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Should Serge Aurier’s baggage impact Tottenham move?

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By Rob Dauster

Serge Aurier is everything that Tottenham needs in a right back.

He’s pacy. He’s strong. He’s attack-minded. He’s the prototype of what manager Mauricio Pochettino looks for in a fullback; Kyle Walker at half the price.

[ MORE: All the latest transfer news

Anyone that watched Kieran Trippier struggle to do anything against Chelsea early in the season is already well aware that kind of speed out wide is something Spurs are missing, potentially the difference between competing for the top four and competing for a title.

Serge Aurier also comes with a significant amount of baggage, not the least of which is an issue getting a visa and work permit to actually enter the UK.

He was arrested and charged with assaulting a police officer outside a Paris nightclub. He received a two-month jail sentence and is currently appealing the ruling. In November, he was not allowed to enter the country for a Champions League group stage match against Arsenal.

But assuming he wins his appeal, and assuming the reports linking the want-away PSG defender with Tottenham — according to L’Equipe, terms have been agreed upon and Aurier has already undergone a medical — are true, then the bigger issue Spurs chairman Daniel Levy faces is the fact that he’ll be bringing in a player with a documented history of using homophobic language.

For those that are unaware, last spring, during a Q-and-A that Aurier did on the app Periscope, the Ivorian insulted a number of his teammates and called then manager Laurent Blanc “une fiotte,” which, in French, translates to “f—-t”.

After initially denying that it was him on the video, Aurier released a half-hearted apology, attempting to clear the air with his teammates and coaching staff:

“I made a big mistake, I am here to say sorry to the coach, the club and my team-mates, and to the supporters because they are the most important people,” he said. “I want to apologize especially to the coach, I can only thank him for all he has done for me since I arrived in Paris. He wanted me and since I came here everything has gone really well. I owe him a lot and that is why I apologize sincerely to him for what was said, which I deeply regret.”

“I will accept any sanction the club impose on me regarding this incident. I made a mistake, it was unforgivable and I am ready to face all the consequences.”

Nowhere in that statement does Aurier apologize for the use of homophobic language. Nowhere in there does he accept responsibility for the pain he caused LGBT PSG fans that had to hear him say those things. Nowhere does he acknowledge that using that word is wrong.

And therein lies the problem.

Every time a member of the LGBT community hears homophobic language like this, it triggers something in them. They hearken back to the days when it wasn’t okay to be gay. It reminds them of every time they were discriminated against for their sexual orientation. The mere presence of Serge Aurier on Tottenham’s roster will do this to LGBT Spurs supporters.

Think about it like this: How many times have you found yourself lying awake at night, replaying the most awkward, embarrassing and painful moments of your past over and over in your head?

Now imagine having that feeling every single time you watch your favorite soccer club play simply because they decided to sign a player that may actually be homophobic. Imagine being put into a position where you have to decide whether or not to continue cheering for your club because something as normal as hearing an announcer say the right back’s name reminds you of every single person that has hated and ridiculed you for who you are.

Sports are supposed to be the place we go to get away from all of that, particularly at a club like Tottenham, where the Proud Lilywhites supporters group’s rainbow flag was clearly visible on every television broadcast from White Hart Lane:

Ben Daniels and Michael Caley of Cartilage Free Captain, SB Nation’s Tottenham website, wrote a sensational piece on this topic and I encourage everyone to go read it.

Where I differ is that I do not believe that Aurier is off-limits to the club, but that is assuming the player is willing to make amends, to become a face fighting for equality within the league.

According to reports in France, PSG’s chairman punched a door over the lack of sincerity in Aurier’s apology. Compare that to Manchester United star Paul Pogba, who has spoken openly about respect that gay footballers deserve and shaved “#EQUAL” into his hair to support the cause.

Frankly, I’m not sure even that would be enough. Anyone can read a PR crafted apology when they know millions of dollars and a career’s worth of earning power is on the line.

Sit Aurier down with the LGBT supporter’s groups. Reach out to at-risk, LGBT youth. An apology is not as impactful as educating someone with his platform as to why using that language is such a problem.

Because I promise you Aurier is not alone in thinking it is OK to call people “f—-t”. I can also promise you I’m not the only one that is thankful that I didn’t have a platform and an app that could broadcast everything I said in my late-teens and early-20s to the entire world.

People should be allowed to make mistakes like this as long as they learn from them. Young athletes saying ignorant things should be a teaching point. Getting through to Aurier means reaching all the people that pay attention to what he has to say.

Which is why Tottenham, should they opt to sign Aurier, have a responsibility here.

But it’s about more than forcing an apology and a few public appearances. It’s more than a couple of well-produced twitter videos featuring

Aurier trying to make amends.

It is on the club to make Aurier prove that he wants to learn, and that he truly understands what he did and why it’s wrong.

And if he doesn’t, then he doesn’t deserve a place at Tottenham, and the club should be ashamed of putting the pursuit of a trophy ahead of the people willing to spend their life supporting Spurs without one.

 

Premier League Preview: Liverpool v. Crystal Palace

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  • Reds open weekend with 4-point table lead
  • Palace four pts clear of drop zone
  • Reds won 2-0 at Palace in August
  • Liverpool leads all-time 27W-11D-14L

There’s a bit of a rub to the easy storyline here, that league’s stingiest defense hosts one of the least productive attacks when Liverpool entertains Crystal Palace at Anfield on Saturday (Watch live at 10 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

The Reds have allowed just three goals at home this Premier League season, but Palace has scored 14 of its 20 league goals away from Selhurst Park.

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

The Eagles have also won their last two away matches, beating Man City and Wolves.

What they’re saying

Jurgen Klopp on Andy Robertson signing a new contract“I remember when we signed him back in the summer of 2017, I spoke a lot about ‘his story, his journey’ and how much I loved it and thought it pointed to the type of person and player he would be for us. He has exceeded these expectations. He might be from Glasgow originally, but everything about him screams Liverpool.”

Palace’s Andros Townsend on playing up top“I have thoroughly enjoyed it. At first, I didn’t think it would work. I remember me and Wilf [Zaha] speaking to each other and thinking, ‘how is this going to work? We will get bullied by the centre halves.’ But for one reason or another, it has just clicked and we have enjoyed it. We have both been involved in a lot more of the play, and everything went through us two and we thrived off of that, and ended up doing very well.”

Prediction

The Eagles get on the board against Liverpool, helped by their fullback pair of Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Patrick Van Aanholt, but don’t have enough to outlast the Reds. 2-1 Liverpool.

Premier League odds: Chelsea matchweek away favorite at Arsenal

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The reality an away-team win could be in both clubs’ interest might be the place to start with this week’s Super Sunday matchup.

Chelsea is the +135 away favorite on the Premier League odds with host Arsenal coming back at +205, while the draw is priced at +260 on the three-way moneyline and there is a 3.0-goals total for Sunday at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

[ MORE: Bundesliga 2nd half preview ]

Chelsea, which has three consecutive one-goal wins in its last three away matches, could all but eliminate Arsenal from top-four contention (and the automatic berth in the 2019-20 Champions League), and a Gunners side thinned-out by injuries and turmoil might welcome the chance to put more of its eggs in the Europa League basket.

Eden Hazard (+400 first goal scorer, -125 anytime) will likely feature for Chelsea now that Alvaro Morata is shipping off to Atletico Madrid of Spain. Chelsea by 1 Goal (+350) and Either Team 2-1 (+350) offer good value in Winning Margin and Correct Score Group props at online sports betting sites.

Elsewhere this weekend, Wolverhampton (+130) has won or drawn against Leicester City (+245, draw +225) in nine of their last 10 home matchups and the inconsistent Foxes’ last six away matches have all finished UNDER 2.5 goals. There is a little more value with looking at Wolverhampton 1-0, 2-0, or 2-1 (+185) in Correct Score Group props, and Raul Jimenez (+500 first goal scorer, +200 anytime) should be a factor offensively.

Liverpool (-500) and Crystal Palace (+1500, draw +600), in relative terms, both have strong scoring trends with the Reds having scored at least three goals in their last three home games and the Eagles having netted twice in each of their last three away games. Liverpool win/yes (+150) and Yes/Over 2.5 (+125) are the percentage plays in Both Teams To Score props.

Newcastle United (EVEN) and Cardiff City (+335, draw +230) are both in the relegation zone and reeling of late, with Newcastle winless in five games while Cardiff has banked only one win its last seven games (all competitions). Newcastle has injuries to key cogs such as Jamaal Lascelles (hamstring) and Isaac Hayden (back). Those factors make Cardiff enticing on the double chance (+180), while tie/no (+800), that is betting on a 0-0 draw, has good value in Both Teams To Score Props.

Huddersfield Town (+2000) hosting Manchester City (-650, draw +700) for a Sunday  matchup right after sacking manager David Wagner begs the question of how to divine some Man City betting values. The any other score (+175) in Correct Score Group props covers the possibility of City scoring four or more goals in a win where it also concedes; it’s the same payout as No/Over 2.5 in Both Teams To Score props.

And Fulham (+425) hosts a Tottenham (-125, draw +255) side in its first game since learning Harry Kane (ankle) will be out until March. The overall trends, though, show that Fulham’s last six home games against Tottenham have gone OVER 2.5 goals, and the visiting Spurs have won seven of their last nine away games. Kane’s absence could make Tottenham try new modes of attack and winger Dele Alli (+600 first scorer, +200 anytime) could capitalize.

For more odds information, betting picks and a breakdown of this week’s top sports betting news check out the OddsShark podcast with Jon Campbell and Andrew Avery. Subscribe on iTunes or Spotify or listen to it at OddsShark.libsyn.com.

Pep: Fernandinho is amazing, but we need to find him relief

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Pep Guardiola says Manchester City has “three or four” targets in mind as long-term replacements for Fernandinho.

[ MORE: JPW’s PL picks ]

There is no debate that the club has been markedly better with the 33-year-old in the center of the park, with City losing both of its Premier League matches that the Brazilian missed this season (Palace and Leicester City back-to-back).

“I think with the way we play we need a guy who has of course physicality, is quick in the head and reading where our spaces to attack are,” Guardiola said Friday ahead of a Sunday visit to Huddersfield Town.

“As many things as he can do, the better. I know it is not easy to find one player who can do everything. [You have to deal with] the price, the agents and the club if you want to buy the players so we will see.”

The 49-times capped Fernandinho has been one of the more overlooked players during his time at City, posting big performance scores even before Guardiola arrived at the Etihad Stadium.

But how long can he continue to thrive in that role? Certainly not too much longer if City can’t give him some relief. That’s no indictment on the player, rather a 33-year-old who plays with such physicality and piles up minutes across all competitions.

The Bundesliga is back: What to watch for

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The Winterpause ends Friday, as Bayern Munich visits Hoffenheim with a new feel for its first match of a calendar year: That of the title chaser.

The six-time defending Bundesliga champions enter the second half of the season six points back of Borussia Dortmund.

[ MORE: JPW’s PL picks ]

Still 2.5 months from the next Der Klassiker (April 6 at the Allianz Arena), Bayern has to navigate a title fight without the chance to directly affect its rivals. Both clubs face Premier League opposition in the Champions League — Bayern with Liverpool, BVB v. Spurs — and neither has a particularly easy start to 2019. Other storylines to watch:

How much will Christian Pulisic’s transfer further affect his playing time? Whether or not Pulisic leaves for Chelsea as a Bundesliga champion is one thing, but many American eyes will be trained upon how often he’s deployed by Lucien Favre at Borussia Dortmund.

Let’s be clear on one thing: Favre has rotated his forwards heavily between Champions League and the Bundesliga. Jadon Sancho has played 1025 minutes, Jacob Bruun Larsen 830, Maximilian Philipp 515, Paco Alcacer 503, and Pulisic 483. Numbers two through eight on the playing time scale are defenders or midfielders (Marco Reus is first with 1483).

Amongst BVB attackers in the Champions League, however, only Reus has played more than Pulisic’s 339 minutes. And while Pulisic played 1 and 2 minutes in consecutive Bundesliga matches, he went 90 against Monaco in the UCL match separating those sub spots.

In other words, this isn’t as much of a quagmire as some Americans would lead you to believe. Yes, ex-Man City man Jadon Sancho has stolen Pulisic’s wonder boy numbers and title, but the kid isn’t being left in the cold.

Is Weston McKennie heading for Liverpool? It seems more likely a new deal is coming at Schalke, but you could easily see Jurgen Klopp liking the versatility of the 20-year-old midfielder as its midfield gets a bit older.

Schalke’s American midfielder Weston McKennie (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)

What about the rest of the Americans (and a Canadian)? Almost as many eyes will be on Tyler Adams as the New York Red Bulls product takes the next step at RB Leipzig. FC Dallas’ Chris Richards is also now with Bayern Munich, while Canadian phenom Alphonso Davies begins his much-anticipated time with Bayern.

John Brooks of Wolfsburg is the top-rated American player in the top flight this season via WhoScored.com, one of eight Yanks to take the field.

Here are the Americans abroad in Germany :

Christian Pulisic, Borussia Dortmund — 11 apps, 483 mins, 1G-2A
Weston McKennie, Schalke — 13 apps, 778 mins, 1G-1A
Josh Sargent, Werder Bremen —
2 goals in 45 senior minutes
John Brooks, Wolfsburg — 16 apps, 1440 mins, 1G-1A
Tyler Adams, RB Leipzig  —  
Arrived in January
Haji Wright, Schalke  —  5 senior games, 1 goal
Bobby Wood, Hannover 96 — 14 apps, 913 mins, 3G-1A
Aron Johannsson, Werder Bremen — Hasn’t played
Fabian Johnson, ‘Gladbach — 11 apps, 543 mins, 1 goal
Timothy Chandler, Eintracht Frankfurt — Hasn’t played
Alfredo Morales, Fortuna Dusseldorf — 11 apps, 917 mins, 1 goal
Caleb Stanko, Freiburg — Hasn’t played
Timothy Tillman, Nurnberg — Hasn’t played

How low will Schalke finish? A dreadful start to the season has last season’s No. 2 team, Schalke, sitting four points above the relegation playoff spot, nine back of the last Europa League spot, and 13 behind the Top Four.

Schalke’s other route to Europe include the DFB-Pokal, where they next face Fortuna Dusseldorf in the Round of 16, and winning the Champions League (Manchester City is their next opponent).

Will Robert Lewandowski defend his Golden Boot? The Bayern Munich star is chasing his fourth time leading the league in goals since 2013-14, his final year at Dortmund. Here are the current leaders:

Race for the Golden Boot
Pos Name Total
1 Luka Jovic, Eintracht Frankfurt 12
1 Paco Alcácer, Borussia Dortmund 12
3 Marco Reus, Borussia Dortmund 11
3 Timo Werner, RB Leipzig 11
5 Robert Lewandowski, Bayern Munich 10
6 Sebastien Haller, Eintracht Frankfurt 9
6 Thorgan Hazard, Borussia Monchengladbach 9
6 Alessane Plea, Borussia Monchengladbach 9
9 Youssef Poulsen, RB Leipzig 8
10 Alfred Finnbogason, Augsburg 7

[ MORE: Emery on possible exit for Mesut Ozil, reason for his absence ]

Will any of the new boys survive? Two teams go down and a third goes to a playoff game against the third place team in 2.Bundesliga (currently FC St. Pauli).

This season, the four latest teams to earn promotion are all in danger of the drop. Here’s how bottom of the table looks:

14. Fortuna Dusseldorf(2018/19) – 18
15. Augsburg (2011/12) – 15
16. Stuttgart (2017/18) – 14
17. Hannover 96 (2017/18) – 11
18. Nurnberg (2018/19) -11