Top 10 midfielders of the Premier League season

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Discussing and dissecting the quality of midfielders can be a touchy subject. If the player in question is regularly playing wide in the top band of a 4-3-3, does he get to be dubbed a midfielder? How do you account for defensive mids, if the majority of your list is focused on the excitement and trickery of attacking players?

Should you take a fantasy league approach, in which just one appearance at midfield qualifies a player to be eligible for a top ten list? And what, exactly, makes a player truly top in his position?

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In this case, the top ten footballers for the 2013-2014 Premier League season have been chosen based on their clear, definable numbers, like goals scored and assists provided. But the players on the list were also selected according to their value to their team…which is why you might see some interesting names:

10. Aaron Ramsey (Arsenal)
With Aaron Ramsey healthy, the Gunners were challenging for the title. With Ramsey injured, they were worried about losing out on Champions League. Despite missing over three months of the season, the Welshman still had 17 goals and 9 assists in all competitions – that’s in 37 appearances. Who knows where Arsenal may have finished this season if they’d been able to count on a fit Ramsey? It’s a question plaguing supporters’ dreams, it’s certain.

9. Yohan Cabaye (Newcastle/PSG)
It’s probably not kosher to bestow top honors on a player who only spent the first half of the season in the Premier League. But Cabaye’s worth to Newcastle is perhaps best demonstrated by his absence. His seven goals and two assists for the Magpies don’t tell the full story. After his move to Paris Saint-Germain, it became painfully clear that Cabaye was the architect of Newcastle’s entire game. After his move, Newcastle failed to score in their next four matches. They went on to win four of their final sixteen matches, failing to score in ten of those.

8. Steven Gerrard (Liverpool)
What is Liverpool without Stevie G? The Reds are hoping they won’t have to find out for a few more years. Brendan Rodgers, hoping to keep the Liverpool captain on as a valued member of the side, moved the 33-year-old into a deeper role in midfield. There were a couple blips – most notably the 2-2 draw with Aston Villa in January – but Gerrard now looks as though he will flourish there. In total he notched 13 goals and 13 assists in Liverpool’s impressive season, and his impressive form shouldn’t be overshadowed by an unfortunate slip…

7. Adnan Januzaj (Manchester United)
Giving a top-ten spot to a player with only 15 starts and 4 goals seems a bit odd. But then again, Manchester United finishing in 7th also seems a bit odd. It’s been known for ages that United are lacking in the midfield, so when an exciting teenager comes along and seems to be able to create more in his few minutes on the field than the entire rest of the team, it’s worth acknowledging him. Particularly when, in his first start with the team, he sinks two goals in seven minutes to give his side a comeback win over Sunderland.

6. Adam Lallana (Southampton) Lallana, now 26, has been at Southampton since he was born, more or less. He was part of the club when they were sent down to League One and with them as they rose up, and up, up to 8th place this year. He’s now come into his own, displaying a quiet brilliance throughout the entire Saints’ season. Lallana has six recorded assists to his name, but he also works to set up his teammates – or takes the goals himself, bagging nine this season. His performances have earned him a place in England’s World Cup squad, with him likely to see some starts in Brazil.

5. Christian Eriksen (Tottenham)
This may just be another case of a quality player shining for a disappointing team, but it seems Eriksen is the real deal. It took him a bit to find his Premier League feet after joining from Ajax in the summer, but once he was established in the side it became clear that Erikson was one of the few buys upon which Spurs definitely did not waste their money. He might not score many goals but he certainly can set them up, particularly with his tremendous free kicks. Now Tottenham fans will be hoping whoever comes in to take the helm will be able to get even more out of their favorite Dane.

4. Mile Jedinak (Crystal Palace)
The Palace captain very nearly played every minute of every Premier League game this season – he came off injured in the final match against Fulham, losing out on the last 30 minutes of the match. But worry not, Socceroos fans, Jedinak is confident it’s just a minor injury and he’ll be fit to play in Australia’s first World Cup match. The defensive midfielder played a key role in Crystal Palace’s 11th-place finish, sweeping up in front of the defense to ensure that the Eagles could hold off many of the league’s strongest attacks.

3. Ross Barkley (Everton)
Barkley, just 20 years old, filled a variety of roles for Roberto Martínez this season. He’s played behind the striker, out wide in a band of three, or in a more withdrawn role – much of the time to great success. Barkley’s made it difficult to remember that this was really his first season in the Premier League (he spent much of the last on loan to Sheffield Wednesday) and that it’s still not certain where his best role on the field might be. But his versatility and his creativity make him a quality addition to any squad. That fact was not lost on Roy Hodgson, who named him in England’s World Cup squad.

1. Eden Hazard (Chelsea)
Some want to call Hazard a “forward”. Let’s face it – Chelsea’s forwards are Demba Ba, Samuel Eto’o and Fernando Torres, who have under 20 goals between them. Hazard, an attacking midfielder, has 14, in 32 starts. Just a few months ago, his playmaking abilities were being talked up as among the best in the world. But manager José Mourinho apparently didn’t feel the same, dropping him after the Champions League loss to Atlético Madrid and now telling him he needs to work harder at his game. Mou, most teams would kill to have such a talented player in their squad – enjoy it!

1. Yaya Touré (Manchester City) There’s no official ranking of these ten players, but you’ll have to admit we’ve saved the best for last. Yaya is the king of the Premier League midfield, a consistent gem in the center of the pitch. In 35 games he scored 20 league goals for Manchester City, ending the year as their top scorer. He absolutely terrorizes defenses, either with his own shots on goal or by placing a perfect pass to the likes of Sergio Agüero or Edin Džeko. Snubbed for the Player of the Year award, Touré decided to go ahead and win the title instead.

Hope Solo says she has settled grievance with US Soccer

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Hope Solo has settled a grievance with U.S. Soccer over her suspension from the women’s national team following comments she made at the Rio Olympics.

The settlement was first reported by the San Francisco Chronicle. The 35-year-old goalkeeper was suspended for six months and her contract with the federation was terminated after she called the Swedish team “a bunch of cowards” following the U.S. team’s quarterfinal loss.

Details about the settlement, reached last month, were not released. The U.S. Women’s Soccer Team Players Association filed the grievance on Solo’s behalf.

In a statement provided Friday to The Associated Press, Solo reiterated her regret over the comments.

“As I expressed in my apology to the Swedish captain immediately following the match, I have tremendous respect for the Swedish team, and in describing the style of play, I used a choice of words that was both offensive and not at all what I had intended to convey,” she said.

[ MORE: JPW’s Premier League picks ]

“We have amicably resolved the matter and are moving forward in a positive way,” she added.

U.S. Soccer did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The Women’s Soccer Team Players Association declined to comment.

Solo anchored the team in goal for the 2015 Women’s World Cup victory, allowing just three goals in seven games with five shutouts during the tournament – earning her a second straight Golden Glove Award.

For her career, Solo has made 202 total appearances with the national team, with 153 wins and an international-record 102 shutouts.

The defending champion U.S. women were ousted from the Olympics last summer when Sweden advanced 4-3 on penalty kicks following a 1-1 draw.

Solo’s “cowards” quote came immediately following the loss. Sweden went on to play in the gold-medal match against Germany.

Solo told the AP in an interview late last year that she spoke to coach Jill Ellis and U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati following the loss, and felt that the issue was put to rest. After she returned to the United States, she said she was blindsided by the announcement about her suspension.

She said she believes U.S. Soccer wanted her off negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement. Solo has been an outspoken advocate for equal pay and was among the players who filed a complaint against the federation with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging wage discrimination.

“Let’s call it what is, which is a firing,” Solo told AP then. “It was a termination of my contract effective immediately with severance. That is a firing. It wasn’t a suspension, that’s what they told the media because it looked better. But I got fired. I got fired for what they say was using the word `cowards’ but in reality they got rid of an adversary in the fight for equal pay.”

U.S. Soccer said at the time that Solo was suspended following a culmination of actions, and separately her contract was also terminated with the team.

Awful goalkeeping howler dooms Bayern to draw

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Bayern fans are already counting down the days until Manuel Neuer’s return in goal.

In his absence, Sven Ulreich has earned a pair of starts in Bundesliga play, and the most recent has not ended well. With Bayern leading Wolfsburg 2-0, Ulreich completely botched a simple save leading to Wolfsburg’s first goal, sparking a comeback from the visitors.

As Max Arnold delivered a free-kick 10 minutes after halftime, the ball sailed just over the wall and directly at Ulreich’s head. Instead of catching the attempt or using both hands to parry the shot, Ulreich raised just his right hand and failed to connect fully. The ball glanced off the side of his palm and into the back of the net to bring Wolfsburg a goal back.

The free-kick had decent pace, and it didn’t help that Sebastian Rudy made a poor attempt to block the delivery, but Ulreich won’t want to see a replay of that chance, as he made a hideous attempt to stop the shot. Wolfsburg would eventually equalize with just seven minutes remaining in the match as Daniel Didavi scored a pinpoint header in off the post. Ruddy let Didavi sneak behind him, and Paul Verhaegh delivered a fantastic long ball into the box for the 27-year-old to redirect in.

The draw means Bayern has failed to put pressure on Borussia Dortmund this weekend, leaving Die Roten level with their Dortmund rivals on 13 points with the latter still to host Borussia Monchengladbach on Saturday.

Neuer likely won’t be back until January thanks to yet another foot injury, leaving Bayern to either continue along with Ulreich and hope he improves, or look for other options either in-house or on the free agent market. Ulreich came over from Stuttgart in the summer of 2015 and has backed up Neuer since.

Former Fulham midfielder Sidwell tells another amazing Felix Magath story

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German manager Felix Magath has always been known as a mercurial individual, but as time passes from his failed stint in charge of relegated club Fulham, more and more stories continue to flow from former players that absolutely boggle the mind.

The most famous story thus far has come from former Fulham defender Brede Hangeland about Magath’s suggestion that applying cottage cheese directly to his ailing knee would help solve his injury problem. Hangeland also spoke of how Magath would make the team run in the dead of night after returning from away trips, calling him “an awful human being.”

Now, former Fulham midfielder Steve Sidwell, who spent three years at Craven Cottage, spoke up about his own experiences under Magath. Sidwell, now with Brighton but yet to make a Premier League appearance, told BBC 5 Live Sports about another time Magath was frustrated with his squad, and how he chose a different way to express that during training.

“We played poorly – I can’t remember what game it was – and we got off the bus and he said ‘right, well everyone in tomorrow at 8:00 and we’re gonna train.’ We was due a day off but we’re gonna be in for training. So everyone got in, we got outside…there was no balls coming out with us so we’re thinking ‘right, ok.’ So he’s gone ‘right, your formation yesterday, can you get in your positions?’ So we got on the pitch…goalkeeper, back four, midfield four, two strikers…stood there. And he said, ‘right, you didn’t want to run around yesterday, we’re not gonna run around today.’ And he just blew the whistle, and he said ‘everyone just stand still.’ And we had to just stand still. And it was a cold day, and there was a couple lads with gloves on, they was off straight away. There was leaves blowing across the pitch, you couldn’t make eye contact with anyone, you had to just stand there, and I think we was just there for about 40 minutes just standing there.”

In. Credible. Stuff. Sidwell also said that Magath had every player participate in a pint night before each and every away game, often in the hotel bar.

Magath was fired in September of 2014, just seven months after his hire, with Fulham having suffered an eleven-game winless streak. The Whites were eventually relegated later that season, and have not recovered since, still in the Championship looking for a return to the top flight.

Premier League Preview: Southampton vs. Manchester United

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  • Southampton has 3 clean sheets in 5 PL games this season
  • 8 players have scored for MUFC, the most in the PL
  • Saints have lost to MUFC 24 times, more than any other PL team

Manchester United can equal its club record best start to a Premier League season if they defeat Southampton at St. Mary’s Saturday morning (Watch live, 10:00 a.m. ET online via NBCSports.com).

The Red Devils, as they were all of last season, have one of the best defensive records in the Premier League, conceding just two goals through five matches, joint-best alongside Manchester City.

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The Southampton defense, however, will be most hyped in this match as Virgil Van Dijk is likely to make his first start for the Saints since January. The Dutchman has been out of action after holding out of preseason and the start of the campaign over transfer rumors, but is back with the club after returning as a substitute last time out.

Southampton has conceded just four goals in five games without their most coveted defender, but they have also scored just four goals on their way to eight points thus far, which leaves them in ninth position.

On the other side, Manchester United will be missing Paul Pogba and Marcos Rojo, but otherwise have a clean bill of health as they look to at the least keep stride with their cross-town rivals atop the league table. Jose Mourinho has six away fixtures over the next four weeks across all competitions, and will likely look to rotate the squad at some point during that stretch.

What they’re saying

Mourinho on Southampton: “Southampton to be fair, I played them in my second spell in England, I played them and they had Mauricio [Pochettino], and then [Ronald] Koeman, and then [Claude] Puel and now Mauricio [Pellegrino] – and I don’t see many changes. It’s the kind of club where they are very stable in the way they play, the way they think (about) football, the qualities of their players. It’s a good team to be a manager. Honestly, it’s a very good club to be a manager and I see the match as a very difficult match.”

Pellegrino on Manchester United: “When we play against the biggest team in the world, it allows us to draw some conclusions about how we are. This is for me the nice challenge and we have to strive for this. Playing against Manchester United is one of the most beautiful things. I will live this opportunity, I will live this game, and now we have to try to enjoy this game.”

Prediction

This could be a difficult match for Manchester United. Southampton’s defense is very stout, and the Red Devils could potentially find themselves frustrated should they find themselves goalless through the first 60 minutes. Ultimately, the smartest play here is a close 1-0 win for Manchester United with a late goal, but a similar result in the other direction wouldn’t be the most shocking thing.