West Bromwich Albion vs. Everton: Can new Albion boss Pepe Mel get a surprise win?

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Romelu Lukaku returns to The Hawthorns on Monday (3 p.m. ET; watch life on NBCSN and live online viaNBC Sports Live Extra), with his task to help Everton emerge victorious against West Bromwich Albion, the side he did so much to help while on loan there last season.

The Belgian striker scored 17 goals in the league for West Brom in his time with the Baggies – a number that the struggling side are sorely missing at the moment. The Midlands outfit has but 23 goals thus far, with top scorer Saido Berahino notching four, and second best, Shane Long, has just moved to Hull City. With just one win in their last eleven matches, West Brom are currently 14th in the table, just three points above the relegation zone.

But that may all be about to change. Pepe Mel will take the reins for the first time on Monday night, set to put Albion back on track. Mel comes in after being sacked from Real Betis last month, with the side bottom of the La Liga table. That shouldn’t worry West Brom supporters too much: Juan Carlos Garrido was fired from the same post this weekend, after the side lost 5-0 to Real Madrid. And let’s not forget that just last season, Betis finished seventh, qualifying for Europa League. Mel could be just the man to pull the Baggies out of their slump.

(WATCH: West Brom vs. Everton live on NBCSN, 3 p.m. ET Monday and online via Live Extra)

Everton aren’t about to play the role of gracious visitors, allowing Mel to have his dream debut. With a win, the Toffees could go above rivals Liverpool, but even more importantly, three points put them in fourth, the coveted final Champions League position.

The visitors have but two losses to their name, one at Manchester City and the other, oddly enough, at home to Sunderland. They’re undefeated in their last three and will obviously look to extend that run. Under Roberto Martinez, Everton are playing a much more attractive sort of soccer, with an emphasis on free-flowing attack that prevents their opponents from seeing much of the ball. And they’re deadly on set pieces, whether it’s a corner or a free kick sent in from Leighton Baines or Kevin Mirallas.

Everton have a couple concerns, however. They’re without midfielder Ross Barkley, who’s been a bright spot this season, as he’s suffering from a broken toe. And the aforementioned Lukaku has hit a bit of a rough patch, having not scored since the end of November. However, that just might mean the Belgian is due…

 What they’re saying

New West Brom boss Pepe Mel on changing the side’s approach: “West Brom need to have an aggressive approach and – in my personal opinion – create more goal-scoring ­opportunities. The players are showing an awful lot of desire to adapt to my model. They are being very positive. I’m convinced things are going to go well here and they are going to be a success. They are more than capable of having a good rest of the season.”

Everton manager Roberto Martinez on Pepe Mel‘s appointment: “I think he will surprise a lot of people. He has been very successful in his time in Spain. The first time I was aware of his work was at Rayo Vallecano when he got them promoted to the top league against the odds with a very small budget and since then he has done a remarkable job wherever he has been. It is probably the wrong time to face Pepe Mel, but we wish him the best of luck after Monday.”

Prediction

Draw. With eight draws for Everton and nine for West Brom, these sides are far and away the best at coming out of games with a point. The reverse fixture ended in a goalless draw at Goodison Park back in August, although Everton did manage to hit the woodwork twice. Finally, Pepe Mel knows how important it is to make a good first impression in front of the home fans, but the visitors are simply a stronger side. He may decide to play it safe, as even a draw against the Toffees would likely spell success.

Transfer news: Man United move for Cavani, Jovic; Sancho update

Cavani to Manchester United
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Cavani to Manchester United? Jovic to Manchester United? Sancho to Manchester United?

Everyone to Manchester United!

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The latest transfer news surrounds Manchester United and with just a few days to go in the summer window it seems like Ed Woodward and Co. are perhaps panicking a little.

A report from Gianluca Di Marzio in Italy states that Man United have offered a deal to experienced striker Edinson Cavani, who is currently a free agent after leaving PSG.

The same outlet also states that Man United have made an offer to take Luka Jovic on loan from Real Madrid as they know that Odion Igahlo will be going back to his parent club Shanghai Shenhua in January when his loan is up.

Add to those two rumors that Manchester United want to sign Ismaila Sarr from Watford as a back up to Jadon Sancho, plus reports that the Red Devils want to make one final push for Sancho before the window shuts next week, and we have an absolute mess.

Cavani and Jovic make sense for short-term solutions, but Man United don’t need to add more attacking players. They need a new left back and center back to make their squad stronger, and probably a new holding midfielder too.

With Bruno Fernandes, Paul Pogba, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial up top, they are set for attackers but Solskjaer doesn’t think so. Cavani to Manchester United would be a good back-up option and at 33 he could pass on plenty of tips to Rashford, Martial and Greenwood.


Jadon Sancho to Manchester United update

When it comes to Sancho, an update of sorts has arrived.

Borussia Dortmund captain Marco Reus has poured cold water on reports that Sancho could be heading to Man United in the final days of this transfer window.

“For us players that was great news. We all were happy that he will be with us for one more year because he delivers assists and goals, so we get points,” Reus said. “If he gets as big as (Lionel) Messi or Ronaldo, we will see. He needs time, experience and it will be important how he manages the times when things don’t go so well. But he has the confidence and the quality.”

So, that’s that then? Sancho hasn’t travelled with Dortmund for the Super Cup in Munich against Bayern Munich due to a respiratory problem but he has tested negative for COVID-19.

Dortmund set a deadline of August 10 for Man United to put their money where their mouth was and pay for Sancho. But United don’t want to pay $140 million for Sancho and it appears he will now be at Dortmund for at least another 12 months.

Should Man United just wait until then? Can they manage with their current attacking crop? Yes and yes. But they probably won’t.

Fulham boss Parker upset after owner Khan apologized

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Fulham did not play well in their 3-0 defeat at home against Aston Villa and they’ve now lost all three of their Premier League games since being promoted.

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Add to that the fact they’ve conceded 10 goals and Scott Parker has a big job on his hands to keep Fulham in the Premier League.

It’s safe to say the Fulham manager also didn’t appreciate the son of owner Shahid Khan apologizing to fans for the performance on social media, as he also repeated that he’s been pushing to sign new defenders for several weeks.

Tony Khan — who is the co-owner, vice chairman and director of football operations at Fulham — detailed their search for a new center back, responded to fans comments on Twitter and said the display against Villa wasn’t good enough.

“I apologize to Fulham FC supporters for our performance tonight. We’ve looked to add centre-backs since Wembley, I’m sorry we haven’t yet as two got COVID and we lost a free we thought was close and had another issue with a fourth CB. I promise players in and better efforts from this squad,” Khan said in a Tweet after full time. “I should and will apologize repeatedly for that performance. I’m sorry everybody. We all need to do a better job. Everyone at the club for the past year worked really hard to get the team up and now we need to work significantly harder to stay up. I promise better efforts than today.”

Safe to say that Parker didn’t appreciate that statement as he spoke to the media ahead of Fulham’s League Cup last 16 game against Brentford.

“I think obviously I said it last night. People have the platform. You own a football club, you can decide how you want to communicate or send a message out. It’s not something I agree with, it’s not helpful from that sense but like I said that’s down to the owner and how he sees it,” Parker said. “There’s one thing that I’m disappointed with and that’s how he’s actually apologizing for the performance and that is something that I don’t agree with and he shouldn’t have. The performance last night was a good performance which was a group of players who have done everything they can, worked tirelessly from the first minute to the 95th. From 3-0 down they were still trying work as much as they can to try and get us back in the game and for that I don’t agree with him.”

This is a double-edged sword.

Many fans will appreciated Khan for responding to complaints publicly and being open and transparent. On the other hand, players and coaching staff at Fulham will probably be slightly bemused that this level of information was shared in a public forum.

Khan, who oversees the day-to-day running of Fulham, has taken a very different approach to transfers than when Fulham were promoted two seasons ago and spent big and were instantly relegated from the Premier League during the 2018-19 season.

It will be intriguing to see if Fulham splash the cash in a big way to back Parker in the final days of the window because their defensive performances suggest they will be relegated straight back to the Championship. It is early days in the Premier League season but Fulham are already having a bit of a meltdown.

Transfer news: Sarr to Manchester United

Ismaila Sarr to Manchester United
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Ismaila Sarr to Manchester United is the latest back-up option for Jadon Sancho.

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According to the Daily Mail, Ismaila Sarr to Manchester United is emerging as their best possible option this summer as negotiations with Borussia Dortmund aren’t going well.

Sarr would be a good alternative, but he is valued at over $57 million by Watford. Surely spending that kind of cash just for the sake of it rather than waiting an extra 6-12 months for Sancho is a mistake?

The Watford and Senegal winger, 22, was one of the only positives to come from the Hornets’ relegation from the Premier League last season and was chased by Liverpool earlier this summer before they signed Diogo Jota instead.

After a slow start to life in England after his arrival from Ligue 1 side Rennes, Sarr scored twice in Watford’s shock 3-0 win over Liverpool and added another in a shock win against Man United, as he netted six goals and grabbed four assists in total.

Not bad for his first season in the Premier League, but is he any better than Daniel James, Jesse Lingard and Juan Mata as back-up options? Probably, but spending over $50 million to sign him seems more out of desperation than planning.

That’s no disrespect to Sarr, but it shows that Manchester United are perhaps getting a little nervy and anxious in the final days of the window. Executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward has signed Dutch midfielder Donny van de Beek this summer but United have missed out on Sergio Reguillon and Gareth Bale (who both went to Tottenham) and Thiago Alcantara who chose Liverpool instead.

Sancho is understandably their top target and Dortmund know that. They also know that selling Sancho this summer makes little sense as his transfer value is at its lowest and will rise to close to the $150 million they want for him when the market (hopefully) gets back to normal as the COVID-19 pandemic develops.

Sarr is a very good winger and in a team like Manchester United which will provide him with plenty of the ball out wide and on counter attacks he will slot in very nicely. But is he going to start ahead of Mason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford? No. He is a player who can be added to the rotation and add strength to the squad but what happens next summer if Man United do land Sancho?

There needs to be a better long-term transfer plan at Manchester United rather than just buying players each and every summer for the sake of it.

Lyon give Arsenal boost amid latest Aouar update

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Aouar to Arsenal continues to be in the works, as more talks are scheduled in the final days of the transfer window and Lyon have given the Gunners a timely boost.

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Lyon president Jean-Michael Aulas confirmed over the weekend that Arsenal have made an opening bid for Houssem Aouar, 22, but that he rejected it, and he’s now suggested the offer was well b

Asked about Arsenal’s pursuit of Aouar, the outspoken Lyon president had the following to say about the bid which is believed to be around $44.6 million.

“There was a timid offer, it was not an offer that was even susceptible to making us consider a sale,” Aulas said.

Asked how much he would want for Aouar, $46 million or $58 million, Aulas replied: “More than the first number that you mentioned.”

So, it appears they aren’t too far apart on their valuation and Lyon appear to be lining up Aouar’s replacement as Sky in Italy believe that they’ve agreed to sign Lucas Paqueta from AC Milan.

The dominoes are falling into place ahead of the final few days of the summer transfer window.

Aouar was superb in Lyon’s unexpected run to the UEFA Champions League semifinal in 2019-20 and his creativity will certainly add an extra dimension to Arsenal’s midfield. Mikel Arteta’s side battled hard in their 3-1 loss at Liverpool on Monday but couldn’t connect passes in midfield and Aouar is a master at that.

Alongside one of Granit Xhaka and Dani Ceballos he would be brilliant in Arsenal’s 3-4-3 formation.  The French international midfield is a perfect player for Mikel Arteta’s system. He is silky on the ball and calm to help dictate possession, while he also isn’t afraid of his defensive duties.

This move for Aouar suggests that Lucas Torreira, Mateo Guendouzi and Mohamed Elneny are all set to move on as Arteta focuses on quality over quantity and is said to still want Ateltico Madrid’s holding midfielder Thomas Partey too, although that seems like a long shot now.

Aouar to Arsenal would be another statement of intent from the Gunners who have added Gabriel at center back plus Willian out wide and Arteta has developed a host of young players over the last 10 months. Slowly but surely the pieces are falling into place as Arteta tries to push Arsenal back into the top four.