Premier League club-by-club needs, as transfer deadline looms

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Happy Monday morning to all of you out there. “Why does he sound so chipper?” You may be ask. Well folks, I’ll tell you exactly why.

This time next week the summer transfer window will be slammed shut. No more outlandish transfer rumors, cryptic Tweets and confusing reports leaked by agents, clubs and other outlets…. Well, until, mid-December, early January at least.

This transfer window has had some man sagas since the 2012-13 season finished back on May 19.

But with seven days left to wheel and deal, plenty of clubs will be readying final bids for players as the deadline edges closer. So I thought we’d take look at the specific areas each Premier League squad should strengthen in.

Will all the business be done before 00:01 on Monday September 2? History suggests plenty of deals will go right up to midnight on Sunday. The tension is already building.

A tense week for teams, players, chairman, managers and fans has begun.

Arsenal: Where do we start? Arsene Wenger obviously needs a whole host of names. Their squad has been decimated over the summer, with plenty of players released and no senior players of note arriving. They’re being linked with Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema, who would be a tremendous addition. Arsenal is two quality signings away from pushing on this campaign.

Aston Villa: It seems as though Paul Lambert is going to stick with what he has at Villa Park, and following promising displays against Arsenal and Chelsea and a tough loss to Liverpool, they look okay. However adding extra depth in defense should be a priority.

Cardiff City: After that showing against Manchester City on Sunday, it’s hard to see where Cardiff can improve. Maybe another winger to add to Craig Bellamy would be worthwhile. Other than that the arrival of Andreas Cornelius, Gary Medel and Steven Caulker has developed a new core to their hungry squad.

Chelsea: José Mourinho doesn’t really need to add anyone… but he probably will. Wayne Rooney is the obvious candidate, but will Manchester United sell him to one of their biggest rivals? Apart from that the arrival of Willian this week will add more competition out wide.

source: AP
Will Rooney and Torres be teammates next season?

Crystal Palace: Ian Holloway still needs heavy reinforcements if Palace has any chance of staying up. It’s early in the season but it’s very clear the South Londoners will struggle without signing quality. One new signing in attack, midfield and defense will give them a chance but the Eagles need to splash the cash. Can’t see that happening.

Hull City: A proven goalscorer will be at the top of Steve Bruce’s wish list. Hull are hard to beat and a horrible team to play against. They have plenty of depth in midfield and defense but lack a real difference maker going forward. Can Bruce loan in another gem, like he did by getting Mikael Forssell when he was in charge at Birmingham back in the day, before the deadline?

Everton: Roberto Martinez has already done plenty of business, but we could still see a few of the Wigan old boys popping up at Goodison Park. Callum McManaman and maybe James McCarthy could arrive depending on what happens to Marouane Fellaini.

Fulham: The Cottagers are struggling to find the correct balance in their squad. They have Darren Bent, Dimitar Berbatov, Bryan Ruiz and now Adel Taarabt who are great going forward, but there’s no solidity. How can Martin Jol fit them all in? Don’t expect him to do any business, picking up Scott Parker was a good buy.

Liverpool: The Reds seem to have calmed Luis Suárez’ situation down and reports suggest the Uruguayan may sign a new contract later this week. They maybe need one great wide player, but Rodgers may persist with Iago Aspas out wide or stick Daniel Sturridge out there when Suárez returns.

Manchester City: A new central defender would be handy to have at the Etihad. Both Vincent Kompany and Matija Nastasic have gone done injured and suddenly City look thin at the back. Manuel Pellegrini could move to bring in Pepe from Real Madrid. Do the Citizens need him?

Manchester United: Three new players will ideally be added by David Moyes, another central defender and an attacking midfielder are needed. If Rooney leaves, United are still covered up top with Danny Welbeck and Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez still around. But maybe Moyes will add another forward. Work to do this week.

Newcastle United: Another central defender to boost their options at the back would really suit the Magpies. Steven Taylor has been caught out plenty of times and question marks surround him despite his passion and commitment to the cause. Maybe another top striker too, but Loic Remy should start when he recovers from injury.

Norwich City: Don’t expect Norwich to add any more players. A trio of quality attackers have arrived over the offseason, with Gary Hooper, Ricky van Wolfswinkel and Johan Elmander giving the Canaries strength in-depth up front. They’re set.

source: Getty Images
Will Newcastle add another attacker alongside Remy?

Southampton: Only three new names for the Saints, but they spent over $55 million on Dejan Lovren, Victor Wanyama and Pablo Osvaldo. A new winger with real pace to burn could be the only signing needed for Mauricio Pochettino.

Stoke City: Mark Hughes should add another forward to his ranks. He has Juan Agudelo coming in but that isn’t until January. Peter Crouch is going through a drought, while Jonathan Walters, Kenwyne Jones and Cameron Jerome have hardly been prolific.

Sunderland: Paolo Di Canio has added 11 new faces to his squad and will be content with how they’ve fared so far. May take a few months to gel. Can’t see the Sunderland board releasing more funds until January.

Swansea City: Michael Laudrup’s side has lost two from two but they shouldn’t be concerned. He has no real areas to strengthen and will be happy with his squad as they aim for another top 10 finish.

Tottenham Hotspur: Spurs should bolster their defense with another central defender a priority. Younes Kaboul and Etienne Capoue are backups behind Michael Dawson and Jan Vertonghen. But only young Zeki Fryers is around after those four.

West Bromwich Albion: Steve Clarke may need to invest in another forward, Nicholas Anelka’s sudden departure has left him short up top. Goals will be a problem for the Baggies this season if they don’t add someone this week.

West Ham United: Big Sam has bought well again, with Stewart Downing already looking revitalized out on the wing and Andy Carroll set to return from injury. The Hammers did all their business early.

Hyndman, Hamid seal permanent MLS deals

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Two players who have featured for the U.S. Men’s National Team in the past signed permanent MLS deals on Monday, after spending the all or parts of the 2019 MLS season on loan in the league.

The question is, should we be disappointed? It’s two USMNT-eligible players in their prime who are leaving Europe for regular playing time? Will that playing time get them back in the USMNT picture? Or were their old club teams simply the problem before?

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

It was a return for Bill Hamid, who was a D.C. United homegrown player and arguably the first player on the team sheet between 2009-2017. Hamid actually returned from Europe in 2018 and spent all of the last year and a half on loan from FC Midtjylland in Denmark.

Hyndman on the other hand signed a permanent deal with Atlanta United, after the former MLS Cup champions signed the 23-year-old midfielder on a loan deal from Bournemouth in the Premier League. It was Hyndman’s fourth club in four years – including three loan moves – and perhaps Atlanta is a place he can put down roots and stay for the long term.

Per both D.C. United and Atlanta United, both players signed multi-year deals. D.C. United reportedly even paid a transfer fee for Hamid.

Both players are solid to good players in MLS, and as Americans, they add quality and don’t cost a team an international spot. But for the U.S. Men’s National Team, it’s unclear how this could affect the pair.

On one hand, USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter has shown a preference to certain players he had in the 2019 January camp, including guys like Nick Lima, Paul Arriola and Christian Roldan, even if performances don’t necessarily merit them playing each match. On the other hand, as someone who has played in Germany, and England, Berhalter surely understands the benefits of challenging yourself every few years to play and train at a higher level. It doesn’t have to be Jurgen Klinsmann levels, where every single year they have to step it up, but finding a new way to freshen things up in a tough environment can have positive benefits for everyone, assuming there is playing time.

For Hyndman, who moved to Fulham’s academy in 2011 at the age of 15, it marks the end of seven years in Europe trying to break in. He had decent half-season spells with Hibernian and Rangers in the Scottish Premier Division, but one can argue that Atlanta United is itself on a higher level of play. That being said, Hyndman has clearly decided that regular gametime is best for his development as a player than relocating to the Netherlands, Italy or Germany to play. He wasn’t likely to get any at Bournemouth, even with their current Premier League struggles.

In Hamid’s case, he took a chance on Europe with FC Midtjylland. However, pretty quickly he realized that it wasn’t the right situation for him and within six months, he was back on D.C. United on loan for the next year and a half.

In both cases, there may have been options to continue their European adventures. Whether it was in the Championship or another “mid-major” European league, in the past, two players entering their primes might have tried to stay in Europe a little longer. But the lure of MLS, with a decent salary, less competition for places and the opportunity to play at home in front of family is a strong one, and the national team will have to adjust with it.

 

Would Saul make sense at Man United?

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As Manchester United prepares its roster construction for the future, one player that’s reportedly on the shortlist is Atletico Madrid central midfielder Saul Niguez.

Although originally from Elche, in southeast Spain, Saul has been on the books of Atletico Madrid since 2008 (other than a season on loan with Rayo Vallecano), making his first team debut in 2012 and growing from a scrawny midfielder into an international-calibre box-to-box star for both club and country. Per Diario AS, Man United has been interested in signing Saul before, and now it’s been revived. The report states, “The interest from Manchester is very real, and strong.”

[READ: Arsenal comes back to beat West Ham]

So, what kind of a player is Saul?

As mentioned before, he’s a sturdy, powerful box-to-box midfielder who can win headers defensively and knows how to play well in a Diego “Cholo” Simeone system. At the same time, he’s certainly not afraid to make a late run into the box. Last season he tied a career high with four goals in La Liga and also scored in the UEFA Champions League.

At 25-years old, he’s a hardened veteran player. But is he what Man United needs?

If you look at the current squad at Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s disposal, he’s got quite a few No. 8’s, right? There’s Paul Pogba, Andreas Pereira, and Fred. You can argue Scott McTominay has at times played like an 8, as has Jesse Lingard on occasion. One might argue that what Man United really needs is a better No. 6, someone who can be a destroyer and cover a lot of ground, freeing up that side of the game so Pogba could feel more comfortable attacking.

If Man United were to sign Saul in January – or next summer – we could potentially see him line up in a midfield three, though he’d be center right with Pogba to his left. Behind the pair would be McTominay to clean up the messes.

On paper, it’s a decent midfield for sure, but it’s just one step on Man United’s path towards becoming a team that can challenge for the Premier League and Champions League.

Of course, this is all theoretical. Saul carries a $166 million transfer release clause, and for the player he is, considering he doesn’t score many goals and affects the game in little ways, it’s a lot to spend for a guy who isn’t a guarantee to improve his team enough to make it back to the Champions League.

But if Man United was able to negotiate a better transfer fee for Niguez, they could do worse than a talented midfielder from Atletico Madrid. The question then will be – is Saul a system player (only successful under Simeone), or can he find success in the Premier League too?

USWNT’s Rapinoe named SI Sportswoman of the Year

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In 2019, Megan Rapinoe won a World Cup title, Golden Ball, Golden Boot, FIFA World Cup MVP, and the Ballon d’Or. Now, she can add her name to another distinguished list.

Sports Illustrated on Monday revealed that Rapinoe had been named SI’s 2019 Sportsperson of the Year. She’s the first individual soccer player from any gender to win the award, and she follows the 1999 U.S. Women’s National Team as the second USWNT-related athlete to garner the award.

[READ: Rapinoe wins 2019 Ballon d’Or]

Other notable winners of this award are Serena Williams, LeBron James, the Golden State Warriors, Michael Jordan, and Muhammad Ali.

“Even in a year with many great candidates, choosing Megan as the Sportsperson of the Year was an easy decision,” Steve Cannella, co-editor-in-chief of Sports Illustrated said in a statement released by the magazine. “She is a force of nature on and off the field, a trailblazing soccer player who also proves every day how large and loud a voice a socially conscious athlete can have in 2019.”

Rapinoe has had about as good of a year as a player can have, and she did it under enormous pressure. She withstood verbal and online taunts from the U.S. president for her noted opposition against his political decisions, as well as dealt with injuries during the tournament. Even if she wasn’t always at her best on the field, she found a way to score key goals at important moments.

Every Women’s World Cup seems to raise the profile of the USWNT and soccer in this country, but beyond her work on the field, Rapinoe’s hair, media savvy and ultimately, her performance won over any critic she could have. What she’s done for soccer in this country is immeasurable, and hopefully there are people that have a desire to keep watching the beautiful game after the World Cup, thanks in some part to Rapinoe.

Rapinoe will grace the cover of Sports Illustrated for the Dec. 16 issue.

Ljungberg on Pepe: He ‘showed his quality’

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Arsene Wenger used to say that players needed around six months once they came to the Premier League to get adjusted to both living in England and getting acclimated to the pace and physicality of the league.

For Nicolas Pepe, it was advice well heeded.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Offensively, Pepe was outstanding as he scored a goal and an assist in Arsenal’s 3-1 win over West Ham. At the same time, Pepe worked hard on the defensive end, making life difficult for West Ham left back Aaron Cresswell and anyone down West Ham’s right flank.

On Monday, Pepe showed that he was worth his $87 million transfer fee, and he only needs a yard of space to create something magical.

“People always ask me about Nico and I try to explain,” Ljungberg after the game. “He comes from the French league, he comes to the Premier League – in my opinion the best league in the world – and it’s a lot faster and a lot harder. He needs to adapt. People put pressure on him but that’s not so easy, and I thought what he did today was he worked really hard offensively and defensively and showed his quality.

“I’m so pleased for him because at the same time he was a big, big buy for the club and then comes pressure with that as well. He will fall asleep with a smile tonight.”

In the 66th minute, Pepe found himself isolated on the wing with just Cresswell to beat. After cutting inside, Pepe curled home a beauty which ended up being the game-winning-goal. It was just his second Premier League goal of the season and his first from open play. Perhaps now after five months of bedding in at Arsenal, Pepe is ready to shine.

There’s no doubt that with Arsenal’s defensive issues, they need their attacking stars to score in bunches from here on out. If Pepe can finish the season with ten goals and ten assists, it will be a wild success, and set him up well for the next season.