16-year-old Reece Oxford draws praise after Premier League debut for West Ham

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For any player making their Premier League debut, shutting down the likes of Mesut Ozil and Santi Cazorla to earn a clean sheet on the road would be deemed a wild success.

That’s what Reece Oxford did today for West Ham, as the Hammers defeated Arsenal 2-0, stunning the Gunners at the Emirates.

Here’s the kicker: Oxford is just 16-years-old.

[ RECAP: Arsenal 0-2 West Ham ]

Oxford played in a holding midfield role for Slaven Bilic, and was mostly tasked with marking World Cup champion and Arsenal’s record signing Mesut Ozil. The teenager did brilliantly, and his play has drawn praise from his own teammates and the opposition alike.

Bilic, who was making his Premier League debut as a manager, was delighted with the showing from West Ham’s prized youngster.

Everybody is asking me now about him. He’s definitely going to be a big player but the risk is not over. He’s 16 and that is his only disadvantage. He’s going to have ups and downs. We have to manage him now not only on the pitch but off it too.

The boy has got everything. Everything. Let’s be fair. Ozil, Cazorla and Ramsey are world class players. It’s not easy to minimize their game. He’s definitely going to make it if he progresses and keeps his feet on the ground. You don’t have to be a manager to see the ability that he has. But we have to protect him.

He does not get fazed. If Messi was in front of me, I’d be more fazed than Reece. But the biggest help apart from his ability, coolness and quality both physically and technically were the boys around him.”

Arsene Wenger said Oxford “looked convincing,” and his teammate Winston Reid called his play “brilliant.”

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

The teenager became the youngest Hammer to play in the Premier League, and the second-youngest player to ever start a match in the PL.

Oxford appeared on the bench for West Ham last season as a 15-year-old, and captained England at the U-17 European Championships earlier this summer. Standing at an imposing 6-feet-3-inches, he looks far from a kid, and his play today proved he can be a man on the pitch.

Report: Bruno Fernandes to Manchester United after Lisbon Derby

Manchester United lands Bruno Fernandes
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Bruno Fernandes may get his move.

The 25-year-old Sporting Lisbon midfielder wants a move to Manchester United, and Sky Sports is reporting that the two clubs are close to agreeing on a fee.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

The move will cost $56 million and could escalate to $77 million with incentives, and that it could happen as soon as the end of Friday’s derby between Sporting and Benfica.

From Sky Sports:

Part of the negotiations over a deal for Fernandes included Manchester United not wanting him to play in Friday’s game but the player and Sporting insist that he was going to play in order to say a proper goodbye to the club and the supporters.

United will be crossing its fingers over Fernandes’ health during the 4:15 p.m. ET kickoff is Lisbon.

Sporting is already 12 points off the Champions League places, and 16 off Benfica’s title pace.

Fernandes has been red hot for Sporting, notching 15 goals and 13 assists in 25 appearances, including five and three in five Europa League outings.

He scored 32 times with 18 assists in 2018/19, and could take United’s Top Four push to a whole new level.

Liverpool’s Klopp rips AFCON move, says FIFA needs to step in but won’t

Liverpool's Klopp rips AFCON move
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Jurgen Klopp is furious about Cameroon moving the Africa Cup of Nations to January 2021, something that would hinder the Reds’ likely title defense.

(No, Klopp is not counting his title chickens before they hatch, even if it’s a foregone conclusion).

Cameroon moved the tournament from summer to winter due to its climate, which seems like a decision that could’ve been made ages ago. The nation had hosting rights stripped away for the 2019 tournament, but will host in 2021.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

The Reds could be without Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane, and Naby Keita for the better part of a month should Senegal, Guinea, and Egypt all qualify for the tournament. Joel Matip could be there with hosts Cameroon if the federation is successful in convincing him to return to the international fold.

Klopp went on a lengthy and mostly understandable diatribe against the move. We write mostly because there’s something lost in translation regarding the import of the tournament.

He’s upset at how it will tax his squad and how he keeps the players happy if he needs to add players just to deal with one month of the schedule.

“Do we really want to open this book? I couldn’t respect Africa Cup of Nations more than I do, I like it, I’ve watched it a lot. Difficult circumstances a lot of times,” Klopp said, via The Liverpool Echo. “It is another tournament, there are too many of them. Other thing is it doesn’t help African players. We won’t sell Naby, Mo or Sadio because of it but if we bring someone in, it affects the decision. Normal process. We have to think about that. Players aren’t asked. … FIFA, who should [step in] doesn’t look like being involved. It’s a strange situation. If we want lesser games they will say take less money. I will say, I am ready to do so. Yes.”

He continued.

“For us it’s a catastrophe, If we say (a player) can’t go, he’s suspended. How can the club who pay his salary not decide. If he’s injured and we say he cannot play for us, we have to send him to Africa so they can have a look. We don’t have any say. We just plan the route. These are all things that should not be like this. I speak about it now and no one will listen. The moaner from Liverpool again. It’s a complete waste of time. As long as nothing changes, I will keep saying it. It’s about the players, not me.”

Manchester City (Riyad Mahrez), Arsenal (Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang), and Leicester City (Wilfried Ndidi) are among the many clubs who could lose stars for a month.

Premier League tells referees to view replays for red cards

Premier League tells referees to view replays for red cards
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LONDON (AP) The Premier League has advised its referees to use sideline monitors to make a final ruling on red card decisions.

Through 22 rounds of the first Premier League season with video review, referees have not gone over to the screens at any point to watch replays after being told to use them sparingly. Instead, referees have been relying on feedback from the video assistant referee in a London control room.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

But officials were reminded at a meeting of Premier League referees this week that they should go over to what is known as the “referee review area” when VAR suggests upgrading a yellow card to a red or downgrading a red to a yellow.

It has been a more familiar sight at games in other European competitions, like the Champions League, to see referees watching replays in the stadium.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Premier League Preview: Watford v. Tottenham Hotspur

Premier League Preview: Watford v. Tottenham Hotspur
Premier League Preview: Watford v. Tottenham Hotspur
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Watford begins a run of three matches in five days with a visit from Tottenham Hotspur to Vicarage Road on Saturday (Watch Live at 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

The resurgent Hornets have climbed out of the Bottom Three under new boss Nigel Pearson. The challenge now comes in the form of a postponed FA Cup replay means they face Spurs, Aston Villa, and Tranmere Rovers by Thursday.

And if the Hornets beat Tranmere, they host Manchester United three days later.

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

“The planning’s done for the week,” Pearson said. “But outside of that we’ve got to also be prepared for variables we don’t know about at the minute and that would be potential injuries and anything else and it makes it even clearer that I’m not going to send the strongest side to play Tranmere.”

Spurs will welcome any advantage, as Jose Mourinho’s side is winless in three league matches and played a replay with Middlesbrough on Tuesday.

Tottenham has dropped nine points back of the Top Four and four back of fifth place Manchester United. The club is waiting on several transfer issues, including wantaway Christian Eriksen and the absence of suitable fill-in for injured Harry Kane.

Mourinho said there’s been no offer yet from Inter Milan for Christian Eriksen, and that Giovani Lo Celso‘s loan will likely be made permanent.

How Mourinho uses new loanee Gedson Fernandes will be interesting, as the Portuguese midfielder may start for his countryman.


Injuries/suspensions

Watford: OUT — Tom Cleverley, Kiko Femenia, Danny Welbeck. QUESTIONABLE — Will Hughes.

Spurs: OUT — Moussa Sissoko, Harry Kane. QUESTIONABLE — Ben Davies, Tanguy Ndombele, Hugo Lloris


Probable lineups

Watford: Foster, Masina, Cathcart, Dawson, Mariappa, Capoue, Chalobah, Deulofeu, Doucoure, Sarr, Deeney.

Spurs: Gazzaniga, Aurier, Alderweireld, Sanchez, Rose, Aurier, Winks, Fernandes, Son, Lucas, Dele.


What they’re saying

Nigel Pearson on the Tranmere postponement: “To get up there and find their kit man hadn’t bothered setting out their kit because he knew it would be off is a bit of a frustration for us because we travelled up and a lot of our fans had got to Northampton by the time that they found out, so it is a frustration and it adds on to what’s already a hectic week next week.”

Jose Mourinho on loan signing Gedson Fernandes: “He’s a kid that can play different positions in midfielder, even wide on the right if we need. We got him for his multi-functionality. He’s what I used to call a special loan. He’s not a three month loan and goodbyes. One-and-a-half year loan when he’ll have time to develop, and who knows if he doesn’t stay here for a number of years.”


Prediction

Spurs get a bit of relief and Watford a mild reality check in a 1-0 decision.