Diego Lugano

Arsenal defender Mathieu Debuchy out for three months

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Bad news arrived regarding Arsenal’s French international defender Mathieu Debuchy, as the Gunners will be without their first-choice right back for over three months.

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Debuchy, 29, joined Arsenal from Newcastle United for $19.6 million this summer but fell awkwardly on his left ankle during the 2-2 draw with Manchester City and has since undergone surgery.

Speaking about Debuchy’s lengthy time on the sidelines, here’s what Wenger had to say.

“He has had surgery and will be out for three months,” Wenger said. “A reasonable delay is three months. It all went well, but it can be a week or two earlier or a week or two later, but it will be around three months. It is a blow of course, how big it will be we will only know afterwards because it will be down to how well we replace him. We bought [Calum] Chambers for that.”

Wenger has been criticized by many for not buying defenders over the summer and that may now be justified as Arsenal will rely on 19-year-old Chambers at right back, with no other experienced defender to back up Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny between now and January. Fellow 19-year-old defender Hector Bellerin came in to make his debut for Arsenal in the Champions League clash away at Borussia Dortmund last week but looks raw as the Gunners overloaded in attack during the summer.

Reports last week suggested that free agents Diego Lugano and Joseph Yobo may be signed as cover, as Wenger may now be ruing the decision to let Thomas Vermaelen leave for Barcelona during the transfer window.

Debuchy had a bright start to his Arsenal career after playing well at the World Cup but his injury now hands the Gunners a serious selection headache.

Arsenal linked with three free agents, as defensive woes continue

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With the transfer window shut until January 2015, Premier League side Arsenal are still scrambling to bring new players in.

According to reports from the Daily Mail, the Gunners are eyeing plenty of free agents, with three names in particular mentioned.

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Former Arsenal, Chelsea and Real Madrid midfielder Lassana Diarra is the top target on the list as he is currently free to leave Russian Premier League side Lokomotiv Moscow after a contract dispute. In defense Arsenal are also looking at Joseph Yobo and Diego Lugano to provide cover, as both veterans played in the Premier League for Norwich and West Bromwich Albion last season.

Arsene Wenger brought in Matheiu Debuchy, Calum Chambers, Alexis Sanchez, Danny Welbeck and David Ospina over the summer, but with Debuchy suffering a serious knee injury last weekend against Manchester City, plus injuries to Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny early in the campaign, the Gunners are looking threadbare at the back.

They can probably get by with Chambers at right back, then Mertesacker, Koscielny in the center with Kieran Gibbs on the left. However, the one area where they continue to struggle is in the holding midfield role. In their midweek defeat to Borussia Dortmund in the UEFA Champions League, Arsenal were overrun in the engine room and someone like Diarra playing in the “Claude Makelele” role is exactly what they need. The balance of the midfield just doesn’t seem right, but Diarra’s addition would give the likes of Jack Wilshere and Aarom Ramsey the chance to maraud forward at every opportunity.

Yobo and Lugano are both international players with vast experience and have captained their nations and played at World Cups. They have bags of experience and at this stage of their career they could provide an interesting back up choice in and are certainly a cheaper option to help shore up Wenger’s defense.

Let’s see how this all plays out, but Arsenal definitely need some reinforcements as Wenger’s inability to bring in more defensive cover over the summer has come back to bite him just a month into the season.

Premier League 2014-15 preview: West Bromwich Albion

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New new new new new.

There’s tons of new players and a new manager for West Brom as they look to improve on last year’s near-miss at the bottom of the table.

Things are looking bleak for the Baggies, and while there’s plenty in the mix that could surprise the Premier League, but chances are the ingredients aren’t going to bake a tasty cake.

Instead, the chances are likely to have West Brom near the bottom of the table again, for the same general reasons, although the personnel may be different.

[Related: Full PL season preview]

Transfers in: Craig Gardner (Sunderland), Jolean Lescott (Manchester City), Chris Baird (Burnley), Sebastien Pocognoli (Hannover), Brown Ideye (Dynamo Kiev), Andrew Wisdom (Liverpool – loan).

Transfers out: Liam Ridgewell (Portland Timbers), Billy Jones (Sunderland), Steven Reid (Burnley), Cameron Gayle (Shrewsbury Town), George Thorne (Derby County), Diego Lugano (unattached), Zoltan Gera (unattached), Nicolas Anelka (unattached), Scott Allen (unattached).

Full PL schedule | Watch West Brom live via Live Extra | BPL on NBC schedule |

Last season: West Brom struggled down the stretch, saving their Premier League status by the hair on their chinny chin chin. Three points separated the Baggies from the Championship.  They went through two managers last year, parting ways with both Steve Clarke and Pepe Mel, with Keith Downing in between.  They looked toothless going forward – their leading scorer had just five goals – and struggled to stay consistently competitive.

Star Player: Stephane Sessegnon

Joint leading scorer in last year’s struggle of a season, Sessegnon is an above-average player on a below-average squad. That’s about all West Brom has at this point. They dumped full-season fixtures like Diego Lugano and Zoltan Gera in the offseason, and added squad players like Jolean Lescott, Chris Baird, and an expensive left-back. Sessegnon is the creative “force” up front, and that will have to do for the Baggies.

Coach’s Corner: Alan Irvine

A surprise appointment to say the least, Irvine’s former jobs include the manager at Preston North End, Sheffield Wednesday and Everton’s youth system. Wednesday was relegated to League One under his watch, and and didn’t make it past February in the lower division.

The club reportedly asked Tim Sherwood to take the job but he turned it down, leading many to believe the job was an undesirable one. The club insisted Irvine was their first choice, but that’s just plain hard to believe. The 56-year-old is very green, and it will be interesting to see how he handles a Premier League job, and likely a relegation battle.

PST Predicts: As you probably guessed, West Brom fans are in for a nervy campaign.  Like Fulham before them, West Brom brought in a number of free transfers and aging players, and don’t have a large amount of cohesiveness preserved from last year. A new manager as well, things are looking to be a recipe for disaster.  With both Robbies on NBC’s Premier League preview show predicting West Brom to go down, it’s a likely bet.

FIFA, players union agree Suarez needs “treatment” while Uruguay backs its striker

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Both FIFA and the player’s union FIFPro have released separate statements claiming Luis Suarez needs help, albeit in a pair of different manners.

The football governing body, via secretary general Jerome Valcke, said Suarez’s bite incident of Giorgio Chiellini was “unacceptable.”

“I think he should find a way to stop doing it – he should go through a treatment,” Valcke said.

Valcke’s never been known for his suave nature or eloquent English.

FIFPro went about things a little more tactfully, releasing a statement saying, “Luis Suarez should receive all the support he needs to deal with any off-field issues he may be experiencing at this time,” the union said, adding that “treatment must be a part of any sanction,” indicating FIFA was in charge of making sure Suarez receives the help he needs.

The Uruguayan striker was suspended for nine international matches plus four months of all football-related activities following the incident with Chiellini, his third biting incident on the field.

Meanwhile, the Uruguayan team has rallied around Suarez, blaming just about everyone on planet Earth aside from the man who bit Chiellini.

Coach Oscar Tabarez resigned from the FIFA technical committee, claiming Suarez was being labeled an international “scapegoat” in a marathon 13-minute prepared speech.

“I had a position and I must leave that position. It was not was or prudent to be in an organization with people who exerted pressure and rendered the punishment, who managed criteria and values that are different to the ones I have.”

Tabarez continued Suarez’s attack of the English media, an opinion Suarez vehemently maintained after the incident with Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic. “This decision is much more focused on the opinions of the media,” Tabarez said. “The media that attacked immediately after the match, and in the press conference, journalists only took that topic.”

Uruguay captain Diego Lugano agreed with his manager. “What incident?” Lugano asked in a press conference yesterday. “The footage doesn’t show anything, you can speculate from it but it’s nothing important. It appears that the English press keep coming back to this situation, I can’t find any other explanation, but I am happy with yesterday’s win.”

Uruguayan president took a more simplistic approach. “We didn’t choose him to be a philosopher, or a mechanic, or to have good manners – he’s a great player,” said Jose Mujica.

Eric Wynalda: Luis Suarez has the ‘mental capacity of a six year old’

10 players with rising stock after World Cup group stage

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Earlier, we ran through our Top 10 players who have taken the 2014 World Cup by storm.

However, many of those players are already thought of as world-class or otherwise well-known throughout the sport of soccer.

There are plenty of players throughout the group stage that have taken advantage of the global stage to send their stock skyrocketing, many of whom were already playing well for clubs but didn’t have the exposure they deserved.

1. Daley Blind, Netherlands

Ajax winger and son of Dutch great Danny Blind, 24-year-old Daley has been a force in the Netherlands attack. In the demolition of Spain, he burst onto the scene, assisting goals twice with brilliant crosses into the box and completed 36/41 passes (88%).

As many thought he’d played the game of his life, he followed that up with a 42-of-44 passing performance, picking up another assist and two chances created,

source: AP
Young Divock Origi is rumored to be on Liverpool’s wish list after impressing for Belgium.

He’s a solid defender as well, completing 16 of his 19 attempted tackles in this tournament.  He can play at either left-back or in the midfield, Blind has been the Dutch’s best option on their deadly counter-attack, and is sure to get interest from clubs in bigger leagues.

2. Divock Origi, Belgium

With Romelu Lukaku struggling to prove his worth at the head of Belgium’s attack, a young kid has filled the void.

19-year-old Divock Origi – only in the squad because of the injury to Christian Benteke – bagged the winner against Russia as the Belgians looked otherwise listless in front of goal.

All three matches, Marc Wilmots has brought Origi in soon after halftime (15 minutes at most), twice for Lukaku, and all three he’s had an impact.  He’s won take-ons in the box, completed plenty of attacking-third passes, and oh yea, a winning goal.

Thanks to his performance so far, the English papers are already ablaze with rumors linking him with a move to Liverpool.

[ MORE: World Cup news, analysis from Soccerly.com]

3. Matt Besler, United States

The USMNT central defender has been one of the best and most unheralded at the 2014 World Cup. His man-marking has been near-perfect, all more important as those around him such as Geoff Cameron fail to impress in that department.

Besler has also been a clearance machine, including a 12-for-12 performance against Portugal when nobody on the US had more than five.  He threw his body on the line in that match as well, making a last-gasp interception that nearly knocked him out with yet another hamstring injury, but he fought on instead.

Word now has it that the Sporting KC defender’s performances against some quality World Cup teams have put him on the map for a job in Europe.

4. Serge Aurier, Ivory Coast

The old guard of Ivory Coast is headed home after they couldn’t put themselves past Greece in its final group stage match. But just because a team is eliminated doesn’t mean everyone played poorly.

21-year-old Toulouse wing-back Serge Aurier stood out for Côte d’Ivoire, producing a beautiful combination of solid defense, creative passing, and pinpoint crossing.  He was especially bright in their opening 2-1 win over Japan, bombing down the right all match, assisting both Ivory Coast goals as well as intercepting a game-high six Japanese pass attempts.

If there’s any knock on his play in Brazil, it’s that he could do with some decaf, occasionally letting adrenaline get the best of him after a bright attack and blasting a cross well over the head of its intended target.  But it’s safe to say Aurier has put himself on the map, and rumor has it Arsene Wenger was impressed by the young defender.

Also interesting, Aurier is fast. Like, really, really fast. As in, fastest player at the World Cup fast.

5. Jose Gimenez, Uruguay

When captain Diego Lugano went down, some lamented his loss, but 19-year-old Jose Maria Gimenez has made people forget the injury and remember the kid’s name.  He’s the latest to excel in a three-at-the-back system, which has burst onto the scene in Brazil.

His passing numbers are less than impressive, which is a red flag for many central defenders, but his defensive tallies have been superb.  He was outstanding in the clean sheet against Italy, and he will be absolutely necessary if Uruguay is to advance now without the presence of Luis Suarez in its attack.

source: AP
Enner Valencia was a menace to opposition defenses, and with better service he could do damage at the club level.

6. Enner Valencia, Ecuador

Few outside the Americas knew who Enner Valencia was or what he could bring to the table.  After scoring bags of goals for Pachuca in Liga MX, Valencia has translated his form straight to Brazil and while his country is going home without a knockout stage berth, Valencia will be sure to have a busy summer.

Three World Cup goals in three games is a great number for a relative unknown, and while links to Arsenal might be quite a stretch, there’s no doubt the bright and energetic 25-year-old will get looks going forward.

7. Ahmed Musa, Nigeria

Nigeria surprised many as they progressed into the knockout stage over favorites Bosnia & Herzegovina and a bright Iran side.  At the heart of their advancement was 21-year-old winger Ahmed Musa.

After looking listless against the United States in their final warmup before the World Cup, Musa has turned on the jets, outplaying Victor Moses so much that coach Stephen Keshi benched the Liverpool winger for their group stage finale against Argentina – Musa responded by scoring twice and nearly securing a shock result against the South American favorites.

In an attack that relies on multiple players taking turns finding openings in the attacking third, Musa has been Nigeria’s most consistent performer up front and will likely find himself in more dangerous openings come the knockout round.  He may be 21, but he’s got 40 caps already, a staggering amount of experience for someone so young.

8. Memphis Depay, Netherlands

We first got a glimpse of Depay as a halftime substitute in the Netherlands’ second match against Australia. Defender Bruno Martins Indi went down under a challenge from Tim Cahill, and on came the 20-year-old PSV midfielder.  All he did was assist a goal and score another – the winner.

Depay was dangerous both centrally and out wide, and when he also got 20 minutes at the end of the Dutch victory over Chile, he found time to complete a trio of take-ons that led to a pair of chances on net, and he scored again.

source: Getty Images
Costa Rica’s Celso Borges (right) is a key component to the CONCACAF side’s midfield structure.

For having only logged 65 minutes across two matches so far, he is a valuable asset off the bench for the Dutch and will be a key part of their team going forward.  He may even find himself on the right end of a phone call or two from a coach in a top-four league.

9. Celso Borges, Costa Rica

“Why would anyone in the world of football consider playing the best teams on the planet to be a bad thing?” Those were the words of Borges after Costa Rica shocked the world and not just escaped but won arguably the most difficult group in the World Cup.

The 26-year-old midfielder has been a steady yet important presence in the midfield of Los Ticos.  In their statement 1-0 win over Italy, it’s arguable that Borges out-Pirlo’d Andrea Pirlo himself.  A maestro in the midfield, Borges was 45-of-50 passing, leading Costa Rica’s build from the back.

It was the same story five days earlier against Uruguay, as Borges completed 41-of-49 passes in the midfield and created a pair of chances for Costa Rica.  He’s also a force in the air, as any good holding midfielder is.

Joel Campbell might get much of the praise for Costa Rica as they look to take the 2014 World Cup by storm, but Borges is the man pulling the strings, and many more are sure to take note.

10. Mathew Leckie, Australia

source: Getty Images
Daley Blind (left) and Mathew Leckie are two youngsters who could make moves following an impressive group stage.

Australia impressed in their very difficult Group B draw. Although they failed to secure a single point, they put the pressure on all three of their opponents, and the 23-year-old winger Mathew Leckie was at the heart of that pressure.

Having risen meteorically onto the Australian international scene thanks to the appointment of new coach Ange Postecoglou, Leckie was a hard-worker all over the pitch not afraid to take opponents on when he had the ball.

He failed with just three of 26 passes and created a pair of chances as the Socceroos nearly shocked the Netherlands, and was equally as effective a few days earlier against Chile.  He finished in the top two in take-ons in both those matches.

Currently playing in the 2. Bundesliga (Germany’s second division), Leckie will surely get some hard looks from teams above thanks to his performance in the World Cup.