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Firing Bradley without a transfer window is baffling

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After firing a manager who didn’t get much of a say in their ill-planned summer transfer window, Swansea City went next level with their man management.

They fired a manager who didn’t get a say in his players at all.

Bob Bradley has been sacked as manager of Swansea City after just 11 matches in charge of the Premier League’s Welsh outfit.

Eleven matches.

[ EXCLUSIVE: Bradley issues first statement ]

Swansea seemed forced into keeping Francesco Guidolin after he saved the club from relegation last season. Chairman Huw Jenkins kept the last word in transfers, then let Andre Ayew and Ashley Williams walk without much in the way of proper replacements (Read a take on those errors here).

That was especially true for Williams, the club’s best player last season and a leader in Wales’ surprising run deep into EURO 2016.

Bradley said he was going to “go for it” until the transfer window, and the American did that justice. While Swans defense continued to fail and gave up even more goals, Bradley’s attack doubled its production.

Updating the numbers following Swans’ 4-1 loss to West Ham on Boxing Day, this is the club’s season:

Under Guidolin
1W-1D-5L (.57 points per game)
Goals scored: 6 (.85 per)
Goals allowed: 12 (1.71 per)

Under Bradley
2W-2D-7L (.72 points per game)
Goals scored: 15 (1.36 per)
Goals allowed: 29 (2.63 per)

Guidolin’s feast-or-famine run saw a home loss to Hull City and a home draw vs. Chelsea, and was packed with tough fixtures. Though Bradley’s started with Arsenal, even more short-sighted in terms of giving a coach a good start; Then again, Guidolin was seen by the press in the building just before Bradley was introduced, a bizarre bit of organization.

[ MORE: Pardew fired by Palace

Bradley’s run degenerated in the second half, at least defensively. Swans held Watford to a 0-0 and went to Everton for 1-1 before outlasting Palace 5-4. Though they’d add a blowout of Sunderland, Swans finished their run with Bradley having allowed three or more goals in five of six, thrice conceding four-plus markers.

Bradley’s firing isn’t an alien decision in the Premier League, where older managers are recycled and new names rarely get anything longer than a short leash.

But with the full acknowledgment that this is an American site, defending Bradley is a lot easier than having Swansea’s back here. After all, Swans fired Garry Monk last December and didn’t hire Guidolin until weeks into the January transfer window.

When you look at clubs who’ve made two bonafide managerial changes in recent seasons, here’s what you find:

Aston Villa (2015-16) — Tim Sherwood –> Remi Garde –> Eric Black
Fulham (2013-14) — Martin Jol –> Rene Meulensteen –> Felix Magath
Newcastle United (2008-09) — Kevin Keegan –> Joe Kinnear –> Alan Shearer
Portsmouth (2008-09) — Harry Redknapp –> Tony Adams –> Paul Hart

Of those four sides, only one carrying an asterisk stayed up: Portsmouth lost Redknapp when Spurs bought him out. Pompey finished seven points clear of the drop.

[ MORE: Liverpool batters Stoke ]

Of course, a team has to be fairly miserable to fire two managers in a season. It helps to be unorganized.

Firing Bradley isn’t a massive surprise given the financial dangers of a relegation campaign, but doing it without giving the boss a single transfer window to fix its miserable back line is shocking. Bradley was pried from another club, Le Havre, and given assurances he’d be able to fix the roster.

Change is almost a given in the Premier League, and Bradley really wasn’t given a chance. It’s easy to say that in retrospect, but hiring a man and not giving him a window to fix what ails Swansea is absolutely shocking. Unless we learn of full-scale dressing room hatred, it’s difficult to apply logic to hiring Bradley and firing him within a couple months.

Bournemouth at home and Crystal Palace away are next, and clearly the short-term thinking from the board is that a “new boss boost” could help them take points from perceived relegation opponents (Nevermind that Bradley oversaw “six-point” wins over Sunderland and Palace, losing to Boro and drawing Watford).

But what comes after that, when the fixtures go Arsenal home, Liverpool away, Southampton home, Man City away? With this back line, is life going to get any better?

If so, and it happens without a full overhaul of the defense, then the egg’s on our face. We’re just not expecting to need any towels.

Follow @NicholasMendola

Mourinho: Midseason international friendlies don’t make sense

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Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United has a big challenge thanks to injuries and a club with far more international participants than the weekend’s Premier League rival.

It has the manager asking, frankly, why the friendlies?

While Phil Jones and Chris Smalling were injured in England training, not the friendly against Germany nor the World Cup qualifier versus Lithuania, Mourinho wonders why the national teams need to play relatively meaningless matches in the middle of club season.

[ MORE: Lamela out for rest of season ]

Mourinho says he is being careful not to be too vocal about his disappointment given that he’ll probably one day need those friendlies as an international boss. From Sky Sports:

“A couple of weeks before the Euros or a couple of weeks before the World Cup makes sense. But mid-season friendly matches mixed with qualification matches, I don’t think that makes sense.

“On top of that the matches are not really big matches so I am not a big fan. But I think one day I will be there so I cannot be very critical.”

Mourinho will be without Jones, Smalling, and Paul Pogba this weekend. He also has several internationals who won’t arrive back at Old Trafford until Thursday. United hosts West Brom on Saturday.

Lamela needs hip surgery, out for rest of Spurs season

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Tottenham Hotspur won’t be getting an Erik Lamela boost any time soon.

The 25-year-old winger will undergo surgery on his ailing hip this Saturday, costing him availability for Spurs’ stretch run and Argentina duty.

[ MORE: RSL hires Petke ]

Lamela has been missing since Oct. 29, and left Spurs lineup with the team unbeaten in the Premier League (5W-4D).

He registered a goal and an assist in PL play, adding a goal and four helpers in the side’s first two rounds of the EFL Cup and two assists in three Champions League matches.

Real Salt Lake introduces Mike Petke as new head coach

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Mike Petke is getting a deserved next kick as an MLS coach.

The New York Red Bulls icon, 41, is taking over at Real Salt Lake, where he had been leading USL side Real Monarchs since December.

“They’re an animal waiting to be released from a cage,” Petke called RSL’s roster.

[ MORE: Zlatan to stay at United?

Petke won better than 41 percent of his matches as RBNY boss, leading the club to the 2013 Supporters’ Shield. This came after 351 matches between Colorado, the Red Bulls/MetroStars, and DC United.

He leaves Real Monarchs with a perfect 1-0 record. Unbeaten!

“The vision that he laid out, along with Craig and Rob, was music to my ears,” Petek said. “They really showed me what was ahead for the RSL organization, and it was an easy thing to be a part of.”

Petke thanked the Monarchs for restoring some of his love for managing, something he said was “kicked out of me”. The Red Bulls shockingly parted ways with Petke in January 2015, moving onto Jesse Marsch.

This is a low risk hire for Real, who gains a respected coach and soccer mind. The optics aren’t great coming so early into the season and so soon after his hiring at Monarchs raised eyebrows.

The hiring comes four days after RSL drew the Red Bulls 0-0 at Red Bull Arena, which is the only disappointment of this whole ordeal: Not getting to see the response at his old home.

Referee leaders want on-field official to see video replays

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LONDON (AP) Antoine Griezmann headed the ball into the net and was in full celebration mode with his France teammates when referee Felix Swayer pinned a finger into his left ear to block out the stadium noise.

[ VIDEO: VAR system used correctly

An assistant in front of a bank of monitors was assessing replays and had some bad news for Griezmann. Swayer was told through his earpiece that a player was offside in the buildup.

The goal was then ruled out, without Swayer seeing a replay. But that won’t necessarily be the case by the time video replays are fully approved to be rolled out across soccer.

For now, the experimental phase is still in full flow but if refereeing leaders get their way officials should always have access to the footage themselves around the field.

“The subjective decisions should be made by the on-field referee because they have got the feel for the game,” Mike Riley, general manager of English refereeing organization, told The Associated Press. “They can put it in the context of everything else. So as part of the process we have got to work out how we can do that as effectively as possible … without interrupting the flow of the game.”

The International Football Association Board, the game’s lawmaking body, is in its second year of trials with various versions of video assistant referees (VAR). Some games, like the France-Spain friendly, do not allow the referee to evaluate incidents and instead by rely on the VAR.

But VAR could end up only ruling on what Riley describes as “decisions of fact,” such as whether a ball was inside or outside the penalty area.

Ultimately, if you are appointing one of the top referees to preside over a major game, that person is seen as ideal for making the big calls, according to IFAB.

“Fundamentally we are told very much by players and coaches they want the referee to be making the most important decisions,” IFAB technical director David Elleray said, referencing England’s top referee. “They don’t know who is in a van out in the car park or 300 miles away in a match center.”

Soccer’s lawmakers only envisage video replays being used to correct game-changing decisions involving four situations: penalties being awarded, red cards, cases of mistaken identity and goals being scored.

That situation arose twice in the Stade de France on Tuesday as France lost 2-0 to Spain. After Griezmann’s goal was disallowed, video replays worked against France again but in Spain’s favor when an incorrect offside call against Gerard Deulofeu was overturned and his goal stood.

Swayer again relied on the information from a colleague benefiting from replays.

“Nicola Rizzoli was appointed to referee the last World Cup final because he is the best referee,” Elleray said. “But if actually the two most important decisions in the match are made by somebody watching a TV screen … the most important person is the man you put behind the TV screen not the man on the field.”

The challenges are how referees are able to view replays without lengthening the delay. For now the technology isn’t satisfactory for officials to use wearable devices and receive footage in real time. That means going to the side of the field to watch incidents with the eyes of thousands of fans in the stands on them. The screens are likely to be on the opposite side to the technical area to avoid coaches being able to surround and harangue the referee.

“Some of our stadiums don’t lend themselves to monitors by the side of the pitch because they are really tight,” said Riley, a former Premier League referee who is now in charge of appointments for games in the world’s richest soccer competition. “Is it right for referees to have to run 30 yards to go and look? Can you get the footage to the referee on the field somehow? All these things have to be explored through the experiment and come out with a solution that works for football.”

Live experiments are taking place in about 20 competitions this year, including the Confederations Cup in Russia in June and July that will serves as a World Cup test event.

Once IFAB adds video replays to the laws of the game, any competition meeting the requirements will be able to use them.

For Riley, permitting replays is “the most significant change in refereeing in the game for generations,” far more significant than the 2012 decision to allow technology that simply determines whether the ball crossed the goal line.

“If you are making such a significant change,” Riley said, “you need to really explore and understand all the potential implications.”

Rob Harris can be followed at http://www.twitter.com/RobHarris and http://www.facebook.com/RobHarrisReports