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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.

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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.

 

Newcastle focused on extending Bentiez despite interest from others

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According to a report by the Newcastle Chronicle, Newcastle United is desperately trying to lock down manager Rafa Benitez before the expiration of his contract at the end of June, and is rejecting any and all contact from interested parties in a show of good faith to the club’s current boss.

The report states that the latest interested party to have intermediaries make contact has been former United States head coach Jurgen Klinsmann, but the club has to this point turned down his advances while it continues to push towards an extension with Benitez. The report by the Newcastle Chronicle followed up an earlier report by France Football stating the same.

Sporting director Lee Charnley has been attempting to sign Benitez to an extension for nearly two years, but the Spaniard has reportedly turned down all advances to this point. However with Newcastle United over the 40-point threshold usually required for safety, talks have restarted. Benitez has been reportedly asking for more control over the club’s transfer and recruitment process and wants assurances on financial backing in that department.

Still, should talks break down and Benitez moves on, a number of individuals including Klinsmann have made their interest known. Also linked with the position are David Wagner, Bruno Genesio, and Jorge Jesus.

The relationship between Benitez and the front office has not always been rosy, and Mike Ashley’s stinginess has repeatedly been a point of contention for the Spaniard. Still, Benitez is rightly seen as one of Newcastle’s most valuable assets, and if they can convince him to stick with the club through a season in the Championship, they can certainly figure out a way to keep him aboard as they target a top-half finish in the future.

How will Man City and Man United line up for critical derby?

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There is as much on the line in Wednesday’s Manchester derby than anyone could have hoped for, and the enormous stakes will only feed the excitement on the pitch.

Whereas these big matches often end in cagey draws in the first half of the season with little incentive for the teams to do anything other than avoid losing, a draw won’t do for either side this time around, and there could be goals on the cards. So with everything on the line, how will these teams line up on the field?

[ MORE: Hudson-Odoi injury renews contract talks ]

There are injuries to consider on both sides. Pep Guardiola confirmed that Kevin De Bruyne will not be available tomorrow for Manchester City after his injury against Tottenham left the rest of his season in doubt. Manchester United, meanwhile, will reportedly be without defender Phil Jones after he was withdrawn in the heavy defeat to Everton last time out. Other than that, both squads are fully healthy minus the long-term injury to City goalkeeper Claudio Bravo.

The biggest question for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be how to deploy his back line against the vicious Manchester City attack – particularly on the flanks. He left Ashley Young on the bench each of the last two matches, with natural center-backs Victor Lindelof and Marcos Rojo deputizing at full-back, but that experiment could come to an end with Luke Shaw returning from suspension. In Jones’ absence, Rojo or Lindelof could be moved back to the middle, or Solskjaer could bring Eric Bailly back into the fold after failling to see the field in the last two months. The midfield has also been a conglomeration, with the third spot up in the air next to Paul Pogba and Nemanja Matic. Fred and Juan Mata have both seen time, but Ander Herrera will be reportedly returning from his injury and could see the field.

[ MORE: Solskjaer hoping for turnaround ]

For Manchester City, Guardiola’s headache will be constructing his midfield without De Bruyne. He has had Fernandinho in and out of the lineup over the last few weeks due to nagging injuries, and it remains to be seen if he utilizes the defensive midfielder to anchor the formation. Ilkay Gundogan has played deeper when Fernandinho has been absent, and he’s played well in that spot, but at times they still seem to be missing a natural anchor, and it was Fernandinho who came in to replace De Bruyne after his injury.


MANCHESTER UNITED

—– De Gea —–

— Dalot — Rojo — Smalling — Shaw —

—- Matic —- Herrera —-

—- Martial —- Pogba —- Rashford —-

—– Lukaku —–


MANCHESTER CITY

—– Ederson —–

— Walker — Stones — Laporte — Zinchenko —

—– Fernandinho —–

—- Gundogan —- Foden —-

— B Silva —- Aguero — Sterling —


Report: Chelsea to renew contract talks with injured Hudson-Odoi

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According to a report by Matt Law of The Telegraph, Chelsea is gearing up to offer Callum Hudson-Odoi a new contract after the young English international ruptured his Achilles against Burnley on Monday.

Despite Maurizio Sarri‘s stubbornness this season regarding the young winger, Hudson-Odoi has forced himself into the regular Chelsea lineup as the Blues fight for a Champions League place down the stretch of the season. The 18-year-old had started the last four matches before the injury ended his season early.

Due to his inability to crack the lineup before the last month, Hudson-Odoi had reportedly handed in a transfer request and rejected all contract offers with the hopes of finding a new home where he would be more appreciated on the pitch. There were multiple reports that Bayern Munich was heavily interesed in Hudson-Odoi and that the German giants were preparing to make an enticing offer with the youngster’s current contract set to expire next summer. Now, however, things have turned in Chelsea’s favor in the long-term.

According to the Telegraph report, Bayern’s interest in Hudson-Odoi is likely to cool thanks to the injury that will likely see him miss the summer and the start of the next campaign. With this opportunity, Chelsea could come to Hudson-Odoi with a renewed contract offer that reflects his status as a first-team regular.

Hudson-Odoi’s Achilles tear is a brutal blow to Chelsea this season, with the club entrenched in a brutal battle with Tottenham, Arsenal, and Manchester United for the Premier League’s final two Champions League places, as all teams sit within three points of each other. Chelsea is also still fighting on another front as well, as the Blues have secured a place in the Europa League semifinals. While Hudson-Odoi only just recently cracked the Blues’ league lineup, he had been a regular in the Europa League rotation, scoring four goals in his nine European appearances this season.

Still, there could be a significant silver lining to his injury. Considering the likely departure of Eden Hazard this summer plus uncertainty around Chelsea’s ability to sign players in the coming transfer window, securing Hudson-Odoi’s future at the club could be an enormous boost long-term, even with the injury leaving him sidelined for a significant amount of time. Christian Pulisic is arriving this summer thanks to an already-completed deal with Borussia Dortmund, but the two players are more natural on opposite sides of the pitch and could potentially play together. In addition, should a transfer ban come down on the Blues, the club may not even be able to register Pulisic for the first half of the season, leaving an even bigger hole in the squad.

Before the injury, it appeared there was no way back for Callum Hudson-Odoi at his boyhood club. Having joined the club in 2007 when he was just six years old, keeping the teen around long-term would be monumentally positive news for Chelsea moving forward, even if the injury is devastating in the short-term.

Solskjaer backs himself to turn Manchester United around

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As things continue to turn sour at Old Trafford, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is adamant that he can turn Manchester United around.

The Red Devils have lost four of their last five matches across all competitions, with each result proving more and more devastating. The latest loss, a 4-0 drubbing to Everton, cost Manchester United the opportunity to jump into the top four after  Tottenham, Arsenal, and Chelsea all dropped points above them.

With just four league matches remaining, time is running out for Solskjaer to take charge of the situation and secure Champions League play for next season amid a bitter fight with four teams vying for two positions. Still, the Norwegian believes he is the right man for the job now and in the future.

“I’m confident in my team and myself. I’ll be ready to take this challenge on,” Solskjaer said ahead of Wednesday’s enormous Manchester derby that could define their run-in to the end of the season. “I know it’s a big challenge and that’s why, when I came in here, I said I’m going to enjoy every single second. I don’t like losing but it’s a challenge all the managers at this club have had. When you go through bad results, you’ve got to be confident enough to say this is the way we’re going to do it and plan ahead.”

Solskjaer began his tenure in electrifying fashion, winning his first eight games in charge and making it 11 unbeaten, but since he was handed the permanent position at the start of March, things have taken a turn for the worst. The club has lost six of its last eight across all competitions, with elimination from the Champions League and the FA Cup to go along with Premier League losses to Everton, Wolves, and Arsenal. The heavy 4-0 defeat to the Toffees last time out sparked a meeting with the players to help diffuse some tension.

“We had a meeting after the game and all the players were definitely, definitely disappointed but really, really hurt by that performance and the City game is the perfect one,” Solskjaer said about the upcoming game against Manchester City. “There is no hiding place on the pitch and the fans will back you if you give that effort.”

With the all-important derby on Wednesday, Solskjaer sees it as the perfect opportunity to make a statement that the recent slip was a fluke and the team is ready to contend in every match. “We’ve got to be ready for their pressing, so we’ve got to defend well, got to be ready for their aggression, they will snap at your heels and kick you, there will be fouls, absolutely no doubt about it and when you watch those games they commit so many players forward.”

It doesn’t get any easier for United after the derby, with a game against Chelsea at Old Trafford up next in league play before closing out the campaign against Huddersfield Town and Cardiff City. The Red Devils sit sixth in the Premier League table on 64 points, two back of Arenal in front of them and three behind Chelsea and Spurs in third and fourth.