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January transfer window: Grades for each Premier League club

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How did each Premier League fare in the January transfer window?

[ MORE: Latest January transfer news ]  

Let’s just say some did remarkably better than others…

Below is a grade and a brief assessment for each PL club based on their transactions in the transfer window after it slammed shut on Jan. 31.

Time will tell who did the best business, but here’s our assessment.


Arsenal: C — Gunners didn’t have to do any business and they shipped out a few youngsters such as Zelalem and Akpom on loans. Still, I’m sure Arsenal fans wanted to see one more defender for cover.

Bournemouth: D — The Cherries failed to replace Nathan Ake after he went back to Chelsea and also couldn’t force through a deal for Asmir Begovic. Eddie Howe‘s men looking a little bit suspect in defense now.

Burnley: B+ — A wonderful window for the Clarets as they picked up Joey Barton on a free transfer, plus experienced campaigners Ashley Westwood and Robbie Brady for a combined fee of $22 million. Money well spent as they look set to fight off relegation for the first time ever.

Chelsea: C – The Blues brought back Ake and kept hold of Begovic and Diego Costa, plus they sold Oscar for an astronomical fee. Conte didn’t get the experienced striker he wanted as cover for Costa but that was the only stumbling block. Overall the squad was trimmed significantly and the Costa situation was handled. For now…

Crystal Palace: A – The Eagles finally got what they needed. Patrick Van Aanholt and Mamadou Sakho (on loan) will add plenty of quality to their defense and Serbian midfielder Luka Milivojevic will be an instant starter. Jeffrey Schlupp adds pace and power out wide and Palace should be much tougher to break down. A nice flourish saved their transfer window.

SUNDERLAND, ENGLAND - JANUARY 23: Patrick van Aanholt of Sunderland celebrates scoring his team's first goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Sunderland and A.F.C. Bournemouth at the Stadium of Light on January 23, 2016 in Sunderland, England. (Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)
(Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images)

Everton: B – The Toffees probably could have added one more defender to make it a perfect window but Morgan Schneiderlin was the biggest buy in January at over $29.2 million. Ademola Lookman looks a handful and Koeman got rid of plenty of fringe players in Cleverley, Kone, Niasse, Oviedo, Deulofeu and Gibson. Solid window.

Hull: D – Hard to know how this will go for Hull. They sold Jake Livermore and Robert Snodgrass for big money and Marco Silva has brought in plenty of unfamiliar faces. Evandro, Niasse and Omar Elabdellaoui have already made a big impact, while Ranocchia and N’Diaye have quality pedigree. Did the Tigers really need to sell Snodgrass, their top scorer, now?

Leicester City: D – Not a good window for the Foxes as they gambled on more players based in Europe. Although Wilfried N’Didi looks a good player, can he really help them battle against relegation? They needed more help in defense than they got (they took a gamble on Molla Wague on Deadline Day) and after refusing to let Leonardo Ulloa to leave they now have a player sitting there unwilling to play. 

Liverpool: C – Jurgen Klopp should have moved for a central defender in the window but there was a lack of quality out there in January. No incomings at all tells us that Klopp is happy with his squad. They are in the top four mix and have trimmed their squad accordingly.

Manchester City: C – Another big club which didn’t really do anything. Gabriel Jesus finally joined but that deal was done in the summer. Surely Pep Guardiola had to buy some new defenders in January? If he had done, they could have kicked on and mounted a title challenge. Now it’s all about the top four or bust.

Manchester United: C – See above. United didn’t really need much in January and managed to move on some of their fringe players such as Memphis and Schneiderlin for big money. Job done. Like City and Liverpool, their long-term target remains a top-class center back.

NAPLES, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 17: Manolo Gabbiadini of Napoli in action during the Serie A match between SSC Napoli and Bologna FC at Stadio San Paolo on September 17, 2016 in Naples, Italy. (Photo by Francesco Pecoraro/Getty Images)
(Photo by Francesco Pecoraro/Getty Images)

Middlesbrough: F – A really bad window for Boro. They brought in Gestede, Bamford and Guedioura who are all solid players but they needed extra quality in attack. You can understand why manager Aitor Karanka looks so frustrated at the Riverside. Deals for Snodgrass, Bojan and Jese Rordiguez fell through to compound their misery.

Southampton: B – Saints brought in a talented striker for a club record fee in Manolo Gabbiadini, but they didn’t add the center back they wanted after letting Jose Fonte leave. Claude Puel can be happy with his squad who now don’t have a plethora of games to deal with. Holding on to Virgil Van Dijk, for now, is massive for their chances of winning the EFL Cup and finishing in the top 10.

Stoke City: B – A pretty decent window for the Potters as Saido Berahino finally arrived from West Brom to give them the forward presence they needed. They also added Lee Grant on a permanent deal. Bojan went out and Mark Hughes did a little bit of trimming.

Sunderland: F – It turned in to a bit of a nightmare window for the Black Cats. It’s obvious David Moyes didn’t have much money to spend and he’s lent on his old clubs to bring in Gibson, Oviedo and Lescott. Losing Van Aanholt was a blow and Sunderland really need to spend big on strikers to help Jermain Defoe. A potentially fatal decision not to strengthen this month with relegation looming.

Swansea City: B – Really good window for the Swans who have have added four key starters in Olsson, Carroll, Narsingh and Ayew. Three wins in four games in January also helps with Paul Clement‘s new-look squad. Keeping hold of key players like Gylfi Sigurdsson and Fernando Llorente was also key.

Tottenham Hotspur: C – Another meh window for a big club. Spurs have had a few defensive injuries but they have cover. With an expensive new stadium to pay for this was always going to be a quiet window.

Watford: B – A decent enough window, especially getting $25 million for Ighalo at the end of it. Cleverley, Zarate and Niang will all contribute right away Walter Mazzarri moved on six players. Tidy.

WEST BROMWICH, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 17: Dimitri Payet of West Ham United during the Premier League match between West Bromwich Albion and West Ham United at The Hawthorns on September 17, 2016 in West Bromwich, England. (Photo by Stephen Pond/Getty Images)
(Photo by Stephen Pond/Getty Images)

West Bromwich Albion: C – Jake Livermore was a surprise buy considering all of the midfielders the Baggies already have. Another striker was high on their list to replace Berahino but they couldn’t quite get Jay Rodriguez.

West Ham United: C – Fonte and Snodgrass came in and Dimitri Payet went out. The latter will be a huge loss but after he refused to play, what more could they do than take the $25 million? Slaven Bilic‘s team have improved since Payet has been out of the team so that’s promising. Adding another striker would have been ideal.

If the 2018 World Cup started today…

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Another international break has passed, with fortunes rising and falling in most of FIFA’s confederations (Africa took a break during the break, having staged AFCON in January).

[ MORE: All World Cup qualifying news ]

Brazil joined hosts Russia as nations to have qualified for the 2018 World Cup, and 30 spots remain. Let’s take the opportunity to project the field for Russia.

In October, we took the projected qualifiers and simulated all the way down to the World Cup final. Germany beat Brazil. Let’s go again. Who will “win” it this time?


QUALIFICATION

We’ll again use actual qualification, as flawed and early as it is in some confederations, to be predict our combatants.

Asia (7 of 10 qualifiers played)
IN: Iran, South Korea, Japan, Saudi Arabia
PLAYOFF: Uzbekistan vs. Australia

PROJECTION: While Uzbekistan has been better in terms of overall form, Australia’s experience boosts it into a match-up with the USMNT.

Africa (2 of 6 qualifiers played)
IN: DR Congo, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, Egypt

CONCACAF (4 of 10 qualifiers played)
IN: Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama
PLAYOFF: United States

(AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco)

South America (14 of 18 qualifiers played)
IN: Brazil, Colombia, Uruguay, Chile
PLAYOFF: Argentina

Oceania (4 of 6 qualifiers played)
PLAYOFF: New Zealand vs. Tahiti

UEFA (5 of 10 qualifiers played)
IN: France, Switzerland, Germany, Serbia, Poland, England, Spain, Belgium, Croatia
UEFA PLAYOFFS: Sweden, Portugal, Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland, Slovakia, Italy, Greece, Iceland

SIMULATED PLAYOFFS (random draw):
Sweden vs. Iceland — Sweden wins
Portugal vs. Republic of Ireland — Portugal wins
Northern Ireland vs. Slovakia — Slovakia wins
Italy vs. Greece — Italy wins

Intercontinental playoffs:

Australia vs. United States — USMNT wins
Argentina vs. New Zealand — Argentina wins


FIELD (FIFA Rankings)

  1. Russia (hosts, 60)
  2. Argentina (1)
  3. Brazil (2)
  4. Germany (3)
  5. Chile (4)
  6. Belgium (5)
  7. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)

    France (6)

  8. Colombia (7)
  9. Portugal (8)
  10. Uruguay (9)
  11. Spain (10)
  12. Switzerland (11)
  13. Poland (12)
  14. England (13)
  15. Italy (15)
  16. Croatia (16)
  17. Mexico (17)
  18. Costa Rica (19)
  19. Egypt (20)
  20. Slovakia (25)
  21. USA (30)
  22. Iran (33)
  23. Burkina Faso (36)
  24.  (Photo by Richard Huggard/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

    DR Congo (38)

  25. South Korea (40)
  26. Nigeria (41)
  27. Sweden (45)
  28. Ivory Coast (47)
  29. Japan (51)
  30. Serbia (52)
  31. Panama (53)
  32. Saudi Arabia (57)

THE POTS

The 10 European qualifiers mean two will have to join Pot 2. Our random selections were… Croatia and Spain.

Pot 1 (seeds): Russia, Argentina, Brazil, Germany, Chile, Belgium, France, Colombia, Brazil

Pot 2 (CAF, CONMEBOL, UEFA): DR Congo, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, Egypt, Uruguay, Croatia, Spain

Pot 3 (AFC & CONCACAF): Iran, South Korea, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama, USMNT

Pot 4: (UEFA): Sweden, Slovakia, Italy, Switzerland, Serbia, Poland, England, Portugal


THE DRAW

Group A: Russia, DR Congo, Saudi Arabia, Sweden
Group B: Chile, Croatia, Mexico, Portugal
Group C: Brazil, Nigeria, Panama, Switzerland
Group D: Germany, Burkina Faso, Costa Rica, Poland
Group E: Argentina, Spain, Japan, Slovakia
Group F: France, Ivory Coast, South Korea, Italy
Group G: Belgium, Uruguay, USMNT, England
Group H: Colombia, Egypt, Iran, Serbia

So… should we play it out? We’ll try to throw in some upsets and not just go with the chalk.

Round of 16
Mexico (B2) def. Russia (A1)
Brazil (C1) def. Poland (D2)
Spain (E1) def. Italy (F2)
Belgium (G1) def. Egypt (H2)
Portugal (B1) def. DR Congo (A2)
Germany (D1) def. Nigeria (C2)
France (F1) def. Argentina (G2)
Colombia (H1) def. England (G2)

Quarterfinals
Brazil def. Mexico
Spain def. Belgium
Germany def. Portugal
France def. Colombia

Semifinals
Brazil def. Spain
France def. Germany

Final
Brazil def. France

Dempsey leads way for MLS players during Cup qualifying

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The latest round of World Cup qualifying saw a major increase in the number of players from MLS called in for their national teams.

A number of those decisions paid off for their countries, perhaps no one more than Clint Dempsey.

A few months ago, Dempsey wasn’t even in consideration for the U.S. after missing the latter half of last season because of a heart issue. But the Seattle Sounders forward scored four times in two matches as the U.S. gathered four critical points in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying.

[ WATCH: Schweinsteiger asked if Chicago can win World Cup ]

Dempsey was part of an influx of MLS players contributing during the latest round of qualifying for next year’s World Cup in Russia.

In all, MLS had 55 players called in for qualifying in CONCACAF, CONEMBOL (South America) and UEFA (Europe) competitions. Last September, the league saw 58 players called in to their national teams, but there were more countries still alive in qualification at that time. The 55 players selected this time was an increase of 16 from the last round of qualifying matches in November, and 40 of the 55 saw action during the two days of competition in the past week representing 12 countries.

In the three CONCACAF games last Friday, 29 of the 84 players to see the field were from MLS. That outpaced LigaMX, which had 17 players among the 84 used in the three matches.

Dempsey wasn’t the only MLS player coming up big for his country. Minnesota midfielder Kevin Molino had the only goal for Trinidad and Tobago in its 1-0 win over Panama. The Vancouver duo of Christian Bolanos and Kendall Waston teamed for the only goal in Costa Rica’s 1-1 draw with Honduras.

But not all went well for MLS players during qualifying.

Young Atlanta star Josef Martinez injured his left leg during the second half of Venezuela’s 2-2 draw with Peru in CONEMBOL qualifying. Martinez returned to Atlanta and an MRI revealed a left quadriceps injury that will keep the MLS leader in goals scored out for four to six weeks. Martinez had five goals in Atlanta’s first three games.

U.S. midfielder Sebastian Lletget was forced off early in the match against Honduras but not before scoring the opening goal for the Americans. Los Angeles announced Tuesday that Lletget suffered a Lisfranc injury that will require surgery and he will be sidelined for four to six months.

[ MORE: BWP a DP; Nephew called up to England U16 ]

MATCH OF THE WEEK: The club that set the bar for expansion debuts faces the newcomer looking to topple that standard.

The Seattle Sounders will host Atlanta United on Friday night. It’s the only regular-season matchup between the two sides, but there’s more than just the competition on the field.

Seattle’s expansion season of 2009 was regarded throughout the sports industry as arguably the best franchise launch ever, not just in MLS. Between ticket sales and fan engagement, Seattle’s start could not have gone better.

Atlanta might be setting a new standard. Atlanta drew more than 55,000 for its first match and more than 45,000 for its second home game, a win over Chicago. Atlanta seems to be following significant parts of Seattle’s blueprint, down to having an influential NFL owner highly involved from the start.

As for the on-field product, the validity of Atlanta’s promising start will be tested over the next month with four straight road matches.

“It’s definitely still an expansion team,” Atlanta defender Michael Parkhurst said. “We’ve got our bumps and bruises along the way. Off the field, everyone’s still trying to get sorted and situated to the new city.”

BEST OF THE REST: Toronto finally gets to come home after opening the season with three straight road games. The Reds will host Sporting KC on Friday night. The trade-off for opening the season on the road is that Toronto gets five of its next six league matches at home and was able to get five points out of those three road contests to start.

Also of note will be what kind of lineup Vancouver rolls out on Saturday night against Los Angeles. The Whitecaps play in the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals four days later.

BACK ON THE BENCH: Real Salt Lake introduced Mike Petke as its new head coach Wednesday, less than two weeks after firing Jeff Cassar. Petke was the head coach of the New York Red Bulls for two seasons, including the 2013 season when they won the Supporters’ Shield. After two years out of coaching, Petke signed on to be the head coach of the Real Monarchs, the minor-league club associated with RSL.

OFF TARGET: The other expansion debut this season by Minnesota United is on pace to set records, but not any they want to be associated with. Simply put, Minnesota can’t play defense.

Minnesota allowed at least five goals for the third time in four matches in last week’s 5-2 loss at New England. Minnesota allowed five goals to Portland and six to Atlanta and is on pace to allow more than 150 goals this season.

LAST WORD: “I’ve been very encouraged by what I’ve seen over the last 10 days. It’s going to take some time to piece that team together.” U.S. coach Bruce Arena after the latest round of World Cup qualifying.

Messi explains actions that warranted 4-match ban

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Lionel Messi is set to miss four Argentina matches for something we arguably see every week on TV.

That doesn’t make it okay, but is anyone else scratching their head at the suspension handed down to the world’s best player for verbal abuse of an official?

[ MORE: Barca defends Messi ]

Messi, 29, shouted an obscenity at the linesman in Thursday’s 1-0 win over Chile, and was both banned and served the first match of his ban on Tuesday, as Argentina was beaten 2-0 in Bolivia.

Messi explained his actions Wednesday with the following:

“My expressions were never directed to the referee, they were said to the air,” Messi told La Nacion.

That’s pretty ridiculous, yeah? But I can’t help but feel the four matches are a bit harsh. Hardly a high-level match goes by without seeing a player clearly being derisive toward an offical, and usually lipreading proves it wasn’t G-rated.

Again, I have no problem for setting a standard, as abuse of officials is unnecessary (and even those of us who are serially offenders know it).

But if confederations and leagues want to get serious about cutting it out, this can’t be a one-off suspension; End the group upbraiding of referees during games, the wild gesticulations, so on and so forth.

Bradley Wright-Phillips gets new deal; Nephew called up to England U-16

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It’s been a big 24 hours for the Wright-Phillips family.

Bradley Wright-Phillips signed a new Designated Player deal with the New York Red Bulls, while his nephew has been called up the England U-16 national team.

D’Margio Wright-Phillips is the son of Shawn Wright-Phillips, the former RBNY player currently plying his trade with Phoenix Rising of the USL.

[ WATCH: Schweinsteiger asked if Chicago can win World Cup ]

Of course that will only serve to grow the pride of Arsenal legend Ian Wright, who adopted Bradley and Shaun.

The details:

BWP has signed a new multi-year deal with the Red Bulls which brings the 70-goal man into Designated Player status.

“I’d like to thank Denis, Jesse, and everyone at the club for the opportunity to continue wearing this shirt and playing in front of the best fans in MLS,” said Wright-Phillips. “I am very proud of what has been accomplished in my time here, but my sole focus is on trying to win MLS Cup.”

As for D’Margio, he’s in Manchester City’s academy and obviously taking the right steps toward making it three generations in the Premier League. Both Shaun and Bradley spent time in City’s academy.