Ilkay Gundogan would brighten not just Manchester United, but the Premier League as a whole

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If you told me before the season that I would get to watch both Mesut Ozil and Ilkay Gundogan in the Premier League this year, I’d probably try my hardest to give whoever made that happen a big ol’ hug.

Having seen what beautiful things Ozil has brought to the English game at the Emirates, the prospect of both being on my television come February 1 is salivating.

Manchester United, having been linked heavily with a bid for Gundogan, will have to try very hard to pry him from the clutches of a Borussia Dortmund side already reeling from the thought of losing Robert Lewandowski this summer.  It’s not a long shot, but it’s close.

However, should David Moyes pony up a successful £24 million ($39.6 million) offer, and convince Gundogan to risk his Champions League playing time (think green, that usually helps), the German could very well save their season – and the manager’s job.

The 23-year-old is currently missing long-term from Dortmund’s lineup, having made just one appearances this year due to a spinal injury.

But when healthy, Gundogan is an absolute workhorse. His style isn’t exactly as “sexy” as Ozil’s, but having completed a position change from a No. 10  to a holding midfielder, he possesses the best qualities of both roles melded into one player – what is known as a “complete midfielder.”

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Ilkay would be just what the doctor ordered at Manchester United, should David Moyes choose to pursue the German.

It’s a style of player that fits beautifully into the rigors of the Premier League.  Technical yet physically weak players are eaten alive (see: Ruiz, Bryan) but Gundogan possesses the seizing abilities of a holding midfielder while still proving dangerous in both build-up and attack.

The German international had an 87% pass completion during the 2012/2013 Bundesliga season – not stellar until you notice Dortmund play a style that relies on an incisive yet risky passing attack.

He also paired the following statistics together last year: an outstanding 80% tackle completion percentage (51/64) and a 64% take-on success rate (58/90). He can dispossess and dribble.

With Manchester United’s midfield currently featuring such yawn-inspiring players such as Tom Cleverley, Michael Carrick, and 40-year-old Ryan Giggs, the middle of the pitch at Old Trafford could use some life.

That’s what David Moyes thought he was doing bringing Marouane Fellaini with him from Everton, but Fellaini’s been both injured and underwhelming, proving his passing abilities to be sub par when thrust into the bright lights.

Gundogan’s playmaking abilities would light up Old Trafford, and feed Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie (given he’s on the pitch and not in the physio’s room) the service they’ve so lacked this season.

Rooney should be lauded by United fans, having singlehandedly created nearly every sliver of United’s attack – nine goals and 11 assists (61% of their goals this season!). Pair the two playmakers, and watch Manchester United soar up the table.

If it happens, consider yourselves lucky to be graced with the ability to wactch the beautiful playmaking skills of two different yet equally tantalizing players.

Louis van Gaal to take over at Everton?

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Bookmakers have slashed the odds of Louis Van Gaal becoming Everton’s new manager.

Van Gaal, 66, is now the second favorite to be the next permanent Toffees boss with Watford manager Marco Silva still the favorite to take charge at Goodison Park despite Everton having two bids for the Portuguese manager knocked back.

David Unsworth continues to lead Everton on an interim basis but with unimpressive results and performances, the jury is out on him being handed the job on a permanent basis.

LVG has been out of work since being fired by Manchester United in the summer of 2016, a few days after he won the FA Cup. The Dutchman and his unconventional methods led United to fourth and fifth place Premier League finishes in his two season at Old Trafford but he was often criticized by fans for their slow, predictable style of play.

Would van Gaal be a good fit for Everton?

His “name” would perhaps suit owner Farhad Moshiri who is looking to push Everton onto the next level and LVG’s penchant for developing young talent throughout his managerial career certainly aligns with Everton’s philosophy. Given the large number of talented youngsters they currently have (Ademola Lookman, Tom Davies, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Mason Holgate to name a few) this may not be the worst appointment in the world.

Is van Gaal a bit odd? Yes, he’s pretty nuts. Would he be hungry to prove everyone in England wrong? Yes, he would be. Are Everton a team which has hit rock bottom and can easily improve in the coming months? Yes, that’s true. The lack of current candidates for the job do suggest that Everton’s expectations are perhaps a lot higher than their currently playing squad (assembled by LVG’s nemesis Ronald Koeman) can achieve.

Given his experience at Ajax, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Man United, plus leading AZ Alkmaar, who had similar expectations to Everton, to a Dutch league title, perhaps the Toffees could do a lot worse than appointing LVG. That may be an unpopular opinion but if Everton can’t get Silva, can they really keep caretaker boss Unsworth in charge for much longer?

Plus, he’s always good value in press conferences and there would be plenty of added intrigue at Everton.

Niasse first-ever PL player to be charged with “deception”

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Oumar Niasse will go down in the history books. Not for a good reason.

[ RECAP: Palace 2-2 Everton

On Tuesday the English Football Association announced that Everton’s striker had succeeded in “successful deception of a match official” when winning a penalty kick for the Toffees at Crystal Palace on Saturday during their 2-2 draw.

In charging Niasse with simulation, he becomes the first-ever Premier League player to be sanctioned under new rules introduced in May.

Players in the lower-tiers of English soccer have already been banned for two games during this season for simulation and Niasse can either accept his automatic two-match ban or appeal the decision.

Niasse went down under minimal contact from Palace’s Scott Dann in the box and won a sixth-minute penalty kick which Leighton Baines scored. Niasse, who came close to joining Palace in the transfer deadline day in the summer, later scored an equalizer to make it 2-2.

The FA had the following to say about the decision to charge Niasse.

 “Incidents which suggest a match official has been deceived by an act of simulation are referred to a panel consisting of one ex-match official, one ex-manager and one ex-player. Each panel member will be asked to review all available video footage independently of one another to determine whether they consider it was an offence of ‘Successful Deception of a Match Official.’ Only in circumstances where the panel are unanimous would the FA issue a charge.”

Niasse did go down very easily and was looking straight towards referee Anthony Taylor for a penalty kick, which he received. If he appeals, it’s unlikely he will win it.

There is no place in the game for simulation and although it won’t get two points back for Crystal Palace, hopefully these bans will stamp it out of the game.

I’m all for more of these bans being dished out to stamp out the problem of simulation.

Premier League vet Kenwyne Jones retires at age 33

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It wasn’t the season that Kenwyne Jones had expected in his first Major League Soccer season, but the veteran Trinidad & Tobago striker had himself quite the career.

[ MORE: Miguel Almiron wins MLS Newcomer of the Year ]

Jones, 33, announced his retirement on Monday after boasting an extensive career in England prior to finishing up his playing with Atlanta United.

Atlanta opted not to renew Jones’ contract with the club after scoring twice in 17 appearances this season for the expansion side.

The Trinidadian posted the following message to supporters on Twitter this afternoon.

Jones spent nine seasons in the Premier League, including stints with Southampton, Stoke City and Sunderland.

Additionally, the forward played for Al Jazira from UAE in 2016 before moving on loan to Central in his native Trinidad prior to his arrival in Atlanta’s debut MLS season.

Eibar routs Betis 5-0 to snap 8-game winless streak in Spain

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MADRID (AP) Eibar routed 10-man Real Betis 5-0 in the Spanish league on Monday, ending an eight-match winless streak in all competitions.

Eibar hadn’t won since Sept. 15. It had lost six of its eight matches since then.

[ MORE: Brighton, Stoke finish level after Izquierdo’s second-half finish ]

The hosts got on the board with an own goal by Betis defender Jordi Amat just six minutes in, and midfielder Gonzalo Escalante scored with a header near halftime.

Striker Charles Dias scored twice in the second half, and Sergi Enrich closed the scoring in front of less than 5,000 fans at Ipurua Stadium.

“We deserved a victory like this to help us regain our confidence,” Enrich said.

Betis played with 10 men from the 55th as Aissa Mandi was red-carded for the foul that prompted a penalty kick converted by Dias.

“It was difficult to recover after we went a man down and they scored the third goal,” Betis midfielder Joaquin Sanchez said.

Eibar remained 17th in the 20-team standings, just outside the relegation zone.

Betis, winless in three matches, dropped to ninth place.

Barcelona leads by four points over second-place Valencia.

More AP Spanish soccer coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/LaLiga