Bob Bradley: Swansea City entering “critical period” in season

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Bob Bradley is looking to build on his first win as Swansea City manager.

Bradley, 58, became the first-ever American coach to win a Premier League game last Saturday as the Swans beat Crystal Palace 5-4 in an incredible game at the Liberty Stadium.

[ MORE: Cazorla out injured ]

This Saturday Bradley takes his team on the road to White Hart Lane (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET on NBCSports.com) and he knows the challenge will be a tough one.

But it isn’t just the upcoming battle against Mauricio Pochettino‘s men which is in his focus. Bradley also has one eye on the run of six games coming up after Swansea’s trip to Spurs as they face Sunderland, West Brom, Middlesbrough, West Ham, Bournemouth and Crystal Palace.

“I think it’s a critical period between now and the beginning of the new year,” Bradley said. “I keep getting asked questions about the January transfer window, but I also understand that between now and then, there are a lot of important matches. It’s a busy schedule through the holidays, and it’s an opportunity for us to turn things around – to put a bad start behind us and really give a bit more belief to the idea that we are ready to end the season in a strong way.”

For Swansea, heading to Spurs is almost a free hit. Nobody expects them to get anything at the Lane (they’ve never beaten Spurs in the Premier League, in case you were wondering) and a point would be a great result for Bradley’s side.

However in the run of six games following this weekend, 18 crucial points are up for grabs and 12 points would be a great haul from those matches around the festive period and they’d go a long way to pushing the Swans towards midtable.

First up Bradley will look for Swansea to win the home games against Sunderland, West Ham and Bournemouth and then nab a win on the road at West Brom, Middlesbrough or Crystal Palace. All of those six teams are right around the South Wales club and if Bradley is going to drag them out of the relegation zone then winning as many of these “six pointers” (nope, it’s not too early to call them that) is crucial. Especially when you look at the schedule in January…

Arsenal, Liverpool, Southampton, Manchester City and Leicester City come in the five games after this “critical period” for Swansea.

The main thing Bradley will try to improve is the defense because we saw how bad some of the set piece defending was against Palace, plus a severe lack of luck has gone against the Swans with own goals flying in too. Those are the kinds of things which happen when you’re down there.

That said, Bradley has the likes of Gylfi Sigurdsson and Leroy Fer scoring regularly and if Fernando Llorente stays fit, he will also be a danger man.

If Swansea can get through December with three wins under their belt, things will be looking a lot better for Bradley.

Watford chasing Rennes, Senegal star Sarr

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Watford may capture one of the rising stars of the game.

Ismaila Sarr would cost the Hornets a club transfer record fee, and Sky Sports says that Watford and Rennes are about $10 million apart.

The Ligue 1 side reportedly wants $34 million for the Senegal national team right wing.

[ VIDEO: Nketiah leads Arsenal win ]

Sarr, 21, scored a goal and an assist in Senegal’s run to the Africa Cup of Nations final, playing opposite Sadio Mane of Liverpool.

He posted 13 goals with 14 assists last season between Ligue 1, the French Cup, and the Europa League. He was the lone Rennes player to score against Arsenal in the UEL Round of 16.

Watford has held onto Abdoulaye Doucoure and Dodi Lukebakio this offseason. Lukebakio is also a 21-year-old right wing, and had a sensational loan season with Fortuna Dusseldorf in 2019-20.

Nketiah leads Arsenal past Fiorentina (video)

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Eddie Nketiah scored twice as Arsenal beat Fiorentina 3-0 in Charlotte on Saturday.

Joe Willock also scored for the Gunners, which beat Colorado Rapids and Bayern Munich in their first two matches of the preseason and meet Real Madrid in Maryland on Tuesday.

[ MORE: Guardiola hails KDB ]

Fiorentina took 18 of the match’s 30 shots, though Arsenal had nearly 60 percent of the ball.

Nketiah, 20, scored against Burnley in last season’s Premier League finale and then late against Bayern Munich earlier this week.

He was deft in a high-pressure spot for this one.

Premier League friendlies: Watford beats Bayer, Man Utd over Inter

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Arsenal and Fiorentina are set to kickoff in Charlotte tonight, with the Gunners the last of a bevy of Premier League sides to engage in preseason friendlies this muggy Saturday.

[ MORE: Guardiola hails KDB ]


Girona 1-2 Bournemouth

Juanpe’s late header pushed La Liga’s hosts past Eddie Howe and his 10-man Cherries, playing down after VAR deemed Jack Simpson‘s foul worthy of a sending off. Ryan Fraser scored Bournemouth’s goal, assisted by Jordon Ibe.

Northampton Town 0-4 Sheffield United

Oliver Norwood converted two penalties in an easy win for Chris Wilder in his return to a club he played for and managed.

Fulham 2-1 Brighton and Hove Albion

Pascal Gross scored with an early free kick — a Megan Rapinoe special — but Tom Cairney scored twice after halftime for the Championship side.

Cheltenham Town 1-2 Leicester City

The Foxes collected a second win over a lower league side this week, with Jamie Vardy and Marc Albrighton on the board.

Newcastle United 1-0 West Ham United (Shanghai)

New manager Steve Bruce watched from the crowd as the Magpies made amends for a 4-0 loss to Wolves by blanking West Ham. Jamie Sterry‘s cross for Yoshinori Muto was delightful, and the Japanese striker’s finish was well-taken.

Port Vale 1-3 Burnley; Crewe Alexandra 0-1 Burnley

Chris Wood, Matej Vydra and Robbie Brady scored as the Clarets overcame an early Nick Pope goal to beat Port Vale, but the Premier League side couldn’t do much in a simultaneous friendly at Crewe.

Inter Milan 0-1 Manchester United (Singapore)

Substitute forward Mason Greenwood, just 17, scored the late goal in a match United controlled, outshooting Inter 21-8.

Preston North End 1-3 Southampton

Brace-bagging Danny Ings doesn’t usually have a problem with finish, so passing the ball directly to him is not something we’d recommend to goalkeepers. Jake Vokins also scored for Saints at Deepdale.

Watford 2-1 Bayer Leverkusen (Austria)

Will Hughes and Andre Gray scored as the Hornets collected a win over Champions League competition.

Man City (0-0, 2-3 pens) Wolves (Shanghai)

Rui Patricio was very good over 90 minutes, and stopped City’s first two penalty attempts as Wolves continue to perplex the PL champions.

WATCH: Marco Fabian smashes set piece goal

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Marco Fabian sent a missile toward goal, and perhaps it’s good the goalkeeper didn’t get to the hand-breaking shot.

Philadelphia took a 1-0 lead over Chicago on Saturday in Chester, Pennsylvania, thanks to the Mexican midfielder.

[ REPORT: Man Utd locks up De Gea ]

It was a pretty set piece from Jim Curtin’s men, a backwards played free kick was laid off to Fabian for his audacious rip.

Fabian hasn’t had a wonderful 2019 season, but his fourth goal of the season will give Union supporters hope that he’ll pick up his form and make the already East-leading side all the more dangerous.