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Vincent Kompany talks third PL title, Belgium outlook and more

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Sports often extend beyond their respective playing field to reach a greater purpose, and that truth shone for a family that has been tied to Manchester City for many years.

[ MORE: Confident Fulham, USMNT defender Tim Ream speaks with PST ]

A large contingent of New York-based Citizen supporters gathered in Manhattan on Friday evening to honor the late Steve “Jepo” Jepson — a fanatical Man City fan who brought his passion for his boyhood club to the United States in 2007.

Jepo’s long battle with ALS — also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease — came to a devastating end in December 2017, but his family had the opportunity to receive a tremendous surprise on behalf of his favorite side.

Pauline’s wife, Pauline, and two sons, Ben and Sam, were greeted by many friendly Man City faces at Amity Hall on Friday night, however, there was one warm welcome that the family hadn’t anticipated.

Upon finding their way to a private section in the back of the bar, the Jepson family quickly found themselves pleasantly greeted with chants of “Here’s to you, Vincent Kompany. We love you more than will know.”

Those chants were then followed by the Man City captain himself, one Vincent Kompany.

Katie Cahalin/Manchester City

Pro Soccer Talk caught up with the Belgium defender prior to the event, and discussed the Citizens’ historic 2017/18 season, Kompany’s expectations for Belgium at the World Cup and much more.


PST’s Matt Reed: The club and yourself have been visiting the U.S. on a more regular basis over recent years. Can you just talk about the experiences you’ve had stateside and are you surprised at all by the following that club has in America?

Vincent Kompany: I think we’ve always had a very big, hardcore fanbase, but clearly it was mainly in the UK for many years. I think as people traveled we expanded in that way. But over the years, and I’ve been at the club for 10 years, every single year we come back to America there’s something about the team that seems to catch on with the fans in America. I don’t know what to expect out there, but I just hope to see another confirmation of how well we are doing and how we are connecting with the fans. It’s about creating loyalty.

MR: Man City has been able to participate in the International Champions Cup for several years now. Is the tournament as enjoyable for the players as it is for the supporters? 

VK: It’s a weird one because for us we’re in preseason, so we call it friendly games, but in recent years they haven’t been friendly games anymore. We played Tottenham Hotspur, I remember, and it was an intense game. We finished the game, and it felt like we had played a Premier League game. It was meant to be a preseason game, but then we played Real Madrid with 100,000 fans in the Colosseum. There’s another moment in you where you can allow yourself to not make the most of this environment. We play big games and when you fill big stadiums, that competitive drive comes back in and less and less I’d call them friendly games.

MR: Having been at the club for 10 years now, you’ve been involved in several title runs. This one was obviously significantly different than say 2011/12, where it came down to the final day. Taking it into account that City reached 100 points and all the other records your side broke, is this the best team you’ve ever played for?

VK: Yeah, it’s the best team I’ve ever played on. I think the big difference between the first time we won and now was that the first time was bigger for Man City’s recent history because it allowed everything else to happen after that. I think that the title now, in the history of football, is a very meaningful title. It takes it to another level, but nothing could have happened for us the way it did without winning that first title.

MR: There was a lot of stress put on Pep Guardiola when he first arrived in England, and after finishing third last season that sort of carried over to 2017/18. Do you think he’s been hard on himself for not capturing the Champions League, despite all the amazing things your club accomplished this year?

VK: No, unfortunately we’ve been hit by history in this case. We’ve always had difficult games at Anfield. They’ve always given us trouble no matter the situation. They [Liverpool] are just a team that have habitually given us trouble, and we went through a similar event in the FA Cup. We played Wigan, and if you know our history, Wigan is a team that usually kicks us out of the FA Cup. Unfortunately we drew Wigan in the FA Cup and Liverpool in the Champions League, and it just shows that we have to deal with these two fixtures in the future.

Question: This will be your second World Cup with Belgium. There’s going to be greater expectations this time around for your country. How are you guys feeling heading into the tournament?

VK: First of all, for me personally, I will be the player with the least stress. I will have zero percent stress. Everything that I have today is a bonus. I was written off so many times before and I just enjoy training and being there. I enjoy coming into games and training  sessions where I can feel that I’m as good, or better than, the players I’m playing against. For me, it’s already won. And at the same time, because I prepare so well, I don’t have worry too much about what’s going to happen on the pitch. Everything takes care of itself.

Question: Do you find yourself watching MLS on a regular basis? And are there any teams in particular you like to watch?

VK: Probably once a week I’ll see a game. I try to watch as many games of New York City as I can, but with the time difference sometimes it’ll be like 2 o’clock in the morning. I’ve seen a few games of LA FC as well because they have a Belgian player, Laurent Ciman. And yes, the level is improving so much.

Pep Guardiola says Man City won’t be big spenders any time soon

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Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola says there won’t be nearly as much spending at the Etihad Stadium in future transfer windows.

City spent big to bring a number of huge players to town, including six players who cost more than $35 million each (Benjamin Mendy, Aymeric Laporte, Kyle Walker, Danilo, Bernardo Silva, and Ederson).

[ MORE: West Ham talks manager plans ]

But Guardiola says that’s simply the state of play in revolutionizing his club, and that he won’t have to do as much again.

From Sky Sports:

“We invested a lot of money and will invest less in the future, because instead of doing it in two or three transfer windows, we did it in one. We needed it for the age [of the squad].

“The fundamental success of this season is the quality of the players. People say you won because you invest a lot, they are right.”

It’s a good bet that City will buy another center back soon with Nicolas Otamendi (30) and Vincent Kompany (32), though those certainly aren’t ancient ages for the position. A Fernandinho understudy may also come through the door, but there are also a number of young players returning from loan (Look out for Pablo Maffeo, a big part of Girona’s surprising 11th place La Liga finish, especially).

But Guardiola’s right: The club will not have to take any big swings, and so many young players will grow simply due to understanding his system.

Pep Guardiola signs new three-year contract with Man City

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Pep Guardiola is staying at Manchester City into the next decade.

After a record-breaking season at the Etihad, Manchester City announced that the club had signed Guardiola to a new contract through 2021. If he stays for the duration of his contract, it will be the longest amount of time he’s spent at one club, after four years with FC Barcelona and three years at Bayern Munich.

[READ: Premier League clubs earned a combined $3.2 billion]

“I am so happy and excited. It’s a pleasure to be able to work here,” Guardiola said in a statement. “I enjoy working with our players every day and we will try to do our best together in the coming years. As a manager, you have to feel good to be with the players – and I feel good.

“I will focus on the desire of my players to become a better team and every day that’s what I will try to do – to improve on the pitch and improve our players. We have a young squad with an average age of 23 and we want to keep taking steps forward and maintain the levels we’ve achieved this season.”

Guardiola has been an absolute revelation in the Premier League. After a first season filled with ups and downs, he turned the league on its head with one of the most impressive seasons in history, setting a record for most points (100), most wins (32), most goals (106), highest goal-difference (+79) and more.

Keeping Guardiola as Man City manager is crucial for the club’s desire to finally get over the hump and win the UEFA Champions League, and after a season where Man City won nearly everything, they can use the rout defeats by Liverpool as motivation for next year’s Champions League.

Report: Arteta, Arsenal to meet on Thursday

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Arsenal could have its successor to Arsene Wenger by the end of the week.

That’s if talks with former Gunners midfielder and current Manchester City assistant Mikel Arteta go well.

[ PL TOP 10: GKs and backs | Mids and forwards ]

Already reported as a clear favorite for the job, Arteta will speak with the Gunners brass on Thursday. Sky Sports also says he’d be allowed to bring his own backroom staff.

Pep Guardiola won’t stand in the way of his assistant moving up in the Premier League world, and it would certainly be interesting to see how Arteta would attack and defend his former side.

When Arteta retired from Arsenal in 2016, he was a teammate of several current Gunners’ stars including Mesut Ozil, Laurent Koscielny, Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey, Hector Bellerin, and Nacho Monreal.

Meanwhile, the Metro is reporting that Arsenal is ready to spend $102 million on Freiburg defender Caglar Soyuncu, Borussia Dortmund center back Sokratis Papastathopoulos, and Bayer Leverkusen goalkeeper Bernd Leno.

PST’s Top Ten Premier League midfielders and forwards

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ProSoccerTalk quizzed its staff on the best players of the 2017-18 Premier League season, broken up into eight categories.

Goalkeepers, left backs, center backs, right backs, center mids, attacking mids, wingers, and center forwards/strikers were slotted 1-10 (with wing backs lumped in with the fullbacks).

[ MORE: The Premier League season in statistics ]

In this first of two posts, we handled the goalkeepers and backs. Now, we moved further up the pitch. First-place votes are in parenthesis.

Center midfielders

10. Jonjo Shelvey, Newcastle United

9. Emre Can, Liverpool

8. Luka Milivojevic, Crystal Palace

7. Wilfred Ndidi, Leicester City

6. Idrissa Gana Gueye, Everton

4. (tie) Mousa Dembele, Tottenham Hotspur and Eric Dier, Tottenham Hotspir

3. Nemanja Matic, Manchester United

  1. (tie) Fernandinho, Manchester City (2) and N'Golo Kante, Chelsea (2)
(AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

Attacking midfielders

10. Abdoulaye Doucoure, Watford

9. Dele Alli, Tottenham Hotspur

8. Pascal Gross, Brighton and Hove Albion

7. Mesut Ozil, Arsenal

6. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Liverpool

5. Paul Pogba, Manchester United

4. Christian Eriksen, Tottenham Hotspur

3. Eden Hazard, Chelsea

2. David Silva, Manchester City (1)

  1. Kevin De Bruyne, Manchester City (3)
(Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Wingers

10. Marcus Rashford, Manchester United

9. Alexis Sanchez, Manchester United

8. Heung-Min Son, Tottenham Hotspur

7. Willian, Chelsea

6. Riyad Mahrez, Leicester City

5. Sadio Mane, Liverpool

4. Wilfried Zaha, Crystal Palace

3. Raheem Sterling, Manchester City

2. Leroy Sane, Manchester City

  1. Mohamed Salah, Liverpool (4)

Center forwards/strikers

10. (tie) Alvaro Morata, Chelsea and Olivier Giroud, Chelsea

9. Gabriel Jesus, Manchester City

8. Marko Arnautovic, West Ham United

7. Alexandre Lacazette, Arsenal

6. Jamie Vardy, Leicester City

5. Romelu Lukaku, Manchester United

4. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Arsenal

3. Roberto Firmino, Liverpool

2. Sergio Aguero, Manchester City

  1. Harry Kane, Tottenham Hotspur
(Photo by Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images)