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

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

Leave a comment

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.

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.

Jose Mourinho wants Diego Costa to process game situations “faster”

during the Barclays Premier League match between Stoke City and Chelsea at Britannia Stadium on November 7, 2015 in Stoke on Trent, England.
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho isn’t worried about Diego Costa‘s lack of goals this season, but he does know the problem.

Costa scored the winner against Norwich last time out, but has just three goals on the year and has looked frustrated often in recent matches. And the boss believes there’s still work to be done with Costa, particularly off the ball.

“Everything is OK, no problem, no problem,” Mourinho said in his pre-match press conference before Chelsea visits Spurs on Sunday. “But he’s not reading the game properly in these actions. That was my opinion. As a striker he must read. You have to play not only when you have the ball but when others have the ball. You have to anticipate things and read the game faster. Everything is an accumulation [of confidence]. You’re not on fire again just because you’ve scored a winning goal against Norwich. It’s all a process.”

Mourinho exploded at Costa in the waning moments of Chelsea’s 4-0 win over Maccabi Tel Aviv, with the manager focused on improving the Spaniard’s effort level.

“In the game I told him, from a distance, that I was not happy with the movement he did,” Mourinho said. “He told me a few nice words from where he was. And nothing happened.”

Despite the manager’s frustrations, Costa could be the only option on Sunday. Radamel Falcao is injured and Loic Remy’s wife is scheduled to give birth soon, leaving Chelsea’s main man as maybe the only man.

The match against Spurs is a huge one for the Blues. Chelsea seems to have recovered slightly from its early-season tumble down the table, but their only two wins since the 2-0 victory over Arsenal in mid-September have been against Aston Villa and Norwich, and a marquee win would see them firmly announce an intention to return to last season’s form. The competition will be stiff, as Spurs’ high press could frustrate Costa, potentially sending him into another mood. But it could also give him opportunities should the hosts slip on Sunday.

Premier League preview: Manchester City vs. Southampton

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 21: Manuel Pellegrini, manager of Manchester City looks on during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Liverpool at Etihad Stadium on November 21, 2015 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment
  • Manchester City has lost both its home matches against top-10 sides this season
  • Southampton is six matches away unbeaten – club record is seven
  • Southampton has lost five straight at the Etihad across all competitions

Depending on results, Manchester City could be on top of the league come the end of the weekend if they can pick up three points when they welcome Southampton to the Etihad on Saturday (Watch live, 10:00 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra).

Unfortunately, they’ll face the Saints very banged up, something which has caused the home side plenty of issues recently. Goalkeeper Joe Hart suffered a hamstring injury midweek and will miss out, as will defenders Vincent Kompany, Pablo Zabaleta and Eliaquim Mangala.

[ WATCH LIVE: Stream every PL game via Live Extra ]

Manuel Pellegrini‘s squad struggled mightily at times without Sergio Aguero up front during his four-match injury absence. Aguero is back and scored last week in the 4-1 loss to Liverpool, but now the back line is giving the Chilean boss headaches. They broke again midweek, a 1-0 loss to Juventus in Champions League play leaving City fans scratching their heads.

Southampton saw its six-match unbeaten run come to a surprising end against Stoke City last weekend, and that puts them in an awkward spot, stuck in a clogged portion of the Premier League table where the gap between sixth and 11th is just two points. With a difficult London list of Spurs, Arsenal, and West Ham on the docket surrounding the December holidays, stolen points here at the Etihad would go a long way later on.

The Saints are also shorthanded, with Graziano Pelle suspended for yellow card accumulation after picking up his fifth of the season against Stoke. With Jay Rodriguez still sidelined, that leaves Shane Long to lead the Southampton attack.

What they’re saying

Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini on injury problems: “All the clubs have the same problems here in England and in other European leagues, because the players have to play so many games in the year and they have to go to their national squads with long flights.”

Southampton midfielder Steven Davis on Manchester City: “The demand from their fans is to win every game and they’re coming off the back of a couple of bad results. They will be looking to put it right. It should be an entertaining game but we’ll need to be at our best to get something. I’m confident we can go there and do that.”


Because of Manchester City’s defensive issues, summer signing Nicolas Otamendi will be forced back into the starting lineup after finding himself on the bench for the Liverpool loss. Since Otamendi looked off the pace in his first two Premier League matches (both of which City lost), he has acclimated quite well – the club has conceded just three goals in the Argentinian’s five matches following those two defeats.

With the striker issues for Southampton, City will use the return of David Silva to run Southampton down. Silva is known for playing his part in early goals, and the first 15 minutes will be key in this match. Manchester City will get one early, and they will return to their winning ways on a 2-0 victory.

Words fly as Mathieu Valbuena opens up about blackmail scandal

LISBON, PORTUGAL - SEPTEMBER 04: France's midfielder Matthieu Valbuena celebrating France goal during the Friendly match between Portugal and France on September 04, 2015 in Lisbon, Portugal.  (Photo by Carlos Rodrigues/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Lyon midfielder Mathieu Valbuena has spoken out for the first time about the sex tape scandal that has rocked the French national team.

If what he says proves to be true, Karim Benzema could be in a whole heap of trouble.

Valbuena told his story to French newspaper Le Monde, where he explained how things began in May of 2015 with a phone call from Djibril Cisse that suggested someone had a tape of the 31-year-old Valbuena. A few days later a blocked number called Valbuena asking to meet in Dubai about the video. The Frenchman got the police involved, and then Benzema approached him during national team training.

“He [Benzema] spoke to me about a video. Immediately, I thought back to what the police chief had told me on Sunday [that someone would approach him about the video].  Then he asked me to meet a friend that he presented to be very reliable, very serious, someone that he had complete confidence in, to arrange all of that. So, anyway, I am not an idiot!

I was sceptical to say the least. Even if, it was true, at the start I said to him: “Thank you for warning me”, I was doubtful that if he wants me to meet someone, it is not for nothing. The way in which he conveyed things, it was certainly to provoke me to see someone, indirectly, it means to pay this person to destroy the video.”

Valbuena said Benzema never actually asked him to pay for the video to be destroyed, but that it was heavily implied. “I played his game, I told him, me I would like very much to pay for my freedom, but we all know that if you pay, it is endless, there will always be copies etc. He told me: ‘Don’t worry, I have total confidence in my friend, there will be no more duplicates, they will be destroyed.’ He insisted a lot for me to meet his friend.”

The Frenchman later would implicate Samir Nasri as someone who, according to Valbuena, had offered to approach him instead of Benzema. “[Nasri] is someone who is no longer part of the French national team. My relationship has always been difficult with Nasri. Now, nothing surprises me.”

Both have responded. Benzema’s lawyer gave an interview to French radio station RMC saying that there was contact between the two about the tape, but that the conversation saw Benzema encourage Valbuena not to pay for anything. Nasri also spoke to RMC, completely denying any involvement in the case by saying, “It is not my problem, not my situation.”

Benzema has been charged with conspiracy to blackmail for his role as an intermediary, but the investigation is still in the preliminary stages.

Premier League preview: Leicester City vs. Manchester United

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 07:  Jamie Vardy of Leicester City celebrates scoring his team's second goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Leicester City and Watford at The King Power Stadium on November 7, 2015 in Leicester, England.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Getty Images
1 Comment
  • Leicester sits atop the Premier League table with 28 points
  •  Manchester United has conceded just once in their last 7 league games
  • Leicester’s Premier League games have produced 48 goals, the most in the league

Yes, this is #1 vs #2. No, your eyes are not deceiving you.

And yet somehow, that magnificent lede has been buried thanks to one Jamie Vardy.

The 28-year-old can break Ruud Van Nistelrooy’s Premier League record of 10 straight games with a goal as Leicester City hosts Van Nistelrooy’s former team Manchester United at King Power Stadium (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra).

[ WATCH LIVE: Stream every PL game via Live Extra ]

The Foxes are firmly atop the Premier League table, but many question whether they can hang onto that, and even others remain skeptical whether they can truly challenge for a top four spot this season. Saturday’s game will be a true test of their ability to remain in the hunt for the long haul, as the Red Devils are just a point off the top and, while it hasn’t been pretty at times this year, van Gaal’s men have done enough to pick up results in key situations.

On the other end, Manchester United has conceded just one goal in its last five league matches, and has not allowed a goal from open play since the Arsenal drubbing in early October. Can Vardy find space in the tight Red Devils’ back line?

Both teams are relatively healthy coming into this matchup. Leicester is only missing long-term absentee Matty Jones, while Manchester United is a little more banged up with Ander Herrera, Phil Jones, and Michael Carrick likely out alongside Luke Shaw and Antonio Valencia.

What they’re saying

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal on Leicester City’s chances at title“Normally these kind of clubs can compete for long time, then at the end it becomes more difficult. But in England because of the quality of the teams, because every team has the money to buy players – and they have bought players – the difference in the Premier League between the clubs is not so high.”

Leicester City manager Claudio Ranieri on the Foxes’ aim“The league is very strange and open but our goal is 40 points. Our goal at the moment is this but let me see the next two months and then maybe I change the goal. Like everybody else I am also curious in these days to watch my team, and to see how we respond in these big matches.”


Manchester United’s results have been there, and they’ve created a ton of chances. On the flip side, Leicester’s improved defensive organization is solid enough to hold off the Red Devils. This one ends 1-1, and there is no change at the top. Vardy gets the Foxes’ goal, because who doesn’t like fun things?