Gonzalo Higuain priced at £25.5 million – Time for Arsenal to put up or shut up

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Put up or shut up, Arsenal.

It’s kind of getting to be that time, isn’t it?

On Monday, Real Madrid president Florentino Perez informed Arsenal and Juventus (and any other club in the market for a top striker) that wantaway front-man Gonzalo Higuain can be snapped up for a cool £25.5 million.

For Arsenal – who have spent the last few weeks pacing back and forth concerned over how much the Argentine striker might cost them – the time has come to act or forever hold their peace.

The notoriously frugal club had a Hulk-like, puff-your-chest-out-and-let-opponents-recoil-in-fear-moment last week when Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis announced the club’s intent to discard its traditionally conservative transfer market policies in favor of big spending to attract top name talent to the Emirates.

When asked whether Arsenal could afford to spend £20 million on a transfer fee for a single player, and offer salaries of £200,000 per week, Gazidis said: “Of course we could do that. We could do more than that.”

The words were music to Arsenal supporters’ ears. But what would be a declaration of intent without a caveat?

Gazidis went on to explain that while the Gunners are prepared to shell out the dough, whether or not they actually do so will be up to manager Arsene Wenger. “It is going to be the players that Arsene believes in,” Gazidis said. “He is pretty blind to price tags, he looks at what he sees with his eyes and makes judgements based on that, not on reputations and prices.”

Suddenly for Arsenal fans what felt like a Rolling Stones concert was just elevator music. Gazidis’ statement that Wenger is “blind to price tags” is a ridiculous assertion, tantamount to say, Roman Abramovich claiming that he gives managers a long leash or the Abu Dhabi United Group saying they maintain transfer thresholds.

But the fact remains that if Arsenal really are to compete for a Premier League title, they need to break through the £20 million transfer fee barrier and compete in the wage market. And there’s no reason why that can’t happen. From the club’s new deal with Emirates airline, to the £150 million kit sponsorship by Puma to the Premier League’s massive new TV deal, the Gunners have bank to spend.

So will they step up and sign that top striker they’ve been pining over?

It’s looking mighty close. Wenger & Co. value Higuain at £20 million and while they may not need to get all the way up to Real’s £25.5m valuation, putting £3-4m more on the table should get the job done. The interest of Juventus, however, can not be discounted as reports have the Bianconeri already having offered £18.7m for Higuain’s services.

If Arsenal are convinced Higuain is the man to take them forward, and all indications are that they are, then it’s about time to step up and put their money where their mouth is.

 

 

 

Pardew laments firing, credits Palace turnaround to new players

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Alan Pardew knows why Crystal Palace was failing when he got fired, knows he could’ve fixed it, and seems pretty bummed he’s not there any more.

Pardew emerged to make the comments after Sam Allardyce helmed another upset win for Palace, a 2-1 win over Liverpool which joins defeats of Arsenal and Chelsea.

The win moves Palace 12th, and the Eagles have a legitimate shot at a top-half finish despite their poor start to the season. But Pardew wants fans to know it was about a personnel mistake, and that Palace dropped into the relegation zone after he was fired.

[ PL PREVIEW: Chelsea vs. Southampton ]

The Northeast Chronicle says Pardew aimed to bring former Newcastle left backs Davide Santon and Paul Dummett to Palace, but couldn’t get the moves over the line. Then Pape Souare was hurt in a car accident and Palace was in trouble.

Over to you, Pards (From the Chronicle’s Lee Ryder):

“We were kicking ourselves not to have any left-footed cover. We were playing right-footed players there and things were exploiting that situation. We became one dimensional.

“I was really disappointed I didn’t get to the window because Sam Allardyce followed me and the results didn’t really improve until the new players got bedded in and they made a big difference.”

Allardyce brought in Patrick Van Aanholt from Sunderland and Jeff Schlupp from Leicester to shore up the left side.

The story is made more amusing by the fact that Allardyce has not hesitated to make Palace’s return to form almost exclusively about his influence, while Pardew bleeds the very same blood.

Who’s on first?

Atletico Madrid at CAS to fight FIFA transfer ban

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) Atletico Madrid officials are at sport’s highest court to appeal against a FIFA transfer ban that will prevent the club from signing youth players from overseas during the coming offseason.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport is hearing the appeal Monday, but says a verdict is not expected immediately.

Atletico and FIFA previously agreed to seek a CAS verdict by June, before the summer trading period opens.

[ MORE: Griezmann’s advisor speaks on future ]

FIFA imposed a one-year ban on registering new players as punishment for Atletico breaking rules introduced to prevent child trafficking and luring youngsters from their home country.

Atletico denies wrongdoing, though it agreed not to sign players in January while its appeal went ahead.

Spain’s soccer federation has been criticized for its role in player registrations, with Barcelona and Real Madrid also having served FIFA transfer bans.

Premier League Preview: Chelsea vs. Southampton

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  • Chelsea won 2-0 on Oct. 30
  • Saints won fixture 3-1 last season
  • Chelsea 13W-2L at home this season
  • Blues lead all-time 40W-28D-28L

Chelsea aims to stack some wins following a momentum-restoring weekend win when Southampton visits Stamford Bridge on Tuesday (Watch live at 2:45 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

The Blues have lost two of four inside the Premier League — home to Crystal Palace and at Manchester United — but beat Spurs 4-2 in a thrilling FA Cup semifinal this weekend, extending their season to a May 27 final against Arsenal.

Saints are coming off their first loss in four outings, a 3-0 home beatdown at the hands of Manchester City. Now to the road, where Southampton has the eighth-best record in the Premier League. And Saints boast Manolo Gabbiadini, who Chelsea boss Antonio Conte says has one of the world’s best left foots.

What they’re saying

Chelsea’s David Luiz on Antonio Conte“He’s a fantastic person before a fantastic manager, so we talk a lot, every day, because we have a great relationship,’ he explained. We try to give our best for our club and he tries to help me with his intelligence for football to improve my football so I am very happy to work with him. He did an amazing job in this game.”

Southampton’s Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg on facing Chelsea“Of course, you say every game is important, but somehow, when you play against number one, it gets a little bit more important. I saw the game they lost against Manchester United, and now they are a little bit under pressure, and we also want to continue getting good results. Chelsea away is, of course, maybe the toughest game this year, but I think that we have the possibility to get the result.”

Prediction

Rested Southampton provides a real test, but one which Chelsea finds a way to pass thanks to a relatively rested Costa and Hazard. This is Costa’s day, with a brace in a 2-1 win.

Griezmann’s advisor namechecks Man Utd, 4 others

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Antoine Griezmann has maintained a desire to stay at Atletico Madrid, but his advisor says the French striker has five realistic destinations for next season if he doesn’t stay at the Vicente Calderon.

Speaking on the French outlet Telefoot, advisor Eric Olhats says the 26-year-old Griezmann is limited by his $109 million release clause.

[ MORE: Zlatan’s comeback vow; Mata close ]

Griezmann has 25 goals and 11 assists this season, slightly lighter on the goals and a step up in helpers with Atleti alive in two competitions this season. He’s still played centrally and wide right, and Yannick Carrasco is starring on the left.

From Sky Sports:

“There is an unavoidable 100m clause so that restricts the number of candidates. You have United, City, Chelsea, Barcelona and Real Madrid.

“United were the first to come and see us and the most concrete in their wishes.”

Griezmann to the Premier League is a move many would love to see, or at least a new challenge for the fantastic attacker. With respect to Barcelona and Real Madrid, we’ve seen plenty of top La Liga talents move within the division.

Of course, there would be something special to both Diego Simeone and Griezmann winning the UEFA Champions League and defending it at Atleti. Something tells us their fate in this year’s semifinal against Real Madrid may tip the scales for both men, or at least Griezmann.