Laurent Koscielny to Barcelona gaining momentum

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We picked out one, but you don’t have look deep in your paper of choice to find a connection between Arsenal’s Laurent Koscielny and Barcelona, a team that’s lacked depth in central defense for some time. While more glamorous rumors around the Catalan titans have focused on the type of goal scoring forward the Blaugrana have ben without since David Villa broke his leg, the age of (and dependency on) Carles Puyol makes central defense a more-pressing need.

Stylistically, a connection to Koscielny makes sense. Competent on the ball and athletic enough to handle himself in the one-on-one scenarios to which Barcelona subjects their central defenders, Koscielny seems like somebody who could slot right in to the left of Gerard Piqué. At 27 years old, he’s no prospect, but the French international is young enough to be classified as more than a stop-gap measure.

All of which prompts the question: Why would Arsenal sell? Koscielny was clearly Arsène Wenger’s best defender last season, and in a year in which the Gunners are expected to push on after a rumored summer spending spree, keeping Koscielny would seem crucial to their hopes to solidify a place among England’s top four. Even if they sold him for an unexpectedly large sum, Arsenal can’t afford to take a step back from Koscielny.

Is $20 million (€15 million) enough for a player whose contract reportedly runs through the 2016-17 season? Yes, if you’re a team that can afford to take a step back. Or if you’re a team that has to fill multiple holes in the squad. If you’re a club for whom $20 million would be a once-in-a-generation sale, capable of bankrolling new facilities and the club’s wages for years on end, then the sale makes sense. Twenty million bucks is hard to turn down.

But Arsenal’s argument may be more straight forward. In their heart, they may not see Koscielny, who they bought for around £8.5 million, as worth that much. For them, this may be a sell high proposition.

Still, the timing is all wrong. After a year in which Koscielny proved so valuable, it’s hard to see a sale doing anything but moving the club closer to fifth-place Spurs. And reportedly having money to burn in the summer’s market, Arsenal doesn’t need to sell.

Given the club would need to replace him to meet next year’s goals, it’s difficult to see what the Gunners would get out of this type of Koscielny sale.

Errors down, penalty kicks up after introduction of VAR in Italy

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The implementation of Video Assistant Referee (VAR) in Italy has been controversial, but according to a look at the statistics, it has for the most part done its job to fix clear and obvious errors.

Italian sports paper Gazzetta Dello Sport compiled all the times VAR has been used through 346 matches, 330 in Serie A and 16 in the Coppa Italia. There were 1,736 checks (916 goals, 464 penalties and 356 red cards) with 105 corrections and just 17 errors where the referee and assistant made the wrong decision. Eight of those errors did affect the result, which is an issue that will surely be addressed by the Italian officiating organization.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

But overall, Gazzetta found that in the VAR era, referee errors only amounted to 0.98 percent during a match, as opposed to 6.03 percent in the past. In addition, fouls are down 8.8 percent, red cards are down 6.4 percent, and yellow cards are down 14.7 percent. On the flip side, penalty kicks are called 4.3 more percent of the time.

The Premier League voted recently not to add VAR to its league matches next season, while top leagues in Germany, Italy and in Major League Soccer and the United Soccer League continue to use it.

Report: New Arsenal manager will have small budget to re-shape squad

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Whoever takes the helm as Arsenal’s next manager will have to do some math gymnastics this summer to stretch every penny available.

According to a report from The Telegraph, Arsenal is giving Arsene Wenger‘s successor a little less than $70 million to work with in this summer’s transfer market, citing back-to-back transfer windows with club-record signings (Alexandre Lacazette last summer and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in January) and three raises given to players. Arsenal paid around $78 million alone to sign Aubameyang and around $65 million for Lacazette.

[READ: UCL Preview: Liverpool vs. Roma]

That means whoever comes in next to lead Arsenal will likely have to sell one or two players this summer to raise additional money for world-class signings.

For the last decade, Arsenal has been crying out for a new pair of centerbacks and a holding midfielder in the mould of Patrick Vieira. In addition, with Petr Cech getting older, the prospect of needing a new goalkeeper is also on the horizon.

Luckily for Arsenal, they seem to be just fine up front. From Aubameyang and Lacazette to Mesut Ozil, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Aaron Ramsey, the club has the talent to challenge for a title next season in that department.

A dozen different names have been bandied about as to who will be Arsenal’s next manager, with out-of-contract and former Barcelona manager Luis Enrique reportedly on the shortlist. Vieira, former Arsenal midfielder Mikel Arteta, Germany National Team coach Joachim Low, Juventus boss Max Allegri and Hoffenheim’s Julian Nagelsman have all also been linked with the job.

Tunisian player who collapsed in Spain regains consciousness

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MADRID (AP) Spanish third-division club Toledo says a Tunisian player who collapsed from heart failure during practice 10 days ago has regained consciousness.

The club says doctors removed sedative medication and Lassad Nouioui was responding well to treatment on Monday.

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They will consider removing the 32-year-old Nouioui from the intensive care unit if his condition keeps improving. Nouioui has played for a number of clubs during his 14-year professional career, notably a four-year stay at Deportivo La Coruna and a one-year spell with Celtic.

Nouioui collapsed on April 14.

The game against Real Madrid B the following day was postponed because of the problem with Nouioui.

FIFA force pace on $25B Club World Cup, global league plan

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GENEVA (AP) FIFA is forcing the pace on talks over a $25 billion offer to revamp the Club World Cup and create a global national team competition.

FIFA says President Gianni Infantino hosted a meeting last Friday with invited officials from some top European clubs.

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The European Club Association has strongly opposed FIFA’s hope for a four-yearly club tournament starting in 2021, which could rival the UEFA-organized Champions League.

UEFA has also proposed a Global Nations League. A similar project is tied to the FIFA-controlled $25 billion, 12-year offer from a consortium including investors from Saudi Arabia and China.

FIFA says it’s holding “informal ongoing discussions with different stakeholders on the topic of the future Club World Cups.”

Infantino is set to meet confederation presidents and general secretaries “in the near future,” FIFA says.