Andre Schurrle

Premier League Playback: Chelsea’s savior, Pardew’s madness, goodbye Arsenal

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CHELSEA’S STAR ‘STRIKER,’ SCHURRLE

Last week Jose Mourinho was embarrassingly caught saying Chelsea wouldn’t win the PL title because his strikers can’t score goals. Against Fulham on Saturday a striker/winger he’s had waiting in the wings for quite some time came up trumps, as German international Andre Schurrle bagged a second half hat trick to give the Blues a vital 3-1 win against their West London rivals which kept them top of the Premier League standings.

“He [Schurrle] is a cold blooded finisher,” Mourinho said of Schurrle. “He has good finishing technique, but he is not a striker.”

It’s no surprise Schurrle tore Fulham apart with his ‘cold blooded’ finishing, as Mourinho put it, as the German scored his sixth PL goal in just eight starts. It was only his second start since December when he scored twice away at Stoke City in a 3-2 loss and Schurrle’s time on the sidelines, despite costing $27 million from Bayer Leverkusen last summer, seems to have done him the world of good. Schurrle discussed how his manager has helped changed him during a tough opening to life in the PL.

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Click to enlarge: Schurrle’s heat map vs. Fulham. Source – Opta

“We talked a lot. He told me I needed to change, to change my game and my body. And that’s what I’ve done over the last two months. I’ve really worked very hard to be aggressive, to be in a good shape with my body. I did a lot in the gym. Now I’m ready to play more often.”

With Samuel Eto’o scoring just six PL goals all season as a lone forward, the Cameroon international was dropped to the bench for the last two games after Mourinho’s negative comments about Eto’o’s age and goalscoring form were leaked by an undercover reporter. Fernando Torres looked bullish as a long forward with Eden Hazard and Schurrle feeding off him. If you look at the heat map of Schurrle on the left and Hazard’s touch map, right, you can see where they operated to devastating effect. Schurrle wandered in and out, while Hazard’s touches mainly came on the left as he cuts in to create all kinds of holes for Schurrle and Torres to run into.

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Click to enlarge: Hazard’s touch map vs. Fulham. Source – Opta

Okay on Saturday, Chelsea were playing Fulham, the PL’s leakiest defense which has now given up 62 goals in 28 matches, but in the second half the Blues tore the Cottagers apart with precise movement and deadly finishing. Hazard was the catalyst for a second half revival after Mourinho had wandered into the locker room at half time, muttered “It’s your s***, sort it out,” then walked right out after a tired looking first half from his team that had just returned from a long midweek trip to Galatasaray in Turkey.

Hazard took the game by the scruff of the neck with sublime assists on Schurrle’s first two, and Torres battle to find space and fed Schurrle for his third. Hazard now only trails Wayne Rooney since the start of the 2012-13 season in assists, as the tiny Belgian wing-man has 18 assists to his name and was a menace in the second half. As for Schurrle, he became just the third German to score a hat trick in the PL, Fredi Bobic and USMNT coach Jurgen Klinsmann were the others, and the last three PL hat tricks have all come from Chelsea players as Hazard and Eto’o had previously bagged three in one game. There’s only been six hat tricks all season in the PL, and Chelsea have scored the last three in a row.

Despite that treble of, trebles… goals have been an issue this season for the Blues, and although Schurrle may not be a forward, if Mourinho wants to win the title it’s probably a good idea to let Schurrle keep sniffing around up there. ‘Cold blooded’ finishing is something that comes in quite handy this time of year.

Premier League Schedule – Week 28

Result Recap & Highlights
Aston Villa 4-1 Norwich Recap and watch here
Everton 1-0 West Ham Recap and watch here
Fulham 1-3 Chelsea Recap and watch here
Hull 1-4 Newcastle Recap and watch here
Southampton 0-3 Liverpool Recap and watch here
Stoke 1-0 Arsenal Recap and watch here
Swansea 1-1 Crystal Palace Recap and watch here
Tottenham 1-0 Cardiff Recap and watch here

PARDEW’S HEADBUTT… FIRED OR LENGTHY BAN?

In 22 years of the Premier League, I’ve never witnessed anything like I saw on Saturday. With just under 20 minutes to go at the KC Stadium, Newcastle United were 3-1 up and cruising to victory against Hull City. Cue pandemonium.

For some unbeknown reason, Newcastle’s manager Alan Pardew decided to contest a ball, that had gone out of play and strayed towards the Newcastle bench, with Hull City midfielder David Meyler in pursuit. The latter put his arm out and brushed Pardew aside, which the Magpies boss reacted angrily to and surged towards Hull’s player aggressively. What happened next could define Pardew’s entire career in soccer. TV announcers, radio hosts and pundits all gave a collective gasp as to what they were seeing before them and then exclaimed in various ways: “I don’t believe it… Pardew’s just dropped the nut on him.” For those of you unfamiliar with UK slang, that means Pardew had just headbutted Meyler, as the Premier League manager has written himself an unwanted chapter in PL folklore.

Watch the below to see what our pundits think of the incident, and no matter if Pardew’s coming together with Meyler looks slightly timid, the Newcastle boss did duck his head and attempted to headbutt Hull’s midfielder.

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Should Pardew get the book thrown at him? Yes. Should he be fired? Many think so. Is he likely to get a lengthy ban? Most definitely.

The man who signed a ridiculously long eight-year contract at the start of last season has thrown his future into disarray after one of the most bizarre and ill-thought out incidents in the league’s history. It’s not like he hasn’t had previous, either. This season his coaching staff have been involved in a brawl with Southampton’s bench on the sidelines, plus Pardew himself was warned about his conduct after verbally abusing Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini, which was picked up by TV microphones. And last season Pardew also pushed a linesman who was just in front of his technical area, and got in serious trouble for that. The long and short of it is that Pardew was in the wrong and he knows it, Newcastle already fined him $167,000 and more is to come from the English FA. This incident on Saturday is bigger than Pardew’s previous discrepancies put together.

“It was a heat of the moment thing,” Pardew said. “I massively regret it and I will have to sit down from now on. Of course, I didn’t mean to do anything aggressive. I did move my head forward and that’s enough. Perhaps I need to sit down from now on. It’s a shame beacons it’s taken the gloss off a terrific performance. Of course I apologize. I represent a big club.”

His punishment should be harsh and swift, as Pardew will likely not coach in the PL again this season. After that? Who knows. There’s simply no other incidents’ to use as a measuring stick, because we’ve never seen anything like this in PL history.

FOUR BECOME THREE – GOODBYE GUNNERS

Some would argue we’ve never seen a title race in PL history like the one we have this season. Before Week 28, four teams were battling it out at the top of the standings to try and lift the crown; scratch that, make it three.

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Premier League Standings: Top 10 (correct as of March 3, 2014)

Many knew February and March would be pivotal months for Arsenal as the Gunners battled it out on multiple fronts to win their first trophy since 2005. And as many expected after previous late winter/early spring collapses, Arsenal have once again fallen by the wayside. Stoke City beat Arsenal 1-0 on Saturday at the Britannia Stadium, as the Gunners title hopes seem to have all but evaporated. In their past four PL games they’ve lost 5-1 to Liverpool, 1-0 to Stoke, drawn 0-0 at home to Manchester United and beat Sunderland 4-1. Sandwiched in between that was a morale shattering defeat to Bayern Munich in the Champions League, as Arsene Wenger could well be forced to zip his incredibly puffy jacket all the way up, to hide his eyes from the horror of seeing his side implode before him.

The sad thing is, we all knew this collapse was coming. Pundits, Arsenal’s fans and strange as it may seem… Wenger and his players. Time and time again I’ve been in post-match press conferences where Wenger has been asked about his teams title charge. Non-committal and lackadaisical would be the words to sum up the responses Wenger dishes out. The entire season he hasn’t believed in his side to win the title, and that negative vibe has now eaten away and eroded the confidence of his players.

Latest Premier League Standings

Against Stoke on Saturday the Gunners crumbled under the pressure of it all, as wins for other table toppers compounded what has been a miserable few weeks in the red half of North London. They’ve had to deal with Olivier Giroud’s off-field issues with adultery and lack of form, Mesut Ozil choking against Bayern in the Champions League then being dropped, humiliation away at Liverpool and now a damaging defeat at Stoke. The Gunners still have the FA Cup to play for, and right now it seems as if their main focus should switch to that as they search for a first piece of silverware in almost a decade.

Four points off the lead with games against Tottenham, Chelsea, Manchester City and Everton coming up… it looks like Arsenal’s PL title dream could be over for yet another season.

U.S NATIONAL TEAM UPDATE: IT’S GOING WELL…

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Three out of the five U.S. internationals plying their trade in England’s top-flight fared extremely well over the weekend. USMNT ‘keepers Brad Guzan and Tim Howard both grabbed big wins, Guzan’s Villa eased any lingering relegation worries they had, while U.S. defender Geoff Cameron helped Stoke to a massive upset victory over Arsenal at the Britannia. Cameron and Stoke have now beaten, Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal at home this campaign and have given themselves some breathing space in the race against relegation.

The Potters should easily keep their PL status for next season, and Cameron once again looked assured and aggressive from the right back spot he has made his own. In the second half he also had a great a chance to score but the chance flew just wide. That would’ve capped off a marvelous day for Cameron and Stoke.

Elsewhere there was more disappointment for Jozy Altidore as he didn’t make Sunderland’s 18-man squad and the Black Cats let an early lead slip to lose 3-1 against Manchester City in the League Cup final at Wembley. But a brighter moment came for the U.S. national team and Clint Dempsey, as Deuce looked fired up from the start as he marked the final game of his loan spell at Fulham by almost scoring vs. Chelsea and putting the opponents defense under intense pressure. Good signs that Dempsey is finally get back to full fitness as he heads back to Seattle for the start of the 2014 MLS season.

Above is a video recap of all eight games in the PL this weekend, as the League Cup final meant we’ll have to wait a little longer for a second installment of the Manchester derby which was postponed. Week 28 is in the books, folks. Relive it.

Premier League Playback takes an alternative look at all the weekend’s action from the PL, it comes out every week.

Transfer Rumor Roundup: Mustafi to Arsenal, Guzan to Boro, Tello to Saints

LILLE, FRANCE - JUNE 12:  Shkodran Mustafi of Germany runs with the ball during the UEFA EURO 2016 Group C match between Germany and Ukraine at Stade Pierre-Mauroy on June 12, 2016 in Lille, France.  (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images)
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Arsenal are said to have inquired about Valencia’s German international defender Shkodran Mustafi, 24.

After losing Per Mertesacker until 2017 with a serious knee injury, Arsene Wenger has already spoken about looking for an experienced option at center back.

[ MORE: Latest transfer news

However, it appears he may be looking for a more long-term approach with Mustafi set to cost around $26 million according to report in the Independent. That say that Spanish outlet Cadena Cope believe the German defender is up for sale.

With Laurent Koscielny on an extended break after appearing in the EURO 2016 final for France and Gabriel missing Arsenal’s tour of the USA with tonsillitis, Wenger will use young center backs Calum Chambers and Rob Holding against the MLS All-Stars on Thursday in San Jose, Calif. or maybe even Francis Coquelin as an emergency center back with Mathieu Debuchy and Nacho Monreal either side of him.

Mustafi started and scored against Ukraine in Germany’s 2-0 win in their EURO 2016 opener but only appeared again at the Euros as a second half sub in their semifinal defeat to France.


U.S. national team goalkeeper Brad Guzan is set to seal a move to Middlesbrough, according to the Guardian.

Per the report Guzan will leave Villa on a free transfer and will sign a two-year contract for Aitor Karanka’s side. Skyy Sports is also reporting that Guzan will have a medical on Teeside in the next 24 hours.

[ MORE: Fabregas sent off in fiery friendly ]

Guzan, 31, played for the U.S. at the Copa America Centenario this summer but given Aston Villa’s relegation to the Championship the Illinois native wants to stay in the Premier League.

If the move to ‘Boro does go through then he will be battling with Victor Valdes and Dimitrios Konstantopoulos for the starting spot.

Guzan has become the first-choice goalkeeper for Jurgen Klinsmann since the 2014 World Cup when Tim Howard decided to take a sabbatical. Last season he endured a nightmare campaign as they were relegated from the Premier League for the first-time in history.

Here’s hoping Guzan gets a chance to shine at the Riverside but with Valdes also signing on, it’s difficult to know who will be the first choice.


Southampton are chasing two Spanish players, according to the Sun.

Barcelona’s Christian Tello, 24, has spent the last two seasons on loan at Fiorentina and FC Porto but is now looking for a permanent home and Southampton will be hoping to add to their attack after losing Graziano Pelle and Sadio Mane this summer.

Tello could leave Barca for $13 million and although he’s scored 20 goals in 86 games for his hometown team, he has failed to break through and finally wants to become a regular elsewhere.

Jay Rodriguez and Charlie Austin are both back fit and among the goals during preseason but with their history of injuries perhaps Claude Puel will be looking to sign one more striker as Saints prepare for both the Premier League and the Europa League.

The report also states that midfield reinforcement is being looked at with Malaga’s Recio, 25, linked with a $7 million move to St Mary’s. Saints seem pretty set in that area of the pitch with Jordy Clasie, Oriol Romeu and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg.


Arsenal insist they won’t spend big to compete with Premier League rivals

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 28:  Arsene Wenger manager of Arsenal (R) and Ivan Gazidis, CEO of Arsenal (L) in discussion as they sit in the stands prior to the UEFA Champions League Group F match between Arsenal and Olympiacos at the Emirates Stadium on September 28, 2011 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
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Arsenal fans, I can already hear you venting.

The 2015-16 Premier League runners up have signed Granit Xhaka, Rob Holding and Tasumo Asano this summer but many fans and pundits believe Arsene Wenger‘s side is still short of a top class center back and a predatory striker.

[ MORE: Fabregas sent off in fiery friendly ]

Well, bad news. It doesn’t seem like major cash will be splashed this summer.

Speaking in California ahead of Arsenal’s game against the MLS All-Stars on Thursday, chief executive Ivan Gazidis revealed that the Gunners’ transfer policy is not going to change.

“We can’t afford to outgun competitors that have far more money. We have to be very careful, very selective,” Gazidis said. “We would not be successful if we simply went out into the transfer market and tried to outgun our competitors.

“We’re run in a self-sustaining way, and a way that we believe in, because we believe it gives us certainty for the future and enables us to plan our future with confidence. That means we can’t afford to make huge mistakes in the transfer market. We can’t afford to outgun competitors that have far more money to splurge on transfer fees than we do. So we have to be very careful, very selective about how we do things.”

Arsenal lost out on the Premier League title to Leicester City last season which infuriated their fans mostly because in a campaign where Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea all struggled they couldn’t seize their best chance in a decade to win the title.

[ MORE: Arsenal hunt for center back ]

Yes, the Gunners have spent big to bring in Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez and Xhaka in recent years but compared to the spending of United, City, Chelsea and even Liverpool this summer, they are miles behind.

When all is said and done you have to admire the business Arsenal has become with the Emirates Stadium a beacon for their success. However, just as we saw last season during the second half of the campaign, fans will protest as they are desperate to do more than see their team finish in the top four every season and then bow out in the first knockout round of the UEFA Champions League.

Unless Arsenal’s prudent model of spending changes drastically, you really can’t see them challenging for the UCL title and being favorites to win the PL. It’s that simple.

Wenger gets a lot of abuse for apparently not spending the cash at his disposal but after comments like this from Gazidis it is clear that the club isn’t going to hand him vasts amounts of cash.

Report reveals world’s most valuable players under the age of 21

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - APRIL 10:  Dele Alli of Tottenham Hotspur celebrates as he scores their first goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United at White Hart Lane on April 10, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
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Watch out for these guys in the next few years.

The folks over at Soccerex have put together a handy list of the most valuable players under the age of 21.

[ MORE: Guardiola bans pizza

There’s no surprise that plenty of Premier League stars are in the 20 player list, with four of the top nine hailing from the PL.

Schalke 04 have three players inside the top eight as the Bundesliga side continue their impressive record at developing young stars.

[ MORE: Zlatan reveals MLS offer

Anthony Martial is the clear winner as the Manchester United and France forward is valued at over $10 million more than his nearest competitor. Plenty of other names on the list have been linked with moves to Premier League clubs this summer, while Dele Alli, Marcus Rashford and Kelecho Iheancho also feature among the most valuable youngsters in world soccer.

Below is the list in full, with many factors such as media perception, years remaining on contract, history of injuries and their clubs average selling value all calculated when coming to this valuation.


  1. Anthony Martial (Manchester United) – $52.1 million
  2. Leroy Sane (Schalke 04) – $41.1 million
  3. Renato Sanches (Bayern Munich) – $38.2 million
  4. Dele Alli (Tottenham Hotspur) – $37.8 million
  5. Kinglsey Coman (Bayern Munich) – $33.9 million
  6. Breel Embolo (Schalke 04) – $28.1 million
  7. Marcus Rashford (Manchester United) – $24.9 million
  8. Max Meyer (Schalke 04) – $23.9 million
  9. Kelechi Iheanacho (Manchester City) – $22.1 million
  10. Julian Weigl (Borussia Dortmund) – $21.98 million
  11. Gabriel Jesus (Palmeiras) – $21.97 million
  12. Youri Tielemans (Anderlecht) – $21.4 million
  13. Riechedly Bazoer (Ajax) – $21.2 million
  14. Niklas Sule (Hoffenheim) – $18.4 million
  15. Mahmoud Dahoud (Borussia Monchengladbach) – $16.6 million
  16. Giovani Lo Celso (Rosario Central) – $15.8 million
  17. Ruben Neves (FC Porto) – $15.6 million
  18. Ousmane Dembele (Borussia Dortmund) – $15.5 million
  19. Gabriel Barbosa (Santos) – $15.3 million
  20. Gianluigi Donnarumma (AC Milan) – $15.2 million

Bob Bradley linked with Hull City job in Premier League

PASADENA, CA - JUNE 25:  Bob Bradley coach of  United States during the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup Championship against Mexico at the Rose Bowl on June 25, 2011 in Pasadena, California.  (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
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Former U.S. national team head coach Bob Bradley has been installed as the bookies favorite to take over at Hull City in the Premier League.

ProSoccerTalk understands that there has yet to be any formal contact between Hull and Le Havre about Bradley’s services.

[ VIDEO: Pulisic scores for Dortmund ]

Bradley, 58, has yet to coach in England — if he is appointed he’d be the first-ever American to be in charge of a Premier League team — and in the past his name has been brought up surrounding vacant positions at Aston Villa, West Brom, Sunderland and Fulham.

A report from the Hull Daily Mail claims that Hull are looking across Europe for a new manager to replace Steve Bruce who stepped down last week after four years in charge at the KCOM Stadium. Roberto Martinez, current caretaker manager Mike Phelan and Steve McClaren are also said to be in the hunt.

This link with Bradley comes alongside reports of a potential American takeover at Hull but co-owner and current chairman Ehab Allam recently put talks over the sale of the club on hold until after the summer transfer window ends.

[ LONGFORM: Bradley – “That’s Football” ]

As for Bradley, the New Jersey native is the current manager of Le Havre in Ligue 2 in France but it is well known that Bradley has been waiting for a chance to manage in the top-flight of one of Europe’s elite leagues.

After assembling an impressive coaching resume around the globe since he left the U.S. setup in 2011, Bradley appears a good fit for the Tigers.

He worked wonders in a perilous situation in Egypt as he took the national team to the brink of the 2014 World Cup at a time of extreme turmoil in Egypt. He then went to Norway and on a tight budget took newly-promoted Stabaek to a comfortable ninth-place finish in his first season in charge and they then finished third and challenged powerhouse Rosenborg for the title in his second full season in Norway.

Bradley has since moved on to Le Havre in France’s second-tier and after arriving midway through the 2015-16 campaign they agonizingly missed out on the last promotion spot on the final day of last season with just one goal separating the Normandy club from gaining promotion to Ligue 1.

Fans of the U.S. national team have kept Bradley close to their hearts since U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati replaced him with Jurgen Klinsmann in the summer of 2011 and many would love to see him take charge of a Premier League outfit.

Bradley is unlikely to get many resources from Hull’s owners, the Allam family, as Bruce blamed his exit on a failure to add new players this summer. Owner Assem Allam has fallen seriously ill in recent months and has left his son Ehab in charge but he and Bruce butted heads which led to the English manager departing less than three weeks before the new Premier League campaign.

With the Allam family hailing from Egypt the links to Bradley seem to add up as the job he did when in charge of the Pharaohs from 2011-13 was nothing short of miraculous.

Let’s see what direction this moves in but Hull could certainly do a lot worse than hiring Bradley who has a strong background in getting the best out of teams with small resources and the players currently at Hull would certainly slot in nicely with his soccer philosophy.