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Arsene Wenger confident in Arsenal’s squad going into upcoming season despite lack of transfer activity

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Despite a lack of movement and a few failed attempts at bringing in another forward, Arsene Wenger remains confident that his squad can compete to win the Premier League this season.

After a 2-2 draw with Napoli, Wenger told reporters at the press conference he thinks Arsenal, which finished fourth last season, can win the league with its current roster.

“I am confident,” said Wenger. “Why should I sit here and say to you that we can absolutely not win the title with the players we have?”

Wenger had to be pleased with his side after the Gunners fought back and earned a draw with two late goals from forward Olivier Giroud and defender Laurent Koscielny in the final 20 minutes of the game. The game had to feel good for Arsenal because the draw came against the team that swooped in and signed Gonzalo Higuain from Real Madrid after Arsenal had reportedly agreed to terms with the player but got bogged down in negotiations with Madrid.

Wenger also confirmed that Arsenal had put in a bid for Liverpool forward Luis Suarez but nothing has advanced any further.

“I never said we have made a bid to Liverpool, now I can tell you we have made one, so at least that is some information,” said Wenger. “All the rest, I would like to keep to us. If we progress in that situation, we will inform you. At the moment, that is where we are.”

Arsenal is in need of another game-changing player if it hopes to compete with Manchester City, Chelsea and Manchester United for the league championship. And with Tottenham and Liverpool strengthening their squads this offseason, fourth place isn’t even guaranteed for the Gunners this season. Getting Suarez would give Wenger’s squad the kind of player he has been searching for to change not only the squad’s mentality and add a win at all costs attitude, but also its ability to score goals when a game doesn’t seem to be going the team’s way.

Besides Suarez, Arsenal haven’t been linked with too many players coming into the side, but Wenger confirmed on Saturday that Gervinho could be leaving the Emirates soon with negotiations close to being completed. Marouane Chamakh could also be on his way out in the next 48 hours on a permanent transfer. Sadly for Arsenal fans, the manager also said no one was interested in Nicklas Bendtner at this time.

“Gervinho we are at the moment close to an agreement with a club where he should go,” said Wenger. “Bendtner we are nowhere. At the moment he is completely here. Chamakh might go somewhere, it will be decided in the next 48 hours. [They are] permanent moves.”

With Andrey Arshavin, possibly Gervinho and Chamakh moving, Arsenal will have plenty of spots to bring in other attacking options. While the three players were brought in with high expectations, none really lived up the heights that were set for them. Wenger needs to do better in his next recruitment of attacking players. If Suarez is captured it would be a good start and be a coup for Arsenal — taking a rivals top-player as well as adding a 20-plus goalscorer to the side.

If Suarez doesn’t work out, Wenger needs a plan B because the teams around Arsenal save Manchester United have been beefing up and improving their squads. If Arsenal miss out on the Champions League next year, Wenger’s inability to bring in a proven goalscorer will certainly be a reason why.

MLS Cup: Toronto FC all about the team

Toronto FC defender Nick Hagglund, center, celebrates his goal against the Montreal Impact with teammates Michael Bradley, right, and Steven Beitashour (33) during the second half of the second leg of MLS Eastern Conference championship series, in Toronto on Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)
Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP
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Toronto, Ontario (AP) Team has been the theme for Toronto FC in the buildup to the MLS Cup final.

From boisterous practices to team-first media interviews, the All for One club motto has been plain to see ahead of the championship game Saturday against the visiting Seattle Sounders.

“You don’t get to this point by mistake or by accident. You get here because a group of special guys who have all bought into a philosophy, an identity,” said Toronto midfielder Will Johnson, an MLS Cup winner with Real Salt Lake and Portland.

“I say the same about Seattle. They’re bought into what they’re good at. We’re bought in, very motivated and want to sacrifice and put aside egos to get to a point as a team to compete for the big trophy.”

[ MORE: Designing the best UCL Round of 16 ]

Star striker Jozy Altidore, no fan of chatting with the media, was downright prickly when a reporter asked him if he had taken time to reflect on his personal journey to the championship game.

“No,” he said definitively. “This isn’t personal, this is a team game. We’re here to try to help Toronto to be a winning team. This has nothing to do with individuals. So it has nothing to do with what I’ve been through. This is what the city’s been through, what the fans have been through, what this club has been through. That’s far more important.”

Fullback Justin Morrow, a seven-year MLS veteran, has never played this deep into the season before.

“Each week we build on top of each other and we get closer as the year goes on. It really feels like it’s a culmination this week,” he said.

[ UCL: Who can Arsenal, Man City, Leicester draw? ]

Coach Greg Vanney has made a point of praising the entire squad, including reserves who function as the scout team in practice. While he has done soccer’s equivalent of shortening his bench for the playoffs, the squad has stayed on point. If anyone has beefs, they have been kept to themselves.

That’s no small feat considering the salaries on the squad range from $7.12 million for star striker Sebastian Giovinco to $51,500 for youngsters Mo Babouli and Tsubasa Endoh.

For Morrow, being part of a tight-knit group allows you to forget that it is your job.

“When teams aren’t doing well, players tend to focus on that – their job and not about the other people on the team,” Morrow said. “And I think when teams are doing well, it becomes about the relationships between the players.”

Report: Atlanta United to acquire Parkhurst; Guardado hopes fading

COLUMBUS, OH - MARCH 12:  Michael Parkhurst #4 of the Columbus Crew SC controls the ball against against the Philadelphia Union on March 12, 2016 at MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images
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Atlanta United is adding MLS experience to its high-flying international acquisitions.

The expansion side is set to acquire Michael Parkhurst from the Columbus Crew, according to a report from The Sporting News.

[ MORE: Mourinho worried about Zorya pitch ]

Parkhurst, 32, has been a fixture for the Crew since returning to MLS after stints with Nordsjælland and FC Augsburg. The 25-times capped American defender would join a relatively loaded expansion unit that reportedly will also add veteran Chicago goalkeeper Sean Johnson.

Unfortunately for Atlanta, it seems the first-year club’s hopes of landing Mexican star Andres Guardado are fading.

From Ives Galarcep for The Sporting News:

The club has one remaining designated player slot it is expected to fill ahead of its inaugural 2017 season, but transfer target Andres Guardado appears less likely to be the player to fill that slot, sources have told Goal USA.

The Crew was a massive disappointment last season, failing to make the playoffs one season after making a run to the MLS Cup Final. Is Parkhurst a good gamble for Atlanta?

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Men in Blazers podcast: Conte v. Pep, Cherries comeback, Spurs-Swans

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Rog and Davo relive the tactical battle between Antonio Conte and Pep Guardiola, marvel at tiny Bournemouth’s comeback win over high-flying Liverpool and duck-and-cover while recapping Spurs 5-0 Swansea.

All of the MiB content — pods, videos and stories can be seen here, but to really stay in touch, follow, subscribe, click here:

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Mourinho accepts Zorya compliment, but says best coach “doesn’t exist”

Manchester United's coach Jose Mourinho, centre, attends a training session with his team at Chernomorets stadium in Odessa, Ukraine, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016, ahead of Thursday's Europa League group A soccer match against FC Zorya Luhansk. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky
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On the eve of his side playing Manchester United in the UEFA Europa League, Zorya Luhansk boss Yuriy Vernydub called counterpart Jose Mourinho the best manager in the world.

And Mourinho disagreed.

Well, in principle.

[ MORE: Designing the best UCL Round of 16 ]

The Portuguese was flattered by Vernydub’s compliments and isn’t one to turn down praise. Yet at the same time, Mourinho thinks a coach’s success is year-to-year. There’s no clear best in the sport, according to Mou.

From ManUtd.com:

“He was nice by saying that but I don’t think he is right. I don’t think there is a best coach in the world. It doesn’t exist in my opinion. Every season one has to win the FIFA Gold Ball but I don’t think there is the best. You can say the best of the year and that I agree. Every year there is one with the most important result. So he is just being nice, no more than that.”

That’s almost meta, Mou.

Conceptually we understand, and Mourinho would feel he was the best in the world three seasons ago but not last year or this year (yet). Yet it’s difficult to say that the bodies of work from Pep Guardiola, Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti, Unai Emery, Antonio Conte, Luis Enrique, and Jurgen Klopp couldn’t be measured against each other, right?

[ MORE: United, Saints advancement scenarios ]

Onto the little picture Mourinho is worried about a potentially rock hard pitch at Zorya affecting the game. This, from the BBC:

“The pitch is very hard, the pitch is very icy,” said United boss Mourinho.

“They are putting warmth on the top of it, but the pitch is very difficult and people cannot make miracles. Let’s hope everything goes well.”

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