Three festive gifts for each Premier League team this holiday season

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Don’t supporters deserve to be loved especially well on the holidays?

While new players are the easiest answer to questions that plague Premier League clubs, they aren’t the only option to fix what ails sides across England.

[ MORE: PL managers react to Mourinho firing ]

Let’s hand out some gifts to the fine people of our PL world, from most to least needy.

Aston Villa

  1. Fluid attackers – While the sale of Christian Benteke hurt the side, even the big Belgian would’ve struggled given the lack of service and danger from the Villans.
  2. Better defenders – Yup. This, too. Allowing nearly two goals a game.
  3. Maturity for Jack Grealish – If his discipline closes the gap on his talent, things will look up at Villa Park.

Sunderland

  1. Breathing room – Sunderland has led for a mere 115 minutes this season, second-worst in the PL. Seventy-one of those minutes came against Newcastle.
  2. More home games – The Black Cats have picked up two-thirds of their points at the Stadium of Light.
  3. Lamine Kone – The Lorient defender is being linked with Sam Allardyce‘s side, and the Black Cats need better at the back.

Norwich City

  1. Better starts – The Canaries have only led in two of 16 Premier League matches, and have won both.
  2. Another clean sheet – Norwich is the only team in the PL with just one shutout this season.
  3. A penalty – Norwich is one of only four teams (Newcastle, Chelsea, Everton) to not have been awarded a PK this season.

Swansea City

  1. Better early play – Swans have allowed the first goal in 12 of 16 matches.
  2. Goals, period – They’ve also scored two or fewer goals in all 16 matches.
  3. Marcelo Bielsa – Rumors are that Roma might leap into the fray for Swans’ desired manager, and we’d like to see Bielsa in charge at the Liberty Stadium.

Chelsea

  1. Player heart – You can say what you want about pride and effort and blah blah blah, but there’s no way Eden Hazard, Diego Costa and company have been operating at full-bore.
  2. A center back – Kurt Zouma is nice and Gary Cahill is a great third option, but John Terry‘s been miserable and the Blues need someone better to pair with Zouma.
  3. A relentless striker – He’s not coming, but a high-pressure player like Jamie Vardy would work wonders for the Blues.
Jamie Vardy, Leicester City FC
Hopefully Leicester doesn’t sell, but Chelsea could use a player of his tenacity.

Newcastle United

  1. A prolonged FA Cup run – It would start with a win against Watford, and the Magpies’ fans deserve better than their recent Cup misery. And perhaps a tournament win could help change the overall mindset of the club.
  2. Mettle – The Magpies are brilliant when inspired, but rarely look inspired.
  3. Derby success – Losing to Sunderland consistently is bad enough. That the Black Cats have been terrible for close to the duration of the streak is even worse.

Bournemouth

  1. Miraculous recoveries – The Cherries are picking up points despite the lengthy absences of Callum Wilson, Max Gradel and Tyrone Mings amongst others.
  2. Stability in net – Artur Boruc isn’t a bad keeper, but he’s also not the type you’d like to count on for points.
  3. Organization and focus – Thirty of 31 goals conceded by Bournemputh have come inside their 18.

West Bromwich Albion

  1. An attacking mindset – Tony Pulis is a fine and disciplined manager, but watching the Baggies each week is a chore.
  2. The ball – West Brom’s possession stats are absolutely horrid. A counter-attacking mindset is fine, but not all the time. Woof.
  3. Precision – The Baggies have just one goal from outside the 18.

Southampton

  1. Hitting the target – Southampton have attempted the fourth-most shots in the Premier League, but carry the second-worst accuracy (40 percent).
  2. Jay Rodriguez – He’s so fun to watch, but so often hurt. Give the man some health.
  3. Goalkeeper health – With Fraser Forster out, Saints are now dealing with a toe injury to Maarten Stekelenburg.

Stoke City

  1. A breakout scoring match – The Potters haven’t posted a three-goal game.
  2. Halftime heroes – Stoke has been outscore 3-0 in between the 41st and 50th minutes this season.
  3. Excitement – Potters’ matches have featured a league-low 19 percent of matches with 3 or more total goals.

Everton

  1. Set piece goals – The Toffees have struck just twice off dead balls, tied with Newcastle for the worst in the league.
  2. Those shoes that help you jump higher – Everton’s allowed a league-worst eight headed goals.
  3. Close the store – Be nice for Everton fans to know they’ll be allowed to see out a season with John Stones, Romelu Lukaku and Seamus Coleman in the fold.

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Liverpool

  1. Focus – The Reds have committed the most defensive errors in the Premier League by far. Their 17 count for three more than No. 2 Arsenal.
  2. Help at the back — Jurgen Klopp could use a more commanding goalkeeper than Simon Mignolet.
  3. Marquinhos – The PSG center back could pair with Martin Skrtel to give the Reds an absolute wall at the back.

West Ham United

  1. Dmitri Payet – The French wizard is the key to Slaven Bilic‘s attack, but is set for a couple more months on the mend. We’d gift him back early Better yet, an end to the attackers’ injury plague – Diafra Sakho and Victor Moses are key to West Ham’s danger, but also out for a while.
  2. Discipline – The Hammers have four red cards, more than anyone else.
  3. Better luck – West Ham have been credited with 10 defensive errors, and a PL-worst 8 have gone into their goal.

Watford

  1. Better second-half starts – The Hornets have been outscored 9-4 from the 51st to 80th minute.
  2. Soap – Wash out Watford’s mouths: The Hornets have picked up the league’s most cards for chatter (tied with Everton and West Ham).
  3. Juan Iturbe – Rumors says the Roma winger could see a loan move to Watford, and that seems the sort of move that could make financial and football sense.

Crystal Palace

  1. Striker goals – Connor Wickham‘s hold-up play has been nice, but Palace could use goals from players other than Yannick Bolasie, Yohan Cabaye and their talented midfield.
  2. Ibuprofen – Palace has blocked more shots (82) than anyone in the league.
  3. A striker – See No. 1: Could Alan Pardew get a reunion with Loic Remy?
NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND - AUGUST 31: Newcastle United manager Alan Pardew signals as Loic Remy prepares to come on during the Barclays Premier League match between Newcastle United and Fulham at St James' Park on August 31, 2013 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
(Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Tottenham Hotspur

  1. Discipline – Spurs are tied with four other clubs for the most cards in the Premier League (35).
  2. Saido Berahino – This isn’t just a gift for Spurs fans, it’s a gift for soccer. Let’s see this kid freed from the grasp of Pulis.
  3. Michy Batshuayi – The attacked is being linked with loads of teams, but we’d love to see him join Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son in attack.

Manchester United

  1. Better road defense – United has allowed 92 percent of its goals this season away from Old Trafford.
  2. Guts – United is winning a joint-worst 45 percent of its duels, and has blocked fewer shots than anyone in the PL (although they aren’t conceding a ton, either)
  3. Cristiano Ronaldo – Merry Christmas, here’s one of the best players in the world and he loves your club. It’s an expensive gift, but you’ll probably sell that many CR7 jerseys anyway. Anthony Martial, Memphis Depay and company are electric, but aren’t putting the ball across the line.

[ MORE: Premier League Power Rankings ]

Manchester City

  1. Forward depth – A healthy Wilfried Bony and Sergio Aguero will do the trick in the PL, but another dynamite finisher would serve City well as it surges forward in the UEFA Champions League.
  2. A home clean sheet – Doesn’t Joe Hart deserve better than seven-straight home matches without a ‘zero’ on his side.
  3. Keyed-in Yaya – When Toure wants to play, Toure dominates.

Arsenal

  1. Healing – From Danny Welbeck to Santi Cazorla and Francis Coquelin to Jack Wilshere, Arsene Wenger could use some sort of magic potion.
  2. Science – These injury issues are an annual winter occurrence for Wenger, so perhaps better planning would work, too.
  3. Striker depth – Too much, too often is requested of Olivier Giroud.

Leicester City

  1. More fuel – Leicester has yet to be blanked this season. Whatever the Foxes have been eating, more of that please.
  2. Pass accuracy – The Foxes’ 72 percent rate is the worst in PL.
  3. More good fortune – Like many, I love the Leicester story and am hoping they keep it up. The numbers say they’ve been plenty lucky — the Foxes are the worst PL team in the air — and have arguably the toughest remaining schedule of a team not competing in the UCL or Europa League.

Nainggolan pegs back Inter in draw with Cagliari

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Inter’s challenge of Juventus for the Scudetto this season continues to absorb punches, each one slightly more damaging than the last.

The most recent blow came on Sunday as Inter suffered its third straight draw, pegged back by Cagliari as Radja Nainggolan delivered a 78th minute equalizer in a 1-1 draw.

Lautaro Martinez put Inter in front in the first half, with a pinpoint header buried off new signing Ashley Young‘s cross just before the half-hour mark. Unfortunately, as has been the story of late, they were unable to tack on the all-important second. The best chance came via Romelu Lukaku who dazzled the San Siro crowd by dodging and weaving through midfield and charging forward towards net, but was ultimately let down as he dragged the big chance wide with 10 minutes remaining. Young also seemed to have won a penalty at one point in the second half, but none was given and VAR did not intervene.

Nainggolan was the man to keep Cagliari in the hunt for a Champions League place, delivering a 78th minute shot that deflected off the heel of Inter defender Alessandro Bastoni and tucked perfectly inside the bottom-left corner. The deflection was a stroke of luck, but not all that harsh as Cagliari finished the match with a whopping 60% possession on the road at the second-placed Inter side.

To make matters worse, Martinez – who has been so massively important to Inter this entire season – lost his head deep in stoppage time, sent off for dissent after arguing a non-call. That leaves him suspended for the next league match against Udinese.

The lone point leaves Inter three points back of Juventus, who plays later Sunday against Napoli. A victory would carry the Old Lady six full points atop the table, with Inter having drawn against Atalanta and Lecce previously. The draw also leaves Inter vulnerable to Lazio below them, who sits three points back with two games in hand. A January slump is not uncommon for Inter, having won more than one league game just once in the last seven seasons.

There are still other competitions for Inter to focus on, however, with a Coppa Italia quarterfinal game against Fiorentia this week plus the Europa League knockout stage which begins in late February with a matchup against Russian side Ludogorets.

Atletico Madrid held scoreless by lowly Leganes

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Diego Simeone was once again flummoxed up front as Atletico Madrid was toothless in a 0-0 draw with lowly Leganes, leaving them seven points behind leaders Barcelona in the La Liga table, and leaving them looking for answers up front as well.

Joao Felix and Thomas Partey were bright, but Alvaro Morata was quieted by a well organized Leganes side as Atletico failed to produce any type of solid chance on net until Saul and Ivan Saponjic each missed decent efforts in the final minutes of play, including the latter’s which came in the 93rd minute and left the hosts with just the lone point. The meek result against La Liga’s 19th-placed team is the most recent setback in a season of spotty performances.

All season long, scoring goals has been an enormous problem for Atleti. They haven’t scored more than two goals in any game since a 3-2 win over Eibar way back on September 1, and have been blanked in eight league matches this year, including two in a row now. They have scored 22 goals this season in La Liga play, a paltry total only matched by eighth-placed Atletic Bilbao and those in 14th and below.

Felix has drowned in abuse from fans over the last month given the team’s struggles, but in all honesty he was the team’s best attacker at the Wanda Metropolitano on Sunday. The young Portuguese forward worked both flanks and earned four fouls, including two in the attacking third. Still, he had little support and was unable to get by a packed-in Leganes defense on his own. Partey was good as well, producing a quality shift in his defensive midfield role but unable to chip in moving forward.

In contrast, Morata was a complete no-show. Producing just two total shots in the 90-minute performance, Morata has now failed to score in three straight league games and owns just two in his last eight. Simeone’s attack was completely devoid of answers, resorting to futily pummeling the Leganes box with crosses, finding a teammate with just six of their 23 attempts. They won just two of seven aerial duels in the Leganes area, and over the 90 minutes produced an expected goal total of 1.02 with 14 shots, including nearly half of that xG value (0.45) on the aforementioned two late chances coming in the final three minutes of play.

With a Champions League matchup against Liverpool on the horizon, Simeone has plenty to sort out as Atletico Madrid looks to challenge both domestically and in Europe.

FOLLOW LIVE: Man City, Man United, Liverpool in FA Cup

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It’s a big Sunday slate in the FA Cup fourth round as Manchester City, Manchester United, and Liverpool all take the field, each with their own time slot. Click the link below to follow along with the action.

[ LIVE: Follow all the FA Cup scores here ]

Fulham and Tranmere have already knocked off Premier League opponents. The Whites took down Aston Villa 2-1 in the third round on Harry Arter‘s absolutely stunning winner with 16 minutes to go, while Tranmere topped Watford just three days ago in extra time of their replay.

Manchester City has delivered a strong starting lineup at the Etihad to face Fulham, with David Silva, Riyad Mahrez, and Ilkay Gundogan all in the eleven, while 19-year-old Spanish defender Eric Garcia also appears alongside Nicolas Otamendi. Fulham, meanwhile, is struck by injuries at key places, with talismanic striker Aleksandr Mitrovic out as is the goalscorer Arter from last round.

Full Sunday FA Cup schedule

Manchester City v. Fulham – 8:00 a.m. ET
Tranmere Rovers v. Manchester United – 10:00 a.m. ET
Shrewsbury Town v. Liverpool – 12:00 p.m. ET

Transfer rumor roundup: Mari to Arsenal; Defoe makes permanent Rangers move

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A roundup of all of Saturday’s biggest transfer rumors, including those involving Premier League outfits.

[ MORE: Premier League January transfer needs ]

Arsenal are reportedly hours from adding a defender to Mikel Arteta‘s squad.

Flamengo’s Pablo Mari has reportedly arrived in London and set for a medical at Arsenal, Sky Sports reports. The 26-year-old Spaniard will join the North London side for the remainder of the season with an option to buy.

It won’t be Mari’s first time signing for a Premier League side, however.

In 2016, the center-back signed with Manchester City, but never featured for the defending champions, instead making appearances for Girona, NAC and Deportivo La Coruna on loan.


Jermaine Defoe is not returning to Bournemouth.

On Saturday, Rangers announced that Defoe signed a pre-contract to join Rangers on permanent basis in the summer.

The storied 37-year-old English striker has 20 goals in 57 appearances since joining the Scottish giants last January on a 18-month loan. Defoe’s new contract runs through the 2020-21 season, a one-year deal.

“It’s fantastic news,” Rangers manager Steven Gerrard told the club’s website. “It’s something we have been working on over the weeks and it is great to finally get that done and dusted.”

“He is an incredible professional with the way he goes about his work on and off the pitch – he is a credit to himself and his family. And also on the pitch, which is the main thing. He is still contributing heavily – he is a major part of this group, this team and this squad and hopefully together we can go and share some success as I think he deserves that.”

This season, Defoe has scored 16 goals in 28 games.


Crystal Palace are in talks to sign Belgium international Yannick Carrasco, according to Sky Sports.

Carrasco, 26, wants to leave Chinese Super League side Dalian Yifang and is currently training in Belgium, ahead of a return to European play.

Carrasco has scored 24 goals in 52 appearances since making a move to China from Atletico Madrid in February 2018.


Norwich City are actively pursuing Danel Sinani, according to the Daily Mail.

The 22-year-old Luxembourg winger is out of contract with Luxembourg side FC Dudelange this summer. If the parties involved can’t reach a deal this week,  the Canaries are reportedly ready to propose a pre-contract agreement.