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.

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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.

Arsene Wenger “99.9 percent confident” new players will arrive at Arsenal

LILLE, FRANCE - JUNE 12:  Shkodran Mustafi of Germany runs with the ball during the UEFA EURO 2016 Group C match between Germany and Ukraine at Stade Pierre-Mauroy on June 12, 2016 in Lille, France.  (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images)
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Arsene Wenger is just teasing Arsenal’s fans now.

[ MORE: UCL changes announced ]

With the Gunners reportedly closing in on a double swoop for Shkodran Mustafi and Lucas Perez which will cost them almost $70 million, Wenger seems very confident that the deals will get done very shortly.

Speaking to the media on Friday ahead of Arsenal’s trip to Watford on Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET online via NBC Sports) Wenger confirmed they are closing in on new signings ahead of the summer transfer window shutting on Aug. 31.

“We are working on the deals. We are not close enough to announce today that they will sign for us, and will we sign anybody before the end of the transfer window? I am 99 per cent confident.”

The deal for 24-year-old Mustafi has been rumbling on for some time now with Valencia driving a hard bargain for the German international defender. However, it is believed a fee of $46.2 million has been agreed for the center back and he is now on his way to London to complete a medical.

[ MORE: Europa League draw tough for United, Saints ]

As for Perez, the 27-year-old striker from Deportivo La Coruna has emerged as a late target for Arsenal after Everton had tracked him for most of the summer. It is believed Arsenal has met the $22.5 million release clause in his contract after Lucas scored 17 goals in La Liga for Deportivo last season. He will challenge Olivier Giroud for the central striking position at the Emirates Stadium but can also play in a variety of positions in the attacking unit.

If both of these deals go through as expected then Arsenal will have actually spent the third-most of any PL club this summer on new players, trailing only Manchester City and Manchester United in spending. They also signed Swiss international midfielder Granit Xhaka for $40 million earlier this summer.

Wenger joked about now being branded a big spending this summer and told one journalist “it is a shame you are not my friend. You will see I spend a lot of money,” when asked about the perception that Wenger doesn’t like to spend much in the transfer market.

Arsenal’s manager also revealed that Calum Chambers is likely to leave on loan before the window shuts with Mustafi taking his place, while the Gunners will have Gabriel back soon to join youngster Rob Holding, Mustafi and Laurent Koscielny as center back options. There is also club captain Per Mertesacker but he center back is out with a long-term knee injury and won’t be back until January.

UEFA Europa League group stage: Man United, Saints handed tough draws

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - AUGUST 19:  Zlatan Ibrahimovic of Manchester United celebrates scoring the opening goal with Paul Pogba during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Southampton at Old Trafford on August 19, 2016 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
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Premier League clubs Manchester United and Southampton were both handed tough, but exciting, draws in the 2016-17 group stage of the UEFA Europa League.

[ MORE: Europa League schedule

The draw, which took place in Monaco on Friday, saw Jose Mourinho’s United placed in Group A as they face Turkish giants Fenerbache, Dutch powerhouse Feyenoord and Ukrainian side Zorya Luhansk with some big games coming up at Old Trafford.

United’s manager was happy with the tough tests for his squad: “It’s a big match to play in Istanbul as it is in Rotterdam – it’s good for us,” Mourinho said.

Saints, who have reached the group stage of the Europa League for the first-time in club history, face mouth-watering clashes against Inter Milan, while they also have tough games against Czech giants Sparta Prague and the champions of Israel Hapoel Beer-Sheva.

48 teams who had qualified for the Europa League group stage were split up into 12 groups of four teams with some other big ties cropping up as Group G looks particularly strong as it contains Ajax, Standard Liege, Celta Vigo and Panathinaikos.

The Europa League final will take place in Stockholm, Sweden at the Friends Arena on May 24, 2017.

Below is the draw in full, with the opening group games taking place on Thursday Sept. 15. There are six group games in total for each team and you can see the full schedule by clicking on the link above.


GROUP A
Manchester United
Fenerbache
Feyenoord
Zorya Luhansk

GROUP B
Olympiakos
APOEL FC
Young Boys
FC Astana

GROUP C
Anderlecht
St Etienne
FSV Mainz 05
Gabala

GROUP D
Zenit St Petersburg
AZ Alkmaar
Maccabi Tel-Aviv
Dundalk

GROUP E
Viktoria Plzen
AS Roma
Austria Wien
Astra Giurgiu

GROUP F
Athletic Bilbao
Genk
Rapid Wien
Sassuolo

GROUP G
Ajax
Standard Liege
Celta Vigo
Panathinaikos

GROUP H
Shakhtar Donetsk
SC Braga
Gent
Konyaspor

GROUP I
FC Schalke 04
FC Salzburg
Krasnodar
Nice

GROUP J
Fiorentina
PAOK FC
Slovan Liberec
Qarabag

GROUP K
Inter Milan
Sparta Prague
Southampton
Hapoel Beer-Sheva

GROUP L
Villarreal
Steaua Bucharest
FC Zurich
Osmanlispor

UEFA: Top four leagues guaranteed four teams in UCL from 2018

MADRID, SPAIN - APRIL 27:  UEFA  Champions League trophy is seen ahead of the UEFA Champions League semi final first leg match between Club Atletico de Madrid and FC Bayern Muenchen at Vincente Calderon on April 27, 2016 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
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The UEFA Champions League will see a big change for three seasons from the 2018-19 campaign.

[ MORE: UCL group stage draw ]

On Friday it was announced by UEFA that several changes, most notably the way teams qualify for the UCL, had been approved and will take place in the next competition cycle.

The biggest change and the one everyone is talking about is that from 2018 the teams who finish in the top four of the four highest ranked UEFA nations will automatically qualify for the UCL group stage.

[ MORE: Analyzing UCL draw for PL teams ]

That means no more UCL play-off for teams who finish fourth in the Premier League.

In a statement on their website, UEFA’s General Secretary ad interim Theodore Theodoridis revealed everyone is happy with the changes.

“The amendments made will continue to ensure qualification based on sporting merit, and the right of all associations and their clubs to compete in Europe’s elite club competitions. We are happy that European football remains united behind the concepts of solidarity, fair competition, fair distribution and good governance.”

Some argue that having 16 places guaranteed to teams from the top four nations in Europe — currently Spain, Germany, England and Italy — is a monopoly and limits the chances of smaller clubs from smaller nations from qualifying.

UEFA also revealed a new coefficient system with clubs no longer having a country share tacked on to their coefficient under most circumstances, plus historical success will be weighted in the coefficient rankings to take into account past UCL and Europa League titles won.

For example, Liverpool’s coefficient will likely increase despite not playing in Europe this season as instead of the coefficient being solely made up of how they and other English teams have performed in Europe over the past few years, now their five previous UCL titles will be weighted and their coefficient will improve due to past success.

Blatter says he will accept verdict as CAS appeal begins

SAINT PETERSBURG, RUSSIA - JULY 25:  FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter speaks during the Preliminary Draw of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia at The Konstantin Palace on July 25, 2015 in Saint Petersburg, Russia.  (Photo by Dennis Grombkowski/Getty Images)
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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) Former FIFA president Sepp Blatter arrived for his appeal hearing against a six-year ban from football on Thursday, pledging to accept the verdict of the Court of Arbitration for Sport

“I do hope it will be positive for me,” Blatter, sporting a light gray beard, told reporters at around 8 a.m. (0600 GMT) ahead of a hearing expected to last several hours.

The court’s verdict is expected within several weeks, and could be challenged in a further appeal to Switzerland’s supreme court.

The 80-year-old Blatter denies wrongdoing in authorizing a $2 million payment to former FIFA vice president Michel Platini in 2011. They claimed it was for backdated and uncontracted salary for work Platini did in advising Blatter from 1999 to 2002.

[ MORE: Ranking Champions League groups ]

The so-called “disloyal payment” led Blatter to be put under investigation for criminal mismanagement by Swiss federal prosecutors last September. That investigation is ongoing.

FIFA’s ethics committee judged the $2 million deal was a conflict of interest and initially banned Blatter and Platini for eight years last December. FIFA’s appeal committee cut both bans to six years.

Platini’s appeal to CAS was already judged in May, when Blatter appeared in person as a witness. Platini promised a further appeal to the Swiss Federal Tribunal after his ban was only cut from six to four years.

Platini arrived at the hearing around midday local time to be a witness. Both men have denied any wrongdoing.

Blatter’s comments Thursday suggest he would not pursue a federal case. Federal judges can intervene only if legal process is abused.

“We are football players, we learned to win but also we learned to lose and it will not be the end of the world,” Blatter said outside CAS.

The three-member panel for Blatter’s case is expected to respect the verdict of a separate panel which judged Platini.

A failure to overturn the ban for Blatter would likely end his hope to one day be named FIFA honorary president by its 211 member federations.

[ MORE: Ranking Champions League groups ]

The case already ended Platini’s chance to replace Blatter as FIFA president, and also forced him out of European governing body UEFA.

On Sept. 14, UEFA members will elect a successor to replace Platini who had a mandate through March 2019. By imposing a four-year ban, the CAS panel ensured UEFA had to replace Platini, rather than wait for him to return.

The “disloyal payment” emerged last year when Platini was strongly favored to win the election to replace Blatter, who had announced his departure plans after 17 years as president amid pressure from American and Swiss federal investigations of corruption implicating senior FIFA officials.

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Both men were questioned at FIFA headquarters last September by Swiss investigators who were waiting for them outside an executive committee meeting.

During the turmoil in world football, Platini’s right-hand man at UEFA, Gianni Infantino, submitted an election candidacy on the entry deadline day and won the vote in February.

Arriving at the hearing with his Zurich-based lawyer Lorenz Erni, Blatter said he hoped the CAS panel “will understand that the payment made to Platini was really a debt that we had against him.”

“This is a principle, if you have debts you pay them,” Blatter said.