Better Deal: Sigurdsson and cash or Vorm and Davies?

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Earlier today Tottenham Hotspur and Swansea City confirmed a deal that saw Gylfi Sigurdsson and an undisclosed fee head to the Liberty Stadium in exchange for Michel Vorm and Ben Davies.

The swap is a rare and interesting play that’s seldom seen in the world of soccer because it’s so difficult to measure the impact and value of one player with that of another. The number of factors that enter into the formula for a player’s value is infinite and when trying to do that for three players seems like an exercise of impossibility.

And yet somehow, Tottenham and Swansea have seemingly carved out a mutually beneficial deal.

But how so? Surely one of these clubs enjoyed the sweeter side of this deal and here we set out to see who it was.

Spurs addressed two major needs with the move — finding a sure-fire starter at left-back and a backup goalkeeper who will push Hugo Lloris. Ask a Tottenham fan what went wrong last year and he’ll politely hand you a novel of quips with chapter one reading: Our need for a top left-back.

Jan Vertonghen, a better center-back than left-back, made himself dangerous in that position early last season before a midseason injury derailed that option. With Danny Rose in the Belgian’s place things were decent but hardly on lock-down status as Rose struggled with inconsistency and fitness issues, which then left Spurs with Kyle Naughton as the most viable option. Not good predicament to be in.

The 25-year-old Naughton, who can play either left or right back, struggled to fit in and became a target for opposing team’s to attack. Things grew so dire, in fact, that 21-year-old Ezequiel Fryers was given a go before he, too, imploded. That, in turn, led to rampant and unbridled exposure on the left side of the pitch, much to the delight of opposing clubs.

Now, with the highly-sought-after Davies in place, Spurs believe they’ve found their cure. Inserted into Swansea’s side two years ago at the tender age of 19, the skillful and aware Welshman performed brilliantly, locking down the left-side while proving himself dangerous on the counter. He’s one of the many great Welsh talents on the rise and now, under new Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino, many feel the sky is the limit. Time will only tell but Spurs were in desperate need of a left-back and have fought off the likes of Liverpool to address the issue. A fantastic pull.

Vorm’s decision to move to North London is an interesting for a variety of reasons, not the least because it means that American Brad Friedel will now become the third-choice goalkeeper. Friedel was brilliant in the back-up roll last season, giving Lloris a rest during matches outside the Premier League but never really threatening to take the Frenchman’s spot. In Vorm, Spurs have found a goalkeeper who will not only fill in during Europa League, League Cup and FA Cup matches when needed but could foreseeably challenge Lloris for the starting role in league matches. Which is exactly what manager Mauricio Pochettino wanted in a backup. And what Vorm lacks in size he makes up for in superlative cat-like reflexes. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better starter/backup goalkeeper duo in the Premier League.

Pochettino won’t love that he had to deal Sigurdsson but giving up a substitute for a starting left-back and a stellar back-up goalkeeper was worth it. In two seasons with Spurs, Sigurdsson scored eight goals in 58 top-flight appearances, many of which proved to be match-winners off the bench. But a plethora of midfielders meant that Sigurdsson’s main role at Spurs was as a super-sub, one that some people will feel he deserved better than.

At Swansea, he’ll have the chance of becoming an everyday starter. Capable of playing anywhere across the attacking three, Sigurdsson will need to prove himself if he’s to get the starting nod amidst the likes of Nathan Dyer, Ki Sung-Yeung, Jonjo Shelvey, Pablo and Wayne Routledge. Of course, it was only three years ago when Sigurdsson enjoyed his breakout in the Premier League, scoring seven goals in 18 matches while on loan with the Swans so finding top form shouldn’t take long.

But was Swansea in desperate need of another attacking midfielder?

Not really. More pressing was the call for a striker when either Wilfried Bony or Michu (or both) end up leaving this summer for greener pastures. Bold move for manager Garry Monk.

And what about that fee? Most sources are labeling it “undisclosed” but the Daily Mail claim Swansea pocketed $6 million in addition to the swap. Not a bad bit of business for the Swans but does that extra cash make up for the fact that they parted with two key players to obtain an attacking midfielder who wasn’t really needed?

Hard to say Spurs didn’t come out on top in this deal.

“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.

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. “Do you think that I am stupid when I put Willy on the bench?”

[ 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.