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Analyzing Benitez’s risk in reported Mitrovic out, Rondon in moves

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As Newcastle cut ties with Aleksandar Mitrovic ahead of the Serbian striker Fulham move and Salomon Rondon seemingly moves into his old squad spot, it’s worth asking, at least in theory, whether the Magpies can defy the age math of the move.

There’s a load of well-earned respect amongst the Geordies for manager Rafa Benitez, who has rarely had time or patience for the productive but combustible Mitrovic.

[ MORE: Pochettino hopeful for signings as injuries pile up, deadline looms ]

Still just 23, the powerful forward had an amazing half-season on loan at Fulham and was a handful for defenses at the World Cup.

But Benitez has kept a short leash on Mitrovic since he took the reigns at St. James Park. Mitrovic scored 12 goals in 17 Championship matches for Fulham after scoring just five times in 31 appearances between the Championship and Premier League for Newcastle from 2015-17 (His first year at Newcastle was a nine-goal, four-assist, two red card campaign under Steve McClaren and then Benitez).

Given Mitrovic’s young age and success rate at Craven Cottage, there’s no reason for Fulham not to spend the reported $28 million.

The Magpies are expected to use a lot of that money to sign big West Bromwich Albion forward Rondon, who has scored 24 goals in three seasons as the focal point of one of the Premier League’s most conservative attacks.

Newcastle’s bet has to be that Benitez believes that feeding pieces around Rondon — Ayoze Perez, Yoshimori Muti, Matt Ritchie, Jonjo Shelvey, DeAndre Yedlin and Kenedy — are going to produce more feast-able material for the big man than the Baggies’ recent pieces (Chris Brunt, Matty Phillips, Kieran Gibbs, Jay Rodriguez, Jake Livermore, and James McClean).

Mitrovic played with such fury that cards were never too far away. Rondon is no shrinking violet, but has only taken one red in his career (going head-first into Bournemouth opposition, who was doing the same).

This is a pretty big risk for Benitez, who is one even marginally-big Mitrovic season away from having a $40-plus million striker on his hands. But Newcastle owner Mike Ashley’s stingy nature has forced Benitez to find creative solutions to his squad needs.

Rondon is a short-term fix and the striker market is never going to be low cost, but the Magpies do have plenty of crossers and playmakers should they stay healthy. Might Rondon be the tonic for an attack dreadfully shy of finishers last season? He’s no doubt an upgrade on Joselu and Dwight Gayle, but that’s not saying a ton.

It’s not a big gamble, but admittedly it’s a gamble. Rondon can be a 10-goal man with terrific hold-up play for teammates, but a behaved Mitrovic has 15-20 in his locker. That’s asking a lot though.

Bournemouth 2-1 West Brom: Cherries fight back

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  • Late goals from Ibe, Stanislas seal comeback
  • West Brom 1 win in last 28 games
  • Baggies 10 points from safety

Bournemouth launched a late comeback to beat West Brom 2-1 at the Vitality Stadium on Saturday.

West Brom led through Jay Rodriguez but two spectacular goals late on from Jordon Ibe and Junior Stanislas sparked a dramatic comeback.

With the win Bournemouth move into 11th on 36 points, while West Brom stay bottom on 20 points.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ] 

West Brom started well and Salomon Rondon’s header was saved by Asmir Begovic after good work down the right from Allan Nyom.

Rodriguez then forced Begovic into another save and Bournemouth were forced into a defensive change as Simon Francis was replaced by Charlie Daniels.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

Some hefty challenges flew in as both sets of players were fired up and ready for battle, with Josh King going down in the box at one end and Rondon at the other end as the Venezuelan also forced Begovic into another save.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

Early in the second half West Brom went ahead as Kieran Gibbs‘ cross found Rondon who nodded down and Rodriguez finished to breath new life into the Baggies’ survival hopes. Or so they thought…

Junior Stanislas put a free kick just over as Bournemouth started to turn the key and soon they were level. Ibe spanked a shot in from distance which skipped into the far corner to make it 1-1, then came Stanislas’ heroics.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

The winger curled home a sumptuous free kick to make it 2-1 and send the home fans wild as Bournemouth’s Premier League status was all but secured for another season.

Wenger furious with late penalty kick, festive schedule

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Arsenal were heading towards a deserved three points on New Year’s Eve at West Bromwich Albion, then Mike Dean awarded a penalty kick and it cost the Gunners two points.

Arsene Wenger — setting the record for the most PL games managed in history (811) on Sunday — fumed on the sidelines and Dean came over to talk to the Arsenal manager during and after the game as Arsenal’s players were furious and Petr Cech was booked after the final whistle for his remonstrating.

Calum Chambers was the guilty party, in Dean’s eyes, as Kieran Gibbs knocked the ball onto his arm from close range inside the box and Jay Rodriguez scored the spot kick to make it 1-1 in the 89th minute at the Hawthorns.

Speaking to Sky Sports after the game Wenger was fuming with the referees, saying “it was not a penalty at all” and also hit out at the scheduling of games over the festive period.

“What can you do – talk and talk and talk but it doesn’t change anything. The Premier League does face a problem with the scheduling and referees,” Wenger said. “I tried hard with referees to help them become professional. The level of the referees unfortunately doesn’t go up. It’s not the first time it happened but it’s best we don’t talk about it.

“I believe West Brom had five days to prepare and we had three. The Premier League has to look at when the schedule is fair and unfair, on our side it’s unfair. Since the start of the season you have to look at it.”

Asked if VAR would have made a difference, this was Wenger’s response to Sky Sports.

“It is time. I don’t know why we want to be the best league in the world and wait this time and other leagues use it already,” Wenger added.

Wenger isn’t the first manager to hit out at the scheduling of the festive games, with his Arsenal side having just three days rest compared to five for West Brom for this game, while Chelsea will also have an extra days rest before their game against Arsenal on Wednesday.

All in all, Wenger was not a happy man on the day he surpassed Sir Alex Ferguson as the man who has managed the most games in PL history.

Arsenal are only three points off the top four but Wenger will be fuming into 2018 after his side were undoubtedly dealt a bad dose of luck to see out 2017.

There was no way that was a handball against Chambers.

West Brom 1-1 Arsenal: Late NYE drama

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  • James McClean own goal put Arsenal ahead
  • Jay Rodriguez scores 89th minute penalty
  • West Brom without a win in 19

Arsenal and West Bromwich Albion both scored late on New Year’s Eve at the Hawthorns in a 1-1 draw, with Arsene Wenger left fuming on the day he set a new record for the number of games (811) managed in the Premier League.

Alexis Sanchez’s free kick, which deflected off James McClean and went down as an own goal, put Arsenal ahead late on but Jay Rodriguez’s controversial penalty one minute from time grabbed a point for the Baggies.

With the point Arsenal move up to fifth but are three points off the top four, while West Brom move off the bottom of the table.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ] 

Early on Rodriguez headed Matt Phillips‘ cross on target but Petr Cech saved fairly easily as West Brom started well.

Cech then failed to deal comfortably with a high ball into the box but Arsenal broke superbly and Lacazette saw his deflected effort fly just wide.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Alex Iwobi then found plenty of space on the edge of the box but he curled his effort over the bar.

West Brom held firm defensively and Arsenal were frustrated in the first half.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

On the hour mark Lacazette raced into the box but Foster denied him as the Gunners pushed hard for the opener as the Frenchman tapped just wide soon after.

Lacazette and Sanchez almost unlocked West Brom’s defense soon after but the latter was denied by a heroic block as the Baggies dropped deeper and deeper late on.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Rodriguez forced Cech into a smart save after a rare West Brom attack but soon after Arsenal were ahead. Sanchez won a free kick and then his effort deflected off McClean and in as it went down as an own goal. 1-0 to the Arsenal and that’s how it looked to be finishing…

Then referee Mike Dean awarded West Brom a penalty kick for a handball on Calum Chambers after Kieran Gibbs hit the ball towards him from close range and it brushed the arm of the Arsenal defender.

Amid Arsenal’s complaints, Rodriguez kept his cool to slot home the equalizer and grab a point for his team.

It’s official: Pardew named new West Brom boss

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Alan Pardew was hired as coach of West Bromwich Albion on Wednesday, securing a return to the Premier League after nearly a year out of management.

The 56-year-old Pardew signed a two-and-a-half-year deal as a replacement for Tony Pulis, who was fired by West Brom’s Chinese owner last week with the team near to the relegation zone.

Pardew inherits a team that is only two points above the bottom three, and is without a win in 13 games in all — 12 of those coming in the league. His first match in charge is on Saturday against Crystal Palace, the club that fired him last December.

“The immediate challenge will be to get the results we need to pull ourselves up the table,” Pardew said. “But I’m aware that while I’m joining one of the great, traditional clubs of English football, it is one determined to go forward in the Premier League.”

Pardew has also coached Newcastle, Southampton, West Ham, Charlton and Reading. West Brom was attracted by his experience of managing in the Premier League.

“Alan brings the experience of more than 300 Premier League games,” West Brom chairman John Williams said, “and the kind of dynamic leadership from which our club can benefit.”

Pardew was voted as the Premier League’s manager of the year in 2012 for guiding Newcastle to a fifth-place finish, but fell out of favor with the club’s fans and left for Palace in December 2014.

Again, he made a good start at a new club, lifting Palace out of the relegation zone and into the top half by the end of that season, but the south London team won only six of 36 games in 2016 and Pardew was fired before the year was over. He has since done some TV work.

While his immediate task will be to keep West Brom in the lucrative Premier League, he may also need to introduce a more positive brand of soccer. West Brom fans grew tired of Pulis’ pragmatic and direct approach, wanting more than just survival in the top flight but some entertainment, too.

The club from central England came under new ownership last year, with Chinese businessman Lai Guochuan becoming the majority shareholder. Backed by Lai, West Brom spent $40 million in the summer and enriched the squad with players like Poland midfielder Grzegorz Krychowiak from Paris Saint-Germain, left back Kieran Gibbs from Arsenal, and winger Oliver Burke from Leipzig.

West Brom has possibly got its strongest squad in decades, and Pardew needs to get more out of it than Pulis.

Gary Megson, who took charge of the team on an interim basis following the departure of Pulis, has left the club, He guided West Brom to two draws, at Tottenham on Saturday and at home against Newcastle on Tuesday.