German national soccer team player Ozil plays during a training session in Munich

Gradebook: How did Premier League clubs fare in the transfer window?

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The dust has now settled after a frenetic final few days of transfer activity across the Premier League.

Over the summer clubs from England’s top flight spent a record £630m ($981 million) on players as increased revenue from new TV contracts and other lucrative spin offs helped cause a tremendous amount of expenditure on luxury players that will light up the league.

With plenty of late deals pushed through right before the deadline on Monday evening, some PL teams have strengthened considerably, while others are lagging behind after losing key players.

So, let’s get that gradebook out and analyze who ‘wheeled and dealed’ the best out of England’s 20 Premier League clubs.

We’re harsh markers, but we are fair.

Arsenal: B

Okay, the Gunners saved themselves from a failing grade right at the death of the  window as they snatched Mesut Ozil in a monster $60 million deal that shattered the clubs transfers record. Arsene Wenger finally spent that cash burning a hole in his pocket, but probably two more players should have arrived with Arsenal still looking light up front. Ozil will be pivotal for their future and is the second most expensive player in English soccer history, the German international will be the main man at the Emirates for years to come.

Aston Villa: C

No huge signings for Villa during the window as Paul Lambert did all his business early after scouring European soccer for bargains. Jores Okore, Antonio Luna and Aleksandar Tonev all arrived as the Villans continue with their monumental rebuild. On deadline day Lambert added Czech striker Libor Kozak from Lazio but the big striker didn’t score at all last season in Serie A despite netting eight times in Europa League action. Another top striker was needed to help Christian Benteke but the fact that the Belgian powerhouse signed a new deal was the biggest ‘signing’ of Villa’s summer.

Cardiff City: B+

The Bluebirds have spent wisely and more than any of the other newly promoted teams. The signings of Andreas Cornelius, Gary Medel and Steven Caulker really strengthened their core as Malkay Mackay builds a strong squad at the Cardiff City Stadium. On deadline day Kevin Theophile-Catherine and Peter Odemwingie joined as Cardiff added even more depth as they prepare to battle through the winter months in South Wales.

source: AP
Chilean holding midfielder Medel has already proven to be a great but for Cardiff.

Chelsea: B

José Mourinho kept hold of all his big names and added several promising youngsters to his squad. Late in the window he added Anzhi Makhachkala duo Willian and Samuel Eto’o which added pace and potency to his attack as the Blues missed out on Wayne Rooney. Plenty of fringe players are out on loan as Chelsea trimmed down their squad that’s now stacked with quality in every position. Good window for the ‘Special One.’

Crystal Palace: C+

So Ian Holloway’s powers of persuasion and infectious enthusiasm didn’t manage to attract all the payers that Palace would have liked but it’s given them a fighting chance. Forward Dwight Gayle looks a promising talent and the additions of Marouane Chamakh and Jason Puncheon on a free and loan deal respectively will turn out to be shrew pieces of business. The Eagles added Jamaican international Adrian Mariappa on deadline day to strengthen their defensive options.

Everton: B

A mixed bag for the Toffees who lost Marouane Fellaini right at the end of the window to Manchester United but managed to hold off the Red Devils advances for Leighton Baines. Adding Gareth Barry on loan and Wigan’s James McCarthy to replace Fellaini was good business and bringing in Romelu Lukaku on a loan deal from Chelsea could be sensational. Roberto Martinez will be disappointed to loose Fellaini but has some quality signings already this summer that should help the Toffees solidify their top eight status.

Fulham: C

Martin Jol has gone for experience and offensive talent during this window and I’m not too sure about his transfer policy. Darren Bent came in on loan from Villa, while Scott Parker and Adel Taarabt arrived in midfield. Too many similar players for the Cottagers, not a great window but not disastrous. New goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg went down injured on opening day and adding Fernando Amorebieta from Bilbao is a good addition.

Hull City: C+

Like Palace, the Tigers didn’t get all of their targets in the window as Charlie Austin and others fell through the net. However the signing of Tottenham duo Tom Huddlestone permanently and Jake Livermore on loan is a great bit of business for Steve Bruce. They badly needed another striker, despite adding Danny Graham on loan from Sunderland, and failed in a last minute bid for Shane Long.

source:
French international defender Sakho joined Liverpool from PSG for $28 million on deadline day

Liverpool: B

After chasing several high profile players throughout the window, Liverpool came up short in their pursuit of a big name. But with the arrival of wingers Victor Moses and Iago Aspas, their attacking options should be increased this campaign. French international defender Mamadou Sakho joined on deadline day along with promising young defender TiagoLlori to help the Reds bolster their sparse looking defense. And Luis Suárez stayed on at Anfield, so that’s a plus. Right?

Manchester City: B+

New City manager Manuel Pellegrini acted swiftly in the transfer market to bring in Jesus Navas, Fernandinho, Alvaro Negredo and Stevan Jovetic early on in the window. The big money they spent on those four internationals looks likely to be good business and the addition of Martin Demechelis bolsters the Citizens’ backline. Losing Carlos Tevez shouldn’t be an issue as Negredo looks full of goals. Good work from Pellegrini as City gear up for an assault on the domestic competitions and the Champions League.

Manchester United: D

Where do we start with United? Well, the positive is that Wayne Rooney is still a Manchester United player. Apart from that, a plethora of Europe’s top players turned down a move to David Moyes’ Red Devils as they only brought in Marouane Fellaini right on the deadline. A potential move for Athletic Bilbao midfielder Ander Herrera turned into a farce on deadline day and Moyes found negotiations to sign Cesc Fabregas, Leighton Baines and others extremely difficult. Surely the Reds needed strengthening in other areas?

Newcastle United: D

Another side they only signed one player of note, the Magpies had a poor window as new Director of Football Joe Kinnear struggled to capture any of the Alan Pardew’s targets. QPR striker Loic Remy joined on a season-long loan but nobody else was added to a thin looking squad as the North East side spent no money. At least Newcastle aren’t in the Europa League this season, giving their small squad some respite.

Norwich City: B+

Great window for the Canaries. Chris Hughton spent big as he tried to address their problem area from last season; scoring goals. Norwich added Dutch forward Ricky van Wolfswinkel from Sporting Lisbon, Gary Hooper from Celtic and signed Swede Johan Elmander on loan. Leroy Fer looks a solid buy in midfield and England U-21 winger Nathan Redmond is a star of the future after arriving from Birmingham City.

source: Getty Images
Italian international striker Osvaldo joined Southampton for a club record fee of $22.5 million.

Southampton: B+

Another team who spent big in the window as three key signings arriving for the Saints. They strengthened throughout the spine of the team as Croatian international Dejan Loveren arrived in defense from Lyon, highly-rated Victor Wanyama in midfield and enigmatic Italian international Pablo Osvaldo up front. They kept hold of their young stars like Luke Shaw and added real quality. Southampton look so much stronger than this time last year.

Stoke City: C +

Not the big turnover many expected when Mark Hughes took over at the Britannia Stadium. He’s added a few players here and there with Stephen Ireland arriving on deadline day and a deal for New England Revolutions striker Juan Agudelo sealed for January 1. The Potters had a strong squad that underachieved last term, Hughes will look to get the best out of them after a bright start.

Sunderland: B-

Not really sure what to make of Paolo Di Canio’s many transfer dealings over the summer. The Italian manager signed 13 players in a mass overhaul of Sunderland’s squad. However after a poor start to the season and tough games on the way, the Black Cats could be languishing at the bottom in a few weeks time. Jozy Altidore and fellow new arrivals haven’t quite gelled yet. How long will it take? Midfielder Ki from Swansea, striker Fabio Borini from Liverpool and defender Andreas Dossena from Napoli all arrived on deadline day.

Swansea City: B+

Another good window for the Swans who added striker Wilfried Bony and midfielder Jonjo Shelvey as their two big buys. Plenty more stars in the making arrived from La Liga as Michael Laudrup once again dug deep into his knowledge of the Spanish leagues. A few players could be another Michu in the making, with Jose Canas and Jordi Amat arriving on the cheap and already impressing.

source: Reuters
Spurs broke their transfer record to bring in Argentine attacker Erik Lamela from Roma.

Tottenham Hotspur: A –

What Spurs managed to do in the window was remarkable. Okay, they lost their star man to Real Madrid, but everyone knew that was going to happen pretty much from the end of last season. But Franco Baldini and Daniel Levy reinvested all of the Gareth Bale cash to add Roberto Soldado, Paulinho, Nacer Chadli, Vlad Chiriches, Etienne Capoue, Erik Lamela and Christian Eriksen. This summer has reshaped Tottenham’s future with fantastic deals meaning over $145 million was spent.

West Bromwich Albion: C

The Baggies have yet to score in the PL after three games so added attackers Victor Anichebe and Stephane Sessegnon in club record deals on deadline day to help bolster their offense. Steve Clarke needed a few more signings and the Albion squad looked particularly thin at the back and up top. Could be a long hard season after several targets feel through West Brom’s grasp early in the summer.

West Ham United: B

Sam Allardyce signed some recognized Premier League talent and left it at that. Towering striker Andy Carroll signed from Liverpool on a permanent deal following his loan and Reds winger Stewart Downing also arrived. Experienced Romanian international Razvan Rat came in as the Hammers added to their powerful squad with a few players capable of making a difference. Decent dealings from Big Sam.

Klopp played three positions in Liverpool staff team’s draw with Stanford

Jurgen Klopp, Liverpool FC (Photo credit: @StanfordMSoccer)
Photo credit: @StanfordMSoccer
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From the Endearing Jurgen Klopp Tales file, the Liverpool manager reportedly starred in defense, midfield and attack for a squad full of Reds coaches against Stanford on Sunday.

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Liverpool, who have based themselves on the sunny, warm Stanford University campus as part of their preparations for the 2016-17 Premier League, took on the collegiate side and played the youngsters to a 1-1 draw.

Klopp failed to get his name on the scoresheet, though the former Mainz striker had one golden chance turned away by Stanford’s goalkeeper. The same couldn’t be said for physiotherapist Ruben Pons, who scored from beyond the halfway line on a mishit long ball over the top.

With all the goodwill Klopp has banked with Reds fans in his first nine months at the club, he’s now only a PL title away from securing his place as an eternal Liverpool legend.

Liverpool will take on Chelsea in each side’s first International Champions Cup fixture Wednesday night (11 p.m. ET) in Pasadena, Calif.

Former Fergie assistant Phelan wants Hull job — “I want to be a manager”

SCUNTHORPE, ENGLAND - JULY 23:  Hull City interim manager Mike Phelan prior to kick off in the pre-season friendly between Scunthorpe United and Hull City at Glanford Park on July 23, 2016 in Scunthorpe, England.  (Photo by Daniel Smith/Getty Images)
Photo by Daniel Smith/Getty Images
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Following Steve Bruce’s sudden and unexpected resignation this week, Hull City find themselves without a first-team manager 20 days before the 2016-17 Premier League opener, which will pit the PL newcomers (again) against the reigning PL champions (not again) Leicester City on Aug. 13.

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The man presently in charge of the club, Mike Phelan, who served as Sir Alex Ferguson‘s no. 2 for a number of years at Manchester United, has essentially no first-team managerial experience, but he’s eager to cut his teeth and wants the job anyway — quotes from the Hull Daily Mail:

“I want to be a manager. I don’t really see why I shouldn’t want to be a manager. Time will tell. That decision doesn’t sometimes come down to you.

“I’ve had a small chat and I was asked if I would carry on being in charge for now. We have games, we have preparations, we’ve still got three weeks to go.

“My job is no different to what it has been except now I’m stood on the touchline in games doing my bit. We just have to do our job, there’s nothing else we can do until the powers that be make their decisions.”

Here’s why it’s (obviously) crazy for the club to delay a final decision any longer than absolutely necessary: with every passing day, important preparations for a PL season, a campaign in which the Tigers will almost certainly be fighting for their top-division status, are being undertaken by an interim boss who, based upon the daily whims of an outgoing owner, may or may not be the man to lead Hull into that 38-game battle.

Phelan previously served as interim manager for Norwich City in 2015, for a period totaling four days.

Int’l Champions Cup: Aurier scores twice as PSG throttle Inter Milan

Paris Saint-Germain's Serge Aurier, right, gets a shot past Inter Milan goalkeeper Samir Handanovic, left, in the first half of the International Champions Cup soccer match at Autzen Stadium in Eugene, Ore., Sunday, July 24, 2016. (Andy Nelson/The Register-Guard via AP)
Andy Nelson/The Register-Guard via AP
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EUGENE, Ore. (AP) Serge Aurier scored twice and Paris Saint-Germain beat Inter Milan 3-1 on Sunday at the University of Oregon’s Autzen Stadium.

Layvin Kurzawa also scored for PSG on a free kick in the 61st minute in the International Champions Cup match. Stevan Jovetic scored for Inter Milan on a penalty kick in stoppage time following the first half.

Autzen Stadium, the home football field of the Oregon Ducks, hosted the match, part of the International Champions Cup. Real grass was laid down on the artificial turf field, obscuring the yellow `O’ at midfield.

The International Champions Cup is an exhibition tournament involving 17 teams playing on four different continents. It serves a tuneup for the regular season.

Inter Milan was coming off a 2-1 victory over Real Salt Lake earlier in the week in Utah. Striker Mauro Icardi played in that match, and was given the day off against PSG.

Paris Saint-Germain, which beat West Bromwich Albion 2-1 its last time out on July 14 in Austria, is embarking on its first season under Unai Emery, who took over for Laurnet Blanc. In addition to the new manager, PSG will also need to adjust to the departure of enigmatic forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who signed with Manchester United earlier this month.

Ibrahimovic had 38 goals in 31 French league games last season, helping PSG to a fourth successive title. On Sunday midfielder Javier Pastore wore No. 10.

Angel Di Maria, Edinson Cavani and Thomas Meunier entered as subs for Paris Saint-Germain in the second half.

Di Maria had just returned to his club team earlier in the week after taking some time off following the Copa America tournament. He played for his native Argentina in the final, which Chile won on penalty kicks.

David Luiz apparently did not make the trip to Eugene from Los Angeles, where PSG was training.

Aurier, who played in the 2014 World Cup for his native Ivory Coast, left-footed the rebound of a free kick off goalkeeper Samir Handanovic into the bottom left corner.

Inter Milan evened it on Jovetic’s penalty kick into the top right corner in extra time following the first half. The penalty was awarded when Lucas Moura was called for a handball.

Aurier had a good chance in the 57th minute but his shot hit the crossbar. A few minutes later, Kurzawa struck a perfectly placed free kick that Handanovic couldn’t reach that put PSG in front.

Aurier’s second goal was a header off a cross from Alec Georgen in the 87th minute.

Is MLS MVP a three-horse race at the All-Star “break”?

Toronto FC's Sebastian Giovinco laughs after being named Major League Soccer's 2015 Most Valuable Player in Toronto, Wednesday, Dec.  2, 2015. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)
Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP
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With the 2016 MLS All-Star Game set to be played Thursday night (versus Arsenal, at Avaya Stadium in San Jose, Calif.), it got me thinking about the race for this year’s Most Valuable Player award. (If MLS is going to continue holding the All-Star Game every year — and they are — it should include an actual break, as is the case in all other America sports.)

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While the field is a small one at this point of the campaign, it’s also much closer than it was last year, when Sebastian Giovinco took home the honor in an absolute landslide of a vote.

Sebastian Giovinco, Toronto FC

The reigning MVP is on pace for something of a come-down in his second season in MLS, but when you put up 22 goals and 16 assists in your debut campaign, can you really expect to replicate that kind of production from one year to the next? Still, 11 goals (on the most shots in the league – 124) and 7 assists through 20 games (Giovinco has played in 19) has him on pace for 18 goals and 12 assists. Of course, when you consider he snapped a skid of eight games without a goal with a hat trick Saturday night, and that he’s unlikely to endure such a slump through the final 14 games, 18 and 12 should be considered the proverbial floor.

TFC have scored just 25 goals this season, and Giovinco has scored or assisted 18 of them (72 percent).

As for TFC’s present standing and how that impacts Giovinco’s MVP candidacy, fifth place through 20 games is a disappointment considering this was to be “the year” where they were less of a collection of talent, and more a functional team. Of course, injuries (and national team call-ups) have robbed the Reds of Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore and Will Johnson for lengthy periods already. That TFC find themselves presently a playoff team, and a measly six points back of the Eastern Conference’s top spot with two games in hand, should benefit Giovinco’s case more than hurt it.

David Villa, New York City FC

This one’s pretty simple: NYCFC weren’t supposed to be anywhere near the top spot of the East this season, yet that’s where they find themselves at the break, and Villa has spearheaded their unlikely run by scoring 13 goals (most in MLS – on 117 shots – 46 more than the next-closest player) and one assist through 22 games (Villa has played in 21). The question is this, though: will Patrick Vieira’s side still be there come the end of the season? So much of Villa’s claim to MVP is that he’s been the best player on one of the best (and certainly most surprising) teams in MLS this year.

If they’re to fall back into the pack (they’re just two points clear of the New York Red Bulls following Sunday’s 4-1 derby disaster, and only four points from fourth), Villa will quickly fall from MVP candidate to “the best best player on a subpar team.”

New York City FC forward David Villa, left, and New York City FC defender Chris Wingert celebrate Villa's early goal during the first half of the match between New York City FC and Toronto FC, Sunday, July 12, 2015, at Yankee Stadium in New York. (AP Photo/Kevin Hagen)
(AP Photo/Kevin Hagen)

Ignacio Piatti, Montreal Impact

The Impact have, for my money, the most complete roster in the Eastern Conference. Didier Drogba is arguably the most dominant goal-scoring force MLS has ever seen (8 goals in 12 appearances this season; 11 in 11 last year), and the depth in midfield and defense is unparalleled, yet Piatti has been the unrivaled star through the first 20 games of the season (he has played in 18). His 12 goals and 5 assists are rivaled only by Giovinco’s numbers, and he’s been a far more consistent contributor than the Italian (never more than three games without a goal, while playing as a non-forward, unlike Giovinco).

The knock on Piatti has always been his inability to stay healthy and approach a pace of 30 appearances in a single season. Finally consistently healthy in 2016, he’s taken his short-term production and replicated that same kind of output over 90 percent of his team’s games this season. If he can reach 30 games played this year, Piatti has the best chance of stopping Giovinco from becoming the first back-to-back MVP winner in league history.

Montreal Impact's Ignacio Piatti, left, of Argentina, scores a goal as Vancouver Whitecaps' Kendall Waston, of Costa Rica, defends during first half MLS soccer action, in Vancouver, British Columbia, on Sunday, March 6, 2016. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP)
(Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP)

On the fringe, with a chance to catch the leaders: Sacha Kljestan (New York Red Bulls – 5 goals, 12 assists), Diego Valeri (Portland Timbers – 9 goals, 5 assists)