source:Arsenal (Instagram)

Done deal: Arsenal signs Alexis Sánchez from Barcelona


The news became official Thursday evening London time, with Arsenal turning a weeks’ long rumor into fact. Alexis Sánchez, Chile’s best player at the 2014 World Cup, has completed his move from Barcelona, becoming the Gunners’ second major grab from La Liga in as many summers.

Last year, Arsenal made a major splash by picking up German midfielder Mesut Özil from Real Madrid. Though Sánchez’s fee is as yet undisclosed, its’ likely to end up in the neighborhood of $51.4 million (£30 million), a fee that will prove Arsène Wenger’s 2013 splurge was no isolated incident.

In bringing in the 25-year-old forward, the Arsenal boss has found some much-needed help for forward Olivier Giroud up top.

“Alexis will add power, creativity and much quality to our squad and we are all looking forward to him joining up with us in a few weeks,” Wenger said, via the club’s website. “He has consistently produced top-quality performances at the highest level for a number of seasons now and we are all excited to see him integrate into the Arsenal squad.”

Sánchez, who scored twice in four games for Chile at Brazil 2014, is coming off the best of his three seasons in Barcelona, scoring 19 goals in 34 league games as the Blaugrana finished second in La Liga. He leaves Catalonia with 47 goals in 141 all-competition appearances since leaving Udinese in 2011.

“I’m so happy to be joining Arsenal,” Sánchez said, “a club which has a great manager, a fantastic squad of players, huge support around the world and a great stadium in London. I’m looking forward to meeting my new teammates and to be playing for Arsenal in the Premier League and Champions League.”

With his arrival, Sánchez provides some desperately needed depth for a team that was overly dependent on Giroud. While the Frenchman led the team with 16 league goals, he was one of only two players to reach double-digits for the club. The only other natural center forward to score during the Premier League season was Nicklas Bendtner, whose nine appearances (one start) produced only two goals.

At times relying on Lukas Podolski and Theo Walcott at the top of their 4-2-3-1, Arsenal’s lack of depth at striker was a factor as the team receded from the 2013-14 title race. Only 5’7”, Sánchez has evolved from the wide-to-in threat he posed at Udinese, proving capable of playing along the defense as well as from the flank.

At Arsenal, he’ll likely be asked to do both. When Giroud doesn’t get the call up top, Sánchez will be Wenger’s obvious choice to start. However, when match ups call for more typical number nine to lead the Gunners’ attack, Sánchez will be capable of excelling elsewhere in Arsenal’s starting XI.

VIDEO: Premier League Player of the Week – Matchday 9

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There was some eye-popping moments in the Premier League this weekend, yet still very little debate who shone brightest.

Stoke City’s Xherdan Shaqiri scored a pair of Goal of the Month competitors in the same day in the Potters’ 2-0 win at Hull City on Monday.

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The first was a curling wonder from distance, while the second came from a bit closer as the big-calfed Swiss attacker bamboozled the Hull wall and goalkeeper.

The Potters are up to 16th in the Premier League table with nine points.

Finnish fans celebrate surprise title for IFK Mariehamn

IFK Mariehamm
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HELSINKI (AP) Fans of IFK Mariehamn have gathered in the main square of the remote Finnish town to celebrate their team’s surprise league title.

“I feel very proud,” the club’s managing director, Peter Mattsson, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview on Monday, adding that “thousands” were expected to turn up for the party.

Watched by more than 4,000, Mariehamn clinched the Finnish title on Sunday with a 2-1 home victory over Ilves, from the industrial city of Tampere.

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Mariehamn held off 11 other teams, including the traditionally strong Helsinki club, HJK, and defending champion SJK from western Finland. It ended three points clear of second-placed HJK for its first league title.

Local media dubbed the team “Leicester” after the surprise English Premier League champions last season.

Mariehamn, which has a population of 11,500, is the capital of the Aland islands off the southwestern Finnish coast

Kroenke: “Very high” on Wenger who is “very hard” to replace

Jeff Fisher
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LONDON — Arsenal remains “very high” on Arsene Wenger and it will be “very hard” replacing the manager who is in the final year of his contract, owner Stan Kroenke told The Associated Press on Monday.

Wenger this month celebrated 20 years in charge of Arsenal and has offered no indication whether he wants to sign a new deal into next season.

The 67-year-old Frenchman became the Premier League’s longest serving manager when Alex Ferguson retired from Manchester United in 2013. United is now on its third manager in three years and has not competed for the Premier League title since Ferguson’s departure.

In a rare interview about Arsenal, Kroenke noted the tricky post-Ferguson succession at United while discussing the challenge of eventually replacing Wenger.

“You see it (at United), you bring up a comment like that,” Kroenke told the AP after Arsenal’s annual general meeting. “It’s very hard. He’s a great manager.”

Wenger signed his last three-year contract extension in 2014.

“We will sit down and discuss the future at the appropriate time,” Arsenal chairman Chips Keswick told shareholders at a meeting where Wenger didn’t address his contract situation in his speech.

Although Wenger has won the Premier League three times, the last success came in 2004 – a drought which frustrates fans.

“He’s been a wonderful influence on the club,” Kroenke said. “We are all very high on Arsene. We are (joint) top of the table right now.”

Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool are only separated on goal difference at the summit. Despite Wenger only winning the FA Cup twice since 2004, the team is in the lucrative Champions League for the 19th successive year thanks to its runner-up finish last season. Wenger is yet to win European football’s top prize.

“I know a number of (sports team) owners that are very successful that say the same thing – the hardest thing to do is be consistently competitive at the top of the league,” said Kroenke, who also owns the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams. “Arsene has always done that and Arsenal has always been in that position. We have always been competitive.

“We may not always win the things we want to win. We are very focused on winning for sure the league. Arsene’s been consistently at the top and I will tell you – it’s very, very hard to do if you look around sports.”


2016 MLS Cup playoffs bracket in full

TORONTO, ON - MAY 07:  Michael Bradley #4 and Jozy Altidore #17 of Toronto FC celebrate a goal by teammate Tsubasa Endoh #9 during the first half of an MLS soccer game against FC Dallas at BMO Field on May 7, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
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With Major League Soccer’s Decision Day 2016 in the books, we now know who will battle it out for MLS Cup.

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Up first on Wednesday and Thursday are the four knockout round games, then the Conference semifinal first legs kick off this weekend.

We get into it thick and fast.

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The PST crew already selected their picks for the postseason and filled out their bracket. You can see that by clicking on the link above. FWIW, I have Toronto FC beating the Seattle Sounders in MLS Cup…

[ MORE: Ranking MLS playoff teams ]

Below is the MLS playoff bracket in full so you can make your picks and let us know who you went for in the comments section below.


MLS Playoff bracket, 2016

MLS Playoff bracket, 2016