Vermaelen

Wenger says Arsenal defender Vermaelen could be on the move this summer

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Cast-out Arsenal central defender Thomas Vermaelen is a candidate to move away from the Emirates this summer, says manager Arsene Wenger.

“At the moment Thomas Vermaelen is here,” Wenger said from London before the Emirates Cup. “He is injured at the moment with a short-term [hamstring] injury.” It [a move] could happen, yes it’s a possibility that he goes. If he goes we have to replace him because he’s an important player in our squad.

Vermaelen has been the recipient of a bench spot thanks to the stellar partnership between Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny, which flourished last season.

At one point in February, Mertesacker and Koscielny reached 32 straight games unbeaten when both played the full 90 minutes.  Arsenal locked down both men long-term during the course of last season.

This has pushed the 28-year-old Belgian onto the outside looking in, making just 14 appearances last season, seven of them starts. That’s the lowest total Vermaelen’s had for Arsenal in a season since 2010/11 when he tore his Achillies tendon.

“I expect him to stay but he, of course, did not play enough games last year,” Wenger said. “For me he’s a very important player but I couldn’t guarantee him the games he wanted last year.”

Credit to Wenger for telling it like it is. Vermaelen is a very good player, but the partnership between the two established starters is undeniably the best option for the Gunners. Any manager would like to have a backup of Vermaelen’s quality, but it’s hard to convince a good player to assume such a role.

Vermaelen has been linked with a move to Manchester United for a while now.  He would be a fantastic grab for them, giving the Red Devils a Premier League and Champions League experienced player in the prime of his career to patch the losses of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic.

Louis van Gaal, the new Manchester United manager, needs plenty of reinforcements at central defender to implement his favorite 3-at-the-back formation.

Reports also say Barcelona is interested, but Barcelona has been linked with just about every semi-decent player this summer as they look to overhaul their squad.

West Ham extend Payet’s contract in “enormous show of faith”

West Ham’s Dimitri Payet celebrates after scoring while soap bubbles are blown during the English Premier League soccer match between West Ham and Newcastle at Boleyn Ground in London, Monday, Sept. 14, 2015.(AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
AP Photo/Frank Augstein
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West Ham United hope Dimitri Payet is going absolutely nowhere after the club announced on Thursday the 28-year-old Frenchman has signed a contract extension through the summer of 2021.

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Payet’s current contract was scheduled to keep him at the Premier League club through the summer of 2020, but a series of standout performances (6 goals, 4 assists so far this season, mostly during the season’s opening three months) and rumors of interest from “bigger” clubs meant tacking on another year — and plenty more cash — was the best way to keep Payet in east London for the foreseeable future. The club confirmed earlier this week that negotiations over an extension were underway.

“He’s the best player I’ve signed in 25 years,” said West Ham co-owner David Sullivan. “He’s a [$43 million] player. He’s a supreme footballer. He makes every player in our side play better. On his day, he’s world class, he’s unstoppable.”

Payet, who’s been at West Ham just eight months after signing last summer, could still depart in the summer should he finish the current season strong and/or show up and show out at the European Championship, which kicks off in June. In that event, West Ham would now bag a much heftier transfer fee than they would have done prior to the extension.

VIDEO: Dele Alli’s magnificent juggling goal recreated in hand-drawn crayon

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Remember that Dele Alli goal? No, not that one… that one. Of course you remember it. How could you not?

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How often does a player receive the ball out of the air, flick it over his head, spin 180 degrees and hit an inch-perfect volley from 20 yards out to secure all three points for his team? The answer is, of course, not very often.

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Thus, a goal such as Alli’s stunning winner against Crystal Palace last month has been, and will continue to be, immortalized through numerous recreations in this Digital Age. Above is Alli’s goal recreated in hand-drawn crayon.

Watch Live: Guatemala vs. T&T; Canada vs. Guyana in Olympic qualifying

Canadian players wave to fans after a 2-1 loss to England in a quarterfinal of the Women's World Cup soccer tournament, Saturday, June 27, 2015, in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP)
Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP
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Group B is set to kick off Thursday night at the 2016 CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying Championship, as Canada, third-place finishers at the 2012 Olympics, begin their quest to qualify for this summer’s games in Rio de Janeiro.

Guyana versus Trinidad and Tobago is up first (6 p.m. ET) from BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston, Tex, followed by the Canadians, who will take on Guyana (8:30 p.m. ET) in the nightcap.

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[ WATCH LIVE: Canada vs. Guyana live on line on NBC Sports Live Extra ]

The U.S. women’s national began its Olympic qualifying campaign in impressive fashion on Wednesday with a 5-0 victory over Costa Rica, while Mexico jumped to the top of Group A with a 6-0 victory over Puerto Rico.

Sunderland terminate Adam Johnson’s contract after guilty pleas in sex case

Sunderland winger Adam Johnson arrives at Bradford Crown Court, England, Wednesday Feb. 10, 2016. Johnson has pleaded guilty in court to one count of sexual activity with a child and another of grooming. The 28-year-old Johnson, who has made 12 appearances for England, denies two charges of sexual activity with a girl under the age of 16. (Peter Byrne/PA via AP) UNITED KINGDOM OUT NO SALES NO ARCHIVE
Peter Byrne/PA via AP
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SUNDERLAND, England (AP) Sunderland has fired winger Adam Johnson after he pleaded guilty to grooming and sexual activity with a 15-year-old girl at the start of his trial.

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Johnson, who has played 12 times for England, continues to deny two further counts of sexual activity with a child.

Sunderland dismissed Johnson ahead of his trial resuming on Friday at Bradford Crown Court.

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In a statement, Sunderland announced Thursday that “in light of Adam Johnson’s guilty pleas, the club has today terminated his contract with immediate effect.”

The former Manchester City player joined Sunderland in 2012 for 10 million pounds (now about $14.5 million).