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Arsenal complete record signing of Aubameyang

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Arsenal has started transfer deadline day with a bang.

For the second time in six months, Arsenal has broken its club transfer record, shelling out a reported $78.5 million to sign striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang from Borussia Dortmund. This deal gets the dominos moving today, with Arsenal’s Olivier Giroud expected to complete a nearly $25 million move across town to Chelsea while Michy Batshuayi moves to Dortmund on-loan through the end of the season.

[MORE: Catch up on all the latest transfer buzz]

The signing reunites Aubameyang with his former Dortmund teammate Henrik Mkhitaryan as well as Arsenal chief scout Sven Mislintat, who Arsenal hired from Dortmund in 2017.

On paper, this is a great signing from Arsenal, with one of the world’s best strikers joining the club. After becoming a house-hold name in Europe with AS Saint-Etienne, Aubameyang became a legend at Dortmund, scoring 141 goals in 4.5 years.

And he proved his worth not just in the Bundesliga, but in Europe, scoring 11 goals in the 2015-2016 edition of the UEFA Europa League and seven goals in nine games in last year’s Champions League campaign.

Even with rumors since the summer of an impending move away from Dortmund, Aubameyang still managed to score 13 league goals and four Champions League goals in just 22 games this season, a very impressive strike-rate.

While this looks great on paper, it may not be what Arsenal really needed, given its performance on Tuesday evening at Swansea. Defensively, the club is a mess – it can be argued they never replaced Patrick Vieira – and they desperately have needed top-quality centerbacks and holding midfielders for years. Instead, the manager goes out and spends a club-record fee in back to back windows on two strikers, Alexandre Lacazette and Aubameyang.

It remains to be seen how Lacazette and Aubameyang will play together, whether as part of a 4-2-3-1 with Aubameyang playing as a second striker or on the wings, or whether Aubameyang pushes Lacazette out all together.

Based on Lacazette’s start to his Arsenal career, the club certainly won’t reap much back for him on the transfer market if they decide to sell him, but to be fair to Lacazette, his signing was curious as Arsenal hasn’t been very good recently at crossing and he’s best at picking out crosses in the box.

Aubameyang also excels at that, but he’s adept at link-up play and even at 29-years old, provides a speed option up top to stretch opposing defenses.

In Giroud, Arsenal are again selling a popular player to a league rival, this time to Chelsea after Manchester United signed Alexis Sanchez earlier this month. Giroud had 5.5 solid but never spectacular years at Arsenal and with just one start this season, he’s departed looking for more playing time ahead of the 2018 World Cup.

Unfortunately for him, he’ll be playing behind Alvaro Morata – should he be fit – for the rest of 2018.

Court date for USWNT’s law suit versus U.S. Soccer delayed

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A court case that has dragged U.S. Soccer’s administration through the mud and led to a change of leadership may drag into the summer.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

A judge in California has delayed the May 5 trial of gender discrimination against the USSF until June 16 due in part to the coronavirus pandemic. A pretrial conference was also moved to June 1.

The federation is being sued by members of the two-time reigning World Cup champion USWNT under the Equal Pay Act.

The women are requesting more than $66 million in damages.

The extra month gives both parties more time to reach a settlement which could keep this ugly case away from trial. Given the uncertainty in our world, it could of course be delayed again.

The USSF has a new CEO in Will Wilson, who can make a major statement of change by stopping the trial from reaching court.

Handicapping the Final Four of Premier League March Madness

Premier League March Madness
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Our Premier League March Madness results have been as topsy-turvy as the 2019/20 on-field campaign before coronavirus halted it last month.

Yes, the runaway No. 1 seed is alive, but the second, third, fourth, and fifth seeds have been expelled from the tournament within the first two rounds.

Voting in the semifinal round begins Thursday.

[ RESULTS: March Madness Round of 16 ]

Before we go any further, if you’re unfamiliar: To make sure you’re not missing out on either March Madness or the business end of the PL season, we’ve gone ahead and merged the two competitions. The March Madness Final Four and Championship game were due to take place this weekend in Atlanta but now you will be voting on Tottenham v. Arsenal instead of Duke v. Kansas.

Teams are seeded from 1-16 based on their current spot in the table, with Aston Villa winning the relegation playoffs on Monday to remain in the Premier League.

[ LIVE: March Madness PL hub ] 

Before we handicap the semifinal matches, let’s take a look at where the field sits after your Wednesday voting.

No. 1 Liverpool v. No. 12 Everton
No. 6 Wolves v. No. 7 Sheffield United

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

Look, all bets are off for the derby. The Everton faithful has shown up in a big way during voting, dispatching Manchester United and Chelsea.

That’s big time stuff, though Liverpool ended the dreams of our presumptive sleeping giant favorite Arsenal after beating West Ham in the Sweet Sixteen.

The Reds are going to have to not just been upstart Everton but overcome the legions of rival supporters who would happily click the Toffees’ box rather than see Liverpool gain the crown.

The other side of the bracket sees No. 7 Sheffield United looking to continue its surprising run in both the PL season and our voting.

The Blades knocked off Man City, potentially aided by the same phenomenon Everton hopes to see on Thursday.

Now they meet Wolves, who may be riding a crest of North American momentum in the form of affinity for El Tri hero Raul Jimenez.

Our prediction: Everton and Wolves in the Final.

RESULTS: Premier League March Madness Elite Eight

Premier League March Madness
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Everton continued its upset path toward in our Premier League March Madness voting, showing its sensational support and setting up a fantastic eMerseyside Derby in the Final Four.

Thousands of votes were cast Wednesday, and the Toffees upset isn’t even the top underdog story.

[ LIVE: March Madness PL hub ] 

Chris Wilder’s Blades of Sheffield United won a back-and-forth affair with No. 2 seed Manchester City to move into the semifinals.

That’s where they’ll meet No. 6 seed Wolves, who powered past Leicester City as if it wasn’t a challenge.

If you want to see the full game schedule, seedings and bracket, here is the post you need as the tournament will run all week long:

Monday: Relegation semifinals, final – Aston Villa prevailed, Norwich, Bournemouth, Watford relegated
TuesdaySweet 16 results in full
Wednesday: Elite Eight
Thursday: Final Four
Friday: Championship game

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

IFAB: New handball rule can be adopted when games resume

Handball rule
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The International Football Association Board (IFAB) issued a letter from secretary Lukas Brud on Wednesday, outlining several changes to the game.

The “tee shirt line” handball rule may be coming to club football quicker than expected due to the coronavirus suspension of the 2019/20 season.

IFAB will allow leagues the choice to use the new handball rule when matches resume this season, also making changes to VAR protocol and vowing to review the offside rule.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

The new handball rule states that the shoulder goes to the end of the shirt sleeve or the bottom of the armpit (though obviously not in the case of a long-sleeve jersey).

For the purposes of determining handball offences, the ‘arm’ stops at the bottom of the armpit

So… get ready for baggy, longer jersey sleeves, or the increased recruitment of players with the longest armpits.

Kidding aside, the handball rule desperately needed clarification and we’ll see if this gives enough to fans and players alike.

Referees will now be “expected” to go to the screen on the field when a call is subjective, forcing the official to either uphold or overrule his initial call.

This same post says IFAB will now allow accidental handballs in the run-up to a goal in certain situations.

“Accidental handball by an attacking player should only be penalized if it ‘immediately’ results in a goal or an obvious opportunity for the player and/or their team to score a goal (i.e. following the handball, the ball travels only a short distance and/or there are very few passes).”

Well, that needs some clarification.

Back to the timing issue for the new handball rule, it seems logical that leagues would want to introduce new laws with a new season but stand-by for the decision of your favorite league.

As for the offside rule, “The members agreed that the fundamental philosophy of offside is underpinned by a desire to encourage attacking football and the scoring of goals. It was further agreed, therefore, that Law 11 – Offside should be analyzed and reviewed with a view to potentially proposing changes reflecting this philosophy.”

It’s a lot to unpack, and we’ll surely here from proponents and opponents of the changes soon. As always, implementation will make the biggest difference in how these changes are received.