Arsenal's Giroud reacts with team-mates Gibbs and Podolski after missing a scoring chance during their English Premier League soccer match in London

Premier League club-by-club needs, as transfer deadline looms

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Happy Monday morning to all of you out there. “Why does he sound so chipper?” You may be ask. Well folks, I’ll tell you exactly why.

This time next week the summer transfer window will be slammed shut. No more outlandish transfer rumors, cryptic Tweets and confusing reports leaked by agents, clubs and other outlets…. Well, until, mid-December, early January at least.

This transfer window has had some man sagas since the 2012-13 season finished back on May 19.

But with seven days left to wheel and deal, plenty of clubs will be readying final bids for players as the deadline edges closer. So I thought we’d take look at the specific areas each Premier League squad should strengthen in.

Will all the business be done before 00:01 on Monday September 2? History suggests plenty of deals will go right up to midnight on Sunday. The tension is already building.

A tense week for teams, players, chairman, managers and fans has begun.

Arsenal: Where do we start? Arsene Wenger obviously needs a whole host of names. Their squad has been decimated over the summer, with plenty of players released and no senior players of note arriving. They’re being linked with Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema, who would be a tremendous addition. Arsenal is two quality signings away from pushing on this campaign.

Aston Villa: It seems as though Paul Lambert is going to stick with what he has at Villa Park, and following promising displays against Arsenal and Chelsea and a tough loss to Liverpool, they look okay. However adding extra depth in defense should be a priority.

Cardiff City: After that showing against Manchester City on Sunday, it’s hard to see where Cardiff can improve. Maybe another winger to add to Craig Bellamy would be worthwhile. Other than that the arrival of Andreas Cornelius, Gary Medel and Steven Caulker has developed a new core to their hungry squad.

Chelsea: José Mourinho doesn’t really need to add anyone… but he probably will. Wayne Rooney is the obvious candidate, but will Manchester United sell him to one of their biggest rivals? Apart from that the arrival of Willian this week will add more competition out wide.

source: AP
Will Rooney and Torres be teammates next season?

Crystal Palace: Ian Holloway still needs heavy reinforcements if Palace has any chance of staying up. It’s early in the season but it’s very clear the South Londoners will struggle without signing quality. One new signing in attack, midfield and defense will give them a chance but the Eagles need to splash the cash. Can’t see that happening.

Hull City: A proven goalscorer will be at the top of Steve Bruce’s wish list. Hull are hard to beat and a horrible team to play against. They have plenty of depth in midfield and defense but lack a real difference maker going forward. Can Bruce loan in another gem, like he did by getting Mikael Forssell when he was in charge at Birmingham back in the day, before the deadline?

Everton: Roberto Martinez has already done plenty of business, but we could still see a few of the Wigan old boys popping up at Goodison Park. Callum McManaman and maybe James McCarthy could arrive depending on what happens to Marouane Fellaini.

Fulham: The Cottagers are struggling to find the correct balance in their squad. They have Darren Bent, Dimitar Berbatov, Bryan Ruiz and now Adel Taarabt who are great going forward, but there’s no solidity. How can Martin Jol fit them all in? Don’t expect him to do any business, picking up Scott Parker was a good buy.

Liverpool: The Reds seem to have calmed Luis Suárez’ situation down and reports suggest the Uruguayan may sign a new contract later this week. They maybe need one great wide player, but Rodgers may persist with Iago Aspas out wide or stick Daniel Sturridge out there when Suárez returns.

Manchester City: A new central defender would be handy to have at the Etihad. Both Vincent Kompany and Matija Nastasic have gone done injured and suddenly City look thin at the back. Manuel Pellegrini could move to bring in Pepe from Real Madrid. Do the Citizens need him?

Manchester United: Three new players will ideally be added by David Moyes, another central defender and an attacking midfielder are needed. If Rooney leaves, United are still covered up top with Danny Welbeck and Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez still around. But maybe Moyes will add another forward. Work to do this week.

Newcastle United: Another central defender to boost their options at the back would really suit the Magpies. Steven Taylor has been caught out plenty of times and question marks surround him despite his passion and commitment to the cause. Maybe another top striker too, but Loic Remy should start when he recovers from injury.

Norwich City: Don’t expect Norwich to add any more players. A trio of quality attackers have arrived over the offseason, with Gary Hooper, Ricky van Wolfswinkel and Johan Elmander giving the Canaries strength in-depth up front. They’re set.

source: Getty Images
Will Newcastle add another attacker alongside Remy?

Southampton: Only three new names for the Saints, but they spent over $55 million on Dejan Lovren, Victor Wanyama and Pablo Osvaldo. A new winger with real pace to burn could be the only signing needed for Mauricio Pochettino.

Stoke City: Mark Hughes should add another forward to his ranks. He has Juan Agudelo coming in but that isn’t until January. Peter Crouch is going through a drought, while Jonathan Walters, Kenwyne Jones and Cameron Jerome have hardly been prolific.

Sunderland: Paolo Di Canio has added 11 new faces to his squad and will be content with how they’ve fared so far. May take a few months to gel. Can’t see the Sunderland board releasing more funds until January.

Swansea City: Michael Laudrup’s side has lost two from two but they shouldn’t be concerned. He has no real areas to strengthen and will be happy with his squad as they aim for another top 10 finish.

Tottenham Hotspur: Spurs should bolster their defense with another central defender a priority. Younes Kaboul and Etienne Capoue are backups behind Michael Dawson and Jan Vertonghen. But only young Zeki Fryers is around after those four.

West Bromwich Albion: Steve Clarke may need to invest in another forward, Nicholas Anelka’s sudden departure has left him short up top. Goals will be a problem for the Baggies this season if they don’t add someone this week.

West Ham United: Big Sam has bought well again, with Stewart Downing already looking revitalized out on the wing and Andy Carroll set to return from injury. The Hammers did all their business early.

Jozy Altidore’s foundation funding Copa America watch parties in Haiti

TORONTO, ON - MAY 07: Jozy Altidore #17 of Toronto FC looks on during the second half of an MLS soccer game against FC Dallas at BMO Field on May 7, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
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Jozy Altidore has never shied away from his Hatian decent, and while the 26-year-old will miss the Copa America, but his second home certainly won’t.

Altidore’s charity organization the St. Luke Foundation has set up watch parties across Haiti so the island nation can watch all the United States and Haiti matches, as well as the semifinals and finals.

In a phone interview with Sports Illustrated, Altidore cited that Haiti had not been invited to a major international tournament since 1974, and that the country should be able to watch. According to SI, the watch parties will allow those in the country to watch who otherwise would be unable to do so.

“I thought this would be something cool knowing how much Haitian people love their national team” Altidore told SI, “to have thousands of people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to see the matches broadcast the group games and see them perform.”

Haiti plays in Brazil’s Group B along with Peru and Ecuador, with group stage games on June 4, 8, and 12.

[ MORE: Copa America Group B preview | USA in Group A ]

Altidore will miss the tournament due to a hamstring injury which will take 6-8 weeks to recover from.

The New Jersey product has been very active with charity work in Haiti in the past, mostly through his foundation. Altidore’s parents were both born in Haiti. He said he hopes that the Haitian team “can surprise some people” in the upcoming tournament.

Rafa Benitez to have total control at Newcastle, including player sales

NEWCASTLE, ENGLAND - MAY 15:  Rafa Benitez Newcastle United manager reacts during the Barclays Premier League match between Newcastle United and Tottenham at St James Park on May 15, 2016 in Newcastle, England. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty images)
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Usually, when teams are relegated to the Championship, squad salaries must be reevaluated to make ends meet, often meaning the axe for players who are deemed too costly.

That won’t be the case with Newcastle next season.

With manager Rafa Benitez back on board with the hopes of navigating the Magpies back to the Premier League as quickly as possible, owner Mike Ashley has handed Benitez the reigns.

Benitez confirmed he will have complete, unmitigated control of the squad roster in exchange for his services.

“What I have is the assurance that if I don’t want to sell any players I don’t have to,” Benitez said in his second unveiling as Newcastle manager. “We can keep all the players who we want to.”

But that’s not all. “For football business I will have responsibility. But the main thing is that I have had assurances we will have a strong team. We will have a winning team and the fans have to be sure I will try to build a strong squad. If I am sat here it is because I am sure we can do it. To clarify I am a person who likes to talk. But if I have to take responsibility I will, no problem.”

This is not only big news for anyone relegated to the Championship, but especially big news for a Mike Ashley club. Not even Sam Allardyce or Alan Pardew were given this type of total control of the club. Ashley knew he had little leverage with such a big name having fallen out of the Premier League, and he needed to make concessions to get his man.

Fernando Torres, back from the depths, can become a Champions League leader

VALENCIA, SPAIN - MAY 08:  Fernando Torres of Atletico de Madrid looks on during the La Liga match between Levante UD and Atletico de Madrid at Ciutat de Valencia on May 8, 2016 in Valencia, Spain.  (Photo by Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images)
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His days in England are well past him. From Liverpool superstar to Chelsea flop, the unconventional route the 32-year-old’s career has taken has all led to this.

Yes, Fernando Torres has a Champions League winners’ medal, but it did not come in the fashion many believed he was destined for when he peaked at Anfield. A shell of his former self at Stamford Bridge, he was second-fiddle to fan-favorite Didier Drogba during the 2011/12 run Chelsea made through the competition. Ridiculed by plenty all across England for his YouTube-worthy misses and sleepy performances, Torres was run out of Stamford Bridge with just his medal to accompany him.

“This is the most important game of my life,” Torres emphatically claimed Wednesday morning ahead of Saturday’s final against Real Madrid in Milan. “A chance to write a page that has never been written in 113 years of Atlético’s history. I have the chance to make my dream come true, a dream I had as a kid, to win this cup with this club”.

Torres does not speak as if this is his team, because it is not his team. Despite his dominance at Liverpool, Torres will never be a standout player on a Champions League final caliber squad. Those days are well in the past. Now, Torres knows his place in the squad, an important cog in an engine with no one part more valuable than the other. Such is the way of Diego Simeone.

“I knew I was risking everything by coming back here to Atletico Madrid,” Torres said. “A lot of people thought it couldn’t get better for me here, but I knew the group I was coming into. I knew this group was destined for something big and I wanted to be part of it.”

For all the praises Simeone gets for his teams’ fitness, grit, and defensive prowess, bringing Torres back from the depths of obscurity might be one of his most underrated achievements. The ridicule Torres was forced to endure towards the end of his time in England can break a person. But Torres somehow managed to stay afloat despite the demons lapping at his ankles, and Simeone pulled him ashore. Now, reborn, Torres has finally shown flashes of his former self that only Anfield remembers. Across April and May, Torres bagged six goals and two assists in eight appearances – all starts – to close out the La Liga season. The Spaniard also fed the ball that sprung Antoine Griezmann free for the goal that won the semifinal against Bayern Munich.

No longer a star but still a valuable piece of the puzzle, Torres is right where he belongs. While his time with Chelsea brought him that medal so many legends in the game fail to achieve, he knows now is where his legacy will truly be judged. “The past can only help you get better,” Torres said. “We only think about Milan, which is the present.”

The key word being “we.” For his entire club career, the narrative surrounding Torres had always been about himself, from superstardom at Liverpool to the abuse he suffered after. Now with a “we” to fall back on, it’s time for Torres to play the most important game of his life.

Copa America 2016 preview, Group B: Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, Haiti

Brazil's Willian, left, and United States’ Alejandro Bedoya contend for the ball during the first half of an international friendly soccer match Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2015, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)
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Brazil

They’ve won five Copa America titles with the last in 2007, but in their previous two Copa campaigns Brazil hasn’t made it past the quarterfinal stage. Despite not having captain and talisman Neymar around they’ll be one of the favorites this summer.

Star player: Douglas Costa – The winger was in fine form for Bayern Munich this season and along with Willian he will be a real threat in support of Hulk.

They will sweep all before them because… They have a huge number of talented attacking midfielders who can rip teams apart on their own. Together it could get rather silly. Expect them to be in the final four.

Really, though, Dunga will be on the hot seat in July: The one thing that stands out about this team is the lack of goals. Only one player in the entire squad has double figures (Hulk, with 12) and anything less than winning a major title is always treated with despair by the Brazilian population. If they don’t win either Copa America Centenario or the gold medal at Rio 2016, Dunga will be under big pressure.


Ecuador

LOS ANGELES, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA - MARCH 28:  Miguel Layun of Mexico (L) fights for the ball with Antonio Valencia of Ecuador (R) during a friendly match between Mexico and Ecuador at Memorial Coliseum Stadium on March 28, 2015 in Los Angeles, United States. (Photo by Omar Vega/LatinContent/Getty Images)
(Photo by Omar Vega/LatinContent/Getty Images)

Man, Ecuador is due a good Copa America performance. They haven’t made it out of the group stage since 1997 and have finished in fourth place twice.

Star player: Enner Valencia – After returning from injury in the final 13weeks of the season we saw just how important he is for Manchester United. That was from right back. Valencia will play in a more advanced role for Ecuador and provides bags of experience.

La Tricolor will go far because of forwards: Goals. Goals. Goals. Ecuador has a ton of talented attackers in its squad. Enner Valencia and Jefferson Montero will be dangerous and through the first five 2018 World Cup qualifying games they’ve scored 12 times and sit second in the table.

Likely heartbreak warning: With top scorer from World Cup qualifying, Felipe Caceido, out injured, Ecuador has been dealt a huge blow. They seem to always be the nearly men.


Peru

Paolo Guerrero, Peru

They’ve won the tournament twice in their history and last summer they were the surprise semifinalists who finished in third place. Anchored by a strong defense, they’ll be hoping to cause another upset.

Star player: Paolo Guerrero – He is their main man up top with 26 goals in 67 appearances. If Peru has a chance in the box, they want it to fall to him.

They will be the darlings of the tournament: If they get off to a flying start against Haiti in Seattle then we can expect big things. Confidence will be key ahead of the final game against Brazil.

Goals will be the big problem: They scored just twice in three games during the group stage last summer and somehow made it through. They will have to do more than that this time out and if they don’t beat Haiti, it is curtains for their knockout stage hopes.


Haiti

Gyasi Zardes, Frantz Bertin
AP

This will be their first-ever appearance in the Copa America and after their successful Gold Cup campaign in 2015, who knows what’s possible? They will fancy their chances of advancing despite all the odds stacked against them.

Star player: Johnny Placide – He shone for Haiti during the Gold Cup last summer and their goalkeeper will be another busy man. A beast.

Beware of the underdogs, they’ll get you: As we saw last summer, we shouldn’t underestimate Haiti. They only lost to the USA 1-0 and beat Honduras on their way to a quarterfinal exit to eventual runners up Jamaica. They will keep it tight and try to grind out wins.

Tight isn’t good enough: As they’ve found out in World Cup qualifying, you have to do more than hang in there. They haven’t scored a goal through four games of 2018 World Cup qualifying in CONCACAF Group B and sit bottom of the table. Placide will have to come up big this summer if they’re going to produce something special.


Game schedule – Full schedule for Group B, here

Who’s going through, who’s going home: Brazil, Ecuador going through; Peru and Haiti going home

Marquee match: I’m going with Brazil vs. Ecuador on June 4 at the Rose Bowl. This two will go at it to try and take control of Group B. Should be a fun one. 

Top players to watch

1) Douglas Costa
2) Willian
3) Antonio Valencia
4) Paolo Guerrero
5) Johnny Placide