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Firing Bradley without a transfer window is baffling

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After firing a manager who didn’t get much of a say in their ill-planned summer transfer window, Swansea City went next level with their man management.

They fired a manager who didn’t get a say in his players at all.

Bob Bradley has been sacked as manager of Swansea City after just 11 matches in charge of the Premier League’s Welsh outfit.

Eleven matches.

[ EXCLUSIVE: Bradley issues first statement ]

Swansea seemed forced into keeping Francesco Guidolin after he saved the club from relegation last season. Chairman Huw Jenkins kept the last word in transfers, then let Andre Ayew and Ashley Williams walk without much in the way of proper replacements (Read a take on those errors here).

That was especially true for Williams, the club’s best player last season and a leader in Wales’ surprising run deep into EURO 2016.

Bradley said he was going to “go for it” until the transfer window, and the American did that justice. While Swans defense continued to fail and gave up even more goals, Bradley’s attack doubled its production.

Updating the numbers following Swans’ 4-1 loss to West Ham on Boxing Day, this is the club’s season:

Under Guidolin
1W-1D-5L (.57 points per game)
Goals scored: 6 (.85 per)
Goals allowed: 12 (1.71 per)

Under Bradley
2W-2D-7L (.72 points per game)
Goals scored: 15 (1.36 per)
Goals allowed: 29 (2.63 per)

Guidolin’s feast-or-famine run saw a home loss to Hull City and a home draw vs. Chelsea, and was packed with tough fixtures. Though Bradley’s started with Arsenal, even more short-sighted in terms of giving a coach a good start; Then again, Guidolin was seen by the press in the building just before Bradley was introduced, a bizarre bit of organization.

[ MORE: Pardew fired by Palace

Bradley’s run degenerated in the second half, at least defensively. Swans held Watford to a 0-0 and went to Everton for 1-1 before outlasting Palace 5-4. Though they’d add a blowout of Sunderland, Swans finished their run with Bradley having allowed three or more goals in five of six, thrice conceding four-plus markers.

Bradley’s firing isn’t an alien decision in the Premier League, where older managers are recycled and new names rarely get anything longer than a short leash.

But with the full acknowledgment that this is an American site, defending Bradley is a lot easier than having Swansea’s back here. After all, Swans fired Garry Monk last December and didn’t hire Guidolin until weeks into the January transfer window.

When you look at clubs who’ve made two bonafide managerial changes in recent seasons, here’s what you find:

Aston Villa (2015-16) — Tim Sherwood –> Remi Garde –> Eric Black
Fulham (2013-14) — Martin Jol –> Rene Meulensteen –> Felix Magath
Newcastle United (2008-09) — Kevin Keegan –> Joe Kinnear –> Alan Shearer
Portsmouth (2008-09) — Harry Redknapp –> Tony Adams –> Paul Hart

Of those four sides, only one carrying an asterisk stayed up: Portsmouth lost Redknapp when Spurs bought him out. Pompey finished seven points clear of the drop.

[ MORE: Liverpool batters Stoke ]

Of course, a team has to be fairly miserable to fire two managers in a season. It helps to be unorganized.

Firing Bradley isn’t a massive surprise given the financial dangers of a relegation campaign, but doing it without giving the boss a single transfer window to fix its miserable back line is shocking. Bradley was pried from another club, Le Havre, and given assurances he’d be able to fix the roster.

Change is almost a given in the Premier League, and Bradley really wasn’t given a chance. It’s easy to say that in retrospect, but hiring a man and not giving him a window to fix what ails Swansea is absolutely shocking. Unless we learn of full-scale dressing room hatred, it’s difficult to apply logic to hiring Bradley and firing him within a couple months.

Bournemouth at home and Crystal Palace away are next, and clearly the short-term thinking from the board is that a “new boss boost” could help them take points from perceived relegation opponents (Nevermind that Bradley oversaw “six-point” wins over Sunderland and Palace, losing to Boro and drawing Watford).

But what comes after that, when the fixtures go Arsenal home, Liverpool away, Southampton home, Man City away? With this back line, is life going to get any better?

If so, and it happens without a full overhaul of the defense, then the egg’s on our face. We’re just not expecting to need any towels.

Follow @NicholasMendola

Josef Martinez scores 2 more in win, including sensational solo work

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Josef Martinez scored his 25th and 26th goals of the MLS season, and if he challenges his MLS record of 31, he may also stare down soccer royalty.

The Venezuelan striker scored two more on Wednesday in a 2-0 defeat of FC Cincinnati in Ohio to give him goals in 15-straight league contests.

He now has 76 goals in 80 MLS games, which is good.

[ MORE: Champions League wrap ]

On the season, he’s six goals shy of matching the Major League Soccer record he set with last season’s 31 regular season goals.

According to MLSSoccer.com, he’s six games shy of tying Lionel Messi’s world record for consecutive league matches with a goal.

Even that’s a little tricky: Messi scored in 21-straight games in which he was eligible for selection, but 19-straight before missing two matches for injury. In that remarkable run of 21, he also had a run of six-straight braces.

It’s not really worth it to attempt to compare the two streaks: If Martinez gets to 21 (or even 19), it’s amazing stuff and worth celebrating on a worldwide level. Everyone has a bad game every now and again, but Martinez still finds the score sheet in ’em.

Look at the magician’s tricks he used for this one, including a back heel first touch and two freeze-frame cut moves. That’s not even mentioning the finish.

USWNT announces final matches of World Cup-winning year

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CHICAGO (AP) The Women’s World Cup champion U.S. team will wrap up 2019 with matches against Sweden and Costa Rica.

U.S. Soccer announced Wednesday that the U.S. will face Sweden in Columbus, Ohio, on Nov. 7 and Costa Rica in Jacksonville, Florida, on Nov. 10.

[ MORE: Champions League wrap ]

The team is wrapping up its World Cup victory tour next month with matches against South Korea on Oct. 3 in Charlotte, North Carolina, and on Oct. 6 in Chicago.

Coach Jill Ellis is stepping down following the match in Chicago after leading the team to a pair of consecutive World Cup titles.

The United States is 15-1-2 this year and currently riding a 14-game winning streak.

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

Report: Mane to get big raise, Liverpool contract through 2025

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Liverpool’s Senegalese sensation looks set to stay at Anfield deep into his 30s.

Sadio Mane is in talks with the Reds hierarchy over a new deal that will run through 2024-25, and pay him more than $15 million per season.

[ MORE: Champions League wrap ]

Mane, 27, currently has a deal through 2023, but surely wouldn’t mind a raise. And Liverpool will be happy to tie him down on Merseyside a bit longer.

He’s scored six times in seven matches this season, also grabbing an assist. That’s on a better pace than his 26 goals and five assists over 50 appearances in 2018/19.

Mane has 70 Premier League goals at the moment. Do you tip him to eclipse 100 while still at Anfield? 125?

Europa League preview: Man Utd, Wolves, Arsenal begin group stage

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The Europa League begins its group stage on Thursday, with the three Premier League combatants taking on clubs from Kazakhstan, Portugal and Germany.

Manchester United’s kids are gonna get some playing time when Astana visits Old Trafford on Wednesday.

Teenager Mason Greenwood and 21-year-old Axel Tuanzebe will start, and Sergio Romero will be between the sticks.

[ MORE: Champions League wrap ]

And the Manchester Evening News notes that Tahith Chong and Angel Gomes could also start at Old Trafford, meaning the veterans in the fray will be quite important.

Enter Fred, the forgotten $68 million man from Shaktar Donetsk. The 23 minutes he played last week versus Leicester City account for his lone time on the pitch this season.

Here’s Ole Gunnar Solskjaer:

“I’m sure we’ll see more and more of Fred. We spoke about it earlier, he’s had some great games in midfield with Scott against PSG and Arsenal, for example, and we’re just waiting for that to flourish.”

Fred had an odd record under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer last season, barely in the squad when the team started hot but trusted against PSG and Barcelona in the Champions League.

Speaking of little-used midfielders, Arsenal boss Unai Emery is getting a little grief for leaving Mesut Ozil behind for the Gunners’ trip to Germany for a big match with Eintracht Frankfurt.

Ozil made his first start of the season in Arsenal’s 2-2 draw with Watford at the weekend, playing 71 minutes and departing with the club up 2-1.

So why not even bring him abroad? Rest.

“Because we are going to play another match on Sunday,” Emery said, via The London Evening Standard. “My decision is because he played and also I’m thinking tomorrow the focus and the first 11 and after that I decided who are the players who can be the best for tomorrow and also the players not and that is Sokratis and Mesut.”

Sokrastis Papastathopoulos is also out, having played a big role in the embarrassing performance at Watford.

There have been tough times for Wolves as well, who sit in the relegation zone after five matches of the Premier League season.

They’ve been quite good in Europa League, though, dispatching a pair of minnows before winning both legs against Serie A side Torino.

Why the inconsistency? It’s not fixture congestion, according to Ruben Neves:

“I don’t think fatigue has anything to do with it, Neves said, via The Birmingham Mail. “We’re all top players, we’re used to it, we’re used to playing a lot of games in quick succession. I don’t think the Europa League has (anything) to do with our position in the Premier League. Obviously, we haven’t had the start that we’ve wanted, but it’s been a beautiful journey into the Europa League. This is a historic moment for Wolves and we’re going to do our best in this competition.”

Nuno Espirito Santo‘s men are in Portugal to meet Braga, one of three tricky opponents in Besiktas and Slovan Bratislava.

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