Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Five X-factor Premier League summer signings

Leave a comment

They’ll make differences in their teams for very different reasons.

If the following five players have big seasons, they are talented enough to push their teams multiple spots up the table.

Some could be focal points, while others valuable substitutes but one thing is for sure: their signings slid under the radar given their respective abilities (or in one Fulham man’s case, the lateness of the hour).

[ MORE: 2018-19 PL season preview hub ]  

5. Max Meyer, Crystal Palace — The 22-year-old’s progression has been infuriating at Schalke, and Palace getting him on a free transfer is a fine risk. Is he the player who scored six Bundesliga goals in 1800 minutes as a teenager, and posted 5G-6A in 2015-16, or the one whose most starts in a single season is 27?

4. Ben Gibson, Burnley — Gibson was very impressive for Middlesbrough in their relegation campaign, and he only shined his stock under defensive wizard Tony Pulis in the Championship. If Burnley makes the Europa League group stage, Gibson will be huge for Dyche.

3. Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa, Fulham — Buying Jean Michael Seri was a coup for the midfield, but bringing in a fellow Frenchman to balance out the center of the park? Wow. The 22-year-old is a hard tackling, opportunistic machine who will disrupt the opposition and connect the defense to the forwards. Huge.

2. Xherdan Shaqiri, Liverpool — The ability to sub out a winger or midfielder with a player who, on his day, is as lethal as any shooter in the world? Not too bad, Mr. Klopp.

  1. Jack Wilshere, West Ham United — There’s no debating how important Wilshere was to Arsenal when heathy, and his cross-London move could make all the difference in the world as West Ham tries to get the ball to its finishers.

Preseason roundup: Arsenal clobbers PSG, Liverpool swamps Man United

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The preseason is in full swing for Premier League teams, with the start of the 2018/19 campaign less than two weeks away.

Almost all top PL clubs were in action on Saturday somewhere around the world, with the International Champions Cup continuing to pit top teams against each other all across the globe.

Earlier in the day, Arsenal stomped new manager Unai Emery’s old club PSG 5-1 in Singapore in a game that actually started out in the French club’s favor. American Tim Weah started the match and was instrumental as PSG began on the front foot, but it all went wrong when Mesut Ozil scored in the 13th minute on a 2-on-1 counter-attack. It was 1-0 until after halftime when Arsenal ran riot, as Alexandre Lacazette bagged a pair plus efforts from Rob Holding and Eddie Nketiah. Holding’s goal especially was a thing of beauty, an absolutely stunning header from a good distance out that looped perfectly into the top-left corner. Mesut Ozil, fresh off his controversial international retirement, had an inspired performance for Arsenal while wearing the captain’s armband.

Chelsea drew with Inter 1-1 with their only goal scored by Pedro inside the opening 10 minutes. Alvaro Morata picked a defender’s pocket on the end line and shot from a tight angle, and Samir Handanovic’s save fell to Pedro who poked into the open net. The Italian side drew level just after halftime as the Blues were punished for a bad giveaway in their own half and Roberto Gagliardini slid it past Willy Caballero for the equalizer.

Liverpool and Manchester United met at the Big House in Michigan, and unlike many of this summer’s ICC matches, it was an exciting affair with Jurgen Klopp‘s men winning 4-1. Right from the start, both teams were flying, and it produced plenty in front of net. Liverpool forced Manchester United goalkeeper Lee Grant into some early saves, while a fabulous Alexis Sanchez long-ball saw the ball in the net but ruled out for the offside flag. Just before the half-hour mark, Liverpool drew first blood as Mohamed Salah was fouled by 21-year-old Demetri Mitchell and Sadio Mane bagged the effort from the spot. Manchester United responded almost immediately as 22-year-old Andreas Pereira unleashed a spectacular free-kick from 30 yards out.

After halftime, the pace dropped a bit and Sanchez struggled to influence things as he did in the first half. Liverpool capitalized and took off. New Reds signing Xherdan Shaqiri came on and made a difference, teeing up Daniel Sturridge for their second. A third came from the spot as Sheyi Ojo slotted it home, and then Shaqiri marked his Liverpool debut with a stunning bicycle kick to cap things off.

Manchester City picked up an impressive comeback against German giants Bayern Munich in Miami, Florida in a 3-2 victory, their final ICC match of the preseason. Both teams fielded relatively weak teams, and it resulted in an exciting match. Bayern took a 2-0 lead before halftime behind goals from 19-year-old Meritan Shebani and veteran Arjen Robben. Despite the scoreline, City was impressive in patches before the break, and they snagged one back before the break on a low drive by Bernardo Silva, who is seeing plenty of playing time this preseason. After halftime, Phil Foden put one on frame that Sven Ulreich parried directly into the path of 19-year-old Lukas Nmecha who brought City back level. They would win it on a second from Bernardo Silva, who somehow got a shot off through a double-team and past Ulreich to put City on top with 20 minutes to go.

Outside the ICC, Leicester City fell to Italian club Udinese 2-1 in Austria, held without a goal until Kelechi Iheanacho grabbed a consolation with a minute remaining in the match. Claude Puel named a strong side, with Kasper Schmeichel the only international left out of the squad, but they struggled to keep up. Wes Morgan was done for the first Udinese goal just four minutes in, while the Italians added a second before the break, with it clear that the Foxes need Maguire – who did not see time – to return along the back line. Leicester takes on Valencia on Wednesday to round off its preseason fixtures.

Still to come:

Barcelona vs. Tottenham Hotspur (Pasadena, CA) — 11:05 p.m. ET

Adam takes shot at Shaqiri as example of Stoke rot

Danny Lawson/PA via AP
6 Comments

Xherdan Shaqiri has left relegated Stoke City for the greener Premier League pastures of Liverpool, labeling it a move in search of silverware.

Former teammate Charlie Adam thinks that’s pretty rich.

[ MORE: Alisson on the brink of joining PL giants Liverpool ]

The 32-year-old Adam, a former Red himself, says Shaqiri was among the group of players he criticized for shrinking in big moments and not caring enough about the relegation fight.

Here’s what Adam said in May:

“I’ll be honest for the supporters, I think some players have been getting away with murder for a long time and it’s difficult for supporters. It’s not just one or two, I think there are four or five that could be counted.”

Offensively, Shaqiri had the best season of his career. The 26-year-old Swiss international scored eight goals in the Premier League, but was absent from the score sheet from March 3-April 28. Stoke collected just four points during that eight-match span, all draws.

But Shaqiri did score Stoke’s lone goal in the match which saw them officially relegated, a 2-1 loss to Crystal Palace in which there’s no question the stakes were incredibly high.

Asked about Shaqiri on Thursday, Adam did not hold back.

“Was he one of them? Oh, definitely. When the chips are down you look at your big players, you want your big players to bring magic in one moment in the season, and at times we felt like the so-called big players in the squad never turned up for us and never performed.

“Yeah, everybody else could help, but for all the plaudits to so-called bigger players we getting from certain members of the management staff last season – they weren’t producing.”

Shaqiri scored in three-straight February matches, of which Stoke won exactly zero, and pitched in seven assists this season. Huh.

While we don’t know what his attitude was like around the Potteries, it’s very difficult to consider labeling his season a big reason for Stoke’s downfall.

He’s an easy man to scapegoat now, being out the door, but Shaqiri had a decent season for sure. Adam is a strong servant of Stoke, but played in less than a dozen games. This truly seems like the wrong messenger picking the wrong target, though it could help build a bit of momentum for a new season.

Liverpool completes signing of Xherdan Shaqiri

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Jurgen Klopp has his third signing of the 2018 summer transfer window as Liverpool completed the financially sound transfer of Stoke City winger Xherdan Shaqiri, following Switzerland’s elimination from the 2018 World Cup, the Reds announced Friday.

Switzerland didn’t impress in the World Cup, finding a quick exit in the Round of 16 to Sweden, but Shaqiri was one of the bright spots for his national side, scoring a late winner in a critical group stage victory over Serbia and proving dangerous on the flanks cutting inside.

According to reports, Liverpool paid $17 million for Shaqiri, who follows Naby Kieta and Fabinho in the Anfield doors this summer. The 26-year-old spent three seasons at Stoke City, making 92 appearances across all competitions and scoring 15 goals while assisting 15 others. However, with Stoke City relegated, that activated a $17 million release clause which Liverpool was happy to activate.

Shaqiri said he’s wanted this move for some time. “I’m really glad and happy to be here,” he told the official Liverpool website. “As a player you always want to be on the biggest stage in football. A few years ago I wanted to come too but it didn’t happen. I’m really happy that now I’m finally here. I want to improve myself too, I want to be with the best and I want to win titles. That’s what I’m here for.”

Shaqiri has plenty of competition for a starting spot at Liverpool. For starters, he plays on the same side as star Mohamed Salah who lit the Premier League on fire last season with his electric pace and vision both on and off the ball. With Sadio Mane equally entrenched on the other side, Shaqiri will have his work cut out for him. However, he adds important depth to a squad that seemed too heavily reliant on Salah and Mane last season, and with both players participating in the 2018 World Cup this summer, depth will be key to avoid overly tired legs or serious injury.

Shaqiri had “offers all across Europe” according to the Liverpool Echo, but the former Bayern Munich attacker chose to stay in the Premier League and move forward with the Reds.

Report: Shaqiri set for Liverpool medical on release-clause deal

Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images
1 Comment

Xherdan Shaqiri‘s potential transfer from Stoke City to Liverpool has moved from “run-of-the-mill transfer rumor” to “this could actually get done and be announced tomorrow” with shocking efficiency.

[ TRANSFER RUMORS: Malcom to Spurs, Bale to Man Utd “advanced” ]

The 26-year-old Swiss star has an $17-million relegation release clause in his Stoke contract, and after the Potters were relegated from the Premier League in May, neither Shaqiri nor Stoke — who would likely be on the hook for the entirety of his reported $85,000-per-week wages — want any part of one another any longer. According to multiple reports out of the UK, he is set to undergo the standard medical examination on Friday before signing a contract to join Liverpool.

Liverpool seems a pretty natural landing spot for a player of Shaqiri’s 1) technical and physical skill set, and 2) familiarity with the PL and the English game — plus European competitions from his days at Basel — as a whole. The Reds were on the cusp of signing a very difference attacker in Lyon’s Nabil Fekir last month, but pulled the plus at the last minute when unable to agree contract structure for a player with a history of serious knee problems.

[ MORE: Mahrez, Man City share no. 1 goal: win the Champions League ]

Shaqiri is, for all intents and purposes, a perfectly suitable backup plan. The fact that he comes at a price $60 million cheaper than Fekir, and with a full understanding of the league and living in England, are just (massive and gigantic) feathers in the cap of Jurgen Klopp.