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More Gareth Bale fallout: Arsenal target Karim Benzema could be expendable at Real Madrid


How is this for an unintended consequence? If Gareth Bale does end up at Real Madrid, the Spanish giants will have an even greater excess of attackers, one that could leave Karim Benzema as their odd man out.

And if a prominent French player is available, you know who’s going to be linked: Arsenal.

Though the French international is ostensibly the only number nine in Carlo Ancelotti’s squad, the new Merengues boss has been thought willing to go with a false nine up top. That could mean Cristiano Ronaldo, who spent a good deal of time behind the striker this weekend, finding a more permanent home through the middle. That could also mean the to-be-acquired Bale assuming a role not unlike the one he placed near the end of last season for Spurs.

But most importantly for the balance of power in North London, it could mean Benzema’s available. With a $62 million evaluation, his purchase would crush Arsenal’s $23.4 million record, but given Arsène Wenger’s love for a good French talent and Benzema’s potential fit in the Gunners’ 4-2-3-1 system, a lot of stars seems to be aligning around a North London move for the Real Madrid attacker.

Of course, it wouldn’t hurt to change the tune of those yelling from the stands, demanding Arsenal finally spend big.

Because he hasn’t truly broken through at Real Madrid, it seems like Benzema just recently arrived from Lyon, but the the 25-year-old just began his fifth season with Los Blancos. On Sunday, he recorded the first goal in their 2-1 win over Real Betis. In 184 all-competition appearances, Benzema’s scored 88 times and registered 49 assists, yet he never truly won the No. 9’s role from Gonzalo Higuaín. Even with Higuaín having moved on to Napoli, Benzema isn’t assured of a job.

Of course, any mention of Higuaín in a story about Arsenal obliges us to mention: The Gunners missed out on the Argentine international earlier this summer. The team’s attention was eventually (and fruitlessly) drawn to Luis Suárez, and Napoli swooped. It’d be a strange twist if Arsenal ended up with Higuaín’s platoon partner (at a price that would have gotten Higuaín) after losing out earlier this summer.

Whether Benzema is worth $62 million (no) or if he’s much of an upgrade on Olivier Giroud (yes) now come into focus, as will the Gunners’ strength relative to Tottenham, should they get their target. Ultimately, this is all about holding on to fourth place.

Then again, given this is Arsenal, we probably shouldn’t take anything for granted. Benzema’s not a Gunner, yet.

“Overweight” Costa comes to Mourinho’s defense

Diego Costa, Chelsea FC
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Diego Costa says he and his Chelsea teammates are to blame for Chelsea’s horrid start to the 2015-16 Premier League season.

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Speaking Thursday, during a bit of downtime over the current international break (Costa was left out of Vicente del Bosque’s squad for Spain’s final two EURO 2016 qualifiers this week), Costa placed the majority of blame at the feet of the entire team, but went on to most harshly critique himself for coming into the season unfocused and “overweight.”

Costa, on his lack of fitness and form to begin the season — quotes from the Guardian:

“We know we’re not in the form we were supposed to be at the beginning of the season. We need to blame the players because we came back from holiday very confident, thinking we could go back into how it was last season, and then realized the team was already in a bad situation.

“I’m going to be very honest: maybe a few weeks ago, five or six weeks ago, I was not on top of my game. At least physically. We talk within the players and we know that, maybe at the beginning, we were not 100 percent as we were supposed to be when we got here. I got injured at the end of last season and then I went on holiday. Maybe I got out of my diet and, when I came back, I was not the way I was supposed to be. I was a little bit overweight. That affected my game. You can be selfish and blame it on the manager but I’m not going to do that. I’m responsible 100%, and so are the other guys.

Given that Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said on Thursday he doesn’t quite know what’s wrong with the defending Premier League champions, hearing someone — anyone — speak up and explain the club’s worst start to a season in 37 years will surely be a welcome sound to any Blues supporter’s ears.

[ MORE: Liverpool appoint Klopp as manager | Allardyce to Sunderland? ]

Costa, who is eligible to return from suspension next weekend when Aston Villa visit Stamford Bridge, has scored just one goal in league play this season (six appearances) after scoring 20 in 26 games last season.

Sam Allardyce to open talks with Sunderland

Sam Allardyce, West Ham United FC
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Now that Liverpool have selected and named their new manager, it appears Sunderland are finally ready to move forward with their own managerial search. (That’s clearly a joke, because it implies Liverpool and Sunderland ever duke it out for the same managerial candidate.)

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Anyway, the Black Cats will have to hire someone to replace the recently-departed Dick Advocaat at some point. We all knew that, despite the fact he’s probably earned a shot at that level, Bob Bradley was never really going to be considered for the job. With that in mind, if you’re not going to endear yourself to the entire United States of America with this hire, you might as well go for the best unemployed manager who’ll actually consider your approach.

That’s what Sunderland chairman Ellis Short appears to have done, as it was reported Thursday that despite an initial reluctance from Sam Allardyce — let’s be honest, he actually was holding out hope for the Liverpool job — the 60-year-old most recently in charge of West Ham United was willing and ready to enter into negotiations with the northeastern club.

One of the major sticking points during Sunderland’s courting of Allardyce is expected to be his demand for autonomy in the transfer market as well as a sizable transfer budget to sign his own players during the January window.

[ MORE: Advocaat: Sunderland squad too thin, chairman to blame ]

Allardyce seems like the no. 1 guy you’d like to bring in to steady a capsized ship — cough Sunderland cough — in any situation. Not only does he have a successful track record in the Premier League, but he’s the kind of no-nonsense leader a club like Sunderland so desperately needs as they find themselves in yet another relegation battle just eight games into the new season.

Short hopes to have Allardyce signed, sealed and delivered when the Premier League returns to action next weekend. In that event, Allardyce’s first game in charge of Sunderland would be a trip to West Bromwich Albion. His first home fixture? Home to Tyne-Wear derby rivals Newcastle United, a club whose boisterous fanbase still holds a great deal of disdain for Big Sam. Sometimes the football gods really are looking out for us.