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Transfer news: Soumare to Liverpool; Lemar to Man United

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Transfer news continues to rumble on despite the lack of games due to the coronavirus pandemic, as plenty of the Premier League big boys are said to be in talks over summer signings.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Let’s take a look at some of the latest Premier League transfer news below.


Do Liverpool need a new box-to-box midfielder? Apparently so.

With Fabinho in and out of the team through injury, plus Naby Keita linked with a move back to RB Leipzig and James Milner becoming more of a bit-part player, it is perhaps one of the only areas where Jurgen Klopp can strengthen his incredible Liverpool squad.

A report from Spanish outlet Sport claims that Liverpool have held talks with Lille over signing Boubakary Soumare, 21, for some time and are keen on the young Frenchman.

Soumare was linked with a move to either Chelsea or Man United in January but remained at Lille and it appears he will have even more options this summer, or whenever the transfer window opens.


As for Man United, they are said to be interested in Atletico Madrid winger Thomas Lemar, 24, who has totally fallen out of favor with Diego Simeone.

After it looked like he could sign for Liverpool, Chelsea or Arsenal in the summer of 2017, Lemar joined Atletico from AS Monaco in 2018 but has struggled to adapt his game to La Liga and according to ESPN his agents have been in discussions with Man United earlier this week.

The French international has quality on the ball and is a fine dribbler and his arrival could perhaps spell the end at Man United for the likes of Jesse Lingard and Andreas Perreira, as Lemar can operate across all three attacking midfield positions. Alongside the brilliant Bruno Fernandes, Lemar would provide something a little different for Man United’s attack with Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford leading the line. Daniel James has faded a little in recent months after a strong start to life at Old Trafford but is still young but Lemar’s quality and experience would surely see him become a regular at Man United.

As the report notes, Lemar will not come cheap as he has three years left on his contract at Atletico but his direct dribbling style and pace on the counter would suit this Man United side very well. His qualities aren’t suite to the way Atletico play but that would not be the case at Man United under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

PST Roundtable: PL at the 3/4 mark

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The Premier League season is paused at just more than the three-quarter mark — 76.05 percent, to be a bit more formal — and we’ve got a good handle on who’s good and who isn’t.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

That said, the number also gives an idea of why there’s plenty of possibilities remaining for the table and award winners once the season presumably resumes for the stretch run.

It would be natural to speculate on the front-runners and Championship-bound sides if there were matches this weekend, so why not do it now?

We’ve quizzed our PST staff on a handful of questions in roundtable form, though there was no table and my desk is decidedly rectangular.


Liverpool players have won Player of the Year for the past two seasons despite not winning the league. Are the tables flipped this year? Who is on track for PL Player of the Year?

Joe Prince-WrightKevin De Bruyne should probably win it but I expect Jordan Henderson or Sadio Mane to win it. Liverpool will win the league by a mile and both have been influential. When they’ve been out injured Liverpool have missed them and I’d probably say Mane should win it.

Andy Edwards: This is a weird one, because Liverpool have been so thoroughly outstanding in every way, on every level, that it would be difficult to pick just one of them for Player of the Year. Is Sadio Mane deserving? Sure is. What about Mohamed Salah? Also yes. Virgil Van Dijk? Yet again, yes. Trent Alexander-Arnold? You can make a strong case that he’s perhaps done the most to lift Liverpool another level higher from a “non-traditional” award-winning position. All of that is to say, simply deliver the award to Melwood Training Ground and let the players decide amongst themselves.

Daniel Karell: Remember when the U.S. women’s national team won the 1999 SI Sportsperson of the Year award? I think we’re going to have to do that for Liverpool. While Virgil Van Dijk, Mo Salah, and Sadio Mane would all be worthy of the trophy individually, it’s truly been a team effort this season and the culmination of 5 years of growth, smart transfer dealings, and hard work. Trent Alexander-Arnold has been immense at times, as has Jordan Henderson, Fabinho, and Allison Becker. Ultimately, it’s a bit of a cop-out answer but I think it’s just hard this year to pick just one who has been better. Jamie Vardy currently leads the Premier League in goals, and while he’s been terrific, he hasn’t also been playing in the Champions League like Salah, Mane, and Van Dijk have, for example. 

Kyle Bonn: It has to be Kevin de Bruyne, right? Yea, it does.

Nick Mendola: Kevin De Bruyne and it’s not particularly close. He has a fine chance of setting the league assist record, and he’s two away becoming the only player in the Top Five twice. There are words to be said for Trent Alexander-Arnold, Sadio Mane, Wilfred Ndidi, and Raul Jimenez, but no true decent arguments outside of “it should come from the champion,” which we covered in the question.


Who’s on track for your Best XI?

Joe Prince-Wright: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Van Dijk, Maguire, Saka; J. Henderson, Ndidi, De Bruyne; Mane, Firmino, Vardy

Andy Edwards: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Van Dijk, Soyuncu, Robertson; Ndidi, Moutinho, De Bruyne; Salah, Jimenez, Mane

Daniel Karell: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Van Dijk, Soyuncu, Robertson; De Bruyne, Maddison, Jorginho; Vardy, Aubameyang, Salah

Kyle Bonn: D. Henderson; TAA, Van Dijk, Maguire, Robertson; Ndidi, De Bruyne, J. Henderson, Grealish; Mane, Vardy.

Nick Mendola: Leno; Alexander-Arnold, Van Dijk, Soyuncu, Robertson; Ndidi, Rodri, De Bruyne; Salah, Jimenez, Mane.


What’s the best goal you’ve seen this season?

Joe Prince-Wright: I think that has to be Heung-Min Son’s incredible solo goal. Clear winner for Goal of the Season.

Andy Edwards: Heung-min Son’s solo goal versus Burnley

Daniel Karell:  I mean…it’s got to be Heung-min Son against Burnley. Honorable mention though to Kevin de Bruyne vs. Newcastle and Moussa Djenepo vs. Sheffield United.

Kyle Bonn: Three goals so far stand out in my mind: Heung-Min Son’s dizzying run vs. Burnley, Jahanbakhsh’s bike against Chelsea, and Jordan Ayew’s little zig-zag against West Ham. The Spurs’ man’s goal wins for the sheer distance he covered.

Nick Mendola: Son. Solo. Next.


What are your Top 3 moments of the season so far?

Joe Prince-Wright: Woah. What a question. In no particular order: Christian Pulisic’s hat trick for Chelsea v Burnley. Leicester winning 9-0 at Southampton. Liverpool destroying everyone but I particularly enjoyed their 4-0 win at Leicester.

Daniel Karell: The season being postponed for the Coronavirus: Only a global pandemic could upstage the season Liverpool was having. Then Liverpool’s 3-1 win over Man City, which proved that the Reds have fully passed Man City in the pecking order. Finally, I’m biased, but for me it’s the malaise and slide that Arsenal is in. How the mighty have fallen.

Kyle Bonn: Lot to potentially go into the pot here, but the ones that stick out most in my mind are Leicester City demolishing Southampton 9-0, Newcastle ridiculous late 2-2 draw with Everton on Lejeune’s double, and Southampton exacting revenge on Leicester City for the aforementioned demolition with a 2-1 road win. I think Liverpool could potentially have three on here as well, one for the Sadio Mane header against Aston Villa, one for the late Lallana goal against Manchester United to draw, and one for the loss to Watford that ended the unbeaten league season.

Nick Mendola: Two of my three involve the soon-to-be champs, and the first took 24 seconds to reshape the season. It was the time that passed between Trent Alexander-Arnold’s would-be handball penalty for Man City and Fabinho’s rocket to beat Claudio Bravo. ‘Member? Insane. Maybe we should’ve called “Game: Blouses” on the whole season there, citing a season of fate.

The second is Watford’s beatdown of Liverpool to end the Reds’ unbeaten season is here because of its complete nature. The worn-down Reds capitulated to Ismaila Sarr in a way that lives very large.

Third could be anything: Liverpool coming back to beat West Ham. Leicester City hanging nine on Southampton. Hometown kid Matty Longstaff using all five-foot-nothing of his teenage body to piledrive Newcastle past Manchester United on his Premier League debut with his brother next to him in the midfield.

It’s been a season, team.


Grade VAR on a scale of 1-10 (1 being poor and 10 being perfect). What can be changed to make the VAR system more efficient and consistent?

Joe Prince-Wright: I’d give it a 6/10. People forget the small errors which still pop up but a lot of decisions which would have previously been wrong are now correct. I think letting referees use the pitch side monitors will improve the system and the respect for on-field officials. Too much of the control is sent to Stockley Park.

Andy Edwards: 5, dead center of the spectrum. My biggest gripe: it’s been used to micromanage and legislate the smallest of margins far too frequently. We all understand the Laws of the Game are the rules by which the game must be officiated, but what of the Spirit of the Laws of the Game? There must exist a gray area of sorts, as there is with everything in life, where intent and advantage are considered and weighed en route to the final decision. If a player is offside by 2 millimeters, is that an advantage which has a decisive impact in favor of the attacker? In most cases, it’s probably not.

Daniel Karell: 5. It’s decent, but the fact that refs refuse to use the monitors means that they’re just constantly second guessing themselves and it’s affecting how they call games in general. Make a call, and if the VAR says, hey, you might want to look at this, take a look at it to be sure. You can’t go wrong.

Kyle Bonn: VAR so far gets a 4 out of 10 for me. It gets a 3/5 on intent and ability, as the system for the most part has demonstrated the ability to serve as intended when used properly, with a few tweaks necessary such as pitchside monitors and rules like the handball rule needing amending. It gets a 1/5 on execution, with the Premier League struggling mightily to grasp the spirit of the technology. The offside line has done its job, despite the bad publicity, but the “clear & obvious error” has been grossly misinterpreted and calls have been changed or even investigated when not needed.

Nick Mendola: I’m going with five, and it’d be much higher if the PL learned from the NHL’s biggest mistake with replay: offside(s). At least in hockey there’s a blue line to help. The “moment the ball is struck” is such a poor reference point. Let the linespeople live here.


 

BONUS: Who is the best referee in the Premier League and why?

Joe Prince-Wright: Mike Dean because he is not only a pretty fair referee, overall, but he jokes with the players and seems to have their respect. Don’t @ me.

Daniel Karell: I don’t know who the best is, but Mike Dean is towards the bottom.

Kyle Bonn: Mike Dean, because he has supreme control of the pitch and makes the fewest amount of obvious errors.

Nick Mendola: I find Michael Oliver the most consistent.

Atleti ends Liverpool hopes of UCL repeat

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Marcos Llorente scored twice in extra time, the first off an extra-time blunder from Liverpool goalkeeper Adrian, as Atletico Madrid knocked the reigning champions out of the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday.

The match finished 3-2 to Atleti, 4-2 on aggregate, as Alvaro Morata scored late to pour salt in Liverpool’s wounds.

[ MORE: Klopp, Milner react | Simeone, too ]

The Reds forgot their finishing boots on a dominant day, out-attempting Diego Simeone’s visitors 34-9. Atleti goalkeeper Jan Oblak made nine saves.

Roberto Firmino’s goal in the fourth minute of extra time joined Georginio Wijnaldum‘s first-half goal to give Liverpool an advantage it held for less than two minutes.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]


Three things we learned

1. Gini and The Ox run the show, but miserable finishing kills Reds: Wijnaldum and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain rewarded Jurgen Klopp for his risk of removing off-kilter star Fabinho from the Starting XI. The pair teamed up on the opening goal but it was more than that that earned them headlines. Wijnaldum was the best player not named Jan Oblak in the first half, while Oxlade-Chamberlain was a menace to Atleti’s midfielders in the second frame. While Jordan Henderson was understandably a bit rusty at times, his center midfield mates delivered the goods.

That said, Liverpool’s finishing was a combination of truly poor and terribly unlucky. Even when the Reds went ahead in stoppage time, it was Firmino cashing in a rebound after his first shot toward a gaping half of the goal hit the post. Robertson headed off the cross bar. Mohamed Salah shot ball after the ball almost directly to Jan Oblak or over the goal. This won’t go down as “Atleti is so hard to break down,” though Simeone’s men obviously are a tough team; The Reds just didn’t finish enough of their many, many chances.

2. Oblak almost everywhere: Not sure where exactly the joke is here, but Atletico Madrid’s goalkeeper blocked nearly everything that came his way, inspiring “Oh” and “Oh” from the Anfield faithful. The Slovenian shot-stopper

3. Adrian gives it away: Spanish keeper Adrian had very little to do on the day in filling in for the injured Alisson Becker, but ultimately will go down as the man responsible for Liverpool’s failure to defend its UCL crown. He made three saves on the day, but his poor pass up the middle of the pitch to Joao Felix will be what everyone remembers as Liverpool again loses a big UCL match due to a goalkeeper error (and terrible finishing).

Man of the Match: It’s Oblak. Yes, Llorente scored twice. Sure, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Wijnaldum were incredible. But the Slovenian commanded his box in the face of extreme adversity and congestion.


Liverpool entered the match with predictable vigor, Jan Oblak’s first duty coming off a Georginio Wijnaldum header of a Trent Alexander-Arnold cross.

Atleti found its footing soon after, Kieran Trippier unable to turn a long diagonal ball off a free kick back toward goal.

Salah tempted the frame with a 20-yard attempt in the 10th minute, and Oblak made a sprawling denial of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain four minutes later.

Atleti won a corner in the 17th, but Felipe nodded short of the near post.

Salah took advantage of a Renan Lodi slip to cue up Sadio Mane, but his bounding shot was blocked and collected by Oblak.

The Atleti keeper then made a fantastic save on Roberto Firmino after an incisive Alexander-Arnold cross.

Wijnaldum leveled the tie in the 43rd minute, and the goal had been coming. Oxlade-Chamberlain’s cross found a wide-open Wijnaldum at the spot for a powered-down header that bounced past Oblak.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Salah stung Oblak’s palms early in the second half, and the Atleti keeper stopped an offside Mane with a fantastic left-hand save in the 50th.

Oblak got low to palm away an Oxlade-Chamberlain drive, conceding a corner.

Joao Felix had a chance out of nothing, and Adrian bumbled the ball but saved his error by blocking Correa’s chop at the rebound.

Robertson was celebrating a would-be go-ahead goal off a Salah cross, but it hit the cross bar in the 67th minute. Oblak made another fine save before the rebound was blocked by a defender.

An 81st-minute corner routine set up Robertson for glory, but he blazed clear of the frame from 18 yards.

Wijnaldum couldn’t finish with a back post header off a James Milner cross, and Mane smashed an overhead kick over the bar.

Saul Niguez was offside when he headed a stoppage-time free kick home, and the match moved to extra time.

Oblak made another save to start stoppage time, his ninth of the match. Firmino then took his rebound off the post to make it 2-0.

But wait, Atleti had an answer when Adrian’s clearance went right to Joao Felix. A few touches later it was 2-1 through Llorente’s low drive, and he added another through a well-worked counterattack to stun the reigning champs.

Morata blazed past the Liverpool back line to seal the result deep in the second period of extra time.

Liverpool is lost without lynchpin Jordan Henderson

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Liverpool’s nearly historic run of Premier League performances is over. It has been for some time now.

Jordan Henderson is injured.

“Cum hoc ergo propter hoc.” Correlation does not imply causation. But in this case, could it be? Is a hamstring injury to Liverpool’s captain actually a major contributor to the Reds’ cavernous dip in form?

It is this particular author’s opinion that Jordan Henderson is the most underrated player in the Premier League at this current juncture. His distribution, calmness on the ball, and leadership quality is undervalued by nearly every fan on the planet – even Liverpool ones. At the start of the season, I wrote that Henderson was the second-best midfielder in the English top flight. Even now I can admit that may have been ambitious, but knowing what we know now, it wasn’t that far off the mark. Yet even Liverpool fans hammered me for my pick.

According to sofascore’s player aggregation, Jordan Henderson has scored as the 11th best player in the entire league this season, and it’s largely thanks to his versatility. There is only one midfielder in the entire league this season with at least 50 tackles, 25 key passes, an 80% pass completion rate, and beaten one-on-one fewer than 30 times: Jordan Henderson. Throw in nearly a 60% long-ball completion rate, 327 passes in the opposition final third (16th in the Premier League among midfielders), and eight big chances created (sixth among midfielders), Henderson can literally do it all, at least on paper.

Take a look at Jordan Henderson’s performance in his most recent full 90 minutes of Premier League play against Norwich City a few weeks ago. Then take a look at Fabinho, his replacement, from the two most recent performances – the near-miss against West Ham followed by the brutal loss to Watford. What do you notice, right off the bat?

(Here is the legend for StatsZone dashboards used in this article)

Even today against Bournemouth, which Liverpool again eeked out a narrow victory which saw them slightly lucky, Fabinho was toothless in midfield, and while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain looked to provide some creativity moving forward, two players are attempting to do the work that one Jordan Henderson can accomplish.

These are small, single-match examples, but you can see that Henderson’s directional passing is far and away more progressive than Fabinho’s. The Brazilian struggled to move the ball forward, even in a game where the Reds scored three goals. With less volume, Henderson still managed to move the Reds into dangerous positions all while keeping safe possession. Fabinho was completely unable to unlock Watford – his passing map looks like it was up against a brick wall – while Henderson found joy against an equally-defensive Norwich City side.

And yet the most compelling argument may be this: Liverpool has, to put it simply, completely fell apart once its captain got injured. Since yanking his hamstring in the 80th minute of the Champions League loss to Atletico Madrid, the 29-year-old has missed four matches – three in the Premier League and one in FA Cup play. Liverpool has stunk in all four. The Reds needed a second-half comeback to beat West Ham (that quite frankly should have been a warning sign, in hindsight), they were absolutely battered by relegation-threatened Watford, they were soundly beaten by Chelsea in the Magical Cup, and then today’s lackluster performance against Bournemouth that managed to scrape out three points. How do you argue with results?

It may be that Henderson’s true influence goes far beyond his play on the field. NBC analysts Robbie Mustoe and Robbie Earle discussed this very thing on the most recent episode of their podcast The 2 Robbies, where they broke down what has gone wrong for Liverpool of late.

“The things that we take for granted from Liverpool were not there,” Robbie Earle said of Liverpool’s loss to Watford. “The things that make them different and special…there are things that are a given, and they weren’t there. It’s maybe a little reminder to this football club that despite great names and huge club and great history, every single week in the Premier League you have to earn it.”

He went deeper, acknowledging that Henderson may not be a brilliant footballer in terms of a flashy style, but his personality is critical to the squad.

“I get the sense that James Milner, Jordan Henderson…not on their watch,” Earle said. “Not if they’re in the team. In terms of Liverpool great footballers, they wouldn’t be at the top of the list, they might not even be in the top 10. But in terms of influence across this team, numbers one and two.”

“The one bit that’s been a constant, the one bit that’s been how they keep on this drive and determination was missing. There was a great shot of Milner and Henderson sitting in the stands [of the Watford loss], and in my mind I was just going ‘not on their watch.'”

While Henderson was still out injured against Bournemouth on Saturday, Milner returned and delivered one of his trademark work-rate moments with a game-saving goal-line clearance in the 61st minute.

Robbie Mustoe agreed, and praised Henderson’s ability to influence his teammates to work hard for 90 minutes, something that is clearly missing of late.

“Football is incredibly infectious,” Mustoe said to follow up Earle’s point. “If somebody is closing the ball down and working really really hard, you automatically do the same thing. If there’s a drop-off in somebody’s performance, they make a couple of sloppy passes and then somebody else does it, it becomes infectious as well. Once that starts, you’ve got to stop it, and Henderson will point his finger or get a hold of somebody and make sure that person doesn’t do it again and that it doesn’t become infectious within the team.”

They weren’t the only ones, either. England recognized Jordan Henderson with its Player of the Year award last calendar year, while Gary Lineker noted Henderson’s absence from the Liverpool side as well.

So, this one can admit that maybe ranking Jordan Henderson as the second-best midfielder was slightly overzealous. Yet, the argument could be there that maybe Jordan Henderson is indeed the most important midfielder in the entire English top flight, and that certainly counts for a lot, as Liverpool may be finding out the hard way.

Premier League Preview: Liverpool v. Bournemouth

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Liverpool looks to get back to winning ways with a visit from struggling Bournemouth at Anfield on Saturday (Watch Live at 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

The Reds have lost three-in-four across all competitions, but are a point from breaching the 80-point marker

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

Bournemouth is one of three teams on 27 points, but the bottom of the bunch on goal differential.

The Cherries managed a point against Chelsea last time out. Can they manage another?

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 


Injuries/suspensions

Liverpool: OUT —  Alisson Becker, Jordan Henderson. QUESTIONABLE — Xherdan Shaqiri, Naby Keita.

Bournemouth: OUT — David Brooks, Charlie Daniels, Lloyd Kelly, Chris Mepham, Harry Wilson. QUESTIONABLE — None.


Probable lineups

Liverpool: Adrian, Robertson, Van Dijk, Matip, Alexander-Arnold, Fabinho, Wijnaldum, Milner, Salah, Firmino, Mane.

Bournemouth: Ramsdale, Smith, Ake, S. Cook, Stacey, L. Cook, Lerma, Billing, King, Fraser, C. Wilson


What they’re saying

Jurgen Klopp on bouncing back from defeats: “Winning gives you confidence, losing costs you confidence. That’s normal. One defeat feels like two defeats, it’s not a massive difference it’s about how you immediately get back on track. You can’t do that by hoping that things are now clicking better than before but by working really hard and you have to fight back on track. That’s what we have to do all together on Saturday. We have to do that as a unit with our supporters together. Not just waiting for the perfect moment but working to get them.

Bournemouth’s Philip Billing on facing Liverpool: “It’s always fun, it’s a challenge and you look forward to playing these games. Even though it’s Liverpool, you know everybody is going to doubt you and think it’s an easy win but anything can happen in football and we just have to believe in ourselves, go to Anfield and just express ourselves. What have we got to lose? Obviously they have been unbelievable this season. But it’s 11 v 11 at the end of the day.”


Prediction

Bournemouth will give Liverpool its wobbles, but the Cherries won’t have enough to seize a result. Big game for Roberto Firmino in a 3-1 win.