Arsenal's Ozil reacts during their Champions League soccer match against Napoli at the Emirates stadium in London

Mesut Ozil signing just keeps getting sweeter for Arsenal

1 Comment

It’s a bit early for sweeping pronouncements, but here goes one anyway: Of all the huge summer singings around Europe, and for all the pitchfork-and-lantern-level angst over Arsenal’s longstanding, conservative posture in the transfer market, has anyone had a bigger impact on their new club so far than Mesut Ozil?

Bale Schmale, right?

Again, it’s early. (The “Bale-Schmale” thing is just exaggeration for effect; no one get their Real Madrid dander up, please.) But Ozil is a handsome 4-for-4 in his Arsenal displays, inspiring his Gunners to the top of the Premier League table and to the top of the club’s tough Champions League group.

His impact was immense once again as Arsene Wenger’s club remained in control of Group F on Tuesday in North London. In the bigger picture, Ozil’s master class at the Emirates, one that left a quality Napoli side utterly defenseless, has Gunners fans wondering if the smooth German playmaker really was that one final, missing piece that Arsene Wenger has long talked about? And they can be forgiven now for wondering whether a big season in Europe and in England is unfolding … or is this just October fool’s gold?

Either way, Tuesday’s work of art is hardly the man’s first for Arsenal, even in these earliest of days in his time with the Gunners. Let’s quickly stroll back through the German international’s first four matches in Arsenal gear:

Sept. 14 vs. Sunderland (Premier League): It took Ozil all of 11 minutes to demonstrate the class that is making him worth every pence or penny of that big ($68 million) transfer fee: His first Gunners assist came via that memorable, delightful first touch, one that arranged a goal from Olivier Giroud in an eventual 3-1 win over Sunderland. Ozil also set up Theo Walcott twice in a first half to remember. Ironically, Ozil started only because of injury to midfielder Santi Cazorla.

Sept. 18 vs. Marseilles (Champions League): Ozil’s Champions League debut wasn’t the same smashing success (although he did create a little YouTube moment with a wonderfully clever back heel pass). His overall influence was marginal, but it wasn’t a talking point because the Gunners won impressively on the road (again), a 2-1 result at Marseille to successfully commence group play.

Sept. 22 vs. Stoke City (Premier League): The German international helped arrange all three Gunners goals in a 3-1 win at the Emirates. He had two actual assists and took the free kick that turned into Arsenal’s other strike. So, yeah … that’s making an impact. And that price of some $68 million – starting to look like a bargain?

Oct. 1 vs. Napoli (Champions League): Ozil’s early strike to begin the Gunners’ systematic destruction of the Italians on Tuesday was absolutely sublime. How easy he made a shot look that so many attackers would surely get all wrong. Afterward, Ozil was at the heart of a dazzling display, one that has Gunners fans wondering: is this Arsenal’s best shot at a real UEFA run since reaching the 2006 final?

Southampton: Van Dijk won’t leave, selling days likely done

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - MARCH 29:  Ralph Krueger the Southampton Chairman looks on during the Barclays Premier League match between Southampton and Newcastle United at St Mary's Stadium on March 29, 2014 in Southampton, England.  (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Ralph Krueger doesn’t plan on selling any more big Southampton stars, and there’s none brighter than Virgil Van Dijk.

The Dutchman is perhaps the best center back in the Premier League, regularly linked with transfers to anywhere from Manchester City to Liverpool.

[ MORE: Liverpool hires new CEO ]

But Krueger says Saints have had enough of selling big assets. Southampton has sold Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren, Sadio Mane, and Nathaniel Clyne in the past three seasons, and those are just the names to go to Liverpool. Morgan Schneiderlin and Victor Wanyama have also moved on from St. Mary’s.

From Sky Sports:

“We would like to move away from that and we feel confident this summer will be a lot quieter in Southampton and we can keep the core of this team moving forward for a few years.

“That is going to be important when you see how excellent the group is right now and how exciting the football is. The game we are playing is a pleasure to watch and a pleasure to be part of.”

Saints were the more effective side in a 3-2 EFL Cup Final loss to Manchester United this weekend, but are well off the pace in the race to make back-to-back trips into Europe.

It will be hard to hold onto Van Dijk and even new bright light Manolo Gabbiadini without Europe, but Krueger is a strong leader with the ability to convince almost anyone to buy into a plan.

Real Salt Lake signs Plata to multi-year DP deal

Real Salt Lake forward Joao Plata (8) gestures while walking during an MLS soccer game against New York City FC Saturday, May 23, 2015, in Sandy, Utah. (Leah Hogsten/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP) DESERET NEWS OUT; LOCAL TELEVISION OUT; MAGS OUT
Leah Hogsten/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP
Leave a comment

SANDY, Utah (AP) Real Salt Lake has re-signed forward Joao Plata to a multi-year contract and he will continue to hold a designated-player spot.

The 24-year-old was acquired from Toronto FC before the 2013 season and he has 30 goals and 30 assists in regular-season play with RSL.

[ MORE: Liverpool flops vs LCFC ]

Plata ranks No. 3 on the team’s all-time assists list and No. 5 in goals. He has 33 goals and 35 assists during his MLS career.

Real Salt Lake begins the season Saturday when it hosts Toronto FC.

Gotze out indefinitely with metabolism disorder

ROTTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - NOVEMBER 06:  Mario Goetze (R) and Ann-Kathrin Broemmel attend the MTV Europe Music Awards 2016 on November 6, 2016 in Rotterdam, Netherlands.  (Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images for MTV)
Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images for MTV
Leave a comment

Mario Gotze’s last few seasons have not fulfilled the expectations thrust about the World Cup-winning attacker.

Gotze, 24, scored the 113th minute goal that lifted Germany past Argentina in the 2014 World Cup, but has endured successive disappointing seasons between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund.

[ MORE: Liverpool hires new CEO ]

With just two goals this season, Gotze has played just 24 minutes since BVB came back from winter break. On Monday, the club revealed why: a metabolism disorder that will keep him out for an indefinite period of time. From Sky Sports:

“We are glad to know the reasons for Mario’s complaints and we are convinced that after recovering he will give us extra quality with his exceptional abilities,” said Dortmund’s director of sport Michael Zorc.

“Mario gets the full backing and maximum support from all of us at Borussia Dortmund on his way back.”

It’s been a while since we’ve seen Gotze at his best, and here’s hoping this problem is both curable and the reason for his struggles.

Liverpool hires EA Sports executive as new CEO

Leave a comment

Liverpool has named Peter Moore as the successor to chief executive office Ian Ayre.

Ayre, 53, is off to 1860 Munich this summer, and has stepped down early to allow Moore to take over.

[ MORE: Liverpool flops vs LCFC ]

A Liverpool-born executive, Moore was the chief operating officer at EA Sports and has also worked with Microsoft and SEGA.

The move “completes a transitional phase” which saw several new names join the fray. From The Liverpool Echo:

The appointment completes a transition plan by FSG which included appointing Michael Edwards as sporting director while Billy Hogan was promoted to the role of managing director and chief commercial officer.