Getty Images

Transfer Rumor Roundup: Arsenal reinforcement, Fulham striker, Saints exit

Leave a comment

The January transfer window is upon us, and while Chelsea has already made what could end up being the splash of the winter in signing Christian Pulisic, there are plenty more rumors to be had. January is often a time for bargain hunting, and while the Pulisic move bucks that trend, clubs that need immediate reinforcements will often look for players who want out of their current position immediately.

[ MORE: Hudson-Odoi leaving Chelsea | Emery denies Navas ]

So, that’s where we begin today’s roundup. Southampton is in massive trouble at the bottom of the Premier League table, sitting 18th and firmly in the relegation battle. Beyond rumors, new Saints manager Ralph Hasenhuttl has come out and confirmed that a few key players could depart this January as teams pick apart the Southampton squad in preparation for their potential drop.

Hasenhuttl singled out players like Steven Davis and Manolo Gabbiadini as a pair who could pack their bags, with the Italian striker seemingly the more likely of the two to find greener pastures. Gabbiadini has not played a single minute under the German boss, scoring just one goal this season before Mark Hughes was fired. The 27-year-old came over from Napoli in the January 2017 transfer window and made an immediate impact, but has fallen completely off the table since as Southampton continues to struggle for Premier League safety.

In addition, while there are no solid rumors yet, freelance journalist Graham Ruthven speculates that another player who could be attractive to clubs could be midfielder Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg whose contract expires in the summer of 2021 and is considered a bright talent at just 23 years old. Still, giving clubs pause is his lack of discipline this season, having already sat one match for yellow card accumulation before finding himself riding the pine on a four-game suspension for a miserable challenge on Fernandinho in the dying minutes of a recent defeat to Manchester City.


While Saints looks to do its best to keep the talent at St. Mary’s, fellow relegation candidate Fulham is hoping to secure reinforcements as the Whites look to protect their massive summer investment. The club has enjoyed a small uptick in form under new manager Claudio Ranieri, but the defense still looks horrific, especially against the bigger and better clubs. While the back line is the most concerning aspect of the squad at the moment, Fulham has also struggled to convert solid chances into goals up front, with Aleksandar Mitrovic proving a hard worker but not always able to convert those chances. According to Sky Italy, Fulham is one of three clubs interested in Roma striker Gregoire Defrel, currently on loan at Sampdoria. The report says Watford and West Ham are also interested, but mentions that the Hammers could back off after signing Samir Nasri to a deal after a trial.

Defrel has scored six goals in 18 matches for Sampdoria so far this season, although four of those came on a pair of braces by the third game of the season, and has since grabbed just two in 891 Serie A minutes since. While Watford will be looking for players to assist them in their battle for a top-half place, Fulham may be not just more motivated but more desperate. The Thursday edition of Italian publication Gazzetta dello Sport declares that Fulham is “in the lead” for the 27-year-old Frenchman.


While Fulham looks for attacking help, Arsenal is hoping to snag defensive reinforcements as the Gunners have had injuries and poor form plague their back line all season. Sitting in fifth in the table, if the Gunners are hopeful of making a run at Champions League play, they will need to fix their defensive issues with Rob Holding out long-term, Laurent Koscielny injury-prone at 33 years old, and Shkodran Mustafi barely back from a hamstring problem of his own. Only new signing Sokratis has made it through the festive period unscathed, and now manager Unai Emery will look to bring in help from the outside.

According to The Mirror, Arsenal is set for a battle with Torino for 27-year-old center-back Nicolas N’Koulou. The Cameroon international only joined Torino this summer, but his contract expires in the summer of 2020 leaving the Italian club with little options should they wish to turn their paltry $4 million investment into a large profit. N’Koulou has helped Torino to one of the most impressive defensive displays in Serie A this season, conceding just 19 goals in 19 matches, the fifth-best defensive record in the league behind the top three teams Juventus, Napoli, and Inter plus Fiorentina. Unfortunately for Torino, they have struggled mightily in front of net, supporting that defensive unit with just 24 goals, leaving them ninth in the table, just above Fiorentina who also has trouble scoring goals.

N’Koulou is as experienced as they come, with 72 caps for the Cameroon international team plus 19 Champions League appearances with Lyon and Marseille before his switch to the Italian top flight. The Mirror suggests that Torino “are keen to hold onto” N’Koulou, understandably given his importance to the club having played every single minute of the league season thus far, but his contract situation could force the club’s hand should they wish to earn a profit on his presence.


There is plenty of talk surrounding Toby Alderweireld this January, and understandably so. Spurs activated a clause in the Belgian’s contract that keeps him at the club an additional season, but also triggers the presence of a $31 million release clause that is activated during the early portion of the summer transfer window. Given Alderweireld’s market value of significantly higher than that, Spurs could be motivated to shop him this winter in the hopes of earning a higher return, avoiding losing him for such a small price this summer.

According to The Telegraph, French club Paris Saint-Germain could be interested in sweetening the pot for Alderweireld to ensure they are given priority in the race, reporting that the French side “could offer” fellow Belgian Thomas Meunier in return for Alderweireld. Meunier, a right-back, was one of Belgium’s more surprisingly impressive players at this summer’s World Cup and has parlayed that into 12 Ligue 1 appearances for PSG this season. It would be somewhat surprising that PSG would allow Meunier to leave given Dani Alves’ age and injury history, but his positional flexibility would be a good fit for Mauricio Pochettino at Spurs, with the ability to move forward and play wing-back should he be deployed in support of a back-three.

Manchester United’s Solskjaer: Pogba not heading to Real Madrid

Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Before Manchester United fires off a shot against West Ham on Sunday, its manager has taken aim at Real Madrid.

The Spanish giants are again said to be aiming to bring Paul Pogba to La Liga this winter as the race to win Spain’s top flight appears to be wide open as Lionel Messi battles fitness and newly-promoted Granada is the surprise table topper.

[ MORE: Man City hammers Watford ]

But Ole Gunnar Solskjaer issued a firm hands-off to Perez.

“I am not worried now and I will never be worried in the future about Paul Pogba staying here,” Solskjaer said. “If it all kicks off against with Madrid in January then there will be no worries then either. If we have to live with the speculation again then we will handle it like we did in the summer. Paul is going nowhere. He is happy here when he’s playing.”

So far, Pogba has been a decent soldier despite his mentions of interest in a change of scenery. The 26-year-old’s contract runs through 2020-21, so if a move happens it may well come in January.

That said, United hasn’t played exceptionally bad this season and is a converted penalty or two away from being the closest club to Liverpool on the table (though surely a few teams would make similar claims). Pogba has a pair of an assists in four matches and his absence was notable in the 1-0 win over Leicester City last weekend.

If the Red Devils can manage a good place in the table and run of form against the top teams, perhaps Pogba will ink a longer term deal with United. He’s obviously valued by Ed Woodward. And United fans who hope to keep him in town will also monitor the down times at Real Madrid under Pogba’s seemingly preferred manager Zinedine Zidane. Because Pogba moving to a club where Jose Mourinho is just a few bad matches away doesn’t seem ideal.

On the other hand, few teams can offer the combination of money and assets of Real should United decide to load up for an extended run in Europa League and the top four, and Real’s players will not be Cup-tied due to their status in the Champions League.

PL Sunday preview: Man Utd and Arsenal chase top five; Chelsea host Liverpool

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Sunday’s slate of Premier League fixtures is filled up to the brim of top-six sides in action, as Manchester United and Arsenal look to climb into the top five in the table, while Chelsea looks to send a strong message as they host leaders Liverpool.

[ STREAM: Every PL match live ]

West Ham vs. Manchester United — 9:00 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Aside from leaders Liverpool, there is no other team in the league experiencing such a positive run as West Ham. The Hammers are unbeaten in their last four bouts – wining twice and drawing twice – as they head into Sunday’s showdown against Manchester United. Equal with five other sides with eight points, Manuel Pellegrini is conscious that it’s the ideal time to make a statement and climb into the top six.

“We have a very strong team in front of us, it will be a strong test against United. It is the only way we can get into the top six, demonstrating you are able to do it,” Pellegrini said heading into Sunday.

As for the Red Devils, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s side – who share the podium with West Ham – are looking to extend their current winning form to three games. Ahead of the game, however, the talk surrounding United isn’t Sunday’s game, but Paul Pogba‘s rumored move to Real Madrid this summer. What a better way to get everyone’s mind of theoretical situations and injury worries than with a win.

INJURIES: West Ham — OUT: Michail Antonio (hamstring), Arthur Masuaku (suspended) | Manchester United —OUT: Anthony Martial (thigh), Paul Pogba (back), Luke Shaw (hamstring), Eric Bailly (knee), Timothy Fosu-Mensah (knee)

Crystal Palace vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers — 9 a.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold

Not many expected it: Wolves winless throughout the first five games of the season. That, however, is the reality for a team that finished seventh last season. By now, Wolverhampton Wanderers have had plenty of time to pick up on the alarm bells, it’s time for them to respond.

Manager Nuno Espírito Santo, for instance, knows that it’s time for his side to get back into shape before it’s too late.

“This is important,” he said. “We face the reality and the reality says we not performing well so we have to analyse it and find solutions in the team to improve. We must react immediately. We have to take decisions and find solutions for the team because we have to come out of this situation and improve our performance so we can bounce back.”

Crystal Palace, on the other hand, are dealing with adversity of their own after falling to Tottenham Hotspur, 4-0, last week. Playing at Selhurst Park this time around should be a positive, but Palace has only managed to score a goal in three matches in front of their home crowd this season.

INJURIES: Crystal Palace — OUT: None | Wolverhampton Wanderers — OUT: None

Arsenal vs. Aston Villa — 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold

Arsenal have had several things going for them this season: scoring at home, positive first Europa League performance, a healthy and productive Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, among others. One thing they’ve been missing, though, is an effective Nicolas Pepe, especially after shelling record-money for the 24-year-old Ivorian.

“He needs more adaptation,” Emery said in his pre-match press conference. “He is playing good but progressively we know there is going to be more performance in him to help us and I want to do now quickly the last step in the adaptation for us, for example, against Aston Villa.”

With Alexandre Lacazette still out with an ankle injury, Pepe, again, will have the opportunity to showcase his true worth to a packed Emirates Stadium. Arsenal, too, can use his skill to get that much closer to three, vital points.

“When will Aston Villa finally break out of their shell?” is the million-dollar question for the visitors. At times, the newly promoted side has shown the flair that made it so powerful in the Championship last season, only to leave spectators on the edge of their seats, waiting for that final blow. In North London on Sunday, Dean Smith and Co. have the chance to do so with several players back in the mix, but that’s not to say the task will be a walk in the park.

INJURIES: Arsenal — OUT: Alexandre Lacazette (ankle) | Aston Villa — OUT: James Chester (thigh), Jonathan Kodjia (cheek)

Chelsea vs. Liverpool — 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Liverpool, like Chelsea, suffered opening losses in European play midweek; however, there is a different, more positive impetus fueling Jurgen Klopp‘s side. The defending Champions League winners’ immaculate record speaks volume to their current situation, one that’s biggest setback has been the aforementioned loss to Napoli and the injury to goalkeeper Allison, while regaining influential player Nabi Keita in trainings.

It begs to ask: with Manchester City already behind and several top-six sides struggling, how will Liverpool not runaway with the league title this season? That type of talk, however, is exactly what Klopp doesn’t want to hear. The season is green – very, ver green – and this season, for one reason or another, is nothing like last year’s.

“Nothing is won already,” Klopp said. “We have seen teams make big steps. There is nobody you think will go down with no points. Watford and Wolves have been at the bottom, struggling, but will end up going back up. The league is much different (to last season). So many things can happen. Five games is nothing, not even created a basis…”

Klopp’s counterpart on Sunday, Frank Lampard, as a result of his own environment, is managing a different dialogue ahead of the clash, like the possibility of fielding Mason Mount, who came off midweek against Valencia in Champions League play.

On the bright side, Chelsea are unbeaten in their last four league bouts, and have a game against Liverpool under their belts this season already – a penalty-shootout loss in the UEFA Super Cup – that should have seasoned them ahead of this season’s part two of the rivalry.

“Times have changed slightly, but it doesn’t change that feeling,” Lampard said on the Chelsea-Liverpool rivalry. “I think the fans feel it, the players feel it, it does involve a lot of passion whenever it’s played. If your levels aren’t there it’s a game that can get away from you quickly so my first thing to say to the players is to make sure they feel this game, recognise what it is, because it always does have an edge.”

INJURIES: Chelsea OUT: Antonio Rüdiger (groin), Ruben Loftus-Cheek (achilles), Callum Hudson-Odoi, Reece James (both fitness) | Liverpool  OUT: Alisson (calf), Nathaniel Clyne (knee)

Serie A roundup: Inter win Derby della Madonnina, Juventus edge Verona (video)

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Inter Milan’s rampant run and Juventus’ win headline Saturday’s Serie A action.

[ MORE: Serie A scores, schedule ]

AC Milan 0-2 Inter Milan

The stats books following this season’s first Derby della Madonnina make two things very clear: at the moment, Inter are the best team in Milan and in Serie A.

With four consecutive victories to start the season, Antonio Conte and Co. lead Italy’s top-flight by two points.

 

After nearly being up two goals in the first half, Inter broke deadlock in the 49th minute. From a orchestrated set-piece play, marcelo Brozovic’s strike skimmed the heels of Rafael Leão, deflecting the ball past Gianluigi Donnarumma, and into the back of the net. An offside call was reviewed through VAR, but the goal stood.

In the 78th minute, a short, lofted cross from Nicolò Barella found Romelu Lukaku, who headed the ball into the far post. The Belgian, who arrived from Manchester United during the summer, has scored three goals in four league games.

Dominating time with the ball didn’t do much for AC Milan, whose clearest chance came late in the second half when Theo Hernández’s strike inside the box hit the bar.

Yet to taste a draw or defeat, Inter marches on as they host Lazio next, while AC Milan travel to Turin to take on Torino.

Juventus 2-1 Hellas Verona

In a game that could have gone either way, Juventus, with its star-studded team and all, walked away with three points against 10-man Hellas Verona.

Aaron Ramsey, who made a shock switch to the Old Lady in July following an 11-year spell with Arsenal, scored his first Serie A goal. From distance, in the 31st minute, the 29-year-old’s shot deflected Verona’s Koray Gunter, beating Marco Silvestri and into the goal.
Ramsey’s goal, however, only leveled the score.
Following a missed penalty and second chance, Miguel Veloso scored what can be the goal of the week: a first-time, left-footed volley into the top corner of Gianluigi Buffon’s goal. Verona, who had a couple of clear chances in the second half, were unable to get past Buffon again.
With three points desperately needed to keep pace with Inter Milan, Cristiano Ronaldo came to the rescue. The Portuguese converted from the sport – his first of the season – following a solo run from Juan Cuadrado.

With positive momentum behind them, second-place Juventus travels to Brescia next, while Hellas Verona receive a lackluster Udinese side.

Elsewhere in Serie A

Cagilari 3-1 Genoa

Udinese 0-1 Brescia

VIDEO: Kei Kamara scores superb bicycle kick goal against Sporting KC

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Kei Kamara has scored plenty of goals at Children’s Mercy Park, but none like his bicycle kick goal on Saturday.

The 35-year-old, now in his 16th season, showcased his penchant for scoring right before halftime against his former team. The goal makes 12 for the Colorado Rapids’ forward this season, placing him within the top 10 of the league and two begin his 14-goal season last year.

Overall, Kamara is fifth in the all-time MLS scoring list with 124 goals, second among active players behind San Jose Earthquakes’ Chris Wondolowski.

Enjoy a superb goal from a superb goalscoerer.