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.

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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.

Copa America 2016 preview, Group A: USA, Colombia, Costa Rica, Paraguay

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USA

This will be the USA’s fourth Copa America appearance and they’ve struggled in this competition in the past with their best finish coming in 1995 when they finished fourth. Can the hosts finish in the top four this time?

Star player: Bobby Wood – I would’ve gone for Clint Dempsey but I think Wood will carry this team after a stunning season in Germany. He’s so sharp right now and is clinical.

Why USA will flop and pile more pressure on Klinsmann: The U.S. head coach has already stated their target as reaching the semifinals. That’s attainable but they’re in a very tough group to get out of. It is hard to see them getting out of this group, which will then pile more pressure on JK.

[ MORE: Full Copa America 2016 coverage ]

But this is how they’ll really battle through and make the semifinals: However, how many times have we written this U.S. team off? Plenty. And they always seem to have a surprise in them. They got out of the Group of Death in Brazil two years ago and it is all about getting a positive result in the opener against Colombia. Win that and the team, fans and the nation will believe. As the host nation, that’s a powerful thing.


Colombia 

James Rodriguez, Colombia
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They burst onto the scene as a reborn team at the 2014 World Cup but they’ve struggled to regain that form since. Colombia has won the Copa America once in its history, back in 2001 when Victor Aristizabal  ran the show for the host nation.

Star player: James Rodriguez – Real Madrid attacker will lead Colombia and thrives on being the main man. That’s what he will be this summer. Watch him go.

How Colombia can regain 2014 World Cup form: They’ve lost a spark in the last 12-18 months since the World Cup but there’s no doubt that Jose Pekerman’s men have the talent to succeed. The shackles will be off this summer and their fans travel well. Los Cafeteros will play in front of a sea of yellow wherever they go.

More than likely they’ll bow out in quarterfinals: Despite all of their attacking prowess, they’ll probably bow out at the quarterfinal stage just like they did at the last three major tournaments. That’s because defensively they’ve struggled to replace veterans such as Mario Yepes and some of their more experienced players in Radamel Falcao and Jackson Martinez won’t be in action this summer.


Costa Rica

Costa Rica and Mexico clash.
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This will be just the fifth time Costa Rica has participated in this tournament as a guest nation. They reached the quarterfinals in both 2001 and 2005.

Star player: Joel Campbell – He’s had an up and down season with Arsenal but his pace, power and clinical finishing mean he will be a real handful.

Los Ticos could surprise everyone and make a deep run: They did it in 2014, why not now? With Bryan Ruiz, Campbell , Keylor Navas and Celso Borges around, they have a real solid core of players who came within penalty kicks of a World Cup semifinal. They’ll surprise again.

However, they will likely just come up short due to defensive weakness: In defense they look a little week and you get the sense that if the balance of this team isn’t right, Navas will be a busy man.


Paraguay

Paraguay's forward Derlis Gonzalez celebrates after scoring against Brazil during their 2015 Copa America football championship quarter-final match, in Concepcion, Chile, on June 27, 2015. AFP PHOTO / NELSON ALMEIDA (Photo credit should read NELSON ALMEIDA/AFP/Getty Images)
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Ranked 7th out of the 10 CONMEBOL teams, it is always easy to underestimate Paraguay but they usually perform very well in this tournament. They reached the semifinals last summer in Chile and were runners up in Argentina in 2011.

Star player: Derlis Gonzalez – The Dynamo Kiev forward looked sharp last summer but without Roque Santa Cruz, there are no obvious stars on this team.

Why they will do better than anybody expects: It’s just what they always do. In the Copa America last summer they drew with Uruguay and Argentina in group play and knocked out Brazil on penalties in the quarterfinal. They will fight until the end.

Close, but no cigar: This time around you get the sense that this is a team in transition. Without Santa Cruz they will struggle for goals and fairytale is not in the stars this time.


Game schedule – Full schedule for Group A, here

Who’s going through, who’s going home: Colombia, Costa Rica going through; USA and Paraguay going home

Marquee match: I’m going with USA vs. Colombia in the opener in Santa Clara at Levi Stadium on June 3. Amid much fanfare, expect a tense, exciting game. 

Top players to watch

1) James Rodriguez
2) Juan Cuadrado
3) Joel Campbell
4) Bobby Wood
5) Bryan Ruiz

Lionel Messi sets sights on Copa America glory in USA

Argentina's Lionel Messi celebrates after his teammate Gabriel Mercado scored his side's second goal against Chile during a 2018 Russia World Cup qualifying soccer match at the National Stadium in Santiago, Chile, Thursday, March 24, 2016. (AP Photo/ Luis Hidalgo)
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Lionel Messi is fired up and ready to roll this summer.

The Barcelona and Argentina superstar, 28, will captain La Albiceleste at the 2016 Copa America Centenario being held across the United States of America this summer.

[ MORE: Mourinho to hold United talks

Argentina is in Group D alongside Chile, Panama and Bolivia and they are the favorites to win the competition this summer.

Messi has been named FIFA’s World Player of the Year five times. He’s won every major trophy with Barcelona.

Yet one thing eludes him: glory with Argentina.

He was part of the Argentine Olympic squad which won Gold at Beijing in 2008 but the mercurial playmaker has never won a major trophy such as a World Cup or Copa America with Argentina.

[ MORE: What is USMNT’s best XI? ]

Speaking to Sports Illustrated in first person ahead of this summer, Messi spoke of his fondness for the U.S. after multiple trips to play friendlies with club and country in recent years nd how he aims to end Argentina’s 23-year trophy drought this summer, especially after losing in both the 2014 World Cup and the 2015 Copa America finals.

“Of course, outside of my family nothing would make me happier than to win my first World Cup with Argentina in 2018. The Copa America this summer is an important step along the way, a chance to show that we can raise a senior trophy for the first time in 23 years. And if we can do that, it will also mean spending nearly a month in the U.S. and learning more about this special country. If you Americans are looking forward to seeing me in person, trust me: The feeling is mutual.”

See you this summer, Lionel.

Argentina has not won the World Cup since 1986 and the Copa America since 1993. They’re long overdue a trophy and Messi seems hellbent on delivering it during his time as skipper. Gerardo Martino’s side are among the 10 teams from CONMEBOL who will link with six nations from CONCACAF in an expanded format of Copa America to celebrate the competitions 100-year anniversary.

ProSoccerTalk will have full coverage of the entire 16-team Copa America Centenario tournament, which you can find here.

Five things Jose Mourinho must do at Manchester United

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 29:  Jose Mourinho manager of Chelsea looks on prior to the Barclays Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea at White Hart Lane on November 29, 2015 in London, England.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
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Jose Mourinho will reportedly take charge of Manchester United before the end of this week.

[ MORE: Mourinho to hold United talks

The Portuguese coach, 53, has been out of a job since he left Chelsea last December but now the job he’s been muttering about and mentioning for over a decade has arrived.

“The Special One” seems to be the chosen one, at least when it comes to United’s hierarchy who are ready to hand him the keys with Louis Van Gaal out as boss on Monday.

[ MORE: What is USMNT’s best XI? ]

Mourinho has plenty of work to do to first restore United to the top of the PL and then to Europe.

Below is a quick checklist of what Mourinho must sort out first when he likely arrives at Old Trafford in the coming days.

He has a huge job on his hands but if anybody can do it, it’s Mourinho.


1 – Get a new, more powerful spine of the team

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - APRIL 12: Zlatan Ibrahimovic of Paris Saint-Germain beats Eliaquim Mangala (20) and Joe Hart of Manchester City to score, but his goal is disallowed during the UEFA Champions League quarter final second leg match between Manchester City FC and Paris Saint-Germain at the Etihad Stadium on April 12, 2016 in Manchester, United Kingdom. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
(Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

A lot has been said about the laborious rate of play under LVG the best two seasons but not much has been said about why it’s been like that. Of course, pace is a huge factor in that but as is winning the ball back in key areas and United haven’t done that enough in midfield and defense. Getting in two destructive players in central midfield and central defense is key for this team. With Nemanja Matic linked to United, that would work in midfield. John Stones and Raphael Varane in central defense would also work and with Zlatan Ibrahimovic up top, boom, there’s your new spine of the team. It’s more powerful and able to dominate teams.

2 – Convince David De Gea to stay

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MARCH 02: David De Gea of Manchester United celebrates the opening goal scored by Juan Mata (not pictured) during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Watford at Old Trafford on March 2, 2016 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
(Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

This is a big one and has this storyline has somehow got lost in the shuffle a little in the past few months. Let’s not forget that De Gea missed United’s opening games of the season after he lost focus with his potential move to Real Madrid up in the air. He accepted it when it didn’t happen after an eleventh hour breakdown and the Spanish international was once again named the PL’s best goalkeeper. De Gea, 25, is key to this United team and to that strong spine we’re talking about. Without UEFA Champions League action to offer next season, Mourinho must convince him to stay at United as Real lurk in the background ready to activate his reported release clause.

3 – Play Wayne Rooney as a No. 10

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JANUARY 02: Wayne Rooney of Manchester United celebrates scoring his team's second goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Swansea City at Old Trafford on January 2, 2016 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
(Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

I’ve seen enough of Rooney in midfield in recent weeks to believe this is where his future lies. United’s captain even seems to believe it now too. However, he should play in a slightly more attacking role than he has been. That is where he’s at his best. We’ve seen him struggle with some of the easier passes and given the ball away in key possessions as he takes too many risks on the ball as a holding or deeper central midfielder. Play him just in front of two defensive midfielders and let him roam free behind a target man like Zlatan or Marcus Rashford.

4 – Keep faith in the youngsters

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MARCH 20: Daniel Rashford of Manchester United in action during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Manchester United at Etihad Stadium on March 20, 2016 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
(Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Okay, so Jose has been terrible at doing this in the past. Wherever he has gone he’s had a short-term approach, a “win now, worry later” mentality which has left some of the teams in ruins after his departure. Yet, at United it can be argued that many of the youngsters giving their debuts this season by Van Gaal were the bright spots. Rashford is a special talent and Jesse Lingard is flourishing, while Timothy Fosu-Mensah and Cameron Borthwick-Jackson showed promise. Then you have Anthony Martial, Luke Shaw and Memphis. The latter could get a new lease of life under Mourinho and, all of a sudden, Mourinho could have a very young team. That said, he’ll likely go out and bring in some experience form his days at Real Madrid or Chelsea but he should not neglect this opportunity to thrust youngsters into the limelight like he has done so readily in the past.

5 – Prioritize the Premier League

Jose Mourinho, Chelsea FC
Jose Mourinho, Chelsea FC

He’s won plenty of FA Cups and League Cups with Chelsea in the past but it is time for Mourinho to fully focus on one thing when he arrives at United: finishing in the top four. United simply have to be in the UCL in 2017-18 and their failure to qualify for that tournament this season was the main reason LVG is out. Like Liverpool showed a few years ago and Leicester City showed us this season, when you only have one competition to focus on, then anything is possible. Play the kids in all of the Europa League, FA Cup and League Cup games and keep your star players hungry to succeed in the Premier League.

Ahead of Copa America, what is USMNT’s best XI?

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Jurgen Klinsmann’s U.S. national team has a big few weeks ahead of them.

[ MORE: What’s next for USMNT? ]

The USMNT have two more friendlies — Ecuador on Wednesday, then Bolivia on Saturday — before they face Colombia in the 2016 Copa America Centenario opener in Santa Clara, Calif. on June 3.

Klinsmann has already stated the USA’s goal is to reach the semifinals of the 16-team tournament as CONCACAF and CONMEBOL’s finest square off. Getting out of a tricky Group A will be a big achievement for the U.S. as Colombia, Costa Rica and Paraguay stand in their way.

[ MORE: Mourinho to hold United talks ]

With the Major League Soccer contingent of players just joining up with the squad, plus others leaving after taking part in the friendly win in Puerto Rico last Sunday, Klinsmann now has the majority of his final 23-man roster with him and available for selection.

Who should start against Colombia in 10 days time? Let’s take a look at the best XI Klinsmann can pick.


USMNT’s best XI

—– Guzan —–

— Yedlin — Cameron — Birnbaum — Johnson —

— Bradley — Jones —

— Bedoya — Dempsey — Zardes —

—– Wood —–

Thoughts

We know that Klinsmann has named Brad Guzan as his starter for the Copa America and given that he’s played more regularly than MLS-bound Tim Howard over the past six months, that’s understandable. Do I still think Howard is overall a better goalkeeper than Guzan? Yes.

The back four, for me, picks itself. DeAndre Yedlin has shown his development, especially defensively, as a solid right back at Sunderland this season. That loan move did him the world of good. Geoff Cameron is the clear leader in central defense (he has been struggling with a hamstring injury but should be good to go next Friday) and you have to select a center back who can compliment him best. I believe Steve Birnbaum is that man even though John Brooks may be the better overall player. Fabian Johnson should play at left back simply because the U.S. doesn’t have many options in that area. The Borussia Monchengladbach winger is incredibly useful going forward but needs must.

Central midfield should be locked down by Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones, although Kyle Beckerman or Darlington Nagbe do have a chance of starting in that area to give Bradley the chance to play as the central attacking midfielder.

In an attacking midfield three I’ve gone for Alejandro Bedoya, Clint Dempsey and Gyasi Zardes as I think they have the perfect mixture of pace, trickery and industry and they will support the man who has risen to stardom: Bobby Wood.

The hopes of Klinsmann’s team rest on the shoulders of Hamburg’s Hawaiian striker but whispers out of training camp suggest Wood is up to the challenge of leading the line after Jozy Altidore went down with an injury. Also, watch out for Christian Pulisic who will likely be used off the bench to support Wood. The 17-year-old Borussia Dortmund sensation can slot into any of the attacking midfield positions and is a real wildcard for Klinsmann to throw in when necessary.