fails to improve there’s no guarantee of a spot on that squad, especially with Carles Puyol, Eric Abidal and Javier Mascherano all expected to be fully fit by next August.

Cracking the Starting XI at Manchester United would be even more difficult for Vermaelen. Despite his 34 years of experience, Rio Ferdinand enjoyed such a brilliant 2012-13 campaign that United recently handed him a new one year deal. Jonny Evans is another center-back who quietly impressed this season while Nemandja Vidic is nearly back to peak condition following 14 months of injury hell. A wonderful club to play for, surely, but can he hack it at Old Trafford?

Of course, if Vermaelen wants to reduce the risk of not playing and to prove himself worthy of a call into Belgium’s World Cup squad, he can always transfer to a Premier League club outside the Top 4.

With Newcastle’s struggling defense and captain Fabricio Colocinni set to leave Tyneside, the Magpies could be a wonderful fit for the Belgian. Vermaelen could also make an immediate impact at Liverpool, where Martin Skrtel has fallen out of favor and Jamie Carragher is set to retire. The 27 year old would also be welcome at a club like Everton where Sylvain Distin is showing signs of aging and a partnership with Phil Jagielka could prove lethal.

One way or another, Thomas Vermaelen has some serious decisions to make. What do you think Vermaelen should do?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Report: Aguero seeking Real Madrid move at season’s end

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JANUARY 21:  Sergio Aguero of manchester City in action during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur at Etihad Stadium on January 21, 2017 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
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Gabriel Jesus was a revelation for Manchester City before suffering an injury, but even with a spot in the lineup for the time being Sergio Aguero may not be coming back to Manchester City next season.

[ MORE: Lucky Man United, Mourinho begin trophy haul ]

According to the Sun, Spanish giants Real Madrid are eyeing up a move for Aguero in the hopes that the Argentine striker will join the club at the conclusion of the Premier League season.

Prior to joining City back in 2011, Aguero played five seasons in La Liga with Atletico Madrid, where he scored 101 goals in all competitions for the Rojiblancos.

While Aguero is likely to hold his starting spot for some time due to Jesus’ injured metatarsal, manager Pep Guardiola had heavily favored the young forward over Aguero since officially joining the club in January.

U.S. U-20s paired with Mexico, El Salvador in CONCACAF knockout round

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Tab Ramos’ side completed their first task, but now the U.S. Under-20 national team has its next challenge lying in front of them.

[ MORE: Whitecaps acquire Brek Shea from Orlando City in trade ]

The U.S. U-20s finished second in Group B at the CONCACAF U-20 Championship after winning two of its three group stage matches.

Now, Mexico and El Salvador await the U-20s in the classification stage with a spot at May’s Under-20 World Cup in South Korea on the line.

During the classification round there will be two groups of three teams, with the top two teams advancing to the World Cup. Each group winner will meet in the CONCACAF Championship final.

Classification stage schedule

Group D

Feb. 27 — U.S. U-20s vs. Mexico

Mar. 1 — Mexico vs. El Salvador

Mar. 3 — U.S. U-20s vs. El Salvador

Group E

Feb. 27 — Panama vs. Honduras

Mar. 1 — Honduras vs. Costa Rica

Mar. 3 — Panama vs. Costa Rica

Claude Puel calls for video replay after Gabbiadini goal called off

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 26:  Manolo Gabbiadini of Southampton takes on Eric Bailly of Manchester United during the EFL Cup Final match between Manchester United and Southampton at Wembley Stadium on February 26, 2017 in London, England.  (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
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Manolo Gabbiadini performed brilliantly in Sunday’s EFL Cup final, but was the Southampton striker unfairly gipped of a hat-trick?

[ MORE: Lucky Man United, Mourinho begin trophy haul ]

Saints manager Claude Puel certainly believes so.

[ MORE: Three things from Man United’s win vs. Southampton ]

While the back-and-forth final between Southampton and Manchester United presented a tremendous matchup, the Saints had every right to be furious with the officiating in the early going after Gabbiadini’s 11th minute finish was called off for offsides.

“I would like, of course, video in the future for these situations,” said Puel. “It’s very hard when we see this game to lose. It was cruel.”

Gabbiadini went on to score a pair of goals at the tail end of the first half and early in the second stanza, but Puel was pleased with his side’s resilience after going down 2-0 inside the opening 38 minutes.

“We kept the good attitude and spirit to stay in the game after going 2-0 down,” said the Southampton boss. “We played since the beginning of the season every two or three days. We played to a strong and fantastic level. It’s important now to continue this work, to put away this disappointment and come back in the Premier League with this strength and this quality.”

Video replay has been a common discussion for some time now, but more leagues are beginning to examine the possibility. FIFA is prepared to introduce new experimental trials over the coming months and could present a form of replay at next summer’s World Cup in Russia.

La Liga & Serie A: Real resilient against Villareal, Roma tops Inter

VILLARREAL, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 26:  Mario Gaspar (R) of Villarreal competes for the ball with Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid during the La Liga match between Villarreal CF and Real Madrid at Estadio de la Ceramica on February 26, 2017 in Villarreal, Spain.  (Photo by Fotopress/Getty Images)
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A roundup of Sunday’s action in Spain and Italy’s top flights…

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s La Liga coverage ]

Villareal 2-3 Real Madrid

The Yellow Submarine did everything right to open the second half but Real Madrid proved resilient once again to earn a victory at El Madrigal. Gareth Bale, Cristiano Ronaldo and Alvaro Morata each netted after the hour mark to help Los Blancos pick up three points and remain leap over Barcelona at the top of the table. Manu Trigueros and Cédric Bakambu scored within six minutes of one another to give Villareal a 2-0 early in the second half but Real began to press harder after the setback.

Atletico Madrid 1-2 Barcelona

It surely wasn’t the most attractive match at times, particularly for the visitors, but Lionel Messi was up to his old tricks once again and helped lift Barcelona into the top spot in La Liga. The Argentine attacker was persistent inside the Atletico box with the match nearing the end and Messi managed to break the deadlock in the 86th minute. Both sides traded goals earlier in the second stanza, with Rafinha getting Barca on the board before Diego Godin equalized six minutes later.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Espanyol 3-0 Osasuna
Sporting Gijon 1-1 Celta Vigo
Athletic Bilbao 3-1 Granada


Inter Milan 1-3 Roma

Mauro Icardi gave Inter a brief glimmer of hope, but Roma continued its fine form on Sunday against the Milan side. Radja Nainggolan’s incredible double helped provide the Giallorossi with a two-goal advantage in the second half before substitute Diego Perotti sealed Roma’s victory from the penalty spot.

Sassuolo 0-1 AC Milan

Controversy struck at the Mapei Stadium but it didn’t benefit the hosts. Carlos Bacca netted the game’s lone finish just 22 minutes in from the penalty spot but it was the Colombian that came into question for his attempt. Bacca slipped while taking his spot kick and appeared to hit the ball with both feet before it crossed the goal line, leaving Sassuolo players furious. Milan now sits in seventh place in Serie A, just four points outside of the top four.

Elsewhere in Serie A

Palermo 1-1 Sampdoria
Chievo 2-0 Pescara
Crotone 1-2 Cagliari
Genoa 1-1 Bologna
Lazio 1-0 Udinese