Forward overload: Sermanni tasked with managing four world-class US women’s national team strikers

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Abby Wambach, Alex Morgan, Sydney Leroux and Christen Press have combined to score 30 of the United States women’s national team’s 47 goals this year. All four are world-class forwards, but for the most part only two of the players are on the field at the same time.

Sunday’s 4-0 win over Australia, in fact, marked the first time that Wambach, Morgan and Leroux all started in the same match, despite all being national team regulars – a sign of coach Tom Sermanni’s dilemma. it’s a good problem to have, to be clear.

“It’s more of a management thing for me rather than to be concerned about who is going to score goals today,” Sermanni said. “It’s a slightly different problem than most teams (have).”

Sermanni has the U.S. playing in a 4-4-2, with a quartet of forwards who could start for almost any team in the world. And his best solution it seems is to keep two of them on the field, with the other two ready to step in at any moment — and not necessarily at forward.

A 4-3-3 could be a solution, but Sermanni says all four of Leroux, Morgan, Press and Wambach are best in central positions. And the U.S. women are equally deep in the midfield, with talent centrally and on the flanks.

“If you’ve got three up top, I don’t think that the balance of our strikers, in general, is a three up top scenario,” he said. “I think that what is better when you’ve got a major central striker – which we obviously do have – and two players who are more comfortable in wider roles, we tend to have strikers, in general, who are more comfortable in central roles, and then we have very good wide midfield players.”

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Alex Morgan’s skill is well known, but the U.S. has more world-class forwards than can fit on the field at once. (Getty Images)

Those wide players include mainstays Megan Rapinoe, Tobin Heath and Heather O’Reilly, who are equally necessary on the pitch. The United States’ midfield is crowded, too, with young group of up-and-coming players to join the three aforementioned, plus Lauren Holiday and Carli Lloyd centrally.

Sermanni did start Leroux out wide on Sunday and played Press there when she entered the game for Leroux in the 57th minute. Leroux played okay there given the short amount of preparation for the role, Sermanni said, but it wasn’t any indication that she’ll be converted to a wide player..

“I put her out there because I think she deserved to start in the team given the squad that we had and the way she’s been training and playing,” Sermanni said. “When she does play up front she can drift out to the left side so she’s not uncomfortable over there and she did play a couple of times on that side for the Boston Breakers. It’s not the perfect role for her, but under the circumstance, it was the best fit for the team in this game.”

Press has seen time on the wing with the U.S. throughout the year, and said she’s willing to adapt to whatever Sermanni asks of her. Whether it’s up top or as a wide midfielder, whether starting or in reserve, her goal is the same as the rest of the group’s: To be in Canada in 2015, and to help the U.S. lift its first World Cup in 16 years.

There is time for Sermanni to figure out how to best use his star strikers. How he manages their minutes and roles at the 2015 World Cup could look similar to how he is doing it now: Use Leroux or Press on the wing in a pinch, but primarily look to them as a spark in the second half.

The last thing any defender wants to see midway through the second half, after chasing around Alex Morgan and keeping track of Abby Wambach all game, are the speedy, dangerous Leroux and Press standing at midfield, waiting to enter the match. And 18 months from now, there’s nothing to say that the roles might even be different. Any combination of the four in any role is intimidating and productive.

“I think that every team you play for, you have to change,” Press said from San Antonio on Monday after U.S. training. “As I’ve become a more veteran player – not that I’m a veteran player – but I’ve learned that I played for three teams in the last three years and every time I’ve had a different role. If I’m asked to change again, that’s something I can do and I’ll do willingly.”

Report: Man United’s list of possible new strikers revealed

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A list of possible new strikers for Manchester United has been revealed and it includes players you probably weren’t expecting to suit up for the Red Devils.

According to our partners Sky Sports in the UK, forwards Odion Ighalo and Islam Slimani are possible loan options for United this month.

With Marcus Rashford out injured until March, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer needs to bolster his forward line with only Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood as center forwards.

But Ighalo and Slimani I hear you cry…

Well, in short, both are available and both would obviously be very willing to move to Man United on a short-term basis to put themselves in the shop window for either a permanent move or to give themselves another crack at the Premier League for next season.

Ighalo, 30, is currently playing for Shanghai Shenhua in China and the forward Watford forward has been pushing for a move back to England for some time. It seems that the Nigerian international (who scored 39 goals in 99 appearances for the Hornets in two-and-a-half seasons from 2014) is linked with a PL move each and every window.

As for Slimani, 31, the Algerian striker cost Leicester City $35 million in 2016 but has been out on loan to Newcastle, Fenerbache and most recently Monaco as things just haven’t worked out for him with the Foxes. Slimani has been playing well in France so far this season, scoring seven goals in 13 Ligue 1 games for Monaco, and like Ighalo he is a target man who can hold the ball up and bring others into play. That would be perfect for United’s fast wingers and both men would be good short-term loan options.

With other forwards such as Edinson Cavani, Fernando Llorente and even Carlos Tevez mentioned as short term options, the deals for Ighalo and Slimani seem more realistic if not slightly uninspiring. With the move for Bruno Fernandes stalling as United are $14 million off Sporting Lisbon’s asking price plus youngster Jude Bellingham a target but one for the future, their attack needs immediate help to try and stay in the top four hunt in the final months of the season.

Desperate times call for desperate measures and Solskjaer has revealed United are pushing hard to complete one or two deals before the January transfer window shuts next Friday, Jan. 31.

Nobody would have speculated that Slimani and/or Ighalo would be the deals United are trying to make happen.

Chelsea issue update on Abraham injury, striker search

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Chelsea boss Frank Lampard has issued an update on Tammy Abraham‘s ankle injury and has also been talking about their search for a new striker.

Lampard isn’t shy when it comes to admitting the Blues need help up front as he’s already lavished praise on Edinson Cavani this month and given the uncertainty around Abraham’s injury, he looks set to dip into the market in the final days of the January window.

Speaking ahead of Chelsea’s trip to Hull City in the FA Cup, Lampard gave this update on the knock Abraham suffered in the closing stages of their wild 2-2 draw with Arsenal on Tuesday.

“The good news is that he hasn’t fractured anything, we were worried about a hairline fracture,” Lampard said.  “The other news is we will have to see how he develops. It’s not clear cut,” Lampard said. “He’s not fit for the weekend, whether he’ll be fit for Leicester we’re still not sure. It’s not clear at the moment.”

In short, they aren’t sure how long Abraham will be out for and that is concerning as he’s been their main man up top all season long.

Lampard was perhaps more candid than he has ever been when discussing Chelsea’s ongoing hunt to find some help for Abraham, who has

“I think the impetus to bring in a striker or a player to get on the end of chances is there and we have to be honest about that,” Lampard added. “Recent games have shown that if we are creating chances that’s one problem, but if you’re creating 20 chances a game then it can be crucial. It doesn’t absolutely change [the situation], but with Tammy being our main source of goals it’s very relevant. I think there is choice. It is not the ideal window. I think history has proved that though there have been good acquisitions in the short term and long term. It is about getting it right. The club know my thoughts on it.”

When it comes to strikers leaving Chelsea, both Olivier Giroud and Michy Batshuayi have been linked with moves away from Chelsea in the final week of the window and Lampard admitted Giroud, 33, could leave as Inter Milan circle.

“With Olivier, we are still in the same position. We will keep contact with other clubs and if and when that’s agreed then we will let you know. So he’s still our player on those terms,” Lampard said.

Unless Chelsea bring in a new striker it would be wild for them to let one of Giroud or Batshuayi leave with the severity of Abraham’s injury not clear.

Even if Abraham does return soon, he needs help as his goals have dried up. The Chelsea academy product was on fire at the start of the season, scoring 10 of his 14 Premier League goals by the start of November. He also scored his first England goal in November but has hit a bit of a barren spell with three goals in his last 10 appearances in all competitions. The chances have been created but Abraham just hasn’t been putting them away like he was earlier in the season.

An experienced striker like Cavani or someone else is a must and they can help ease the burden on Abraham who is now set for a spell on the sidelines. Fourth-place Chelsea have a six-point gap to Man United in fifth and if they want to keep their Champions League qualification hopes on track they need a new striker to arrive in the final week of the window.

New Premier League schedule for March announced

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The Premier League have announced their new schedule for March as date and times have been switched for certain games.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule

Some of the matches changed to new windows include the Manchester Derby on Mar. 8, a potentially huge clash in the top four battle between Tottenham and Man United on Mar. 15 and what could be a very special Merseyside Derby (for Liverpool, anyway) as the Reds travel to Everton on Mar. 16 with the title surely in reach by that point.

Chelsea v. Man City on Mar. 21 is also a very tasty looking clash as there are a smattering of local derbies and intriguing clashes in the battle for Europe which have also been switched to new dates.

Below is the new schedule for March in full and remember, due to Daylight Savings kicking in there will be just four hours time difference between ET and GMT for a few weeks in March.

That means extra time in bed on weekend mornings and that, above all else, is the gift dedicated Premier League fans across the USA truly deserve.


Saturday 7 March 2020
7:30 a.m. ET: Liverpool v. Bournemouth
12:30 p.m. ET: Burnley v. Tottenham

Sunday 8 March 2020
10 a.m. ET: Chelsea v. Everton
12:30 p.m. ET: Man United v. Man City

Monday 9 March 2020
4 p.m. ET: Leicester v. Aston Villa

Saturday 14 March 2020
8:30 a.m. ET: Watford v. Leicester
1:30 p.m. ET: Aston Villa v. Chelsea

Sunday 15 March 2020
10 a.m. ET: West Ham v. Wolves
12:30 p.m. ET: Tottenham v. Man United

Monday 16 March 2020
4 p.m. ET: Everton v. Liverpool

Friday 20 March 2020
4 p.m. ET: Tottenham v. West Ham*

Saturday 21 March 2020
8:30 a.m. ET: Chelsea v. Man City*
1:30 p.m. ET: Liverpool v. Crystal Palace*

Sunday 22 March 2020
10 a.m. ET: Leicester v. Brighton*
12:30 p.m. ET: Southampton v. Arsenal*

*Matches subject to FA Cup participation

Solskjaer’s transfer update; positive on rebuild

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Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has given an update on potential transfers at Manchester United and he’s also used a very bizarre analogy about a house roof to sum up their current struggles following their defeat at home to Burnley.

You be you, Ole.

Ahead of their FA Cup fourth round trip to Tranmere Rovers on Sunday (upset alert!), Solskjaer was asked about potential arrivals and current injuries during the January transfer window.

“It is stretched but we’re getting players back after the break as well. We will be better off for the break. We’re still working on one or two things so let’s see if the club get it over the line,” Solskjaer said.

With a deal for Bruno Fernandes seemingly off as United are $14 million short of Sporting Lisbon’s asking price, they’ve been linked with moves for the likes of Jude Bellingham, Edinson Cavani and Carlos Tevez who are at the opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of their experience.

United’s manager seems to be keen to stay on track with the process and isn’t feeling the pressure of being six points off the top four.

“For me we do have a way of doing things,” Solskjaer said about United’s plan to sign young players and stay patient. “Of course you can see other teams have done well. You can see Jurgen [Klopp] has spent four years building his team and they’re doing well now, so of course I’ve said it so many times, it’s not going to be a quick fix. It’s not going to be eight players in, or 10 players in, in one transfer window. We’ve had one transfer window, a proper one, in the summer, because Januarys are difficult, but we are still trying to do something now.”

Solskjaer then came out with this gem when asked about the pressure building after United’s recent defeats and try to fight off negative vibes from fans and pundits.

“I think our fans know what we have started on. I’ve been trusted to do that job and that rebuild doesn’t go one way all the time. We’re doing great, I’ve said it so many times,” Solskjaer said. “The foundation has to be laid and the culture properly set and laid down and this group is a good core of players that believe in what we’re doing to carry us forward, with signings and players coming back. You need to knock the house down, you don’t just start with the roof. We’ve had some rainy days and wish that roof was on but we can’t hide.”

Time for Ole to get his hard hat on and start hammering the roof shut on what is a very expensive but dilapidated house.

To continue with this analogy, United have laid some of the foundations with the signings of Maguire, Wan-Bissaka and James while promoting the likes of Williams and Greenwood too, but they seem to have hit a snag when completing the foundations.

Instead of finding an ancient burial ground under their house which takes time to excavate properly they have been hit by a lack of balance and cover in certain positions (center forward and central midfield). That will take time to rectify and Solskjaer knows this is a slow build, something executive vice chairman Ed Woodward keeps saying after they’ve thrown so much money at expensive signings under several different managers.

How long will United’s fans and everyone connected with the club wait until this house is firmly built and is looking shiny and stable? That is the $600 million (and probably more) question as their long and muddled squad rebuild continues, hitting plenty of delays and repairs along the way.