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Arsenal’s chief transfer negotiator is in Germany with Julian Draxler on his mind

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Finally, some real life traction has begun in the Julian Draxler-to-Arsenal rumors as the Gunners’ chief transfer negotiator, Dick Law, is currently in Germany exploring the possibility of a January deal for the Schalke starlet.

The Draxler rumor has followed a path that’s been quintessential Arsenal transfer drama. It began sometime last summer as nothing more than a natural linking – a stylish club looking for a stylish player. Then in December chatter of the German international coming to North London was ramped up the the Mirror, the Daily Mail and other speculation-pumping hyenas (bless their souls) of the footy tabloid world.

When the New Year finally rolled around Goonah’s across the globe snatched their ticket in the transfer deli line and when asked their wish, the request was broad and reasonable: ‘One world-class striker, please.’

How about Draxler?‘ the Transfer Voice responded.

Er… well… I think he’s an attacking midfielder… but yes, sure, he’ll be great,‘ Goonah’s replied with hopes that, like former Arsenal hitman, Robin van Persie, Draxler could be converted to a striker.

All the while Gunners boss, Arsene Wenger, played it cool. So damn cool, in fact, that when asked about the Draxler-to-Arsenal link he replied: “That is an illusion. There is nothing happening, honestly no. We don’t need to take players on the flanks – we have 17 players on the flanks.”

Best poker face in the game, that Wenger.

Because while the crafty ole Frenchman does have plenty of options in the attacking midfield, he also has some injury concerns, mainly to Theo Walcott, who is out for the season with a cruciate knee ligament rupture. But then there’s also Aaron Ramsey’s setback in rehabilitation from a thigh strain, Jack Wilshere’s ankle problem, Tomas Rosicky’s nose and the four-match ban defensive midfielder Mathieu Flamini picked up for his two-footed challenge against Southampton’s Morgan Schneiderlin on Tuesday.

Then there are the issues up top. Olivier Giroud is tired (even if he says otherwise) and Nicholas Bendtner doesn’t possess the requisite proven quality (even if he says otherwise).

So, to answer the question everyone is asking, yes, Draxler fits into the needs of this Arsenal side.

First and foremost he fits because he is a world-class talent – a 20-year-old with infinite potential to impact the game at a number of positions. Much like Mesut Ozil last summer, Draxler is, at his core, a player that if you can get your hands around him you do it, regardless of whether he’s currently in the exact form of your club’s needs.

Second, Draxler provides the injection of new blood into a squad facing a Champions League and Premier League title run. No, he won’t be able to play in the Gunners’ European campaign, but his ideas and imagination will be there domestically and in training, which will be a huge boost.

Third, Arsenal’s three headed monster could use a kick up. Santi Cazorla, Serge Gnabry, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Rosicky, Wilshere and Ozil have done incredibly well but including Draxler will provide fresh ideas and some much needed rest.

Fourth, and finally, Draxler is capable of excelling in the role of a False 9. It would be a work-in-progress, no doubt about that, but one that few opposing defenses would want to be on the receiving end of.

Which brings us back to the news that one of the best named transfer negotiators ever, Dick Law, is in Germany. The cat is out of the bag, Wenger. Arsenal is at least trying to get this deal done. And the club is just one easy payment of a £37M buy-out clause away from making it happen. The transfer window closes Friday at 11pm GMT/6pm ET.


MLS Cup Playoffs: Seattle Sounders 1-0 Sporting KC (video)

Seattle Sounders defender Roman Torres, right, exchanges words with Sporting Kansas City's Kevin Ellis, left, and Soni Mustivar, center, after Sounders' midfielder Osvaldo Alonso (not shown) was given a yellow card for a foul against midfielder Roger Espinoza in the first half of an MLS soccer playoff match, Thursday, Oct. 27, 2016, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
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The game in 100 words (or less): There’s a ton to unpack here, so we’ll dive right in. The Seattle Sounders topped Sporting Kansas City in the final knockout-round game of the 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs. Nelson Valdez scored the game’s only goal, an 88th-minute header, but not without supreme controversy. For starters, Valdez was offside as Joevin Jones played the ball into the box, just as Matt Besler was on a free kick for Sporting earlier in the second half. Besler’s goal was ruled out for offside, Valdez’s was allowed to stand. Benny Feilhaber, perhaps in his final game for Sporting, played like a man possessed and so nearly singlehandedly won the game for Sporting at multiple points on the night. Stefan Frei stood on his head and refused to allow such an occurrence. Osvaldo Alonso could have been sent off twice on the night — once on a straight red; once on a second yellow — but finished the game with just a single caution. Up next, the Sounders will take on Supporters’ Shield-winning FC Dallas in the Western Conference semifinals.

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS Cup Playoffs preview coverage ]

Three Four moments that mattered

10′ — Zusi hits the post with a strike through traffic — Benny Feilhaber’s through ball to set up this double-chance for Sporting in sumptuous, and fully deserving of a proper finish.

53′ — Besler heads home, but he’s offside — This is about as close an onside/offside decisions get.

79′ — Frei denies Feilhaber after a spectacular run — Feilhaber’s run was mesmerizing, but Stefan Frei’s save was the tiniest bit better.

88′ — Valdez heads home the late winner — If Besler was offside, Valdez was offside. An unfitting end to a thrilling game.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Men of the match: Benny Feilhaber

Goalscorers: Valdez (88′)

MLS Cup Playoffs: D.C. United 2-4 Montreal Impact (video)

CORRECTS DATE - Montreal Impact forward Matteo Mancosu, back, celebrates his goal with Ignacio Piatti (10) during the first half of an MLS playoff soccer match against D.C. United, Thursday, Oct. 27, 2016, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
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The game in 100 words (or less): There are epic playoff collapses, and there is the MLS Cup Playoffs abomination put forth by D.C. United on Thursday. Playing host to a Montreal Impact side that won just two of its last eight regular-season games and crawled over the finish line, United — winners of four of their last five and one of the hottest teams in the league down the stretch — no-showed Thursday’s knockout-round tie, and their season is deservingly finished. Laurent Ciman put the Impact ahead inside the first five minutes, and United never recovered or seemed the least bit urgent with their season on the line. Matteo Mancosu bagged a brace either side of halftime to make it 3-0, and Ignacio Piatti, who was his usual brilliant self — so good, in fact, he made you forget Didier Drogba was unavailable due to injury/dispute over his role as a substitute — added a fourth not long before full-time. Lamar Neagle grabbed a late consolation goal for United, bringing them back to 4-1 before Taylor Kemp fired a laser past Evan Bush for 4-2 late in stoppage time, but that’s as close as they’d get. Up next for the Impact, it’s the New York Red Bulls in the Eastern Conference semifinals, beginning Sunday.

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS Cup Playoffs preview coverage ]

Three moments that mattered

4′ — Ciman slots home from a corner for 1-0 — An absolute dream start for Montreal, as Ciman gets front side of his marker and benefits from a fortunate bounce after he scuffs the shot.

43′ — Mancosu slams home Piatti’s cross for 2-0 — Someone tell DCU that the knockout round is most definitely win-or-go-home. Horrific defending. Ball-watching all over the place. This is not the same team that won four of their last five in order to host this game.

58′ — Mancosu heads home at the near post for 3-0 — Steve Birnbaum has not had the greatest end to the 2016 season. Stay healthy, John Brooks and Geoff Cameron.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Men of the match: Matteo Mancosu

Goalscorers: Ciman (4′), Mancosu (43′, 58′), Piatti (83′), Neagle (90′), Kemp (90+4′)

FOLLOW LIVE: 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs knockout round

Sporting Kansas City forward Dom Dwyer, center, is congratulated by teammates, including midfielder Roger Espinoza (27), following his goal during the first half of an MLS soccer match against the Houston Dynamo in Kansas City, Kan., Saturday, Aug. 1, 2015. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
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The knockout round of the 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs concludes on Thursday, as four teams vie for the final two places — one in the Eastern Conference, one in the Western Conference — in the conference semifinals, which begin on Sunday.

[ FOLLOW LIVE: MLS Cup Playoffs knockout round ]

Up first, the East’s fourth-seeded D.C. United welcome the five-seed Montreal Impact to RFK Stadium for the two sides’ third meeting of the 2016 season. Each of the year’s first two clashes finished a 1-1 draw, in July and August. Didier Drogba is expected to be unavailable for the win-or-go-home tie. United finished the regular season with four wins in the last five games, while the Impact won just two of their last eight.

[ MORE: Preivewing Thursday night’s knockout-round games ]

In the nightcap, the West’s fourth-seeded Seattle Sounders will take on the five-side, Sporting Kansas City, at CenturyLink Field. Sporting were victorious in both regular-season meetings this year — 1-0 on opening day, and 3-0 in late-July, the day the Sounders essentially quit on Sigi Schmid. Since that blistering hot day in KC, the Soudners have lost just twice in 14 games (eight wins, four draws).

Thursday’s MLS Cup Playoffs schedule

D.C. United vs. Montreal Impact — 7:30 p.m. ET
Seattle Sounders vs. Sporting KC — 10 p.m. ET

Cristiano Ronaldo says Ashley Cole is the toughest player he faced

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Cristiano Ronaldo has faced the best defenders in the world during his time with Manchester United, Real Madrid and the Portuguese national team.

He has also caused fits for most of those defenders with goal after goal for club and country. But, there have been some players who have at least made it difficult for the all-time leading goal scorer in Real Madrid and Champions League history.

According to Ronaldo, former Chelsea and Arsenal defender Ashley Cole was the toughest player he has faced in his career.

[ MORE: VIDEO: Incredible Pelle goal in China ]

“Over the years I had some great battles with Ashley Cole, he does not give you a second to breathe,” Ronaldo told Coach Mag. “He was such a tenacious player when he was at his peak, quick, tough in the tackle. You knew it would never be an easy game.”

During his time with Manchester United, Ronaldo faced Cole on numerous occasions while Cole was with Arsenal and Chelsea. The two have also faced off in international competition between Ronaldo’s Portugal and Cole’s England.

It’s certainly high praise for Cole, who now plays in MLS for the LA Galaxy. At the age of 35, Cole has started 25 matches for the Galaxy this season, scoring one goal.