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.

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.

Report: Chelsea’s Diego Costa, Antonio Conte agree truce

MIDDLESBROUGH, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 20:  Antonio Conte, Manager of Chelsea celebrates victory with Diego Costa after the Premier League match between Middlesbrough and Chelsea at Riverside Stadium on November 20, 2016 in Middlesbrough, England.  (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

The feud is over. For now.

[ MORE: New rules stop Costa move

After Diego Costa was left out of Chelsea’s traveling squad for the win at Leicester City last weekend, he has been training on his own amid reports of a back injury which his manager Antonio Conte

It seems very likely that this situation was about much more than a back injury as Costa and Conte reportedly had a bust-up on the training ground, while links surrounding a big-money move to China continue as Costa’s agent, Jorge Mendes, was seen visiting owners of Chinese Super League clubs last week.

A report in The Times states that Costa and Conte have decided to put their differences aside and the Spanish international is back in contention to start against Hull City on Sunday (Watch live, 11:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

It was also stated that although everyone is buddy-buddy for now, Costa could still leave in the summer as his volatile nature is far from impressing Conte who continues to stamp his authority not only on the players but the entire club.

It’s clear Conte is boss but he can’t have Costa undermining him as seems to have been the case over the past week and it was also the case earlier on in the season when Conte demanded Costa remained on the pitch.

That said, Costa’s importance to Chelsea can’t be understated as he is the join-top goalscorer in the Premier League with 14 goals and he’s added another five assists this season. With reports linking Chelsea with a summer move for Alvaro Morata, it appears Conte is already trying to plan for life without Costa.

Can the Blues win the PL title this season without Costa’s goal and presence up top? Despite a seven-point lead, probably not. That’s why Conte calling a truce in his instance makes sense.

That said, he now has six months or so to line up a long-term replacement for Costa.

The cracks have been papered over for now. But how long will it be until two fiery characters collide once again?

Lionel Messi discusses his Barcelona future

BARCELONA, SPAIN - JANUARY 11:  Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona looks on during the Copa del Rey round of 16 second leg match between FC Barcelona and Athletic Club at Camp Nou on January 11, 2017 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Lionel Messi has addressed speculation linking him with a move away from the only club he has ever known.

[ MORE: Who are title favorites? ]

Messi, 29, has been at Barcelona since the age of 13 and the Argentine superstar has won every possible trophy with the Catalan giants, plus has been crowned the World Player of the Year on five occasions.

Time for a new challenge?

Reports had suggested that Barcelona have wanted to start talks over a new contract with Messi for quite some time but with just 18 months left on his current deal, Messi and his representatives are yet to hold talks.

“I have always said that Barcelona has given me everything and I am here for as long as they want me to be,” Messi said in Coach magazine.

Hmm.

Messi also spoke about his former manager and mentor, Pep Guardiola, and his challenging start to life in the Premier League as manager of Manchester City.

“It is a very competitive league, last season showed that, so it makes it very difficult to predict,” Messi added. “Of course Pep is a very successful coach, he will be adjusting to the league, but I am sure that he will be successful.”

Will Messi be part of Pep’s success at City?

It is obvious Barca will want him to stay but if a huge offer comes in for Messi from Man City this summer, or others in the Premier League, then surely he will think twice about it.

If Pep can coax Messi to join him at City, who can clearly afford him, then it would be another glittering star in their attacking line. That said, if Guardiola is going to be successful then he’ll have to add plenty more quality in defense as City currently sit 10 points off leaders Chelsea with 17 games to go in the PL season.

Loss to Sevilla quickly puts Real Madrid’s Zidane on the defensive

SEVILLE, SPAIN - JANUARY 15:  Head Coach of Real Madrid CF Zinedine Zidane looks on prior to  the match against Real Madrid CF during the La Liga match between Sevilla FC and Real Madrid CF at Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan on January 15, 2017 in Seville, Spain.  (Photo by Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images)
Photo by Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images
Leave a comment

MADRID (AP) Real Madrid’s first loss after a 40-game unbeaten streak was enough to put coach Zinedine Zidane on the defensive.

Two days after Madrid’s unbeaten record was halted by a 2-1 defeat at Sevilla in the Spanish league, Zidane was forced to defend some of his players against criticism from fans and local media.

[ MORE: Klopp, Liverpool still consulting lawyers over absurd Matip situation ]

Most comments were aimed at goalkeeper Keylor Navas, who failed to stop Sevilla’s injury-time winner on Sunday. Navas got to Stevan Jovetic‘s long-range shot but was unable to keep the ball from going in.

“He’s having a really good season,” Zidane said on Tuesday. “You can always ask for more, but if up until now we had gone 40 games without losing, it’s for a reason, and he has been there all the way.”

There have been calls for Zidane to give reserve goalkeeper Kiko Casilla a chance, but the coach said there was “no need to go over this again.”

Zidane also dismissed talk about signing a new goalkeeper.

“These are rumors,” he said. “We are focused on what we are doing this year. Whatever happens next I’m not interested and it’s not the time to talk about it. The three goalkeepers we have are important, they’re doing well and I’m very happy with them. I don’t want to change anything we’re doing.”

[ MORE: How Sevilla hope to break up the Madrid-Barca duopoly ]

Zidane defended forward Karim Benzema, who lost possession near midfield in a mistake that led to host Sevilla’s winner on Sunday.

“Everyone can say and write what they want,” Zidane said. “On a field, playing 90 minutes, you can’t do everything right. There is talk of lack of concentration, but we only had five bad minutes and that happens in football.”

Benzema also missed a chance to score from close range in the game, but a few days earlier it was the French striker who netted in stoppage time in a Copa del Rey match against Sevilla to help Madrid set the Spanish unbeaten record.

Zidane downplayed the end of Madrid’s unbeaten streak. The club hadn’t lost since a 2-0 defeat at Wolfsburg in the Champions League in April.

[ MORE: Monday’s transfer rumor roundup | Sunday | Friday | Thursday ]

“These things happen,” he said. “Nothing is going to change in what I’m going to do. Those who are not Real Madrid fans will want us to lose, but we must be ready and think that what we’re doing is fine. We lost a game, something that happens, and now we have to make sure that it doesn’t happen again.”

Madrid hosts Celta Vigo on Wednesday in a first-leg match in the quarterfinals of the Copa del Rey.

Celta has won all four matches this year.

“I am not surprised by Celta’s record because they’re a very good team, they fight and play very good football,” Zidane said. “It’ll be another complicated match for us.”

FA fines Man City’s Sagna over “10 against 12” Instagram message

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JANUARY 02: Scott Arfield of Burnley (L) tackles Bacary Sagna of Manchester City (R) during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Burnley at Etihad Stadium on January 2, 2017 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
Leave a comment

LONDON (AP) The English Football Association has fined Manchester City defender Bacary Sagna 40,000 pounds (around $50,000) for an Instagram post about a referee.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Sagna posted a photo with the caption “10 against 12.. but still fighting and winning as a team” on the social network site following City’s 2-1 win against Burnley on Jan. 2.

Sagna later amended the post to read “still fighting and winning as a team” after a match that saw referee Lee Mason send off midfielder Fernandinho.

[ MORE: Klopp, Liverpool still consulting lawyers over absurd Matip situation ]

The FA also warned Sagna about his future conduct.