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Best of 2016: Top moments in the Premier League

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The Premier League had so many memorable moments in 2016.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Our writers got together to discuss some of their best memories from the past 12 months.

Over to them…


Best individual performance by player in Premier League:

Joe Prince-Wright: Some truly incredible displays from Leicester’s players over the course of their title win but I remember their 1-0 win against Southampton in the run-in. N'Golo Kante dragged them through on his own. He has taken that form with him to Chelsea.

Nick Mendola: N’Golo Kante, Leicester City and Chelsea. Just generally an absolute machine.

Kyle Bonn: I’m going for a team performance. Has to be Chelsea’s 4-0 demolition of Manchester United in October. The fans chanted “You’re not special anymore” to Jose Mourinho, who was humiliated by Antonio Conte in his return to his former cub.

Matt Reed: Andy Carroll hat-trick vs. Arsenal (April 2016)

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - APRIL 17: Ngolo Kante of Leicester City holds off pressure from Winston Reid of West Ham United  during the Barclays Premier League match between Leicester City and West Ham United at The King Power Stadium on April 17, 2016 in Leicester, England.  (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
(Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

Best game you watched in 2016:

Joe: I would go with Tottenham 2-2 Arsenal in April 2016. The atmosphere was electric at White Hart Lane and both teams were in the title hunt at that point. Harry Kane scored a stunner but 10-man Arsenal snatched a point. High drama and incredibly high quality play.

Nick: Leicester 2-2 West Ham, April 17, 2016; Vardy scores then sees red. Leicester holds the lead with 10 men for almost an hour, only to see West Ham score twice in two minutes — the first a wild penalty — and Leonardo Ulloa nets a penalty of his own in stoppage to seal a point in the midst of all eyes being on Leicester.

Kyle: Bournemouth 4-3 Liverpool, Dec 4., 2016

Matt: Liverpool beats Norwich, 5-4, in Premier League (January 2016)


Best coach:

Joe: Claudio Ranieri. What he achieved, and how he achieved it, was career-defining.

Nick: Mauricio Pochettino

Kyle: Has to be Claudio Ranieri. Despite Leicester City’s dropoff, he not only led them to a title last season, but has them performing at top level in a historic Champions League campaign.

Matt: Claudio Ranieri

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - MAY 16:  (L-R) Claudio Ranieri Manager of Leicester City and captain Wes Morgan of Leicester City show the trophy to the fans during the Leicester City Barclays Premier League winners bus parade on May 16, 2016 in Leicester, England.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
(Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Best player in Premier League:

Joe: I’m going with Alexis Sanchez. Over the course of the past 12 months he has been unstoppable at times. If he had a better striker to combine with in the final third and in the box, they’d both get 20-25 goals per season. A monster for Arsenal.

Nick: N’Golo Kante

Kyle: Like the coach category, this is incredibly difficult because almost all the players who are playing well this season were poor in the second half of last season, and visa versa. Alexis Sanchez would be a good shout, but he struggled down the stretch last year. I’m going to go with Diego Costa, who not only leads the Premier League in goals so far this season, but had a quietly great 2nd half of last year while the rest of his team struggled.

Matt: Sergio Aguero


Best Premier League team:

Joe: Leicester City. I know they’re struggling now but if we talk about being a total team, then they dominated the first half of 2016. Recent wobbles to be expected after so many highs.

Nick: Chelsea

Kyle: I would put Arsenal here, but they seem to be slightly off the pace this season and faltered in early 2016, so Leicester City wins this by default.

Matt: Leicester City


Best prospect in Premier League:

Joe: I think Dele Alli is now a little old to class as a prospect but over the past 12 months he’s elevated himself to a new level. In terms of emerging talent, I’ve been impressed with Mason Holgate at Everton whenever I’ve seen him. Under Ronald Koeman he could flourish.

Nick: Leroy Sane of Manchester City

Kyle: There are a host of good young players in the Premier League. Dele Alli is just 20, Romelu Lukaku is 22, and so is Eric Dier. But with those guys already having established themselves, and this question focuses on prospects, I will go with Nathan Ake, who is having an amazing season with Bournemouth and established his identity at Watford last year.

Matt: Dele Alli

Tottenham’s Dele Alli celebrates after the English Premier League soccer match between Crystal Palace and Tottenham Hotspur at Selhurst Park in London, Saturday Jan. 23, 2016. (AP Photo/Tim Ireland)
(AP Photo/Tim Ireland)

Best goal in Premier League:

Joe: Henrikh Mkhitaryan‘s amazing back heel scorpion kick against Sunderland on Boxing Day 2016. Yes, he was a yard offside. Still, it was a mind-blowing moment.

Nick: Dele Alli vs. Crystal Palace, Jan. 23

Kyle: Dele Alli vs. Crystal Palace, Jan. 23

Matt: Dele Alli vs. Crystal Palace, Jan. 23


Bologna draws 3-3 at Lazio to secure Serie A safety

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ROME (AP) Bologna secured Serie A football for another season after drawing at Lazio 3-3 in a thriller on Monday.

Bologna moved four points clear of the relegation zone with one match remaining.

Lazio was still celebrating winning the Italian Cup midweek and Joaquin Correa fired the capital side in front in the 13th minute.

[ MORE: Players to watch at U-20 World Cup ]

However, two goals in the space of a minute from Andrea Poli and Mattia Destro saw Bologna take the lead early in the second half.

Bastos curled in a stunning effort to level for Lazio in the 59th but Riccardo Orsolini restored Bologna’s lead shortly after.

Substitute Sergej Milinkovic-Savic secured a draw for Lazio with a sensational free kick 10 minutes from time.

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

Choosing a USMNT XI for the Gold Cup

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Noting that most positions on the international stage are up for grabs based on form, there are special opportunities on the wing, right back, and center back when it comes to the USMNT at the Gold Cup this summer.

That’s because of two related things, one fact and one close to it:

[ MORE: Players to watch at U-20 World Cup ]

  1. DeAndre Yedlin and John Brooks are missing from the lineup due to injury. Brooks is easily the Yanks’ No. 1 center back, and Yedlin is a right back when Tyler Adams is unavailable and good enough that Gregg Berhalter tries to shoehorn him in at right wing when Adams is manning that spot.
  2. Mexico’s the overwhelming favorite to win the tournament with more in-form club players in Europe than the U.S., including would-be Premier League Best XI forward Raul Jimenez of Wolves. And who’s going to have to deal with Raul? You guessed it, the big American center backs.

Presuming Berhalter is still wed to Adams as the part-fullback, part distributing midfielder role, that has our lineup for important Gold Cup matches with few sure things.

Zack Steffen (if healthy)

Adams — XXXXX — XXXXX — XXXXX

McKennie — Bradley

XXXXX — Pulisic — XXXXX

Altidore

Now you may not like that I’ve assumed Bradley and Altidore’s places here, but there’s little doubt both are still quite capable against CONCACAF competition and also have the experience in this exact competition and against Mexico. Surely both are motivated for a bit of redemption as well.

Friendlies against Jamaica and Venezuela will give Berhalter a chance to try out players like Tyler Boyd, Marlon Fossey, and Miles Robinson should they impress amongst a 40-player field (although the Jamaica match on June 5 in Washington, D.C. is a day before the final rosters are due for the Gold Cup).

Now what we are trying to solve here is who is the best bet to help the Yanks win the dang thing.

Defenders: Aaron Long, Matt Miazga, and Tim Ream are the favorites to start at the two center back spots and left back, but Daniel Lovitz will try to push Ream after a rough season at Fulham. Both Walker Zimmerman and Omar Gonzalez are in good form, and you can bet Berhalter will give Cameron Carter-Vickers a chance to earn some time. A flat back four role gives Antonee Robinson hope in place of Ream, and if Adams moves into the midfield, Nick Lima did alright in his right back role in January.

Midfielders/Wingers: The spots around Pulisic should be filled by those who can keep the width of the field but also serve somewhat as enforcers for the No. 10. Sebastian Lletget gives them a good shot on one side, and Paul Arriola provides a similar spot. While Joe Gyau, Josh Sargent, Duane Holmes, and Djordje Mihailovic can hope to challenge, the MLS vets with experience outside the country are good bets to get the gigs.

Zack Steffen (if healthy)

Adams — Miazga — Long — Ream

McKennie — Bradley

Arriola — Pulisic — Lletget

Altidore

Does that get the job done against Mexico? Probably not, but it’ll give Tata Martino’s men a hassle.

Report: Man City could use Gabriel Jesus to get Rodri

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At the root of this report is a question to which we don’t know the answer: How highly does Pep Guardiola rate Gabriel Jesus?

A report from Spanish outlet AS says Guardiola could use his young striker to lure Atletico Madrid into a swap deal, landing Manchester City their stirring defensive midfielder Rodri.

[ MORE: Players to watch at U-20 World Cup ]

Rodri is a nearly year older than 22-year-old Jesus, and is more instrumental to his current club. One of Atletico Madrid’s top talents, his $78 million release clause is an obvious route for City.

If Guardiola doesn’t see Jesus as a huge part of the club’s future, however, the manager may be able to go nearly like-for-like money-wise.

Jesus scored nearly every other game for City in all competitions, nabbing 21 goals in 47 matches, and has 13 goals in 27 caps for Brazil. Those are good numbers, especially with still-electric Sergio Aguero turning 31 this summer.

At his relatively tender age, Jesus has appeared 100 times for Man City and his 45 goals are made more impressive by less than 5600 total minutes in those matches.

Giving up on him to complete his midfield is a tough one. We think it’s more likely Guardiola pays the release clause… unless the manager simply doesn’t rate the player.

Players to watch at the U-20 World Cup

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The U-20 World Cup begins this week in Poland, and there are a bevy of future stars to watch, as well as several who will make their names during the tournament.

We’ll focus on the former. While England’s failure to qualify somewhat limits the Premier League starlets on show, there are still plenty from the English top flight.


Tim Weah, United States (PSG) — After a loan at Celtic and time with the full USMNT, how much can he dominate back in his age group?

Alban Lafont, France (Fiorentina) — At age 20, he’s already the starter between the sticks for his Serie A mainstays.

Diego Lainez, Mexico (Real Betis) — Eighteen with 12 league appearances for Real Betis, Lainez is a massive part of El Tri‘s future and carries four caps to his name.

Ruben Vinagre, Portugal (Wolves) — Wolves were promoted, and Vinagre actually made eight more appearances (17) than he made in the Championship.

Ezequiel Barco, Argentina (Atlanta United) — His sophomore season for the Five Stripes has been better than his debut campaign, though that’s not saying a ton given the hype.

Evan N’Dicka, France (Eintracht Frankfurt) — Plenty of playing time in the Bundesliga at the age of 19 for this towering center back.

Paxton Pomykal, United States (FC Dallas) — Looking good in MLS. How much should that translate on this stage?

Andriy Lunin, Ukraine (Real Madrid) — Won’t be wearing the white of Madrid in meaningful action any time soon, but made four appearances on loan for Leganes as a 20-year-old.

Sebastian Soto, United States (Hannover 96) — Not the American-born Bundesliga starlet we expected had we created this list months ago, but Soto has made his Bundesliga debut, so there’s a lot to like while Josh Sargent works with the full USMNT.

Dan Zagadou, France (Borussia Dortmund) — The left- and center back has 25 first team appearances for BVB at 19.

Diogo Dalot, Portugal (Manchester United) — Red Devils supporters know about this fella, who was purchased under the watch of Jose Mourinho last summer.

Mickael Cuisance, France (Borussia Monchengladbach) — Took a step back after his blockbuster ‘Gladbach breakthrough in 2017-18, but will be a key piece for the favorites.

Moussa Sylla, France (Monaco) — The winger is already a factor for AS Monaco, even if they struggled this season.

Bonus: Erling Håland, Denmark (Red Bull Salzburg); Ronald Araujo, Uruguay (Barcelona); Tom Dele-Bashiru, Nigeira (Manchester City).