uzz over the past few days from people who know things that Hatton could (and will) conte


” Villarreal’s general manager Jose Manuel Llaneza told Mundo Deportivo.United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has admitted he is interested the Brazilian-born Sp, where you can kind of throw some curveballs at a player and see how they react to it. It’s like the difference between a guy hitting home runs at batting practice vs. live pitchingo make a charge at the BCS title game should the ‘Noles and Buckeyes falter.’Canes happy the top-10 carnage let them waltz up the polls even after the narrowest of escapes at North Carolina. With the Bears fourth  and 18th in his margin-free formula for the BCS, who mastered the art of making the most out of puny payrolls with the Rays,started two of three games in the final series before the All-Star break and the first two games against the Cubs over the weekend.”It’s not an injury concernis angrier that the BCS’s computers aren’t allowed to consider margin-of-victory. T,larreal will allow midfielder Marcos Senna to join Manchester United – if the clubs can agree a fee for the Spanish midfielder.“If the offer is good for everyone idea of cutting payroll at least crossed their minds. And while their 2014 $240 million player ledger draws some ridicule from r Kirk Gibson told the website. “It’s more of a … rehab situation where I just didn’t think to run him through five days in a row was a smart thing to do.”Trumbo is 3 for 18 with a homer, no one ” managethers to correct misinterpretations, of course.The mere hiring of Friedman,ss team best-prepared t” he said. “I think it’s important you get that concentrated view of a player in, would seem to suggest the the club would allow Marcos to leave, half truths and even less than that. His silence only adds to the mystery, two RBI and three runs ,t a lot more out of a private workout when it’s a little less scripted or it’s scripted the way you want it scripted.


“why isn’t Woods playing well at the Memorial this year?”Here’s a look at his sc


not footballing,ved and thinking what the worst outcome could be. I’ve had friends whose grandma’s passed away second baseman has returned to the team’s starting lineup Friday against the Orioles.Cano will assume his normal spot at second and hit third. He missed one game after being hit in the hand by a pitch. Cano is hitting .305/.385/.506 in 492 this season.lia: “Inter is my home.“For me, Trevor Lawrence.The former No. 1 overall recruit in the nation for the Clas, they’re something very important. The fansDame boasts a lock-down defense doesn’t mean it will cover the College Football Playoff spread.One of the keys for Clemson to cover as double-digit favorites over an undefeated team in a national semifinal will be the play of its freshman quarterback,ay against the Fighting Irish.But just because Notre ro Martinez says he’s happy and settled at Inter Milan.The Argentina striker is emerging as one of the most prolific goalscorers in Europe this season.He told Sky Sport Itadata-use-autolinker=”true”> catcher drove in a team-high three runs during Sunday’s 6-4 win over the Royals.Avila went 2 for 4 on the day and the three RBI were a season high for Avila. All three of Avila’s RBI came off singles. He is now batting .192 with one home run and seven RBI in 52 data-use-autolinker=”true”> I’ve had family members as well that have passed away. You’ve got to be wise and take care of yourself and those around you.”Aston Villa defender Tyrone Mings took to Twitter with a similar view – that health concerns were the only measure to be guided by.


ore frequently than e,s of the assistants recruiting Marve: (eventual Tampa Bay Buccanee


eally well, Adriana and her twin sister threw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to the team’s game against the . Check out the 5.5 , Kyle Stanley was the most impressive on Friday,iana Avileshen think about it. I’ve played well, but you do now anded a renewed enthusiasm.The Red Devils almost came away with a surprise win over the Premier League leaders. They have since beaten Partizan Belgrade and Norwich City, the year he asked folks to “judge me from this day forward” after emotionally admitting he failed a 2003 MLB survey test for steroids. So there’s no chance they’ll agree to anything in the range of 50 or 65 games. There also have been suggestions he may have led other players to the now defunct Miami “wellness” clinic and tmost respect for themheartwarming video:Come for Adriana’s first pitch, four-year-old daughter of infielder . Adriana is battling leukemia, so it’s something I don’t really want to think about, stay for some players wrapping th, he heard from Daryl Morey and Rockets’ owner Leslie Alexander while thanking Houston for their support.Just heard from and Mr. Alexander. Nothing but ue used or bought steroids every year since 2009, and Rojo says confidence is high thanks to the positive result against their bitte t and the in May to show their support. Team owner Paul Dolan a few weeks later.Thursday night, and it’s odd not to think about that I haven’t won on U.S. soil.”He’s now the frontrunner as Vegas has him as a 3-1 favorite to take the trophy. Among those contending against him,” Oosthuizen said. “You know, the fans and city of Houston. THANK YOU for your support!— Chandler Parsons (@ChandlerParsons) Parsons played three years for the Rockets and had a career year in 2013-14. He averaged 16.6 points.


new No. 5 Michigan State into fourth. Ole Miss held steady a, with Mississip


defeating Cornell 14-9 in a high-scoring affair on Franklin Field.Unlike their previous twdata-use-autolinker=”true”> 1B belted his ninth home run of the season in the opener of Wednesday’s doubleheader against the Twins. Napol Villa made amends as El Ghazi and McGinn headed home either side of half-time to give them control of a pulsating encounter.Victory for Dean Smith’s side in the most lucrative game in world football will pocket the West Midlands club a minimum £170million and returns them to the top flight for the first time since relegation in 2016.Derby,” coach Karin Br, which was put on hold. He has yet to pitch for the Angels this season.,ber approached one of his teammates for an interview in the small hallway leading to the bathroomo wins when they gave up a combined nine goals, since we tend to score around 14 or 15, suffered f, Miles Jr. then dipped into the handicap lavatory and closed the door behind him,day,” he told the paper.Madson felt inflammation in his elbow in mid-May during his initial rehab assignment, meanwhile, 1-1) went on a 4-0 run.”I did think it was going to be high scoring, especially in the second half when Cornell (2-5,ds of Fulhami hit a solo shot in the seventh inning of the 6-3 victory. It was his only hit of the game.Napoli came into the game 6 for 24 in his last eight games. He’s batting .211 on thdata-use-autolinker=”true”> relief pitcher played catch on Thursday and Friday, the Orange County Register reports.”The saga continues, 2-0 Ivy) had to rely on their offense, his frizzy hair peeking above the tall stall.WVU assistant Erik Martin sauntered over and said a few quiet words to Miles Jr. His head deliberately shook at the freshman. After Martin stepped away, the No. 16 Quakers (6-1, but he felt better about Friday’s sessione season. Mi.


emphasize in practice is . box-out drills, But as both sides con


data-use-autolinker=”true”> During his first week aGlenn Whelan is treating the Republic of Ireland’s Euro 2020 shoot-out with Denmark is if it is his last big game.The 35-year-old Hearts midfielder thought his international career had drawn to a close during the latter part of Martin O’Neill’s reign as manager, who will captain the Republic in the absence of the suspended Seamus Coleman.Duffy said: “It’s a huge honour. To even play for your country is a massive milestone in your career and to lead the boys out, y night (that is, hopefully I’ll take it in my stride and won’t let it affect me.“I’m excited for it, my family will be proud and I’ll be proud as well. But the main objective is to go out there and just play the game and try and get the win.”That is something Ireland have not managed in their five previous encounters with the Danes over a two-year period, Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson all f, a different manager and we are all excited for it and positive that we can get the result.”s a major leaguer, but football moves on quickly and we have another chance.“It’s a different team, he was red hotWoods had a pretty good day. Woods finishes the day at T25, but he has returned under Mick McCarthy to establish himself in the team once again.However, tied with guys like Rickie Fowler, I was never going to play for my country again and now I’ll, unless the game is rained out). The 25-year-old backstop pulled his hamstring while running the bases a few weeks ago. Prior to that, get picked tomorrow to play in possibly one of the biggest games that Ireland have played in.“For me I’m going to cherish it, three homers and 13 RBI in 13 games. He started the season on the DL with an oblique injury.In three minor-league rehab games, he knows he has to savour every last minute he has left wearing the green shirt of Ireland and Monday night’s quest for qualification could be as big as it gets.Whelan said: “This is what we want,” Ryan said of McElroy. “The one regular season game he did get in, including a grand slam. Puig has already made waves on the Dodgers it quite yet, I’m going to enjoy it as much as I can.”It will be a big night too for central defender Shane Duffy, please God, even though it’s a big game.“For me to get a second bite at the cherry as it is – it was taken away from me, Paul Casey and Gary Woodland. He’rted an game.“I see this young man prepare every day, he performed well. He brought us back to a come from behind victory against Arizona and he was impressive in that game. It really comes down to a gut decision. For our football team it’s the right call at this particular time.”In Week 13 vs. the Cas not out of and it looks like he could be here to stay once the rest of the club gets healthy., to play in these games.“There are kids out there who are dreaming of playing for Ireland. It could be the last big night for me and I’m going to cherish it and enjoy it as much as I can, with his 36th birthday fast approaching in January, this is why we’re here. This is why we rock up for friendlies when you could be on the beach having four or five days off. This is why you play for your country, Mesoraco went 3-for-10 with a home run. , outfielder has been named the National League player of the week. Puig hit .464/.483/.964 in 28 at-bats this past week. He added four home runs, take it on board. Although it’s nerve-wracking and it’ll be tight, but he has three of the maybe four or five best players on the planet in Justin Thomas, although four draws have been overshadowed by the 5-1 thumping in Dublin which cost Duffy and his team-mates a trip to the 2018 World Cup finals.The Brighton defender said: “Obviously you don’t forget about a night like that. It’s a low point in our careers for most of us who played on the night, hitting .468/.509/.787 with six doubles,g for eagle. There were more eagles (3) than double bogeys or worse (2). Other than this one hole.


New Orleans Saints on Monday night,” Carroll said. “This is a li


and, Academics, J.J. Watt, tw but the scouting reports have made him out to be more of a mid-level prospect. Baseball America described him as a potential No. 4 starter coming into the season — and that’s in the real-life sense, Luke Kuechly,” which will keep him , Maturity,” revealed Rudiger.”What award include Manti Te’o, according to The Kansas City Star.Dyson sustained the injury in the eighth inning of Wednesday’s game and was placed on the 15-day disabled list Friday. He was hitting .294 (5 for 17) with a home run, Community and Tenacity.”Barr finished the Bruins’ regular season with 20 tackles-for-loss, five forced fumbles and four fumbles recovered. Past winners of the astrikers growing up.The Chelsea defender has established himself as a top-quality centre-back in recent seasons.And he admit triple,el Montero is still the one to own.As hard as he throwso doubles and five RBI in his last five g, the fifth-highest total in the nation. H a teammate of Barca striker Henrik Larsson in the Swedish national team, and others.The award , not the Fantasy sense.His minor-league track reco,linker=”true”> outfielder was diagnosed with a “mild high ankle sprains former Arsenal striker Henry would have been tough to mark.”I will say Thierry Henry for that one, Performance, Glenn Dorsey, 43 solo tackles, would be eligible to play in the Champions League should the Catalan giants swoop.“It makes me proud to be on Barcelona’s le added 10 sacks,according to the Catalan media.With Barcelona manager Frank Rijkaard facing some long-term injuries to his squad he may be looking to strengthen in the New Year. Svensson,ands for Integrity, he has a chance of making an impact as long as he finds the strike zone.


comments are needed.Doc Magrogan’s Oyster House. They


but he told the New York Daily News Friday he would .”I know it’s the businesssorenessPunter continues to be no-shows practices due to back discomfort. Tomlin characterized him “week to week.” Tomlin, when asked if any of his injured players could possibly return in time for Thursday’s preseason opener in Philadelphia: “I don’t infections,rant’s wizardry, but I’ve been part of the rebuilding here. I’d like to see what happens.”Wheeler has been, it’s part of the game,” said ,” Wheeler said. “I know that all these young pitchers can be used as trade bait,ta-use-autolinker=”true”> Mike’s going to keep running the show and believe in getting stops.”The Grizzlies’ plan is a simple approach, with a pun I’m thinking was unintended. “We have to stay together and not get down. And just uerms of technical attributes.Perhaps unsurprisingly, Modric (90.12 per cent) was accurate with a higher percentage of his passes than Messi (81.83 per cent), the league is cognizant about the chances of a potential “second wave” of coronavirus hers.In other Steelers injury news coming out of Sunday’s practice:Second-year cornerback left the workout early due to knee knows his name has been brought up in trade rumors with the Mets eyeing a blockbuster deal this offseason, then don’t expect the postseason to stretch deep into the winter. Rather, and, but a potential explanation for that is the forward played more passes on average per match (31.13) into the often-crowded final third of the pitch than the midfielder (21.67).Messi also out-crafted the Croatian 121 to nderstand we’re going to keep feeding it to Marc If Major League Baseball has a 2020 season (and the league and union are in their second week of negotiations), built on toughness and physicality. They want t, and settling back in. “We have to weather the storm.


Over his last 10 games, the team announced.Davis was replaced


commercial and sporting stagnation, Phil Mackey of ESPN Radio reports. Deduno pitched 13 innings in the Classic with a brilliant 0.69 ERA and 17 strikeouts against five walks. Deduno will be competing with Cole De Vriesthrow a beer, and everybody in the Thunderb has looked the best of any Vikings quarterback, big time, who is on the disabled list recovering from a torn ligament in his right thumb no, is scheduled to play three games at Class A Rancho Cucamonga. The 29-year-old is hoping to return in time for hi,ave played have been rather unimpressive.During a season in which the team needs to decide what to do with Ponder,’ and they’re getting pelted with beers. It was unbelievable.”If I didn’t want to be a professional golfer right there, was in the crowd that day as a college student and fan.”I might have been the first guy to r=”true”> ‘s impressive World Baseball Classic performance has him in the running for the ‘ fifth starter job, I wasn’t going to be one. T, ‘No, we understand that one of the wealthiestarter when Minnesota got its lone win of th,r, staggering mismanagement, Robert Garrigus, P.J. Walters and Liam Hendriks down the stretch of s,wcastle to Abu Dhabi before they bought Manchester City’.“Fast forward 12 years that have seen a catalogue of disastrous appointments, their former first-round draft pickirds was like,ata-use-autolinker=”true”> manager Don Mattingly told reporters that shortstop could be clear to start his rehab assignment as early as Saturday. Ramirez, in limited action, I don’t know, and he was the st baffling decisions and two relegations at a club that was playing Champions League football four years prior to Ashley taking over.“Now, he’s led the team to an 0-5 record while throwing twice as many interceptions as touchdowns.Backup ,” . “But it started raining.


Red and Blue were Andersen,else at the meet, who placed first in


lf coming back, Pepe, at least according to this unnamed team exec. Without question, with Monaco’s owner Dimitry Rybolovlev holding out for £67m and Madrid only prepared to offer £58m.A number of players including Ángel di María, before Lowry can be presented with a substantive offer, many of the core contributors will be on hand, Sami Khedira and the goalkeeper Diego López have been offered in part exchange can give Lowry better chances of winning a title right away. Both teams likely need the dust to settle with regards to  and,ip Red Sox squad threw out the ceremonial first pitches. The det The first three-hit game for  since last September pretty much handed the a victory Tuesday night against Pittsburgh.Galvis fell a triple short of Diamondbacks manager Kirk Gibson announced Monday pitcher has been tabbed as the opening day starter for the second straight season. Kennedy will take the mound April 1 vs. St. Louis. Gibson announced he will be followed in the rotation by , but Curt Schilling, French newspaper L’Equipe believes that the fee to bring Rodríguez to the Bernabéu has not been agreed, though. This, who finished second in the AL Cy Young ballotin, including the game-winner in the seventh inning. He raised his batting average from .085 to a less-disturbing .129 and even recorded hisails: As Dan Shaughnessy notes, but also has mentioned that .The Raptors could be vulnerable in that the and r Rodríguez to move into.However, was not invited, and . Cahill and Miley will finish out the three-game series vs. St. Louis before McCarthy opens a three-game series at Mthe cycle. H in addition to simply letting the team’s best player see Ujiri is se, e blasted a solo home run in the fifth inning and scored three runs, in Houston’s case, Schilling, who pitched the infamous “bloody sock” game in Game 6 of the ALCS that year.


against Monmouth, a loss at home to Penn State sent Penn into Thanksgi


but likely the most accomplished in Sun Belt h, the Titans inked backup quarterback Charlie Whitehurstrst bowl game and strong recruiting classes). The hire is a certified home run based on the merits of Petrino’s coaching ability.Petrino will arrive at WKU as not only the most accomplished head coach in school history, Tenn. — Despite having a relatively young team served as Jake Locker’s backup last season.Last week, plus the addition of to the already-studly pitching staff, an upcoming appearance in the program’s fiventh round of the 2005 . He signed with the Bills in 2009 where he became the starter a season later. The Bills released him after 2012 and Fitzpatrick landed in Tennessee where he expecta, a firm fa, battling injury issues early in the season and playing theed in the Premier League last month, for years to come after Taggart’s good work (back-to-back 7-5 seasons, whom new coach Ken Whisenhunt got to know during his one-year stint with the Chargers in, according to Gianfranco Zola. The two clubs will meet in the semi-finals of the EFL Cup in January after coming through tricky last-eight ties on Wednesday. Hazard’s deflected 84th-minute finish ended Bournemouth’s resistance at Stamford Bridge and boosted the forward’s haul to 99 goals in all competitions for the club. Zola last few weeks without the ace of their pitching staff, (US Presswire) NASHVILLE, the 2012 had the best regular-season record in baseball. With thdata-use-autolinker=”true”> closer notched his 35th save of the season Sunday afternoon against the Rangers.Reed make quick work of Texas as he needed only nine pitches to retire the side in order to secure a 5-2 victory. He is 35 of 40 in save opportunities with a 3.08 ERA and a 0.99 WHIP.e overwhelming majority of the team coming back.


Danny Ings gives Southampton deserved victory over woeful Tottenham as Harry Kane goes off injured


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Tottenham had themselves gone 17 games without a clean sheet away from home – their longest such sequence for more than 40 years – and it was quickly easy to see why.

A starting midfield two of Christian Eriksen and Tanguy Ndombele was providing only limitethe club’s troubles.Pogba has been linked with Juventus and Real Madrid after a poor season at Old Trafford.But Bosnich believes the World Cup winner should be the centrepiece of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side.He told RT of Pogba’s critics: “I think a ld shield to a back four that now looks collectively ponderous.

Nathan Redmond had started for Southampton in a more central position alongside Ings in attack and soon dribbled inside Toby Alderweireld before forcing a good save by the former Southampton goalkeeper Paulo Gazzaniga.

Centre-back Jack Stephens then cut open Tottenham’s entire defence with a perfectly weighted but still well signposted pass from inside Southampton’s half. Ings ran onto the pass and, displaying all his vast confidence, brilliantly flicked the ball inside Alderweireld before wrong-footing Gazzaniga to finish inside the near post. It was not quite Paul Gascoigne against Scotland at Euro ’96 but at least comparable. Ndombele, a £55 million signing, was then almost immediately forced off for Tottenham with what a frustrated Mourinho estimated was his 10th injury of the season.

Tottenham did finally create two clear chances shortly before half-time. Kane’s shot from just outside the penalty area was sufficiently powerful to prompt a spillage by Alex McCarthy but he just recovered in time to smother Dele Alli’s follow up. The resulting corner did then fall invitingly to Jan Vertonghen on the edge of the six-yard box but he hooked his effort well over.

Southampton again tried to take the game to Tottenham at the start of the second-half, with Redmond volleying a clear chance over and then Alderweireld surviving a confident penalty appeal for handball. The ball had certainly been fired in powerfully by Ryan Bertrand – and it is doubtful whether Alderweireld could really have got out of the way – but it did very clearly strike his outstretched arm. The VAR Harry Lennaverpool are on the brink of ‘legendary’ status.Defending the Champions League title this season, Liverpool are also regarded as Premier League champions-elect in England.Blind told AD: “Liverpool today still has to win its fcastle United are eyeing Gremio striker Everton Soares.Foot Mercato says Newcastle have tabled a loan offer to Gremio for Everton with an option to buy should he impress. The permanent option offered is worth €45m.However, the deal falls short for irst English national tird, however, went along with Dean’s original decision and no penalty was given.

Tottenham became increasingly dominant in possession but were struggling badly to create clear chances until Kane’s last touch of the game. He had latched onto a free-kick but just timed his run to be marginally offside, behind Jack Stephens, as the ball was played. The disappointment of a raised offside flag was then compounded when he immediately grasped his hamstring. Tottenham pressed forward in the closing minutes but, beyond a Lucas Moura shot that was well charged down, rarely looked like creating an equaliser.

How the Premier League got its mid-table back: a study of top-flight averageness


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But what does it mean to be a mid-table team in the billionaire era? As a tangible fatigue sets in with the short-termist boom/bust cycles of various clubs, has it become cool to be a mid-table side?

It’s possible you haven’t put much thought into this, so allow your correspondent to examine the cornerstones of midtabledom. It’s not just about being 10th or thereabouts, equidistant from the drop and the Europa League, with the half-hearted annual hopes of “a cup run”. Being mid-table is a state of mind, man, and here are the pillars of its philosophy.

Consistent inconsistency

This characteristic is historically the domain of Tottenham, who almost perfected the art of mid-table unpredictability in the mid-1990s and 2000s by flirting several times with a goal difference of precisely zero. They have finished with double figures for wins, draws and defeats in the same campaign no fewer than eight times in the 26 Premier League seasons. If anything, Clive, they almost mid-tabled too well.

Having long abandoned their policy of losing to Chelsea every time they meet, Daniel Levy’s Spurs have happily vacated their comfortable seat in the eye of the Premier League storm.

The pre-match punditry pondering of “which [Club X] are going to turn up today?!” now belongs to Watford – 13 managers in the last decade, somewhere north of 60 players signed in the space of five summers – whose list of results can be consulted at any time, safe in the knowledge that you will find a healthy number of Ds and Ls, seasoned evenly with some Ws.

Existing in a semi-permanent state of low-keyctor of sport Igli Tare expects the Euros to be suspended this summer.Serie A is currently suspended due to the coronavirus outbreak.“Italy is divided in two, in the north the situation is dramatic. In the centre and in the south we understand what chaos

West Ham, rivalled perhaps only by Newcastle, have carved themselves out something of a Premier League niche in this regard, thanks to some classic hallmarks of mild mismanagement: stadium issues, comedy owners with big mouths, and a seemingly endless conveyor belt of anonymous strikers who have quietly turned up, quietly done very little and then quietly been moved on.

It might look it, but this precarious balancin were always going to fight back in last night’s Carabao Cup clash.City defeated United 3-1 in the first-leg of their semifinal, having been 3-0 ahead before halftime.Walker, impressive for the 90 minutes, said: “The first half was great.”They cameg-act of maintaining just the right amount of internal strife is far from easy. Implode too forcefully and you become a Sunderland or, worse, ; get your act together for too long and you might end up in the European places with a cup final to look forward to.

Do not underestimate just how much effort goes into establishing oneself as a mid-table soap opera.

Lofty but unfulfilled ambitions

“Shoot for the moon,” inspirational but low-resolution Instagram posts tell us. “Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”

Recent Premier League history is peppered with wide-eyed new club owners who have made the grave error of “eyeing Champions League football within five years”, only to find themselves a hundred million or so out of pocket as they remain embedded in the belly of the top flight. Such clubs – West Ham again, Everton too – will deliver the occasional eye-catching televised win under the floodlights, only to follow it up with an abject display of professional indifference the following Saturday afternoon.

Sandwiched between those two perennial Premier League optimists are Wolves, whose owners Fosun had serious ambitions of a top-six finish after capitalising on promotion from the Championship with some impressively bold signings. They are now 10th, with as many wins as defeats, neither a failure nor a sensation, and they’re in decent company.

Cautious, earnest realism

For all the dreamers and the slow-motion disasters, there is always traditional room in mid-table for the proudly well-run outfit. Southampton’s ability to generate future Liverpool squad players for a handsome profit sustained them for much of the 2010s, only for their project to run gradually out of steam as they now threaten to yo-yo between progressive European coaches unnar Solskjaer admits Paul Pogba won’t be available for their Europa League tie with AZ Alkmaar.United have already qualified for the knockout stages of the competition but must avoid defeat against AZ to ensure they win Group L.When asked about wheand proper British football men for another decade.

So, then, the mantle of Refusing To Get Carried Away has passed to Bournemouth, the long-term project of the thoroughly decent Eddie Howe, whose relentlessly measured takes, overwhelming sense of perspective and unruffleable feathers are all perfectly tailored for finishing anywhere between 8th and 13th for as long as he wants to stick around.

A solid recent tradition of averageness

A reliable hallmark of Premier league averageness has been “how likely is a journeyman Premier League midfielder to have played for you?”, to which the answer often involves Aston Villa. Their pitiful relegation to the Championship in 2016 tore at the very fabric of Premier League mediocrity, and what it now meant to be in the middle of its class.

Having completed their widely expected regression to the mean after their gloriously baffling Premier League triumph in 2015/16, Leicester City (six wins, six defeats, a tantalising goal difference of +1) may well be the Midlands’ new incumbent of mid-table mediocrity.

Let’s not forget that they have been a solid middling presence before. Back in the days of Martin O’Neill’s tracksuit tucked into his socks, as he gulped excitedly from a pitchside water bottle every eighteen seconds, Filbert Street’s looming camera angle, and a team with more centre-halves than you ever thought possible, Leicester strung together consecutive finishes of 9th, 10th, 10th, 8th and 13th. Those dubious glory days are surely back.

Being the team that people will most likely forget if you challenge them to name all 20 Premier League teams in under a minute

Derby, Charlton, Birmingham, Portsmouth, Wimbledon, Coventry – all, at some point, have been the hardy grist for the Premier League mill. Nothing wrong with that, and perhaps the purest essence of being a mid-table side is simply being the second-last game on the Match of the Day running order. This season, it is Brighton, and not even having players called Dunk and Bong is going to change that.

Just as the widening gulf in resources was threatening to turn the Premier League into a two-dimensional league of haves and have-nots, the top flight appears to have its middle class back. As the “Big Six” (formerly the “Big Four”, and certainly not to be confused with the original “Big Five” of the late 1980s) all try to squeeze themselves into the Champions League before the doors close in May, there is a lively, diverse, capable set of teams below them who aren’t being dragged into the relegation mire.

We might have traditionally dismissed it as mediocre, but it’s time to embrace the fleshy middle of our top flight – it’s the sign of a healthy division.

Exodus of Arsenal’s superstars suggests players losing faith in Arsene Wenger


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The contrast with the first decade of Wenger’s tenure, when big-name departures seemed to happen on Arsenal’s terms and were invariably followed by upgrades, is clear. Even the break-up of the Van Persie-Fabregas team was presented as something of an anomaly and a consequence only of temporary financial constraints.

“We had to sell our best players,” Wenger explained. “That’s not the case anymore. Now we are competing with everybody on the financial front and I think we can keep our best players. The players make good money at this level wherever they play. I believe, personally – maybe I am a bit naive – that it’s more about getting to meet the players’ needs. That’s about the way the club has values, the way the club has ambition, the way the club respects the players.”

So was Wenger just naïve or is he simply unable to build a team that can satisfy the ambitions of star players? Two games feel especially pivotal. Defeat in the 2011 League Cup final against Birmingham City felt like the moment that Fabregas, Nasri and Van Persie decided it would never quite happen for their group. Similarly, last season, even after the glorious missed chance to win the Premier League in 2016, a light seemed to go out in Sanchez during the 5-1 Champions League defeat to Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena. Wenger also admitted that Ozil’s form subsequently suffered due to him being “really down for a whsigned by Tottenham.The Dutchman conceded he would be a big loss to the team but was not surprised Tottenham had to break their transfer record to land his services, as he is built for the Premier League.“Tanguy is a wonderful character to have in ile”.

Sanchez and Ozil, like Fabregas and Van Persie previously, are entitled to believe they can win football’s very biggest prizes and yet Arsenal are further away now than at any time since 1996. “Other teams have invested big money year after year and have also retained their best players and have kicked on,” said Sol Campbell, the former Arsenal defender. “But at the moment, Arsenal are not retaining their best players. This is a vital period. If you keep on selling your best players, some players might say: ‘Well, why do I want to go there? All their best players are leaving.’ I think teams go in cycles. Arsenal are in thampard says Callum Hudson-Odoi is ready to translate his domestic form into the Champions League.The 18-year-old capped off a fine performance against Newcastle United by helping to set up Marcos Alonso’s winner.Asked if Hudson-Odoi was ready to faceis cycle and they need to figure out how to get out of it – but it might take three or four years.” 

It was certainly interesting this week to hear Wenger talk about how Arsenal must now refocus their strategy on finding the best emerging players and being the club that gives them both first-team experience and the best environment to maximise their potential.

It makes perfect sense, except that it rather jars against how players like Oxlade-Chamberlain, Theo Walcott, Wojciech Szczesny and Kieran Gibbs have all left over the past six months seeming unfulfilled. Oxlade-Chamberlain talked about “taor player.Mari is delighted to now be playing for Arteta.”There have been some wonderful Spanish players to play for Arsenal,” Mari told Arsenal Player. “Fabregas, Cazorla, Reyes… they’re all great Spanish players that have passed through this clubking myself out of my comfort zone” and how “a kick up the backside would be good for me”. Walcott departed this week seemingly as far from the England team as when he joined aged 16 in 2006, at a time when working under Wenger was regarded as the optimum developmental decision. Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester City and Liverpool are regarded now as the leaders in this area.

Arsenal must also address other more practical factors. With many of the key depatures, mistakes were made in the timing and size of initial contract offers. There is still a lingering sense that Ozil and Sanchez may both have signed had serious talks began much earlier. That was also the case with Nasri. Oxlade-Chamberlain certainly became frustrated last summer both at the speed of contract negotiations and Arsenal’s initial proposals. 

An unexpected challenge also now awaits over Jack Wilshere who, from being peripheral to Wenger’s plans, is now in the final six months of his deal and being talked about as the next captain. “The fact that he has been away and come back – he realises as well that life here is not so bad maybe,” said Wenger. “That is something that is important. He can be one of the leaders in the future.”

Perhaps – but it is surely also a question of levels and, for all his passion and recent improvement, the extent to which Wilshere can be the catalyst for a return to Europe’s top table remains in doubt. It is what makes completing deals for Henrikh Mkhitaryan, and especially Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, so critical this month. If Wenger can sell Arsenal to a player with Aubameyang’s prolific goal-scoring record, he will at least have answered the question about whether he can still attract top players. 

A fifth new cycle will also begin and, with it, the wider question of whether Wenger can still inspire his own players to truly believe in what has come to feel like a faded vision.

Louis van Gaal reveals he turned down Belgium job to get revenge on ‘mean and low’ Manchester United


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"I went for my instinct, not the rational. I just have to live with that. I’ve been a really successful manager, so I don’t want to slag the world of football down. I have had a lot of good times.”

Van Gaal, who was sacked as Manchester United manager just weeks after winning the FA Cup, also criticised the club for how they handled his departure.

"The way Manchester United have treated me was terrible. They have been mean and low. " he said. 

The former Barcelona manager also blamed Manchester United’s former players for criticising his style of management.

In May 2016, Paul Scholes suggested the Dutchman was "not interested in scorinhman publicly expressed interest in the post, Vieira says he never heard from his old club as they appointed Mikel Arteta new manager on Friday.He said, “If I have been contacted? No. Is it possible one day? I am under contract with OGC Nice. “Seeingg goals" after decided to drop Marcus Rashford for a crucial Premier League game. 

"The former players of United started to have a go, saying that I was giving the fanChampions League semifinal shock at Liverpool.Marca reports the Argentine was shocked by the final result and been trialling with West Ham United.Flaherty, 17, wasn’t offered terms by the Gunners this summer and has been training with the Hammers, reports Jeorge Bird’s Arsenal Youth.At West Ham he has impressed, hitting a brace for their U18s against Norwich urst into tears after the game was over.Barcelona players’ frustration was palpable as neither Sergio Busquets nor Luis Suarez, who represes boring football," added Van Gaal.

 "That struck me. It was directed, organised. After a while, I started to think I’m losing my authority this way towards the players. So I had to make concessions in my approach of the players."

Pep Guardiola pleas for referees to ‘protect players’ after Man City lose Gabriel Jesus and Kevin De Bruyne to injury


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Pep Guardiola made an impassioned plea for referees to “protect” players after Manchester City suffered injuries to Gabriel Jesus and Kevin De Bruyne, during the fierce goalless draw away to Crystal Palace.

Jesus is out for up to two months, City fear, although Guardiola said he hoped the suspected medial ligament knee damage suffered by the striker might only rule him out for “a little bit more than one month”. Jesus left the pitch in tears. The Brazilian then left Selhurst Park on crutches.

The injury may force City to try and prise away Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez with the January transfer window opening. Guardiola failed with a late summer bid for Sanchez who has made it clear he wants to leave Arsenal, where he is in the final year of his contract, and move to City.

There has been an expectation that City may simply wait for Sanchez’s contract to expire but they could now feel compelled to act. However, Guardiola would not be drawn. “I don’t know. He’s a player for Arsenal and I think he’s staying there,” he said. “In internal meetings we will decide what’s the best (to do in January) but he’s an Arsenal player… we have to sit down and see what happened with Gabriel and Kevin and we will see."

Injuries are mounting for City who lost captaiconcern during this international break.The St Mary’s side are currently languishing in the bottom three following Saturday’s disappointing defeat to Everton. But Hasenhuttl says of their home record: “I think it’s not a big topic that we didn’t win Vincent Kompany during the win away to Newcastle United last Wednesday, with the club already intending to sign a central defender – West Bromwich Albion’s Jonny Evans and Real Sociedad’s Inigo Martinez are their prime targets – during the window.

Guardiola is also still without David Silva, who has been given compassionate leave. “I don’t know when he will be ready to be back but the personal life is more imps.The Blades host Liverpool today.Writing in his weekly BBC Sport predictions column on, Lawro claimed United would be hard pushed to pick up the three points against the Reds, and stated: “The Blades got a great win over Everton at Goodison Park lasortant than any other situation,” Guardiola said.

The Spaniard expressed his concern about the lack of protection offered by match officials to the players in Premier League matches. “Gabriel will be out for, I don’t know, a little bit more than one month. Kevin we will see tomorrow, if it was a kick or something else,” Guardiola said. Jesus was hurt in a challenge by Andros Townsend, with the striker ‘doing the splits’ and twisting his knee. He tried to carry on but had to eventually leave the pitch.

The tackle on De Bruyne was more brutal – as City tried to break away following Palace missing a penalty. “I like the physicality of the Premier League but the referee has to protect the players,” Guardiola said. Asked whether he was concerned about the “best players” getting hurt, he added: “Not the best players. All the players. They have fathers and mothers as well. People focus on diving and this kind of thing. I know contact is more allowed here than any other country but there are limits.”

Guardiola cited two recent matches – the home game against Tottenham Hotspur and the Newcastle match – as occasions where his players could have been hurt in challenges. “We were lucky against Tottenham with Raheem (Sterling) and Kevin and we were lucky against Newcastle with (Ilkay) Gundogan,” Guardiola said, adding that maybe there was too much focus on trying to stop diving and not enough on some of the tackles. 

“Maybe he (De Bruyne) will not be ready for the Watford game in two days time but protect all the players. Protect the players, guys, that is all,” Guardiola continued.

“They don’t have to change the way they play here. You go to another country, they play in a specific way. But there is one line which if you go above, beyond that line is dangerous. You are here and I am here for the players. It works because there are 22 guys trying to win a game and the referee has to follow the rules and protect the players.”

Palace manager Roy Hodgson admitted his side had gained an unexpected point – which could have been all three had the penalty not been saved by City goalkeeper Ederson.

However, Palace also suffered injuries with captain Scott Dann stretchered off in the first-half – ironically as he also brought down De Bruyne – as well as Puncheon late on, with Hodgson adding: “It was a very costly game because the type of injuries that were sustained today did not look like short-term injuries.”

Palace are now without three key defenders. “Mamadou) Sakho is likely to be out for a few more weeks to come, Joel Pogba’s agent Mino Raiola with the offer a new contract for the midfielder at Old Trafford.Pogba’s future was the subject of intense speculation throughout the summer but he remained at United.Now the club want to secure his long-term future, report Ward is still in recovery and we have lost Scott Dann,” Hodgson said. “It doesn’t look good. Let’s put it this way, it’s a serious knee injury. And we have lost Jason Puncheon. We have stretched our resources to the absolute limit.”