Jack Wilshere watches Xabi Alonso highlights on his iPad

1 Comment

At 22-years-old, Jack Wilshere still has a lot to learn.

If you’re going to learn from someone, Xabi Alonso is a pretty good choice.

Wilshere has been given a new role for the England national team, sitting deeper in the center of midfield in more of a holding position.

[ MORE: Xabi Alonso breaks touches record ]

That’s the exact role Xabi Alonso has played throughout his career, currently dominating the midfield for German giants Bayern Munich.

In an effort to learn more about his new role for the Three Lions, Wilshere said he has been studying video clips of Xabi Alonso on his iPad.

I have been watching Xabi Alonso on video in the past couple of weeks. He had a record number of passes in one game, 200 in one match, which is ridiculous.

I get clips of Alonso through on my iPad. The analyst guys here send them to me and they highlight some of his key points, his key strengths. It’s a 20- to 25-minute package.”

While Wilshere has definitely chosen the right player to learn from, he has quite a ways to go before his name can be mentioned with the greats like Xabi Alonso. Coming from the attack-minded offense of Arsene Wenger with Arsenal, Wilshere will have to adapt to his defensive role under Roy Hodgson with England.

[ RELATED: Roy Hodgson names England squad for matches vs. Scotland, Slovenia ]

Luckily for Wilshere, he has many years ahead of him as a central midfielder for England. If he can maintain his health, he has the potential to develop into one of Europe’s premier midfielders.

Jack Wilshere has similarities to a young Wayne Rooney, a player with loads of talent but questioned for his maturity and leadership. Rooney has grown, now the captain of England and closing in on the all-time goalscoring record for the Three Lions.

[ RECAP: Swansea City stuns Arsenal with 2-1 victory ]

If Wilshere learns to grow up on and off the pitch, there is no doubt he will become one of the most important players for England.

Learning from Xabi Alonso is a good start.

Transfer news: Dembele to Man United; Promes to Arsenal

Dembele to Manchester United
Getty Images
Leave a comment

In the latest transfer news Ousmane Dembele has been linked with a move to Manchester United, while Quincy Promes to Arsenal is an intriguing report.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

First up, let’s start in Manchester as it appears that Ousmane Dembele to Manchester United could be the back-up option if Borussia Dortmund continue to dig their heels in on Jadon Sancho.

Dortmund’s sporting director Michael Zorc has said that Sancho, 20, will be staying with the Bundesliga giants this season as they didn’t receive a bid for the England international before the Aug. 10 deadline they set clubs. Zorc also revealed that Dortmund have extended Sancho’s contract to 2023, so Dortmund aren’t in a rush to sell him.

Man United are still said to be keen on Sancho, who would cost over $140 million, but a back-up option is in the works as the Red Devils baulk at paying a huge fee up front for Sancho.

Ousmane Dembele, 23, has struggled for form and fitness since arriving at Barcelona from Dortmund and it appears the French forward is available.

Per the report from ESPN, ‘informal talks’ have been held about a season-long loan deal for Dembele with an option to buy. This would make a lot of sense for Man United and Barcelona. United get a hungry, and talented winger, who is eager to play for a permanent move and if it works out it will be a lot cheaper than signing Sancho.

Barcelona get to save some face and move Dembele on, as Antoine Griezmann, Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez are their undisputed front three. Dembele has the talent and he ripped it up at Dortmund before arriving as Neymar’s replacement. He hasn’t played since November and has since had surgery on a hamstring injury, so if the French forward can stay fit then he would be a great short-term option for Man United until Dortmund soften their stance on Sancho.

Imagine Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood up top, with Dembele coming off the bench to give one of them a rest.

Switching to north London, Quincy Promes has been linked with a move to Arsenal from Ajax.

Promes, 28, has long been linked with a move to the Premier League and the Dutch winger has added end product to his skill in recent seasons for club and country.

According to The Sun, Arsenal are willing to pay $32.5 million for Promes as the former Feyenoord, Spartak Moscow and Sevilla winger will give them extra cutting edge in attack. He joined Ajax last summer from Sevilla and was a big hit in his first season in Amsterdam.

With Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang yet to sign a new contract, plus the future of Alexandre Lacazette uncertain, Arsenal may only have Eddie Nketiah and Nicolas Pepe to rely on for goals next season.

Promes has always been a tricky, direct winger but he scored 16 goals and added seven assists in 28 games before the Dutch top-flight was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Arteta is said to want to add extra experience to his Arsenal side which is stacked with talented youngsters such as Nketiah, Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli the future of the club.

Update on Declan Rice to Chelsea for $65 million

Declan Rice to Chelsea
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Declan Rice to Chelsea is a transfer report which keeps rumbling on.

The latest Declan Rice to Chelsea rumors state that the Blues have bid $65 million for the West Ham and England midfielder.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Rice, 21, dazzled for the Hammers this season as David Moyes arrived in December to take charge and steered them away from relegation trouble with Rice scoring goals, creating and dominating midfield.

The holding midfielder, who can also play at center back, was a big part of that success and West Ham aren’t keen to sell their prized asset to their London rivals.

Our partners at Sky Sports in the UK have the following update on the current situation.


West Ham have dismissed reports they have received a £50m bid from Chelsea for Declan Rice.

Rice is not for sale according to West Ham, and any £50m bid would be laughed off with the club hopeful the midfielder will stay for many years.

Rice will return to the club on Monday for pre-season training with the rest of his team-mates.


So, that is that then. Right?

Rice is a Chelsea fan and came through their academy with the likes of current first team stars Mason Mount before being released at the age of 14. He is close with plenty of the young players at Chelsea and has never hidden his love for the Blues.

Reports all summer have suggested that Chelsea boss Frank Lampard wants Rice to be his main man in central defense and even though his best position is in central midfield, you could see him developing into a fine ball-playing center back in the future.

If West Ham don’t want to sell Rice, who has a contract until 2024 and the club have the option to extend it by another year, they don’t have to.

Moyes is keen to build his entire team around Rice. However, Chelsea will clearly pull on the emotional heartstrings of Rice being a boyhood Blues fan and if he wants to take his career to the next level, leaving West Ham for Chelsea (just like Frank Lampard did all of those years ago) would clearly do that.

Chelsea badly need defensive reinforcement and stability and if they can offload plenty of their current defenders, bringing in Rice would be a smart move.

Portland beats Orlando to win MLS is Back championship

MLS is Back
Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports
Leave a comment

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) Soaked in sweat and doused in water, the Portland Timbers hoisted the MLS is Back trophy at midfield and then headed toward a giant TV screen filled with fans cheering from afar.

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS coverage

It was a huge Zoom party. It might just be the way to celebrate championships in 2020.

Dario Zuparic’s first goal of the season gave Portland a 2-1 victory against Orlando in Major League Soccer’s return tournament finale Tuesday night, capping a month-long event that showed sports can be played safely inside a bubble.

“I always think the more difficult the fight is the more beautiful the victory is at the end,” said Portland’s Larrys Mabiala, who scored the game’s first goal.

Orlando was slow to react to Diego Valeri’s corner kick in the 66th minute, allowing Eryk Williamson to collect the ball, change direction and take a shot that Jeremy Ebobisse deflected to Zuparic’s feet. Zuparic didn’t have to do much to get it by Pedro “The Octopus” Gallese, who had made two fantastic saves in the lead-up to the corner kick.

The goal started the celebration on Portland’s sideline and sent Orlando into panic mode. The Lions had a chance in the closing minutes, but failed to get the equalizer.

“It’s a group of players in a lot of pain right now,” Orlando coach Oscar Pareja said. “Things didn’t bounce our way. We made a couple of mistakes.”

The Timbers, who spent 39 days in the MLS bubble and remained on West Coast time, hugged and danced after the final whistle. They raised the silver trophy while hooting and hollering. But the lasting image will be players and coaches waving at a camera and reaching hundreds back home.

It ended a wild month for the MLS, which managed to play 51 matches in 45 days at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports complex at Disney World.

No family. No friends. No fans.

But it was by most accounts a rousing success, especially considering how it started. FC Dallas and Nashville were forced to withdraw days before the start because of positive coronavirus tests.

Players, coaches and support personnel were tested regularly inside the MLS bubble. The league reported just two positives out of nearly 35,000 tests following the initial setbacks that threatened to derail a tournament that came with a $1.1 million purse.

“We just told ourselves we need to make it worth it,” Mabiala said, adding that his son has been calling, crying and clamoring for him to come home in recent days.

Portland will get $328,000 in prize money to split. The Timbers also earned a berth in the CONCACAF Champions League, their first since 2016.

Orlando settled for $150,000 to share.

Orlando’s appearance in the finale was a surprise considering the team finished 11th out of 12 in the East last season and fired coach James O’Connor. Pareja took over in 2020 and made an immediate impact.

Pareja convinced his players, including star Nani, to settle into the bubble several days early. They won the tournament opener, a group-stage victory against Miami, and ended up spending nearly seven weeks quarantined in the bubble.

Portland’s experience – the Timbers won the MLS title in 2015 and were runners-up two years ago – showed in the finale.

Portland’s first shot on goal found the back of the net. Valeri delivered a perfectly placed free kick into the box that Mabiala headed past Gallese in the 27th minute. It was Valeri’s 93rd assist with the Timbers.

But considering Portland has managed just three clean sheets in its last 23 matches, it was no surprise to see a defensive breakdown just a few minutes later.

Nani worked the ball down the left side following a turnover and created enough room to get a crosser into the box. Mauricio Pereyra got a foot on the ball and then took advantage of a fallen defender to tie the match.

The equalizer came shortly after Portland’s Sebastian Blanco exchanged words with Pareja during a hydration break. Referees stepped between them, and they later apologized and hugged it out.

The league resumes its regular season Wednesday night with Dallas playing at Nashville. The league’s 26 teams will play 18 games apiece. A majority of the games will be played without fans because of local regulations. Teams will be subject to a rigorous testing protocol and will use charter flights or buses to limit outside contact.

“We have to see if it works,” MLS Commissioner Don Garber said. “If it does, we go through with it. If it doesn’t, we’ll have to adjust.”

Nuno ‘proud of the boys’ after Wolves’ magical UEL run ends

Nuno Wolves
Photo by Stuart Franklin - UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images
Leave a comment

Nuno proud, but frustrated: Wolves’ 2019-20 campaign kicked off 383 days ago, on July 25, and finally ended on Tuesday in a late, heartbreaking defeat to Sevilla in the quarterfinals of the Europa League.

[ MORE: Lille sign $35-million Canadian star Jonathan David ]

From those early-round UEL qualifiers, to another fine season in the Premier League (finishing 7th), to reaching the quarterfinals, it’s been an incredible, dramatic, exhausting road for Nuno Espirito Santo and his players.

Speaking after the game, Espirito Santo revealed he was experiencing equal part pride and frustration at the way their season had just ended. Pride for meeting the challenges they faced along the way, and frustration for the missed opportunity — quotes from the BBC:

“We have frustration, in the last minutes it is something that has happened to us many times. We required focus on a set piece. I am proud of the boys, we played a tough team and we had moments, small details, small margins.

“That happens in football. We came this far and now it’s over. Let’s rest and look to the future. We need more players to help us, it’s a small squad.

“Sevilla made us run, we made a big effort to control it but of course there were players who gave everything and the legs and brain doesn’t work so good. We must be proud of ourselves, admit we made mistakes during the season that we need to rectify to compete at a high level. We must work harder and become stronger.

“We are here because we did things good the previous season. European football is something that we chase because we want to improve and compete agianst the best. The Premier League is challenging enough, it’s like playing the Champions League every week.”

The Wolves players will now have the next week or two off before reporting for the first day of 2020-21 preseason later this month. The 2020-21 Premier League season is currently scheduled for Sept. 12.