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Top 12 signings of 2018-19 Premier League season

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As we enter the final seven weeks of the Premier League season, now seems like a good time to focus on which players have stood out at their new clubs.

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From new star strikers to game-changing playmakers and much-needed defensive additions, a lot of clubs were extremely shrewd in the transfer market last summer.

Below we rank the top 12 signings of the season across the PL based on their performance so far.


1. Raul Jimenez (Wolves, on loan from Benfica) – The Mexican striker is Wolves’ top scorer and has them in seventh in the PL and in the FA Cup semis. Wolves are probably the best-ever newly-promoted team in PL history and his hold-up play, finishing and ability to run in behind and link-up with Diogo Jota is a big part of that. Now, they must try to sign him permanently. That is the hard part as clubs all over Europe are now chasing him after a wonderful debut campaign in the PL.


2. David Brooks (Bournemouth from Sheffield United, $15.2 million) – This was an absolute bargain. Brooks, 21, has shone in the top-flight and surprised everyone, including himself, at how well he has adapted. In his first PL season he has brought pace and trickery and he’s complemented Bournemouth’s other forwards perfectly. The Welsh winger has a bright future.


3. Joao Moutinho (Wolves from AS Monaco, $6.6 million) – The man who makes Wolves tick, the experienced Portuguese midfielder has oozed class and his set-piece deliveries cause all kinds of problems. Alongside Ruben Neves he just keeps chipping away, keeps the ball effortlessly and his range of passing is sublime. A real unsung hero. And a bargain.


4. Sokratis (Arsenal from Borussia Dortmund, $23.4 million) – After a bit of a shaky start, he’s come into his own in recent months and is one of the first names on Arsenal’s teamsheet. The towering Greek defender is a real character and is making the defenders around him better. A proper no-nonsense center half, Sokratis is becoming a cult hero at Arsenal and is a big reason they are in the top four.


5. Richarlison (Everton from Watford, $53 million) – It was big money for a Brazilian youngster who had just one season in the PL under his belt, but it was money well spent by Marco Silva. Richarlison, 21, has been called up to the full Brazil team and has scored 13 goals in his debut season at Everton. His pace has been crucial for the Toffees and although he’s played up front a lot on his own, out wide is where he is at his best.


6. Salomon Rondon (Newcastle, on loan from West Brom) – The big Venezuelan striker has been a revelation for the Magpies as Rafael Benitez has built his entire attack around Rondon. Able to hold the ball up and finish off plentiful crosses into the box, Rondon is perfectly suited for this Newcastle side. He gets the best out of the attackers around him, and his goal return of 10 is pretty decent for a team which has struggled at the bottom for most of this season. You’d think Newcastle will sign Rondon permanently this summer, but he does have one more year left on his contract at West Brom.


7. Lucas Torreira (Arsenal from Sampdoria, $33 million) – A huge signing for Arsenal, as Torreira has added extra bite to the Gunners midfield. After a wonderful start to life in England he has been a little subdued in recent weeks, but he has still been very important in pushing them into the top four.


8. Felipe Anderson (West Ham from Lazio, $42 million) – The Brazilian playmaker has lived up to his status as the Hammers’ club-record signing, with some classy performances. His goals have dried up but he has continued to deliver consistently good displays. A little inconsistent, but very good overall.


9. Rui Patricio (Wolves from Sporting Lisbon, $20 million) – Initially a free transfer after the player situation at Sporting, Wolves have agreed to pay $20 million for the Portuguese international goalkeeper via a tribunal. That is still a bargain. Patricio has made some wonderful saves and his distribution is very good and he brings a calming influence to the defense.


10. Gerard Deulofeu (Watford from Barcelona, $14.7 million) – Okay, he was on loan at Watford last January, but he didn’t play too well in the second half of last season. That said, Watford signed him permanently in the summer and he’s been very good with seven goals and five assists so far. A nomadic career finally seems to have settled down for the 25-year-old Spaniard.


11. James Maddison (Leicester from Norwich, $26.5 million) – The young Englishman has settled into life in the PL very quickly and he’s scored some stunning goals. Maddison has been called up to the England squad but didn’t make his debut, however he is a key part of Leicester’s future under new manager Brendan Rodgers. A fast start to the campaign has dissipated, but in recent weeks he has picked up form again. At 22, he has so much potential.


12. Matteo Guendouzi (Arsenal from Lorient, $9.2 million) – Like Torreira, his arrival made a big difference early in the season but he has gone off the boil a little bit. That said, for a 19-year-old he has shown admirable maturity and the way he rattles into challenges and keeps the ball is a perfect fit for the Premier League. A rising star.


Notable buys: Alisson (Liverpool from AS Roma, $74 million), Fabinho (Liverpool from AS Monaco, $51 million), Jefferson Lerma (Bournemouth from ), Harry Arter (Cardiff City from Bournemouth, loan), Lucas Digne (Everton from Barcelona, $23 million), Andre Gomes (Everton from Barcelona, loan), Aleksandar Mitrovic (Fulham from Newcastle, $25 million), Issa Diop (West Ham from Toulouse, $29 million), Lukasz Fabianski (West Ham from Swansea, $9.2 million), Willy Boly (Wolves from FC Porto, $15.9 million)


Bonus – Best January buys: Youri Tielemans, Miguel Almiron, Michy Batshuayi, Samir Nasri

The quartet above have all made big differences to their respective teams, with Tielemans a classy addition for Leicester on loan from Monaco, Almiron adding some much-needed creativity to Newcastle’s attack after a club-record arrival from Atlanta United, Batshuayi banging in goals during his first few months on loan from Chelsea and Nasri making a big difference at West Ham. All four have delivered exactly what has been asked of them, so far. It is too early to say they deserve to be in the top 10 signings of the season, but it is clear they have made fast starts at their new clubs.

Burning question: What is the best formation?

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This week at ProSoccerTalk we will be asking some burning questions we have when it comes to the beautiful game and the first one focuses on something we all love to debate: formations.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

Each day we will release a burning question, as now seems like a good time to take stock of where the game is at and take a look at what we love and what we’d like to change as we await its return following the suspension due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Next question: What is the best formation to use?


Most coaches will tell you when asked that formations do not matter. We all know they do.

3-4-3? 4-4-2? 4-5-1? 4-3-3? 3-5-2? 4-1-4-1? 4-3-2-1? 4-2-2-2?

Which formation do you think is the best? Does a formation depend mostly on the players you have at your disposal or your preferred style of play? Most likely it is a combination of both but coaches often have a preferred formation and stick with it no matter what. Their philosophy and ideas mean everything to them.

I’m torn between 3-4-3 and 4-3-3 but I’d probably just about go for 4-3-3 because it is so well balanced. In an attacking team like Man City or Liverpool it works really well because essentially it gives you four defenders back at all times with one deeper central midfielder, two center backs and one full back sitting back.

When teams are under pressure the 4-3-3 then turns into more of a 4-5-1 formation with one central striker saying high and the two wingers tracking back and providing cover. Speaking about cover, 3-4-3 allows one center back to push forward and always have two center backs in defense, while full backs are able to push forward which is particularly important in the modern game. My main problem with 3-4-3 is that often you don’t need three center backs if teams sit back.

4-4-1-1 is solid and flexible as the player in the No. 10 position essentially becomes a striker but there just seems to be more danger from wide players when teams are set up in a 4-3-3 system because their first thought is to attack and they have the added cover of a central midfielder tucked in halfway behind them.

Simply put, I love 4-3-3. You may love something totally different, so let us know in the comments section below which formation is your favorite.

Chelsea’s Willian eager to stay in Premier League

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Chelsea and Brazil star Willian has revealed he is eager to stay in the Premier League, even if that’s not with Chelsea.

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Willian, 31, has revealed that contract talks have stopped for now during the suspension for the coronavirus pandemic, and his future is uncertain as his current deal at Chelsea expires this summer.

The likes of Tottenham and Arsenal have been linked with a move for Willian, who almost joined Spurs in 2013 but instead joined Chelsea in a last-second change of heart.

Willian told ESPN Brazil  that he wants to stay in the Premier League and he feels he is now at his peak.

“My wish is to stay in the Premier League, but I’m not ruling out playing in other leagues,” Willian said. “I’m going to play until the end of the season and then see what happens. I’m very used to life in England. I’m not thinking about going back to Corinthians at the moment. My aim is to stay in Europe. I feel that I’m at my peak at the moment. Players improve throughout their careers and I think I’m currently at my peak.”

It is not secret that Mourinho and Willian get on very well, which will intrigue Tottenham’s fans…

“I got on very well with Mourinho, learnt a lot under him and we’ve remained friends,” Willian said. “We still message each other a lot, but I don’t see him often. I haven’t managed to meet up with him since he came back to London.”

His form for Chelsea has been a little erratic this season but Frank Lampard has spoken fondly about Willian time and time again and it is quite clear Chelsea would like to extend his stay at Stamford Bridge for at least another season.

With so many young wingers around (Callum Hudson-Odoi, Christian Pulisic and Mason Mount to name a few), Willian can help ease them into the first team but there’s no doubting plenty of Premier League clubs will be eager to snap him up on a free transfer this summer, or whenever the transfer window reopens.

Tottenham would seem like a particularly good fit for Willian. He would link up with Jose Mourinho, the manage who bought him to Chelsea, and his experience would be vital at Spurs as they aim to finally secure some silverware. Tottenham need to prioritize buying new defenders but if Willian is available for free, you can’t turn that deal down, even if he turned Spurs and Daniel Levy down in 2013…

Arsenal would make sense too but you’d have to say Tottenham are the frontrunners given the connection between Willian and Mourinho. Of course, he could stay at Chelsea, but with Pedro also out of contract it does feel like a changing of the guard as Lampard will put his faith totally in new signing Hakim Ziyech, Pulisic and Hudson-Odoi next season.

With $2.7 billion reserves, FIFA has ‘duty’ to aid virus-hit soccer

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FIFA says it has a “duty” to use its vast financial reserves to assist a football industry ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic wiping out games and creating unexpected economic hardship in the world’s biggest sport.

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The spread of COVID-19 has impacted the wealthiest clubs, with Barcelona and Juventus players taking wage cuts; those in smaller countries, with Slovakian champion Zilina entering bankruptcy; and national football federations, with Uruguay furloughing hundreds of staff.

Having amassed reserves it last reported at $2.745 billion, FIFA has the resources to give much-needed financial help to the game at many levels. Now the organization has provided more details around the need agreed two weeks ago by FIFA President Gianni Infantino and his vice presidents to explore a “support fund” for the sport.

“FIFA is in a strong financial situation and it’s our duty to do the utmost to help them in their hour of need,” world football’s governing body said in a statement to The Associated Press on Tuesday.

“FIFA is working on possibilities to provide assistance to the football community around the world after making a comprehensive assessment of the financial impact this pandemic will have on football.”

FIFA is exploring the mechanism to provide the financial lifeline to the football industry with the six regional confederations and member associations to ensure there is an announcement “in the near future.”

“The football community around the world is experiencing, to a greater or lesser extent, serious financial problems on account of the coronavirus outbreak,” FIFA said. “This threatens to disrupt and impair the ability of FIFA’s member associations and other football organizations such as leagues and clubs to develop, finance and run football activities at all levels of the game, including professional, non-professional, youth and grassroots.

“It is foreseen that in many parts of the world a considerable number of persons involved in football including both men and women players will be left in extremely difficult economic conditions.”

FIFA already operates a “Forward” development program to redistribute its wealth to member associations. In the 2015-18 cycle, investment dedicated to the scheme was $1.079 billion, of which $832 million had been approved and committed to member associations, confederations or regions, according to the last published financial results.

Premier League TV schedule: April 4-5

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We have 16 hours of Premier League programming coming your way this weekend and here is your TV schedule for April 4-5

This Saturday and Sunday we will have eight hours of programming coming your way each morning from 6 a.m. ET to 2 p.m. ET on NBCSN on your TV.

With the current 2019-20 Premier League season suspended until April 30 due to the coronavirus pandemic, we have a lot of programming treats planned for you in the coming weeks and will keep up fully updated with a TV schedule posted every single week.

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Remember, during the season you can watch every single second of every single game live online via NBC Sports.com,the NBC Sports App and by purchasing the new “Premier League Pass” via NBC Sports Gold.

Gold also includes an extensive selection of shoulder programming such as Premier League News, Premier League Today, Sky Sports News, NBC Sports originals such as Premier League Download and much more.

[ STREAM: Premier League live here ] 

If you’re looking for full-event replays of Premier League games, you can find them here for the games streamed on NBCSports.com and here for the games on NBC Sports Gold.

Below is your full Premier League TV schedule and stream links for Saturday and Sunday as we have classic matches, Goal of the Season, Behind the Badge, a focus on Liverpool v. Man City and much more coming up.


FULL TV SCHEDULE FOR NBCSN

Saturday, April 4
6-6:30 a.m. ET: Soccerbox – Matt Le Tissier [STREAM]
6:30-7 a.m. ET: Soccerbox – John Barnes [STREAM]
7-7:30 a.m. ET: Soccerbox – Sol Campbell [STREAM]
7:30-8 a.m. ET: Soccerbox – Ryan Giggs [STREAM]
8-9 a.m. ET: PL Goals of the Season: 2001-02 [STREAM]
9-10 a.m. ET: PL Goals of the Season: 2002-03 [STREAM]
10-10:30 a.m. ET: Classic Match: Liverpool v. Tottenham, Feb. 2015 [STREAM]
10:30-11 a.m. ET: Classic Match: Chelsea v. Man United, Feb. 2012 [STREAM]
11-11:30 a.m. ET: Classic Match: Tottenham v. Chelsea, Jan.  2015 [STREAM]
11:30 a.m. – 12 p.m. ET: Classic Match: Man United v. Arsenal, Aug., 2011 [STREAM]
12-12:30 p.m. ET. ET: Behind the Badge – Watford, Episode 1 [STREAM]
12:30-  p.m. ET. ET: Behind the Badge – Watford, Episode 2 [STREAM]
1-1:30 p.m. ET. ET: Behind the Badge – Watford, Episode 3 [STREAM]
1:30-2 p.m. ET. ET: Behind the Badge – Watford, Episode 4 [STREAM]

Sunday, April 5
6-7 a.m. ET: PL season in review 1998-99 [STREAM]
7-8 a.m. ET: PL season in review 1999-00 [STREAM]
8-10 a.m. ET: Match of the Week, Man City v. QPR, May 2012 [STREAM]
10 a.m. – 12 p.m. ET: Match of the Week, Everton v. Liverpool, Nov. 2013 [STREAM]
12 p.m. – 2 p.m. ET: Match of the Week, Chelsea v. Arsenal, Oct. 2014 [STREAM]