Done Deal: Rest of Europe also provides underwhelming end to January

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Having already finished our look around the disappointing end to the Premier League January transfer window, it’s time to take a look at deals around the rest of Europe.

Spoiler alert – it’s not any better.

While Arsenal, Manchester City, Liverpool, and the like sent Premier League fans to bed wishing for more, the rest of the leagues pretty much did the same.

Here’s a snippet from elsewhere in the biggest European leagues.

ITALY:

The biggest Italian transfer news happened to be one that didn’t come off, as Nani’s potential loan moves to Inter Milan or AC Milan never materialized. Manchester United decided they wished to keep the player, and his hamstring injury is taking longer than expected to heal anyways.

LazioThe top-half hopefuls secured Chelsea striker Gael Kakuta on a loan move. It’s Kakuta’s fifth loan deal since 2011, while he has yet to make an appearance for Chelsea in that span.  With every loan deal it looks less likely that Chelsea will retain the 22-year-old long-term, and Lazio would likely hope to make the deal permanent if he impresses in Italy.

Lazio were also mentioned in rumors for Jonathan Biabiany, but the Parma attacker turned them down.

Inter MilanWhile bringing in Kakuta, Lazio sent Hernanes to Inter. More on the midfielder’s emotional farewell to Rome and switch to Milan is here.

JuventusAttempting to sell Fabio Quagliarella, Juventus brought in out-of-favor Southampton striker Pablo Osvaldo. The Old Lady gave Osvaldo a lifeline after he was dropped by Mauricio Pochettino for punching a teammate at training. The move is a loan, but Osvaldo likely won’t play for Southampton again.

They also ended up keeping Quagliarella, leaving Juventus obese at the striker position.  The Serie A leaders now own Osvaldo and Quagliarella alongside Fernando Llorente, Sebastian Giovinco, Mirko Vucinic, and star Carlos Tevez.  They also shopped Vucinic with no luck.

RomaSao Paolo defender Rafael Toloi moved to the Italian capital on a loan move with an option to buy. The 23-year-old central defender was hardly used in Brazil and will provide cover for Mehdi Benatia and Leandro Castan who continue to pick up cards.

SPAIN:

ValenciaValencia were by far the busiest Spanish club.  Los Che have officially captured 20-year-old Brazilian striker Vinicius Araujo as they attempt to save their top-10 fortunes.  The club bought 50% of his rights, and the other half remaining with his current club Cruziero.

The club also added Fulham defender Philippe Senderos in a move that shocked many.  Senderos struggled to settle in at Fulham, who currently sit in 19th in the Premier League. They also failed to announce him properly, hilariously tweeting a picture of another Fulham defender, Brede Hangeland instead. Finally, they added former Barcelona 34-year-old Seydou Keita as a free agent on a 6-month deal following his release from Chinese club Dalian Aerbin.

Valencia also offloaded Argentinian midfielder Ever Banega to Argentine giants Newell’s Old Boys, amid interest from Boca Juniors.

Atletico MadridAs they continue to battle Barcelona and Real Madrid for the league title, Atletico Madrid brought back midfielder Diego from Wolfsburg on loan until the end of the season.

FRANCE:

MonacoWith Falcao out long-term after tearing his ACL, the club moved for Fulham’s Dimitar Berbatov adding the closest human personification of the club.  The dead will last until the end of the season.

GERMANY:

Borussia DortmundIn the fight for second place in the Bundesliga, Jurgen Klopp captured 21-year-old Serb Milos Jojic from Partizan Belgrade on a permanent deal worth around $3 million.

Werder BremenHoping to get into the top half of the table, manager Robin Dutt snagged 29-year-old French midfielder Ludovic Obraniak to “bolster our attack.”

NurnbergCrystal Palace offloaded disappointing talent Jose Campana to FC Nurnberg on a 6-month loan, hoping to get the 20-year-old some playing time outside of their relegation battle. There is also an option for Nurnberg to purchase at the expiration of the loan.

“This game belongs to the players” Wenger downplays Guardiola success

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Arsene Wenger has stressed that Pep Guardiola has not changed the game of soccer over the last decade or so, maintaining that the players are the ones who make a team truly great.

Asked if Guardiola has “raised the bar” of managing in his time at the top, Wenger said, “No, because you look at Barcelona and they are still the best team in Europe. You have to accept that the modern game has changed with the recruitment of the best players in a short number of clubs.”

[ MORE: EFL Cup final preview ]

“We, as managers, can maybe impart our philosophy but this game belongs to the players because the importance of the players has become bigger than ever before.”

In fact, Wenger showed a twinge of jealousy at all the attention Guardiola is getting with the team blowing out the rest of the Premier League this season, referencing trophies in the recent past Arsenal has hoisted. “We are maybe underdogs but we have to believe in our quality. The history, the fact we have done it before, shows why not do it again?”

“At the end of the day, you have to be cool,” Wenger said, “because Manchester City is dominating the league in the head of everybody and so maybe we are more underdogs than in the FA Cup semi-final [last season when Arsenal beat Man City].”

Deportivo wastes penalty kick, remains winless under Seedorf

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MADRID (AP) — Clarence Seedorf remained winless as Deportivo La Coruna coach after a 0-0 draw with Espanyol in the Spanish league on Friday.

Deportivo squandered chances including a second-half penalty kick taken by Lucas Perez. Its winless streak reached 10 games in all competitions.

It was the third game in a row without a victory since Seedorf took over to try to avoid relegation. Deportivo was 18th in the 20-team standings, in the relegation zone.

In addition to the missed penalty, Deportivo twice hit the posts in front of a supportive crowd at Riazor Stadium. The players left the field applauded by the local fans despite the setback.

Perez’s penalty attempt was saved by Espanyol goalkeeper Diego Lopez in the 65th minute. Lopez, who earlier this season stopped a penalty taken by Lionel Messi, dived to his right to stop Perez’s low shot.

The match marked the Deportivo debut of veteran Ghanaian midfielder Sulley Muntari. He played alongside Seedorf at AC Milan, and was signed this week after a trial period.

Espanyol, 15th in the standings, hasn’t won in seven matches, since it ended Barcelona’s 29-match unbeaten streak in the first leg of the Copa del Rey quarterfinals. Espanyol’s last league win was in January, seven rounds ago.

Barcelona defends its seven-point lead in the standings when it hosts Girona on Saturday. Second-place Atletico Madrid visits Sevilla on Sunday.

Conte says he believes in his selection regarding Willian

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Antonio Conte has lashed out at anyone questioning why Brazilian winger Willian hasn’t played regularly until recently, saying

“Do you think that I am stupid when I put Willy on the bench?” Conte fired back at reporters when he was asked about Willian’s earlier lack of playing time at his pre-match press conference ahead of Chelsea’s match on Sunday against Manchester United.

[ MORE: Heynckes squashes Lewandowski to Premier League rumors ]

“I have to try and make the best decision for the team, no? Maybe last season we won the title, or did I forget something?”

The 29-year-old has made 29 Premier League appearances, but only 13 starts. He started in the midweek Champions League match against Barcelona and not only scored Chelsea’s only goal but also proved their most incisive player, prompting questions about his selection.

“Now he is playing because he deserves to play, not because there is some regret from the past,” Conte said. “For what? If a player deserves to play, and shows me during the training session that he is on top of his form, and wants to work defensively, he plays. If not, [he will] stay on the bench, stay in the stands.”

Instead of saying he wishes Willian had played more earlier in the season, he praised himself for giving the Brazilian the start at the appropriate time.

“He is playing now and I am very happy with my choice. Willian deserved to start in the previous game, and played well. I did a fantastic choice, and I want to take credit for that.”

EFL Cup Final preview: Arsenal, Manchester City fight for different types of glory

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  • These two clubs have never met in a major Cup final
  • With a win, Arsene Wenger would become the 8th PL manager to win all 3 major English trophies
  • Sergio Agüero has scored in all of his last 4 appearances against Arsenal

For Manchester City, it’s the first step of a potentially record-setting season. For Arsenal, it’s the Gunners’ best chance at securing a trophy.

The two teams are fighting for very different levels of glory as the two meet at Wembley Stadium on Sunday at 11:30 a.m. ET. Manchester City, despite losing to Wigan in the FA Cup just a week ago, would still be on track for a Double this season with a win against the Gunners. Meanwhile, Arsenal is outside the Premier League top four, and – as they have done each of the past two seasons in the FA Cup – could salvage an otherwise disappointing league season with a major Cup trophy.

Both teams will be struggling with selection in certain areas. Manchester City is likely missing Raheem Sterling, who could sit out due to an unspecified muscle injury according to Pep Guardiola in his pre-match press conference, while Fabian Delph is suspended after his sending off against Wigan in the FA Cup. That means either Danilo or 21-year-old Oleksandr Zinchencko would start at wing-back. Zinchenko is the likely candidate there, having appeared in four of City’s five EFL Cup games this season so far and playing almost every minute of those four matches. Gabriel Jesus, who missed more than two months with a knee injury, could be ready to make his early return. Claudio Bravo will continue to play in goal for the domestic Cup competitions.

Arsenal, meanwhile, is without new signing Henrikh Mkhitaryan who is cup-tied to his previous club Manchester United, while Alexandre Lacazette is not yet recovered from his knee injury suffered in the North London derby, and Mesut Ozil could miss out with an illness. The Gunners are likely, however, to get Aaron Ramsey back in midfield after recovering from a groin injury, while Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang can return to the lineup after his own cup tied absence in the Europa League midweek.

What they’re saying

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola on playing Arsenal twice in a week: “We will be happy if we win, sad if we don’t but after the game we have another match against Arsenal. We are going to try and maintain our level, but finals are different, it is not what you have done in the past.”

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger on playing Manchester City: “Manchester City have so many players that you think you have to stop that it is better to focus on the team plan than rather than on any individual. It’s true that I always used to use this competition with a youth team. For us it’s an opportunity. We’ll play with all the regular players.” 

Prediction

Arsenal has often come up big in hotly contested Cup matches, despite poor form in the surrounding competitions, so it would not be surprising to once again see Arsene Wenger hoist a trophy on Sunday to temporarily distract the fanbase and media from larger struggles. However, picking against this Manchester City team would be selection suicide, even after their disappointment against Wigan and considering the absence of under the radar star Raheem Sterling. Manchester City wins 3-1 with a pair of late goals to sink the Gunners, with a newly healthy Gabriel Jesus providing an influential injection off the bench in the final 20 minutes. Pep Guardiola raises another trophy at the site where he won the 2011 Champions League.