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Wilshere nearing West Ham return; Carroll linked with New England

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Injury-plagued or not, Manuel Pellegrini insists West Ham United must continue to fight for a place in Europe until it becomes mathematically impossible.

[ MORE: Costa suspended 8 games ]

“I always demand more from the players, from myself and from everyone,” Pellegrini said on Thursday. “If you ask if it’s a good season; nine games before the finish we were not fighting against relegation, with an average of five or six players not available. From that point of view, it’s not a bad season.”

Pellegrini visits his former derby rivals Manchester United on Saturday in a must-win if West Ham is to challenge for seventh. The Irons are five points back of that target.

Jack Wilshere is close to returning, with Pellegrini saying the English midfielder has one more U-23 match to go until he dons the senior team kit. Samir Nasri is also out with a muscle injury, while Andriy Yarmolenko and Carlos Sanchez are still a couple of weeks away.

Andy Carroll has undergone ankle surgery. The news of his surgery comes as the injury-plagued striker is linked with a move to Major League Soccer after this summer, with a source telling ProSoccerTalk that New England is a possible landing point for the former Liverpool star.

The 30-year-old has appeared in just 30 matches since the start of the 2017-18 season.

Man City keeps pace via Aguero penalty (video)

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  • Aguero gets PL-best 18th goal
  • Ederson stops sliding Carroll
  • Man City out-attempts Irons 20-2

A Sergio Aguero penalty was all Man City needed Wednesday in a 1-0 defeat of West Ham United at the Etihad Stadium.

City stayed within a point of leaders Liverpool, but is eight points clear of third place Spurs.

West Ham is 10th with 36 points.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Kevin De Bruyne produced an early chance for David Silva, but Man City’s longtime hero flicked it off the post.

Ederson made a fine save on Andy Carroll as West Ham managed to stay in the match despite an onslaught of Man City attempts.

The Citizens would need a spot kick to find their way onto the scoreboard, though, with Bernardo Silva felled inside a sea of West Ham tacklers in the 18.

Aguero finished his chance to reclaim the Premier League’s lead in goals from Mohamed Salah.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

[ MORE: Premier League box scores, schedule, stats ]

Three things we learned: West Ham v. Liverpool

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LONDON — Liverpool dropped two more points in the Premier League title race, as they drew 1-1 at West Ham United.

Pressure does strange things to teams at this part of the season.

Monday’s trip to the London Stadium offered Jurgen Klopp‘s men the chance to open up a five-point gap atop the table, but a spirited Hammers side cancelled out Sadio Mane‘s controversial opener as Michail Antonio grabbed them a well-earned point. And West Ham could’ve easily won the game had they taken their chances.

With Liverpool now drawing to both Leicester and West Ham in their last two games, Manchester City can jump top of the table with a win at Everton on Wednesday and put the pressure back on the Reds.

Here’s a look at what we learned from the London Stadium, as the title race is well and truly on.


LIVERPOOL SHOULD BE HAPPY WITH A DRAW

In the first half West Ham should have been at least 3-0 up. Liverpool were all over the place from defensive set piece situations, holding a high line for no apparent reason. Antonio scored from one situation. Declan Rice somehow nodded wide from another and both Aaron Cresswell and Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez drilled just wide from counters which stretched Liverpool’s defense easily. It was as if Liverpool’s defenders were keen to keep their high-line no matter what, and in the second half they were lucky both Felipe Anderson and Mark Noble lost their cool in the penalty box when big chances arrived. Liverpool had chances themselves, as they always do, but this was far from a game where they played well and had to settle for a draw against a stubborn West Ham side. Klopp’s men got away with one by not losing at West Ham and now they are just three points ahead of Man City atop the Premier League table, and must expect City to beat Everton on Wednesday and slip to second place, albeit with a game in hand. Injuries are impacting Liverpool, but Klopp’s men are showing signs that they are cracking under the pressure. The nervous tension emanating from Liverpool’s fanbase is seeping into the previously carefree players. The 29-year wait for a league title is weighing heavy on everyone connected with Liverpool right now.


WEST HAM COUNTER TO PERFECTION

Man United, Arsenal, Chelsea and now Liverpool have all failed to win at the London Stadium and for Pellegrini this was a perfect response after three-straight defeats for the Hammers in embarrassing fashion. Like Leicester City, the Hammers are one of those teams outside of the top six who frighten the life out of the big boys. When they aren’t forced to possess the ball, create chances and take the games to opponents, that is when they are at their best. Sure, Manuel Pellegrini has brought a certain panache and control to their game since arriving in the summer, but the fact that both Marko Arnautovic and Samir Nasri were missing through injury did them a favor. Anderson, Antonio and Chicharito pounced when they could on the counter and the pace of full backs Cresswell and Ryan Fredericks was helpful in supporting attacks and stopping Mane and Salah from running riot. In truth, West Ham’s wasteful finishing let Liverpool off the hook. Yes, West Ham’s fans want them to be more attractive to watch but when they counter this well, it’s hard to see them not deploying these kind of tactics on a regular basis against the big boys. They lost their impetus when Andy Carroll came on late in the game and that proved what direction the Hammers must move in going forward. They have the squad to hurt teams on the counter and must realize, and play to, their strengths.


INJURIES MOUNT UP FOR KLOPP

The news that Joe Gomez now requires surgery on a fractured leg was bad enough for Liverpool fans to wake up to Monday, but when Jordan Henderson, Dejan Lovren and particularly Georginio Wijnaldum missed the game at West Ham due to injury, the alarm bells were ringing. A midfield trio of Naby Keita, Fabinho and Adam Lallana should have had enough quality to wrestle control of this game but Mark Noble, Robert Snodgrass and Declan Rice won that battle rather easily. Joel Matip appears to frighten the life out of his fellow defenders when he plays and even the usually placid Virgil Van Dijk was caught out as Liverpool’s undoubted defensive leader failed to settle things down. James Milner, playing at right back, was targeted throughout and both Snodgrass and Anderson had a field day drifting out to his flank. Liverpool’s squad is not quite large enough to deal with injuries to five key players, as Milner and Henderson at right back in recent games has shown. Letting Nathaniel Clyne leave on loan in the January window and not adding another defender as back up could be the difference for them in this title race.

West Ham fall victim to FA Cupset at hands of Wimbledon

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Saturday was a day of Cupsets in the FA Cup — at least in the day’s late games — as West Ham United were the second Premier League side to be knocked out by lower-league opposition.

[ Transfer rumor roundup: Perisic to Arsenal; Gomez to West Ham ]

AFC Wimbledon, who currently sit bottom of League One, raced out to a 3-0 lead by the 46th minute and managed to hold on for a 4-2 victory at Kingsmeadow. Championship side Millwall bounced a PL side of their own, Everton, from the competition earlier on Saturday.

Since Wimbledon was reformed as a club in 2002, the Dons’ deepest run in the FA Cup was previously the third round. On Monday, theirs will be one of 16 names in the draw for the fifth round.

The game was mostly dominated by West Ham for the opening half-hour, but the Hammers were visibly shaken after going a goal down in the 34th minute (Kwesi Appiah), doubly so when the Dons made it 2-0 in the 41st (Scott Wagstaff).

Manuel Pellegrini made a triple-change at halftime — bringing off all three of Pedro Obiang, Andy Carroll and Grady Diangana — but it made little difference from the outset of the second half. Wagstaff made it 3-0 less than 60 seconds after the restart.

[ MORE: USMNT v. Panama preview, projected starting XI ]

West Ham got as close as 3-2, thanks to goals scored by Lucas Perez (57th minute) and Felipe Anderson (71st), but Toby Sibbick restored the home side’s two-goal lead with a tap-in header in the 88th minute.

Transfer rumor roundup: Perisic to Arsenal; Gomez to West Ham

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Arsenal are in talks with Inter Milan about signing Ivan Perisic, according to the BBC and Sky Italy.

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Perisic, 29, is said to be keen on an exit from Inter and the Croatian winger has long been linked with a move to Manchester United. However, per the reports, Arsenal want to loan Perisic initially and then an option to buy him for $46.2 million in the summer.

He has scored three goals and added five assists in 25 appearances in all competitions for Inter this season, and shone at the World Cup as Croatia were runners up.


Make sure to tune-in for our special Transfer Deadline Day show on NBCSN on Thursday, Jan. 31 from 5 p.m. ET as we focus on all of the moves across the Premier League in the January window. You can stream the show live online right here.


The reports go on to state that Inter only want to sell Perisic in January and will not loan him out.

Unai Emery has previously said that Arsenal could only afford loan deals in January, which enraged fans but is understandable given their huge outlay on Mesut Ozil’s new contract, plus bringing in Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in recent seasons.

Is this a deal which the Gunners really need to do?

They’re losing Aaron Ramsey in the summer on a free transfer to Juventus and it appears that Denis Suarez will arrive from Barcelona to replace him in central midfield. Suarez is linked with a loan move before the window shuts, but a midfielder, nor a winger, shouldn’t be high on Emery’s wish list.

With several poor defensive displays this season, plus a recent batch of injuries, beefing up defensive options should surely be the long-term plan for Emery. Maybe he can’t get in the defenders he wants in January so is instead looking elsewhere to strengthen, and there’s no doubting Perisic’s pedigree.

But with Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Alex Iwobi, Ozil, Lacazette and Aubameyang around in the attacking areas and Emery playing narrow 4-3-2-1 or 3-4-2-1 formations, bringing in Perisic doesn’t make a lot of sense.

Then again, Arsenal gonna Arsenal…


Sky Sports claim that West Ham United will break their transfer record to bring in Maxi Gomez from Celta Vigo.

Gomez, 22, has a release clause in his contract of over $57 million and per the report he could sign for West Ham in January and then be loaned back to Celta Vigo for the rest of the season. The La Liga outfit is struggling in the table and need Gomez’s goals to help with their bid against relegation.

Given the situation regarding Marko Arnautovic, who has now said he will remain at West Ham despite a huge offer to go and play in China, this would be a smart move from the Hammers.

Securing Gomez ahead of the summer is smart business, as the Uruguayan forward will be in demand after scoring 26 La Liga goals for a struggling Celta side over the past season-and-a-half. Gomez is a powerful forward who can hold up the ball and stretch defenses with runs in-behind, and with Andy Carroll out of contract in the summer, Arnautovic potentially leaving and Javier Hernandez reportedly wanting to leave in January, Manuel Pellegrini needs to have some long-term stability up top.

Following the big-money signing of Felipe Anderson last summer, it is clear West Ham are now buying quality over quantity. And after the signing of free agent Samir Nasri, Declan Rice signing a new long-term contract and the additions of Diop, Fabianski and Balbuena last summer, the Hammers are suddenly making plenty of smart moves in the transfer market.

That is not something we could say often, if at all, about their dealings in recent years.