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Transfer Round-up

West Ham round-up: Pressure mounts on Slaven Bilic; Michail Antonio forced to withdraw from England; reaction to Leicester defeat

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Co-chairman David Sullivan has heaped pressure on manager Slaven Bilic in the aftermath of defeat to Leicester City this weekend by apologising to fans as he wrote on the club website:

“I think all we can do after Saturday’s 3-2 Premier League defeat by Leicester City at London Stadium is say is ‘sorry’ to the supporters… We all know that we have to do better. To be 2-0 down after seven minutes of any football match, be it in the Premier League or in your local Sunday League, makes it very difficult to get a positive result… But, we need to be good before we are losing! We have to find out why we are conceding so many goals and fix it… The next few games now become vital for our season.”

Bilic is popular with fans and few have called for his head despite the poor form of the side this season, but his future could be up in the air at the end of the season if the board feel that they need a man with new ideas to lead the club in their new home at the London Stadium.

Another man whose future is the topic of speculation of late is Michail Antonio and the Evening Standard claim that he could be robbed of his potential England debut against Germany or Lithuania this weekend after picking up a hamstring injury which may force him to withdraw from Gareth Southgate’s squad.

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Antonio made Sam Allardyce’s squad at the start of this campaign but was dropped from the group by Southgate before he recalled him for these two March fixtures. However, he could be forced to withdraw for injury reasons.

That was just another piece of bad news on Saturday after defeat to Leicester, which clearly infuriated manager Slaven Bilic as he told the media, as quoted by the club website:

“It is very frustrating for us to lose the game. We didn’t start well and what was really disappointing was the way we conceded three goals, including two very quickly. Then we came back and got the goal and had a good spell, but again they scored and got their third goal.  They basically scored their first goal from a cross and two goals from set pieces. We knew they were good in them, but we had to defend them better… They showed quality and they showed character and they created more than enough chances to get a point, but in the second half, it didn’t want to go in, to be fair.”

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Goals from Riyad Mahrez and Robert Huth inside the opening seven minutes made it an uphill battle for the Hammers, with Jamie Vardy adding a third before half-time to make Manuel Lanzini and Andre Ayew’s strikes almost meaningless.

Featured Image: All rights reserved by Alex Hannam.

Sam is a Southend United fan and student based in the South-West. He has previously worked for various publications, including FourFourTwo magazine and ITV. Sam also has an extensive knowledge of Spanish football and has previously lived and worked in Spain. Find Sam on Twitter at @samleveridge.

Newcastle United

Newcastle United round-up: Benitez contract talks; U23 loss; Freddy Shepherd tribute

Jake Jackman

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Newcastle

The future of Rafael Benitez at Newcastle United is uncertain after the recent transfer window, but the Times report that the club are preparing to open talks over a new contract. They are hoping that it will improve the manager’s relationship with Mike Ashley and it will protect the club as his contract expires at the end of next season. However, the Shields Gazette report that there are no immediate plans to discuss a new deal.

This is a story to follow, especially if Mike Ashley is serious about selling the club. Rafa Benitez is his biggest asset and he needs to make sure that he is committed to the club for the long-term, as it would make Newcastle attractive to potential buyers. The conflicting reports suggest this is far from clear-cut and that the propaganda war between manager and owner remains a problem for the club.

Despite selecting a strong U23 side against Wolves last night, Newcastle fell to a narrow defeat at St James’ Park. Dwight Gayle, Rolando Aarons and Jack Colback all featured for the home side, but they couldn’t deliver the desired result.

It was a good opportunity for the players mentioned to improve their match-fitness and Gayle did score, but it was ruled out for offside. Newcastle will be hoping that the striker is feeling more confident with his body and can get back to his best for the first-team. Although Joselu is leading the line well, he doesn’t have the goal-scoring ability of Gayle.

Former Newcastle United chairman Sir Freddy Shepherd has sadly passed away at the age of 75. The Magpies went to two FA Cup finals under his stewardship and qualified for the Champions League on a number of occasions. The club paid tribute to the former chairman:

“During his time at the club, as both a director and chairman, he had a big part to play in the club’s modern-day history and was a driving force in the redevelopment of our stadium and expanding its capacity to more than 52,000.

“He had a huge passion not just for the club, but for the city and region it represents. Our thoughts at this time are of course with his family and friends.”

This is awful news and it is a great loss for the North East, as he did a lot for the region. Newcastle enjoyed success under his chairmanship and supporters will look back at it with a lot of fond memories. There is likely to be further tribute paid to him this weekend when the team faces Liverpool at St James’ Park.

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Arsenal

Arsenal round-up: West Brom victory; Lacazette comparison; MK Dons starlet linked

Jake Jackman

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Arsenal

Arsenal beat West Brom on Monday to earn their third successive Premier League win at home, thanks to two goals from Alexandre Lacazette. It wasn’t the best performance, but they got the job done and built on the good result that they earned at Chelsea last weekend. The three points have seen them move up to 7th position and only one point from a top-four position.

It is crucial that the Gunners remain in touching distance of the top four and make that their primary aim for the season. They can’t afford another season out of the Champions League if they want to be considered a contender for major honours. Their away form has been poor since the start of the season and that needs to be corrected. This wasn’t the best display, but a clean sheet and three points can’t be sniffed at given their current position.

The star of the evening was Alexandre Lacazette. The Frenchman scored twice to take his tally for the season to four and remind everyone that he is a contender for the golden boot, as the focus has been on other strikers in the league. Nigel Winterburn told Sky Sports that the 26-year-old reminds him of Ian Wright:

“He’s more Wright than (Thierry) Henry. Thierry wasn’t your classic centre-forward. Henry drifted into wide areas, picked the ball up, unbelievable pace and great close control.

“He scored from outside the box while Wrighty would produce something in and around the box. You’d never know what he was going to do and Lacazette looks similar. And if he can produce the goals that Wrighty produced, then I think the Arsenal fans will be very, very happy.”

This is high praise for the striker as he is being compared to an Arsenal legend. Lacazette will be pleased that he is impressing at his new club, but he will be keen to earn his own reputation rather than being compared to somebody else. His start has been impressive and he will want to kick on to assert himself as one of the league’s best.

The transfer window isn’t open, but the rumours continue to be reported by the media. The Mirror report that Arsenal are one of the clubs tracking MK Dons starlet Dylan Asonganyi, alongside Manchester United. The 16-year-old has been impressing in the club’s under-18s and has scored nine goals in seven matches so far this season. The League One side will be keen to keep hold of the England youth international and could give him his senior debut in the next few months.

This is a rumour that makes sense as Arsenal keep a close eye on youth football and prefer to invest in potential than first-team ready players. The last youth player to earn a reputation at MK Dons was Dele Alli and he is now one of the best midfielders in the country. If Asonganyi continues to progress, the interest should ramp up.

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Manchester City

Manchester City round-up: Sanchez latest; Barcelona midfielder linked; Neville praises ‘Europe’s most exciting’ side

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According to an exclusive report surfacing from South America on Tuesday morning, Paris Saint-Germain are prepared to hijack Manchester City’s summer move for Arsenal forward Alexis Sanchez.

Chilean newspaper El Mercurio have claimed that PSG will offer the Gunners a £9million advanced payment in January to lock down a deal for the 28-year-old, stealing him away from Pep Guardiola.

Big-spending PSG currently hold the advantage in the race to sign Sanchez, with Manchester City unable to engage in any talks with Arsenal until the summer due to it being an inter-league signing.

The Chilean talisman is out-of-contract at the Emirates at the end of the campaign and, after his £60million deadline day move to the Etihad fell through, his future is seemingly away from London.

Meanwhile, reports coming from the ever-reliable Don Balon in Spain have suggested that manager Guardiola is lining up a potential January transfer window move for Barcelona star Sergi Roberto.

The report claims that the Spaniard is prepared to fork out the £35 million required to secure the services of the 25-year-old midfielder, who has been on his agenda since arriving in England in 2016.

Yet it’s not all plain sailing as it is believed that Roberto – who made 32 La Liga appearances during last season – wants to stay in Spain, although City could have the financial resources to turn his head.

And finally, away from the ongoing rumour mill ex-Manchester United defender Phil Neville has claimed that Manchester City are currently ‘the most exciting team in Europe’ after their fast start.

The Blues have been rampant in recent weeks, scoring 16 goals in their last three Premier League matches without reply, with their most recent demolition coming against Crystal Palace on Saturday.

Neville praised City in his Sky Sports column, writing: “Well, after another 5-0 victory, you’ve got to say Manchester City are the most exciting side in Europe right now with the number of goals they are scoring.

“They’ll obviously have bigger tests but they are absolutely sensational to watch, and the pleasing thing for Pep Guardiola is that the team are keeping clean sheets as well.”

Manchester City will look to continue their fine recent form and secure a second straight win in Champions League group-stage football when they face Ukrainian side Shakhtar Donetsk on Tuesday.

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