Nicolas N’Koulou

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Transfer Rumor Roundup: Arsenal reinforcement, Fulham striker, Saints exit

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The January transfer window is upon us, and while Chelsea has already made what could end up being the splash of the winter in signing Christian Pulisic, there are plenty more rumors to be had. January is often a time for bargain hunting, and while the Pulisic move bucks that trend, clubs that need immediate reinforcements will often look for players who want out of their current position immediately.

[ MORE: Hudson-Odoi leaving Chelsea | Emery denies Navas ]

So, that’s where we begin today’s roundup. Southampton is in massive trouble at the bottom of the Premier League table, sitting 18th and firmly in the relegation battle. Beyond rumors, new Saints manager Ralph Hasenhuttl has come out and confirmed that a few key players could depart this January as teams pick apart the Southampton squad in preparation for their potential drop.

Hasenhuttl singled out players like Steven Davis and Manolo Gabbiadini as a pair who could pack their bags, with the Italian striker seemingly the more likely of the two to find greener pastures. Gabbiadini has not played a single minute under the German boss, scoring just one goal this season before Mark Hughes was fired. The 27-year-old came over from Napoli in the January 2017 transfer window and made an immediate impact, but has fallen completely off the table since as Southampton continues to struggle for Premier League safety.

In addition, while there are no solid rumors yet, freelance journalist Graham Ruthven speculates that another player who could be attractive to clubs could be midfielder Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg whose contract expires in the summer of 2021 and is considered a bright talent at just 23 years old. Still, giving clubs pause is his lack of discipline this season, having already sat one match for yellow card accumulation before finding himself riding the pine on a four-game suspension for a miserable challenge on Fernandinho in the dying minutes of a recent defeat to Manchester City.


While Saints looks to do its best to keep the talent at St. Mary’s, fellow relegation candidate Fulham is hoping to secure reinforcements as the Whites look to protect their massive summer investment. The club has enjoyed a small uptick in form under new manager Claudio Ranieri, but the defense still looks horrific, especially against the bigger and better clubs. While the back line is the most concerning aspect of the squad at the moment, Fulham has also struggled to convert solid chances into goals up front, with Aleksandar Mitrovic proving a hard worker but not always able to convert those chances. According to Sky Italy, Fulham is one of three clubs interested in Roma striker Gregoire Defrel, currently on loan at Sampdoria. The report says Watford and West Ham are also interested, but mentions that the Hammers could back off after signing Samir Nasri to a deal after a trial.

Defrel has scored six goals in 18 matches for Sampdoria so far this season, although four of those came on a pair of braces by the third game of the season, and has since grabbed just two in 891 Serie A minutes since. While Watford will be looking for players to assist them in their battle for a top-half place, Fulham may be not just more motivated but more desperate. The Thursday edition of Italian publication Gazzetta dello Sport declares that Fulham is “in the lead” for the 27-year-old Frenchman.


While Fulham looks for attacking help, Arsenal is hoping to snag defensive reinforcements as the Gunners have had injuries and poor form plague their back line all season. Sitting in fifth in the table, if the Gunners are hopeful of making a run at Champions League play, they will need to fix their defensive issues with Rob Holding out long-term, Laurent Koscielny injury-prone at 33 years old, and Shkodran Mustafi barely back from a hamstring problem of his own. Only new signing Sokratis has made it through the festive period unscathed, and now manager Unai Emery will look to bring in help from the outside.

According to The Mirror, Arsenal is set for a battle with Torino for 27-year-old center-back Nicolas N’Koulou. The Cameroon international only joined Torino this summer, but his contract expires in the summer of 2020 leaving the Italian club with little options should they wish to turn their paltry $4 million investment into a large profit. N’Koulou has helped Torino to one of the most impressive defensive displays in Serie A this season, conceding just 19 goals in 19 matches, the fifth-best defensive record in the league behind the top three teams Juventus, Napoli, and Inter plus Fiorentina. Unfortunately for Torino, they have struggled mightily in front of net, supporting that defensive unit with just 24 goals, leaving them ninth in the table, just above Fiorentina who also has trouble scoring goals.

N’Koulou is as experienced as they come, with 72 caps for the Cameroon international team plus 19 Champions League appearances with Lyon and Marseille before his switch to the Italian top flight. The Mirror suggests that Torino “are keen to hold onto” N’Koulou, understandably given his importance to the club having played every single minute of the league season thus far, but his contract situation could force the club’s hand should they wish to earn a profit on his presence.


There is plenty of talk surrounding Toby Alderweireld this January, and understandably so. Spurs activated a clause in the Belgian’s contract that keeps him at the club an additional season, but also triggers the presence of a $31 million release clause that is activated during the early portion of the summer transfer window. Given Alderweireld’s market value of significantly higher than that, Spurs could be motivated to shop him this winter in the hopes of earning a higher return, avoiding losing him for such a small price this summer.

According to The Telegraph, French club Paris Saint-Germain could be interested in sweetening the pot for Alderweireld to ensure they are given priority in the race, reporting that the French side “could offer” fellow Belgian Thomas Meunier in return for Alderweireld. Meunier, a right-back, was one of Belgium’s more surprisingly impressive players at this summer’s World Cup and has parlayed that into 12 Ligue 1 appearances for PSG this season. It would be somewhat surprising that PSG would allow Meunier to leave given Dani Alves’ age and injury history, but his positional flexibility would be a good fit for Mauricio Pochettino at Spurs, with the ability to move forward and play wing-back should he be deployed in support of a back-three.

2014 World Cup team preview: Cameroon

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Getting to know…Cameroon: Most people know the seasoned striker, but there is talent dotted across this African squad.  However, history is not on their side.  Despite an African-record six World Cup appearances, they have only made it past the group stage once – in 1990 when they reached the quarterfinals before losing to England in extra time. It’s often about beating the odds for the African countries, but in a group with no clear second-place finisher, they could make some noise.

Record in qualifying: Cameroon topped Group I of the CAF qualification group stage with 13 points, beating out Libya to reach the playoff round.  After drawing Tunisia, they put a 0-0 first-leg draw behind them to trounce Les Aigles 4-1 on the road and pull one of the five African spots in the 2014 World Cup.

What group are they in? The Indomitable Lions are members of Group A along with Brazil, Mexico, and Croatia.  It would appear on paper that they would be on the outside looking in, but with Mexico and Croatia hoping to duke it out on the last day for the second spot behind Brazil, Cameroon could catch some by surprise if they pick up a result against one or both of those countries.

Game Schedule: Group A

13 June, 12:00 ET, Natal – Mexico vs. Cameroon
18 June, 18:00 ET, Manaus – Cameroon vs. Croatia
23 June, 16:00 ET, Brasilia – Cameroon vs. Brazil

source: Getty Images
24-year-old defender Nicolas N’Koulou (right) has attracted the attention of top clubs across Europe, but occasionally makes rash decisions.

Star Player: Samuel Eto’o

Chelsea’s veteran striker Samuel Eto’o will make his third World Cup appearance, and has seen just about everything in the European game.  As

Cameroon’s third most capped player, he will hopefully have some help from fellow seasoned striker Pierre Webo in the goal scoring department, but the buck often stops with Eto’o.

Manager: Volker Finke

The 66-year-old German is Cameroon’s fifth manager since their disappointing 2010 campaign. The 16-year boss of Bundesliga side Freiburg, Finke’s hiring a year ago was met with criticism around the country, even conspiracy theories that German kit sponsor Puma had a hand in the selection.  Despite mostly positive results since his hiring, there are still doubters of the “Finke Method”, especially after the team fell 5-1 to Portugal in a March friendly. Other than a one-year venture Japan’s J-League, Cameroon is Finke”s first foray outside of Germany.

Secret Weapon: Size

Between the 6-foot Samuel Eto’o, Alex Song’s 6-foot-1 frame, the 6-foot Nicolas N’Koulou, and 6-foot Pierre Webo, the team has not just height but plenty of bulk to go along with it. The team pairs that with impressive speed, and the skills are there.  Sometimes, however, the size advantage can betray Cameroon, and their defense is prone to giving away fouls (and penalties) in bad areas. The team has a good mix of experience (Eto’o, Webo, Jean Makoun, Benoit Assou-Ekotto, Stephane Mbia) and young but proven talent (N’Koulou, Vincent Aboubakar).  Finke has the build, now he just needs to get the team to play like one.

Prediction: Of all the African nations often written off before the start of the tournament (Algeria, Nigeria, Ghana), Cameroon likely has the best chance to make the knockout round. They have to start strong, with their best chance for points in their first match, and it only gets tougher from there.  Odds are they succumb to the superior talent around them, but Cameroon could definitely contend for that second position in Group A.