Premier League Top 5 Forwards heading into 2014/15 season

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Goals, goals, and more goals. That’s why we watch the game, right?

Well, not always, but here we give love to the part of the game that returns the most glory for a player’s effort – and sometimes the most heat when things go bad.

Even with last year’s leading scorer Luis Suarez gone to the Spanish league, there’s still oodles of firepower in the English top flight and they are sure to dazzle crowds both in the stands and on the television.

Last year’s champions Manchester City have gobs of attackers, but we’ll spread the wealth around the league since there’s enough of it to go around.

1. Daniel Sturridge – Liverpool

Liverpool last year owned the league’s two highest goalscorers. With one of them shipped off to Barcelona, Daniel Sturridge is now the man at Liverpool. If you don’t think things will go well without Suarez, just look back to last season when the Uruguayan missed the first six matches of the year thanks to his 2nd biting suspension. Sturridge scored five goals in those six matches, including one in each of the first four. He’s entirely capable of not only taking over the Liverpool attack as the head man but also taking over the Premier League. This team is poised for another top-four finish, and the 24-year-old will lead the way.

2. Sergio Aguero – Manchester City

Kün Aguero would be the outright best striker in the Premier League if it weren’t for his spotty health.  While Sturridge and Suarez were lighting up the back of the net at Anfield, Aguero cashed in a cool 17 times last year, good enough for third on the overall list and with a better goals-per-minute number than both the star Liverpool strikers. As skillful as he is, and benefiting for a Manchester City attack bursting at the seams with talent and pace, the 26-year-old is no use to his club on the sidelines. If he wants to be the best in the league, he has to do better than the 23 appearances he made last Premier League season. He also will want to make sure he’s on the pitch for a Champions League run, considering he missed the first leg of City’s eventual defeat to Barcelona.

3. Robin van Persie – Manchester United

Another one who struggled mightily with injuries last year, the former League top scorer is over the 31-year-old mark now and it’s showing. But when healthy, we were reminded in the World Cup just how dangerous he can be.  Unfortunately, the biggest knock to van Persie’s game when he’s on the pitch is he requires service and struggles to create his own chances.  But in the new Louis van Gaal system that promises to be heavy on the attacking play, the Flying Dutchman

will absolutely get his service, and it could more than likely lead to a rise back up the table for the Red Devils.  If van Persie can keep his legs intact, United fans are sure to be delighted with his return.

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Costa is a safe bet to be Chelsea’s leading scorer this season with plenty of service.

4. Diego Costa – Chelsea

The lone new boy on the list, Diego Costa has arrived at Chelsea after a torrid season at Atletico Madrid. Making it all the way to the Champions League final and winning La Liga outright, Costa was on top of the world…until the World Cup, wherein he inexplicably came hurtling back down to Earth as Spain was eradicated from the tournament in the group stage.

Costa is now tasked with revitalizing the Chelsea attack, which last year featured plenty of midfield and wing play but was devoid of a true striker.

With Eden Hazard to his left, Andre Schurrle to his right, and the combination of Oscar, Willian, and Cesc Fabregas behind him, Costa has no excuses if he isn’t able to repeat his 27-goal tally from last year’s La Liga play.

Some have said he will fail, arguing that Chelsea plays more of Spain’s style of passing build-up rather than the free-flowing Atletico Madrid or Costa’s home country of Brazil.  Time will tell, but as of now, he is one of the most dangerous finishers in the Premier League, able to create chances both on and off the ball, and finish with lethal accuracy.

5. Wayne Rooney – Manchester United

A Premier League staple since 2002, Wayne Rooney has a new accessory to add to his wardrobe this season – the captain’s armband. Newly dubbed the on-field skipper by incoming boss van Gaal, Rooney has arguably more pressure to succeed this season than he’s ever faced before. Tasked with captaining his side to a Champions League return, Rooney will have to lead by example.  Last year he was Manchester United’s best player by far, and he’ll need much more help than he got from his teammates in the most recent campaign.  But if he can put his mental lapses and occasional moping behind him and put the team on his back, he can be the star of the season.  He’s good for at least a few highlight reels a year, so it’s almost a guarantee we’ll be seeing plenty of Mr. Rooney this campaign.

Honorable mention: Olivier Giroud (Arsenal), Alexis Sanchez (Arsenal), Romelu Lukaku (Everton), Loic Remy (Queens Park Rangers).

Report: Mesut Ozil to return to Schalke

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Is Mesut Ozil heading home?

The German playmaker from Gelsenkirchen is said to be contemplating a return to his hometown club Schalke 04 next summer.

[ MORE: 3 things from Arsenal, Spurs ]

Ozil, 29, has just over six months left to run on his current Arsenal contract and is a free to talk to non-English clubs on January 1 about a free transfer on July 1, 2018.

After coming through Schalke’s youth system, Ozil helped the Bundesliga side challenge for the title in 2006-07 and reach the UEFA Champions League before moving on to first Werder Bremen after a contract dispute with Schalke, then Real Madrid following his star displays at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

Perhaps Ozil feels like there is unfinished business at Schalke? Their president Clemens Tonnies wants Ozil to return home but admits it may be difficult financially.

“I still have a great relationship with Mesut,” Tonnies told German outlet Kicker. “We would definitely consider it [a return]. If it fits for both sides, it would be nice. The player could say that he returns to his roots, and that he plays football in this stadium and for those fans and the region once again. But it will certainly not happen next season.”

Schalke are enjoying somewhat of a resurgence this season with the club currently in second-place in the German top-flight and a young, talented squad impressing (shoutout to USMNT midfielder Weston McKennie!) ahead of their Revierderby clash with bitter rivals Borussia Dortmund this weekend.

Would this be a good move for Ozil?

Several of Europe’s biggest clubs have been linked with a move for the mercurial midfielder, while the likes of Arsenal’s Premier League rivals Manchester United are also said to be monitoring his situation closely, but it would seem he is closer than Alexis Sanchez to remaining at Arsenal beyond this season.

At the weekend Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger sung the praises of Ozil and fellow Arsenal contract rebel Alexis Sanchez, with Ozil having an assist on Arsenal’s opening goal and putting in a superb display in their 2-0 North London derby win against Tottenham Hotspur.

“The quality of the contract of the contract has to be good and enough for them as well, you know. I am convinced they love the club, they love the team but all the rest will be decided, when? I don’t really know,” Wenger said. “I’m not alone to master that. [Quality of the contract] is part of it. The whole thing has to be right, they have to be happy. I believe they love the club and they want to stay but there are other top clubs out there who offer good contracts as well.”

It is clear that Ozil and Sanchez have enjoyed being at Arsenal, for the most part, but perhaps Ozil’s love for another club, his boyhood team Schalke, will see him head back to the Veltins-Arena to finish up his playing days?

So often lambasted for not caring enough or working hard enough, you can’t argue with Ozil’s stats in the attacking third since he arrived at Arsenal in the summer of 2013. He has earned the right to decide where he goes next as he prepares to sign the biggest, and perhaps last, contract of his career.

That could be the sticking point for Schalke (especially with their president saying a move for Ozil is unlikely this summer) but if they don’t have to pay a transfer fee to bring home a local hero, surely it would be smart business to do it now rather than wait few years after he joins another club.

The myth that Schalke is some small Bundesliga club remains out there, even though they have one of the largest fanbases in Europe and are able to compete financially with the Bundesliga’s best.

Ozil heading home makes sense on many levels but we all know the deciding factor: $$$.

Louis van Gaal to take over at Everton?

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Bookmakers have slashed the odds of Louis Van Gaal becoming Everton’s new manager.

Van Gaal, 66, is now the second favorite to be the next permanent Toffees boss with Watford manager Marco Silva still the favorite to take charge at Goodison Park despite Everton having two bids for the Portuguese manager knocked back.

David Unsworth continues to lead Everton on an interim basis but with unimpressive results and performances, the jury is out on him being handed the job on a permanent basis.

LVG has been out of work since being fired by Manchester United in the summer of 2016, a few days after he won the FA Cup. The Dutchman and his unconventional methods led United to fourth and fifth place Premier League finishes in his two season at Old Trafford but he was often criticized by fans for their slow, predictable style of play.

Would van Gaal be a good fit for Everton?

His “name” would perhaps suit owner Farhad Moshiri who is looking to push Everton onto the next level and LVG’s penchant for developing young talent throughout his managerial career certainly aligns with Everton’s philosophy. Given the large number of talented youngsters they currently have (Ademola Lookman, Tom Davies, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Mason Holgate to name a few) this may not be the worst appointment in the world.

Is van Gaal a bit odd? Yes, he’s pretty nuts. Would he be hungry to prove everyone in England wrong? Yes, he would be. Are Everton a team which has hit rock bottom and can easily improve in the coming months? Yes, that’s true. The lack of current candidates for the job do suggest that Everton’s expectations are perhaps a lot higher than their currently playing squad (assembled by LVG’s nemesis Ronald Koeman) can achieve.

Given his experience at Ajax, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Man United, plus leading AZ Alkmaar, who had similar expectations to Everton, to a Dutch league title, perhaps the Toffees could do a lot worse than appointing LVG. That may be an unpopular opinion but if Everton can’t get Silva, can they really keep caretaker boss Unsworth in charge for much longer?

Plus, he’s always good value in press conferences and there would be plenty of added intrigue at Everton.

Niasse first-ever PL player to be charged with “deception”

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Oumar Niasse will go down in the history books. Not for a good reason.

[ RECAP: Palace 2-2 Everton

On Tuesday the English Football Association announced that Everton’s striker had succeeded in “successful deception of a match official” when winning a penalty kick for the Toffees at Crystal Palace on Saturday during their 2-2 draw.

In charging Niasse with simulation, he becomes the first-ever Premier League player to be sanctioned under new rules introduced in May.

Players in the lower-tiers of English soccer have already been banned for two games during this season for simulation and Niasse can either accept his automatic two-match ban or appeal the decision.

Niasse went down under minimal contact from Palace’s Scott Dann in the box and won a sixth-minute penalty kick which Leighton Baines scored. Niasse, who came close to joining Palace in the transfer deadline day in the summer, later scored an equalizer to make it 2-2.

The FA had the following to say about the decision to charge Niasse.

 “Incidents which suggest a match official has been deceived by an act of simulation are referred to a panel consisting of one ex-match official, one ex-manager and one ex-player. Each panel member will be asked to review all available video footage independently of one another to determine whether they consider it was an offence of ‘Successful Deception of a Match Official.’ Only in circumstances where the panel are unanimous would the FA issue a charge.”

Niasse did go down very easily and was looking straight towards referee Anthony Taylor for a penalty kick, which he received. If he appeals, it’s unlikely he will win it.

There is no place in the game for simulation and although it won’t get two points back for Crystal Palace, hopefully these bans will stamp it out of the game.

I’m all for more of these bans being dished out to stamp out the problem of simulation.

Premier League vet Kenwyne Jones retires at age 33

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It wasn’t the season that Kenwyne Jones had expected in his first Major League Soccer season, but the veteran Trinidad & Tobago striker had himself quite the career.

[ MORE: Miguel Almiron wins MLS Newcomer of the Year ]

Jones, 33, announced his retirement on Monday after boasting an extensive career in England prior to finishing up his playing with Atlanta United.

Atlanta opted not to renew Jones’ contract with the club after scoring twice in 17 appearances this season for the expansion side.

The Trinidadian posted the following message to supporters on Twitter this afternoon.

Jones spent nine seasons in the Premier League, including stints with Southampton, Stoke City and Sunderland.

Additionally, the forward played for Al Jazira from UAE in 2016 before moving on loan to Central in his native Trinidad prior to his arrival in Atlanta’s debut MLS season.