Arsene Wenger tips mid-table managers for postseason award

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As one glances over the Premier League table, there is certainly more than one club in a surprisingly high position given preseason expectations.

Those surprises often command most of the talk for Manager of the Year, but Arsene Wenger believes the deciders should look a little lower down the table.

While it’s hard to argue with likely winner Brendan Rodgers if Liverpool win the Premier League, there are certainly some dark horse candidates.

Speaking at his pre-match press conference ahead of this weekend’s games, Wenger told English media, “The easy way is to pick the guy who has won the league but he has not always done the best job.”

Those are some harsh words towards Rodgers, but he had another pair of names.

“Steve Bruce and Tony Pulis have done exceptional work.”

Certainly those are two worthy candidates.  Pulis took over for Ian Holloway at Crystal Palace at the end of December with the club bottom of the league and looking every bit the part. He’s since brought them to 11th and essentially out of the running for relegation, a remarkable turnaround that’s seen the team give a better and better performance week in and week out.

Steve Bruce is a fantastic shout as well, steering recently promoted Hull City to sit currently in 13th, also likely safe from the drop having shown consistency throughout the year.

While Hull haven’t recorded a shocking amount of upsets, they’ve regularly beaten teams below them and avoided a number of bad losses, a great achievement for any newly promoted club.

Roberto Martinez at Everton will also get looks, but it’s hard to argue with Rodgers as the runaway winner if the Reds win the league, or even if they just miss out.  With Liverpool not even given a chance to make the Champions League by many prior to the season, the leap he’s taken with the Reds is remarkable.

Who do you believe has earned Manager of the Year? Is there a clear-cut winner or are the waters muddy?

After slow start, Belgium takes care of business against feisty Panama

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All it took was one goal to bring Belgium to life.

Following a frustrating first 45 minutes, in which Belgium put a pair of shots into the side netting and forced saves from Panama goalkeeper Jaime Penedo, Dries Mertens 47th minute goal opened the floodgates, as Belgium went on to defeat Panama, 3-0, Monday afternoon in Sochi.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

But Panama never made it easy for the Belgians. From the opening whistle the CONCACAF nation showed its incredible spirit, chasing down Belgium all across the field and making life incredibly difficult for Belgium attackers Romelu Lukaku, Mertens and Eden Hazard. Hazard was hacked down all over the field, and while he did earn fouls and a few yellow cards were issued to Panamanian players, it was enough to get in Hazard’s head.

Two minutes into the second half, everything changed. A wonderstrike from Mertens opened the game, and forced Panama to attack and try and tie the match, which gave Hazard, de Bruyne and Lukaku more space to operate.

In the heat and humidity of the Sochi summer, Panama’s veteran defense began to tire, allowing de Bruyne the space to deliver a terrific assist to Lukaku in the box, putting Belgium up 2-0 in the 69th minute.

 

Six minutes later, Lukaku was put through on the break, chipping over Penedo to confirm the victory.

With the win, Belgium moves to the top of Group G. Up next for Belgium is Tunisia on Saturday, while Panama takes on England on Sunday.

VIDEO: de Bruyne delivers gorgeous assist on Lukaku goal

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It took a little bit of patience, but Romelu Lukaku finally got on the scoresheet at the 2018 World Cup, thanks to a delicious assist from crosstown club rival Kevin De Bruyne.

The Manchester City playmaker delivered a spectacular outside-of-the-boot cross into the box, where Lukaku’s head met it and guided it towards the far post for Belgium’s second goal of the day.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news

Transfer Rumor Roundup: Arsenal close in on Leno; Man City near Jorginho signing, and more

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Arsenal looks like it will have a new man between the pipes for next season.

According to a report from German publication SportBild, Bayer Leverkusen goalkeeper Bernd Leno will be introduced as an Arsenal player on Tuesday, after a reported $23-29 million transfer fee. The 26-year-old was on Germany’s 35-man pre-World Cup squad, but was one of the last cuts as Joachim Low went with Manuel Neuer, Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Kevin Trapp in Russia.

Leno became the full-time starter for Leverkusen as a 20-year-old, and has held the position of the No. 1 for the last six seasons, earning plenty of Bundesliga and UEFA Champions League experience along the way.

It’s unclear what will happen to current Arsenal No. 1 Petr Cech. The 36-year-old Premier League legend experienced one of his worst seasons in net for Arsenal and he could begin the season as a backup, unless he moves to a new club. He reportedly has a contract through 2019.

Here’s some more transfer rumors from around the Premier League and Europe.

(more…)

VIDEO: Mertens scores wonderstrike for Belgium

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After a frustrating 45 minutes, it took only two minutes for Belgium to finally get on the board, even if it was a goal sprinkled with magic dust.

Off a partially cleared ball on the right side of the box, Belgium attacker Dries Mertens whalloped a shot that arced over Panama (and former LA Galaxy) goalkeeper Jaime Penedo, giving Belgium a 1-0 lead.

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