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West Brom investigating four players after Spain incident

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[UPDATE: The four players involved have been identified and released a statement on the West Bromwich website apolgizing for their actions. The players are Johnny Evans, Gareth Barry, Jake Livermore and Boaz Myhill.]

It’s gone from bad to ugly for West Bromwich Albion this season.

Sitting in dead last in the Premier League standings, the club announced it has launched an internal investigation to determine what happened on Thursday evening during the team’s winter training trip to Barcelona.

According to multiple reports, four undisclosed players – later identified as Johnny Evans, Gareth Barry, Jake Livermore and Boaz Myhill – allegedly stole a taxi cab to return to the hotel the club were staying at. Local police allegedly followed up last night and pulled the four out of their rooms to interview them about what reportedly happened.

West Bromwich stated the players “will be subject to the full rigours of our internal disciplinary procedures.”

The club return home to the Hawthornes tomorrow to face Southampton in the FA Cup.

Transfer Rumor Roundup: Man City makes renewed bid for Sanchez

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Manchester City are set to put a renewed effort to sign one of the Premier League’s star players.

The Guardian reports that Man City is confident it can sign Arsenal winger Alexis Sanchez this month at a valuation of around $41 million, a lower price than last summer as Sanchez will be a free agent this summer.

Pep Guardiola has stepped up his pursuit of the Chilean after the injury of Gabriel Jesus, who is set to miss around two months with an MCL injury. Arsenal had agreed an $81 million transfer deal with Man City on transfer deadline day pending the London club completing the nearly $125 million signing of Thomas Lemar from Monaco, but that deal fell through in the final moments.

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Sanchez, while still a key figure for the Gunners, has struggled to live up to his high expectations this season. It’s appeared his failed transfer move and Chile’s failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup has kept him from reaching his top level. Despite this, he has seven goals and three assists in the Premier League this season.

Considering Arsenal’s tailspin, crashing out of the FA Cup and struggling to break into the top four of the Premier League, perhaps now is the time for manager Arsene Wenger to move on from Sanchez and look to the future.

Here are some more transfer rumors from around the Premier League and Europe

(more…)

West Bromwich rejects latest bid from Man City for Evans

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Manchester City’s latest transfer target is a Premier League veteran, but he’s not going without a fight.

West Bromwich Albion manager Tony Pulis confirmed that the club had rejected a transfer bid for former Manchester United centerback Jonny Evans from Manchester City. It’s reported that the transfer bid was worth $23.2 million and that Man City are willing to up it to around $28.3 million, though Pulis isn’t budging.

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“We have turned down an offer for Jonny,” Pulis said. “We do not want to sell Jonny and we do not need to sell him. It would have to be a very, very good offer.

“Jonny understands the situation and where everything is. Jonny is happy here and wants to get on with his football. He is one of our best players. We all understand where we are.”

Evans has made 61 starts over the past two seasons for West Bromwich but it’s a question as to whether he’d be first choice at Manchester City, with Vincent Kompany, John Stones and even Nicolas Otamendi ahead of Evans in the pecking order.

Meanwhile, it doesn’t make sense for West Bromwich to sign one of its top players at this point in the transfer window, with less than a month to find a replacement in both the dressing room and on the field.

For all the talk about needing to improve defensively over the offseason, Man City manager Pep Guardiola has so far only been able to bring in new fullbacks, but perhaps his 3-5-2 formation displayed in the opening match of the season can provide more defensive stability for the team, even if Kompany misses extensive time with injury like in the past.

Watch Live: Arsenal vs. West Bromwich Albion (Lineups and Discuss)

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With Everton’s loss to Manchester City on Saturday, Arsenal have already qualified for the Champions League – so will they go easy on West Brom when they visit the Emirates today? (Watch live on NBCSN at 8:30 a.m. ET and online via Live Extra).

The Albion likely wouldn’t object to an easy three points. After picking up seven points from their last three matches, they’ve moved up to 16th, four points above the drop. Relegation doesn’t look likely, as West Brom still have a game in hand, but beating Arsenal would guarantee the Baggies’ safety. Plus, it would lift them over rivals Aston Villa once more, which is always important in the Midlands.

But Arsenal still have a (very) slim chance of reaching third. The Gunners are certain of Champions League play, but if they overtake Chelsea, they’ll skip qualifying and go straight to the group stages. This hope will only be realized if Arsenal win their final two matches and Chelsea lose to both Norwich and Cardiff, but hey, it’s fun to dream, right, Gunners fans?

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After last week’s 1-0 victory over West Ham, Pepe Mel makes just two changes to the Albion side. Steven Reid, injured last weekend, is out, as is Billy Jones. Diego Lugano comes in to reinforce the defense, while James Morrison steps into midfield. It looks like Mel’s chosen to go with a back three – are the Baggies aiming for just a point at the Emirates?

Abou Diaby makes his return to Arsenal after thirteen months out, starting the match on the bench. After last week’s 3-0 victory over Newcastle, there’s just one change for Arsène Wenger. Mathieu Flamini steps in for Aaron Ramsey, who was fantastic in his return last week after four months out with injury. Looks like Wenger wants to make sure the midfielder stays fit for the FA Cup final.

LINEUPS

Arsenal: Szczesny, Sagna, Mertesacker, Koscielny, Monreal, Flamini, Arteta, Cazorla, Ozil, Podolski, Giroud

Subs: Fabianski, Jenkinson, Vermaelen, Kallstrom, Rosicky, Diaby, Sanogo

West Bromwich Albion: Foster, Dawson, Lugano, Olsson, Brunt, Amalfitano, Mulumbu, Morrison, Dorrans, Sessegnon, Berahino

Subs: Myhill, Anichebe, O’Neil, Sinclair, Vydra, McAuley, Yacob