Monday’s Transfer Rumor Roundup: Rabiot to Arsenal; Vardy to Chelsea

Leave a comment

After yet another shocking defeat at the weekend, more reports are surfacing that Jose Mourinho will be handed plenty of cash in January to try and turn around Chelsea’s fortunes.

The Daily Telegraph believes that Mourinho has earmarked three players — Jamie Vardy, Saido Berahino and Alex Texieira — who could improve the Blues’ attack for the second half of the season.

[ MORE: Fergie praises Mourinho ]

It would take a huge fee to sign Vardy, 28, from Leicester City given his current form of 14 goals in 15 games this season but with the Blues able to offer a huge rise in wages, could Vardy turn down an astronomical contract at Stamford Bridge? It would take a lot for him to leave the Premier League leaders. As for Berahino, West Brom turned down a $30 million bid from Tottenham for him in the summer and despite the England U-21 international having plenty of upside, he’s failed to find form so far this season for the Bagges. The wildcard here is Texieira but the Brazilian attacker has been splendid for Ukrainian powerhouse Shakhtar Dontesk and has previously told others that the Blues are in talks with Shakhtar about a $45 million transfer. If he mirrors Willian‘s success at Chelsea, then why not?

Whatever happens in January, it’s highly likely changes will occur at Chelsea as Mourinho must wheel and deal to ship out under-performing stars and rejuvenate his squad with new faces if the defending champs are going to pull away from the relegation zone and make a miraculous challenge for a place in the top four.

Another London club could be doing some business in January with injuries to several key players, once again, hitting Arsenal hard. Francis Coquelin and Santi Cazorla have gone down with long-term knee injuries, meaning Arsene Wenger may need to dip into the market for a short-term option until those players return. A good option on that front could be Paris Saint-Germain’s Adrien Rabiot, 20, who according to the Daily Mail is seeking a loan move in January as regular minutes with his hometown team continue to evade him. Laurent Blanc has an embarrassment of riches in central midfield and Rabiot could fit the bill to help shore up Arsenal’s woes until the end of the season. Tomas Rosicky and Jack Wilshere are scheduled to return from injury in January to help out but the skillful Frenchman may add a little something extra to the mix.

[ MORE: Man City want Vieira to return as boss ]

Another player Arsenal should move for in January is Southampton’s Kenyan destroyer Victor Wanyama. That’s according to former Gunners winger Robert Pires who has told journalists in Nairobi that Wanyama “has the speed, skill and physique. However, I think he needs to score more goals because then he will be world-class material.” Wanyama, 24, joined Saints from Celtic in 2013 for $19 million but has 18 months left on his contract at St Mary’s and Ronald Koeman‘s side blocked a summer move to Tottenham Hotspur as Wanyama momentarily threw his toys out of the pram.

Now that he’s focused, Wanyama has shored up Saints’ midfield but he has yet to score this season after netting three times last campaign. If Arsenal do move for Wanyama it could be next summer as he will have less than a year left on his deal and may be available for less than $20 million. He’d be the true destructive holding midfielder they’ve been searching for and has UEFA Champions League experience under his belt during his time with Celtic. Wanyama is ready to take the next step and follow in the long line of Saints players moving to a top four team, but will Koeman offer him a new long-term contract and will the Kenyan accept it?

Rounding up the transfer rumor roundup, Manchester United are hoping to secure the services of 15-year-old Ajax starlet Juan Familio-Castillo with the Dutch U-16 captain impressing the Red Devils scouts for over a year. According to the Daily Mail, Familio-Castillo could arrive in January as the versatile player can operate in midfield and defense and is highly-rated by the Amsterdam club.

Benfica loanee Parks readies for playoffs with NYCFC

Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Keaton Parks plays the kind of hard-to-quantify midfield role that sends both stat nerds and eye test takers to a very good place.

Barely 22, the New York City FC midfielder doesn’t stand out in any one particular area. Since arriving on loan from Benfica, the American shuttler (of sorts) ranks near the top of the club rankings in pass percentage and aerials won while chipping in tackles and successful dribbles.

[ MORE: PST talks public pitches, youth development with NYCFC director Reyna ]

He’s averaging near one key pass per game but has just a goal and an assist, due more to his responsibility in Dome Torrent’s system than a particular skill set (He has eight goals and seven assists across two-plus seasons between Varzim and Benfica B).

“In the midfield it really helps to play both sides of the ball,” Parks told ProSoccerTalk. “I take pride in doing that, and I love to make a tackle as much as getting in the attack and assisting or scoring goals. It doesn’t bother me that I’m not scoring or making all of the assists. I like to be the solid player who keeps the balance on the team.”

(Photo by Gualter Fatia/Getty Images)

Parks has been an enigma to American soccer fans for some time in that he’s been in a celebrated club in Benfica but playing in a developmental role that’s near impossible to track without single-minded dedication to Portuguese football (Dramatic? Sure, but you try to catch every Liga Pro game).

But in moving to New York City FC to play under Dome Torrent, he’s had an easier transition than most due to his upbringing with Benfica, which annually ranks amongst the top possession teams in Portugal. Torrent, of course, left his last managerial gig at Girona in Spain to spent a decade-plus on Pep Guardiola‘s staff at Barcelona, Bayern Munich, and Manchester City.

“Dome likes to play a possession style, a confident style,” Parks said. “I still have to fight for my spot on the team but the playing style I was used to right away.

“You can see the experience Dome has, and he mirrors a little bit of what Pep does, so it’s been amazing to be able to learn from him and see the experiences of the players he’s been able to coach in his career.”

NYCFC begins its playoff run on Wednesday against Toronto FC at Citi Field in Queens, and Parks says he’s feeling better after missing three matches with injury.

And while he’s focused on the playoffs — “We want to win the Cup and be at the top” — there is a question of what’s next for him, still on the books at a perennial UEFA Champions League club but very important with a CONCACAF Champions League club.

[ MORE: MLS Playoffs preview/predictions ]

“I’m just going to be looking forward to whatever club I’m at next, whether here or back at Benfica or wherever I am and also with the U-23s going into Tokyo next summer.”

He’ll, in theory, be an imperative part to Jason Kreis, ironically a former NYCFC man himself, and the Yanks bid for a first Olympic run in three cycles. The team should be powerful, and Parks is happy.

“I’m definitely excited,” he said. “We have so much talent on the team with guys playing first division all over the world. I believe we can make a run all the way to these Olympics.”
NYCFC and Toronto FC kick off 7 p.m. ET Wednesday at Citi Field.

MLS conference semifinal preview and predictions

Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images
Leave a comment

We’re not sure we should be allowed to make Major League Soccer playoff predictions after getting two upset bids wrong in the first round, but we go again anyway.

No, DC United did not outlast Toronto FC at BMO Field nor were the Portland Timbers able to get a win over Real Salt Lake at Rio Tinto but… we got the other four right?

[ MORE: Dest choosing side this week ]

It gets trickier at midweek for the conference semifinals, as two of those six victors from the weekend face well-rested one seeds (We suppose they could be rusty, not just well-rested).

NYCFC v. Toronto FC — 7 p.m. ET Wednesday

Regular season:
TFC 4-0 NYCFC (April 29)
NYCFC 1-1 TFC (Sept. 11)

Toronto hasn’t lost since Aug. 3 (5W-6D) and is well-equipped to deal NYCFC’s possession system on a postage stamp pitch. NYC’s only loss in its last 11 was a throwaway loss to a desperate Revolution side in New England. TFC has a lot of experience in spots like this, but Dome Torrent’s done an incredible job with City. It’s a coin toss, but ultimately it feels like that coin lands TFC side up. 2-1 aet.

Seattle v. Real Salt Lake  — 10 p.m. ET Wednesday

Regular season:
Seattle 1-0 RSL (April 6)
RSL 3-0 Seattle (Aug. 14)

This one’s also close, as RSL has a number of players who won’t be bothered by the pressure but man is this home field advantage a real one. The Sounders only lost two home matches this season, and haven’t lost a home playoff match under Brian Schmetzer. Call it 2-0 for Seattle.

Atlanta United v. Philadelphia Union — 8 p.m. ET Thursday

Regular season:
ATL 1-1 Philly (March 17)
Philly 3-1 ATL (Aug. 31)

The Union are resilient, and Jim Curtin seeing success is an absolute joy. So deserved, but Frank De Boer is showing his mettle in making the tough decisions and Ezequiel Barco looks a terror. A side that is able to bring Tito Villalba and Pity Martinez off the bench is unfair. Atlanta, 3-1.

LAFC v. LA Galaxy — 10:30 p.m. ET Thursday

Regular season:
Galaxy 3-2 LAFC (July 19)
LAFC 3-3 Galaxy (Aug. 25)

Can hardly wait for this one. Bob Bradley and Carlos Vela look to send Zlatan Ibrahimovic packing after a riotous summer competition. LAFC is so, so good, and the lack of rest for the Galaxy is a problem. Still, betting against Zlatan seems borderline insane, and Jonathan dos Santos has big game mettle of his own. We’ll call it 2-2 and a place in penalty kicks, where David Bingham’s the difference for the Galaxy in a history-writing upset that takes El Trafico to the next level. Yes, we are predicting for storylines now.

Champions League preview: Chelsea, Liverpool hit the road

Photo by Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC via Getty Images
Leave a comment

Frank Lampard has a selection headache amongst his wingers as he tries to figure out Chelsea’s best avenue to break down Ajax on Wednesday in the UEFA Champions League.

Youngsters Callum Hudson-Odoi and Christian Pulisic starred in the Blues’ weekend win, and Lampard also has Pedro and Willian available at Johan Cruyff Arena before a weekend visit to Burnley.

[ MORE: Dest choosing side this week ]

From ChelseaFC.com:

“Callum gave me that in his display from the start and Christian gave me that in his display coming on, and in terms of the wingers I have, Willian gave me that, Pedro gives me that so I have good selection problems when people come on and make a difference. That is what we are all about.

“The extra level that is the Champions League, the detail, the focus, concentration for 90 minutes, making the most of tiny moments, will be a test for all the young players, not just Callum.”

The good news for Pulisic in his bid to match wits with fellow USMNT (for now) player Sergino Dest is that he’s had experience on the UCL stage with Borussia Dortmund.

The other PL side in action is Liverpool, and the Reds will be expecting to get all three points in Belgium against Genk.

But Genk drew Napoli 0-0 at home on the second match day and the Reds will be wary of a slip-up.

“It’s a really good football-playing team,” said Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp. “They are organized and brave in their positioning. They don’t play with the pressing line too much but go for second balls, have speed and good midfielders and very active full-backs.”

Klopp will not have Trent Alexander-Arnold (illness) and Joel Matip (knee).

Other highlights…

— American manager Jesse Marsch hopes to lead Red Bull Salzburg to a home win over Napoli when he matches wits with Carlo Ancelotti.

Antonio Conte‘s Inter Milan could really use a result against tricky Borussia Dortmund in Italy.

UEFA Champions League Wednesday schedule

12:55 p.m. ET
Ajax v. Chelsea
RB Leipzig v. Zenit Saint-Petersburg

3 p.m. ET
Slavia Prague v. Barcelona
Red Bull Salzburg v. Napoli
Genk v. Liverpool
Inter Milan v. Borussia Dortmund
Lille v. Valencia
Benfica v. Lyon

Man City’s Guardiola issues Rodri update; Zinchenko also injured

Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Man City boss Pep Guardiola expects to be without Rodri for at least a couple of matches after his heavily relied-on midfielder hurt his hamstring on Tuesday.

Rodri was removed from the match after 40 minutes, having partnered with Fernandinho at center back for the second-straight match.

[ MORE: Man City 5-1 Atalanta ]

A center mid and a fine one by trade, Rodri’s absence coupled with the still-hurt Aymeric Laporte leaves City significantly weaker in its heart.

“I think tomorrow we will know and hopefully it will be between 10 days if it is not broken,” Guardiola said. “If it is broken, it will be three weeks or one month.”

The club also announced before the match that Oleksandr Zinchenko had suffered a knee injury and will undergo tests.

City visits Aston Villa this weekend and then hosts Southampton in the League Cup and the Premier League before a visit to Atalanta in the Champions League.

That’s when Liverpool at Anfield arrives on the schedule, and the absence of Rodri would take some of the luster off of it for sure.