PRO SOCCER TALKPST Arsenal
Photo by Octavio Passos/Getty Images

Transfer rumor roundup: Klopp lining up USMNT starlet; Higuain dominoes

Leave a comment

If you blinked, you might have missed the first half of January, along with the first half of the January transfer window.

Don’t worry, though. Given the lack of deals completed thus far, it would appear that most Premier League clubs missed it, too…

[ MORE: Emery on possible exit for Mesut Ozil, reason for his absence ]

U.S. men’s national team midfielder Weston McKennie sits high atop Jurgen Klopp‘s wish list and could be set for a move to Liverpool — most likely in the summer — according to a report from the Sun (from the same reporter who was first on the scene with word of Manchester City’s interest in USMNT goalkeeper Zack Steffen).

A bid — expected to be around $26 million — for the 20-year-old could very well be made this month with McKennie allowed to remain at Schalke through the end of the season. Fellow USMNT star Christian Pulisic will join Chelsea this summer, for $73 million, after completing a similar arrangement with Borussia Dortmund.


Perhaps the highest-profile move we’re likely to see this month could be completed inside the next 24 hours, as Chelsea are doing everything within their power to bring Gonzalo Higuain to London in time for Saturday’s trip to Arsenal (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET, on NBC and NBCSports.com).

The Blues reportedly made an official offer to Juventus for a six-month loan, with an option for a further 12 months and/or an option to make the transfer permanent, on Wednesday. Higuain is currently on loan to AC Milan.

According to the Standard, manager Maurizio Sarri is desperate for the 31-year-old to arrive as soon as possible.


With Higuain widely expected to complete his move to Chelsea in the coming hours or days, the dominoes will almost certainly quickly fall, beginning with current Chelsea striker Alvaro Morata. After an up-and-down first season and a half at Stamford Bridge, Morata has fallen out of favor with Sarri and could very well leave the club before the window closes on Jan. 31.

According to a report from Sky Sports, Atletico Madrid are already in advanced negotiations with the club and/or player over a $60-million transfer back to the Spanish capital where he was previously surplus to requirements at Real Madrid. Chelsea paid nearly $100 million for the now-26-year-old in the summer of 2017. Atleti signed Diego Costa from Chelsea, for more than $70 million, not long after acquiring two summers ago.


With Harry Kane set to miss the next two months due to another ankle ligament injury, Tottenham Hotspur will surely be linked with a loan move for every available forward over these next 14 days — no matter unlikely they are to actually make a move.

Today’s fill-in comes courtesy of the Telegraph, who claim Liverpool’s Divock Origi is one player currently considered as an option. Fernando Llorente remains at the club despite rumors linking him with various moves around Europe. Mauricio Pochettino will also consider promoting 16-year-old Troy Parrott from Under-23 team, according to talkSPORT.


  • Arsenal are desperate to shed Mesut Ozil’s $450,000-per-week contract with the German international seemingly not in the plans of manager Unai Emery. The Gunners will almost certainly have to eat a significant chunk of his remaining wages, or accept a heavily reduced fee.
  • At 21 years old, Ajax midfielder Frenkie de Jong is one of the most sought-after youngsters in the world, with the likes of Man City, Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain reportedly hot in pursuit. According to the Mirror, only PSG are willing to meet Ajax’s $85-million valuation of the five-times-capped Dutch international, despite his preference being a move to the defending PL champions.
  • Another Chelsea forward, Michy Batshuayi, remains in limbo as the club attempts to secure a $50-million offer for the 25-year-old. Ligue 1 strugglers Monaco have reportedly already agreed loan terms with Batshuayi and Valencia, where the Belgian has been on loan since the start of the season, but the Blues are holding out for a bid leading to recouping a hefty fee.
  • Bayern Munich claim to be in negotiations with Chelsea and winger Callum Hudson-Odoi after the 18-year-old has shone brightly in limited opportunities with the Blues. In a bid for more first-team action, Hudson-Odoi is said to be open to a move to Germany, following in the footsteps of Dortmund wonderkid Jadon Sancho.

Emery on possible exit for Ozil, reason for his absence

1 Comment

The strange dynamic between Unai Emery and Mesut Ozil remains intriguing, as Arsenal’s manager has been talking about Ozil’s absence from his recent squads.

Ozil, 30, wasn’t selected in Arsenal’s 18-man squad for their defeat at West Ham last weekend and after that game Emery said it was because others “deserved” to play ahead of the German playmaker.

But with the highest-paid player in Arsenal history now fit after a few injuries, Emery believes he could be in contention to play against Chelsea this Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com) at the Emirates Stadium.

Is he ready to play in a massive London derby?

“Now? He’s training consistently with his work over the past two weeks and I think he can be,” Emery said. “I like to create the same spirit for all, and that spirit is every players gets and gives consistent work and moments with their performances but it’s not easy. Sometimes you are better and sometimes you are worse. I’m working with every player in the same way. The most important thing for me is how he can help us and how every player can help us with their consistency.”

Not exactly a ringing endorsement as to how important Ozil is for Arsenal as they aim to push Chelsea and others all the way to finish in the top four.

Asked if Ozil could leave the Gunners in January due to his lack of game time and the obvious fact that he just doesn’t suit Emery’s high-pressing style of play, the Spanish coach was a little coy.

“I’m not thinking about that [Ozil leaving in January]. I’m thinking about how he can help us this year with good performances,” Emery added. “He’s had injuries and not been okay to play matches, but now after these two weeks maybe this Saturday will be okay for him.”

Ozil’s future at Arsenal seems anything but certain, but if he was to play against Chelsea on Saturday, how would Emery slot him into this team?

He could perhaps play as one of two attacking midfielders just off Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, as Emery has used a narrow 3-4-2-1 formation at times this season.

Ozil and Alexandre Lacazette could play underneath Aubameyang, but that would be a little harsh on Alex Iwobi who has played well on the left in recent months and it could also upset the balance of Arsenal’s side as one of Ozil or Lacazette would be expected to track back defensively.

It’s easy to see why Emery is having a tough time slotting Ozil into the lineup but given the lack of creativity the Gunners showed in the final third against West Ham, the German could be handed an olive branch by his manager for this huge clash. It is up to Ozil to now take it, and if he doesn’t his time at Arsenal could be all but over.

VAR works well, but is it what we want?

Getty Images
2 Comments

Video Assistant Referees (VAR) are coming to the Premier League for the 2019-20 campaign as the system is finally being adopted by England’s top-flight.

But is VAR what we really want? The jury remains out. Big time.

VAR has been used in Major League Soccer for years, rolled out across Europe’s other top leagues over the past few seasons and was a revelation at the 2018 World Cup.

But, and there is always a but with VAR, its arrival is getting us all to ask a huge internal question about the beautiful game: is this what we really want? Should every minute detail be scrutinized a la the NFL? Is this the direction we want to head in?

Whether we like it or not, that is the direction we are heading in. The system is being used in the FA Cup and League Cup in England this season, and in the knockout round of the UEFA Champions League for the first time. It is something we are going to hear a lot more about in the coming weeks and months.

Like any change in system there are positives and negatives.

Positive: I attended the Southampton versus Derby County FA Cup third round replay on Wednesday. Derby had one goal which looked perfectly fine ruled out via VAR, and one goal stood which looked offside. Both calls were correct when the replays were shown and there was tension in the stadium as the referee waited to announce the decision. It was all rather smooth and, most importantly, the correct decisions were made.

Negative: The fact that Derby were denied a wonderful team goal due to the heel of their striker being offside seems totally against the spirit of the game, and so to does Jack Stephens‘ right heel playing four players onside for Derby’s first goal. When you zoom in and slow down the footage, you can see that the decisions are technically correct. But there is an argument to be made that VAR is taking things too far.

Chants of “VAR, VAR” were heard by both sets of fans as youngsters made the square hand gesture as they called for VAR to be used time and time again. It is fun now, because it is new, but in a few years time we may all look down in the pub as we swill the remnants of a pint and say something along the lines of: “I miss the old days before VAR.”

Referees and linesman will probably miss it too, because their role in the game will still be important but their responsibility is diminished.

The debates will continue about certain decisions with or without VAR. Take the Harry Kane penalty kick against Chelsea in the League Cup for example. Was that incident a “clear and obvious” error? That is what VAR is supposed to be used for and that is where the gray area still exists.

When VAR was used at St Mary’s a message was displayed on the big screens saying a goal was being checked, or a possible penalty decision was being looked at. It all worked quite well and certainly added drama to proceedings. Could replays be shown live on the big screens at stadiums in Premier League grounds to offer greater transparency to fans and players? Or would that cause riots if the VAR images were still inconclusive? It is a tricky tightrope to walk.

VAR will get the vast majority of decisions correct, but how often it is used and how heavily referees rely on it will determine if the system is going to be successful long-term.

We are about to find out if VAR is here to stay and if it is what we really want.

Right now, there is no going back.

Henry’s Monaco draws 1-1 with Vieira’s Nice in French league

Getty Images
Leave a comment

PARIS (AP) Old friends Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira had to split the points as Monaco drew 1-1 with French Riviera rival Nice on Wednesday in a scrappy match featuring three video reviews.

Winger Allan Saint-Maximin put Nice ahead in the 30th minute and 17-year-old defender Benoit Badiashile equalized shortly after halftime, becoming the youngest scorer in the French top flight this season. Badiashile’s header from a corner was deemed to have crossed the line by the use of goal-line technology.

[MORE: Ligue 1 scores, schedule]

Henry and Vieira are in their first seasons coaching in France, but they go way back and hugged warmly before kickoff.

Living next to each other in London, they blossomed with Arsenal and were part of the famed “Invincibles” side which went a whole season unbeaten in the Premier League. The Frenchmen also won the 1998 World Cup and the European Championship in 2000, as well as playing together in the 2006 World Cup final.

Having started their illustrious careers as teenagers on the French Riviera – Henry with Monaco and Vieira with Cannes – they have come full circle as coaches.

Monaco had chances through Aleksandr Golovin and Rony Lopes, only for Nice to strike against the run of play following a sloppy mistake from Youssef Ait Bennasser. After he gave the ball away in midfield, Saint-Maximin took it off him easily and shrugged off defender Jemerson before shooting confidently past goalkeeper Diego Benaglio.

The goal was awarded before being checked and confirmed by referee Benoit Bastien using VAR. Moments before the interval, he consulted VAR again to send off Nice striker Ihsan Sacko for a late challenge on defender Benjamin Heinrichs.

“There’s a lot of frustration and questions about the decisions. The red card is very harsh,” Vieira said. “It wasn’t a dangerous action and it had a negative impact on us.”

Bastien used VAR for the third time to award a penalty in the 75th, ruling that Badiashile impeded right back Youcef Atal when images suggested Atal initiated contact with Badiashile before tumbling down.

Benaglio guessed correctly to keep out Saint-Maximim’s spot kick. Monaco almost won it near the end when Radamel Falcao hit the post with a curling effort.

“A point isn’t enough for us, but we could have been sat here talking about a defeat,” Henry said. “I have no opinion about the VAR, those are their decisions. Diego saved the penalty – so much the better for us.”

Monaco has not won at home this season and is 19th – only one point ahead of last-place Guingamp, which beat Rennes 2-1 at home.

OTHER MATCHES

VAR also played a key role elsewhere as Saint-Etienne equalized with a penalty in a 2-1 home win against Marseille.

Referee Antony Gautier awarded the penalty in the 56th after goalkeeper Steve Mandanda upended forward Wahbi Khazri.

Gautier then changed his mind after the linesman signaled Khazri was offside when receiving the pass, but further confusion ensued as he then consulted VAR and re-awarded the penalty, which was confidently tucked away by Khazri.

There was no debating Khazri’s late winner, struck ferociously from 20 meters past Mandanda. It was his 12th league goal of the season and leapfrogged Saint-Etienne over Lyon into third place ahead of their local derby on Sunday.

Netherlands midfielder Kevin Strootman headed Marseille ahead early on from Florian Thauvin‘s excellent cross. The defeat increases the pressure on ninth-place Marseille and its coach Rudi Garcia after a string of poor performances have left fans disgruntled and angry.

In other matches, forwards Moussa Dembele and Nabil Fekir netted late on as Lyon rallied to draw 2-2 at Toulouse.

Nimes moved into 11th spot after winning 1-0 at home to Nantes.

Premier League Club Power Rankings: Week 22

Leave a comment

The individual spots on the PL club power rankings feel like they are teetering, prepared for some big moves.

[ ARCHIVE: Premier League club power rankings ]

The table says that Arsenal and Spurs are comfortable in their top spots, but the power rankings see a loss to West Ham and injury to Harry Kane as reason for concern.

We are just a result or two from some serious tumult, but here’s where we sit today.


20. Huddersfield Town — Putting aside the idea of a new manager bounce against Manchester City or some other surprising results, the Terriers would need an unbelievable finish to the season to survive the drop; Huddersfield only faces three relegation candidates in the final 16 match days. Climbing out of the Bottom Three would be one of the greatest escapes of all-time.
Last week: 20
Season high: 16
Season low: 20

19. Fulham — Losing to Burnley was a killer. But, hey, at least your strikers aren’t fighting during a yoga class. Wait, what’s that? They are?!? Oh.
Last week: 19
Season high: 11
Season low: 20

18. Newcastle United — Owner Mike Ashley doesn’t look prepared to invest anything ever in January, and Rafa Benitez is heading into a crucial home game against Cardiff City down a number of starters. So this is going well, especially considering Newcastle is hardly even being linked with transfer targets. Even the rumor mongers know better than to expect people to latch onto clickbait when it says Newcastle might buy big. And FWIW: We had Newcastle in our Bottom Three before last week’s results dropped them there on the table.
Last week: 18
Season high: 13
Season low: 19

17. Cardiff City — The good news for Neil Warnock‘s Bluebirds is the three teams below them look quite poor. A win at Newcastle on Saturday would be a huge step to safety.
Last week: 17
Season high: 13
Season low: 20

17. Crystal Palace — Not quite as maddening as Wolves and Watford, but the team that beat Man City has now drawn Cardiff City 0-0 and lost at home to the Hornets.
Last week: 13
Season high: 6
Season low: 17

16. Southampton — The Leicester City win is another fine moment for Ralph Hasenhuttl‘s men, who have been aided just as much by the Bottom Three as their own results.
Last week: 17
Season high: 13
Season low: 20

14. Burnley — A third-straight league win has Sean Dyche‘s unit on the rise. The fixture list has helped, but the hardened English boss has done a fine job focusing his men on the task at hand.
Last week: 17
Season high: 13
Season low: 20

13. Bournemouth — Only being stopped by a new season low by the clubs underneath it. Next up for the Cherries: West Ham and Chelsea at the Vitality Stadium.
Last week: 12
Season high: 6
Season low: 14

12. Everton — Will be relieved to have handled Bournemouth, and will be eyeing a table run with fixtures ahead with Southampton, Huddersfield Town, Wolves, and Watford.
Last week: 12
Season high: 5
Season low: 13

11. Leicester City — Here’s what I wrote last week, before the Foxes went and lost to Southampton, They’re doing it again, luring me into the belief that the Foxes are the clear favorite to finish seventh. This all but guarantees a weekend loss to Southampton at the King Power Stadium.”
Last week: 10
Season high: 7
Season low: 13

10. Brighton and Hove Albion — Flustered Liverpool, and it wouldn’t have been a crime had the Seagulls lifted a point from the leaders.
Last week: 13
Season high: 9
Season low: 19

9. Wolves — Losing to Man City is all but certain when you go down a man at the Etihad Stadium.
Last week: 8
Season high: 5
Season low: 13

8. Watford — How many years do you think have been taken off Javi Gracia‘s life by this team’s unpredictable form? Do you think he’s going to have a presidential downtown in looks by the time this is through? After dramatically drawing Newcastle and Bournemouth, the Hornets are back into seventh via a win at Palace.
Last week: 11
Season high: 4
Season low: 14

7. West Ham United — We cannot overlook recent form and 10 points on the table, but the Irons are looking decent money against any club that dares to overlook them. Just ask Arsenal.
Last week: 10
Season high: 6
Season low: 20

6. Arsenal — It’s not wild to call Saturday’s match against Chelsea a season-defining one, especially with the Top Four door opened by an injury to Harry Kane at Spurs.
Last week: 6
Season high: 2
Season low: 9

5. Chelsea — Ten points from 12 has rarely looked so meh.
Last week: 4
Season high: 1
Season low: 5

4. Manchester United — Took three points off Spurs as a team, then perhaps even more thanks to Phil Jones‘ tackle on Harry Kane.
Last week: 5
Season high: 4
Season low: 14

3. Spurs — Seven is the number. That’s Spurs’ advantage on Chelsea and Arsenal heading into this prolonged Harry Kane absence.
Last week: 3
Season high: 2
Season low: 8

2. Man City — Could sleepwalk through next four fixtures to get to Chelsea and Arsenal on consecutive match days. And both of those are at the Etihad Stadium.
Last week: 2
Season high: 1
Season low: 3

1. Liverpool — Sadio Mane has joined Dejan Lovren in publicly claiming they’ll win their first top flight title of the Premier League era.
Last week: 1
Season high: 1
Season low: 4

%d bloggers like this:
Powered by WordPress.com VIP