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What will Gareth Barry’s arrival from Everton mean for Tony Pulis’ West Brom?

Martyn Cooke

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Gareth Barry

West Bromwich Albion have confirmed the signing of Everton’s veteran midfielder Gareth Barry for an undisclosed fee, which is believe to be in the region of £1 million.

The 36-year-old has had a long and prosperous career competing in the top flight of English football and will be heading into his 22nd season with half-an-eye on the all-time Premier League appearance record.

Ryan Giggs currently holds the honour having played 632 times for Manchester United in the 1990s and early 2000s but Barry would need to make just five appearances in the coming year to overcome that figure.

Barry made his first team debut for Aston Villa in 1998 and made in excess of 400 appearances for the Midlands club during a ten-year spell before joining the Qatari-backed revolution at Manchester City.

The midfielder helped City to secure the Premier League title and FA Cup during his four-year stay at the Etihad Stadium before he became surplus to requirements and joined Everton in 2013 where he cemented his place as a crucial cog in Roberto Martinez’s team.

However, the appointment of Ronald Koeman as manager at Goodison Park and the £100 million investment in the first team squad over the summer has left Barry stranded considerably down the pecking order and in search of a move to secure regular time on the pitch and to elongate his career.

He becomes West Brom’s fourth signing of the summer following the arrivals of Jay Rodriguez, Zhang Yuning and Ahmed Hegazi as Tony Pulis looks to add more quality and depth to his current first team squad.

The experienced midfielder, who can also play as a fullback, will be a direct replacement for former Albion captain Darren Fletcher, who stunned The Baggies by agreeing to join Midland rivals Stoke City on a free transfer at the start of the summer.

What will his signing mean for West Brom?

Since his arrival at West Bromwich Albion, in January 2015, Tony Pulis has done a remarkable job at The Hawthorns. The Welshman has converted The Baggies from relegation contenders into a team that were able to make a genuine push for a Europa League spot last season, without having an abundance of money to spend.

The departure of Darren Fletcher at the start of the summer came as something of a surprise and left Pulis in need of an experienced central midfielder to work alongside the energetic Jake Livermore.

Gareth Barry is certainly a solid, if not an entirely enthralling or spectacular, signing and there is little doubt that he is a more than adequate replacement for West Brom’s former captain.

However, the 36-year-old will offer little more than a short-term fix to Pulis’ central midfield dilemma and this is certainly reflected in the one-year deal that Barry has signed – The Baggies will need to find a long-term solution in the coming twelve months.

Barry’s resounding qualities lie in the simplicity and consistency of his play. Age now means that the central midfielder cannot fulfil a box-to-box role or cover every blade of grass, as was the case earlier in his career, but his passing ability will remain a tireless asset.

The 36-year-old will be deployed alongside Livermore and will likely be give the responsibility of sitting in front of the back four, screening the central defenders whilst looking to pick up the ball in deep position to instigate attacking moves. Barry may not produce anything spectacular, but his presence, experience and consistency will certainly benefit the current West Brom squad.

The current Albion squad undoubtedly requires investment and reinforcement, yet the signing of Barry could be a shrewd piece of business if he can maintain his form and fitness. The reported £1 million fee is little more than loose change in an era of astronomical financial wealth and helps to plug an obvious gap in the first team picture – for now at least.

Gareth Barry will be hoping that a fresh start at The Hawthorns will help him to elongate his already prestigious career and who would put it past him to surpass Ryan Giggs all-time Premier League appearance record before the end of the campaign?

Martyn is currently a PTA and Research Assistant in the Department of Exercise Science at the Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU). In addition to his teaching role he is also undertaking a PhD in Sports History that is exploring the origins and development of football in Staffordshire. Prior to working at MMU, Martyn spent a decade operating in the sport and leisure industry in a variety of roles including as a Sports Development Officers, PE Teacher, Football Coach and Operation Manager.

English Premier League

Newcastle should forget Rondon and give Mitrovic another shot

Rafa Benitez is looking to secure a striker this summer, but should Newcastle put more faith in returning loanee?

Jamie Watts

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Newcastle United are reportedly in the market for new forwards this summer, with Rafa Benitez identifying the Magpies’ attacking output as a key weakness last term, despite their impressive 10th place finish.

The Spaniard is allegedly keen on Venezuela international Salomon Rondon and could offer him a route back into the Premier League, from the recently relegated West Brom, according to the Northern Echo.

However, the 28-year-old may not be the best option to spearhead the side at St James’ Park.

Rondon has failed to bag more than 10 goals in a domestic season since arriving from Zenit St Petersburg, while his 28 strikes in 120 games makes for pretty poor reading.

It goes without saying stats are not everything, but Newcastle will need a reliable scorer to ensure safety, and perhaps he is not worth the risk.

Photo: Getty Images

Strangely, Benitez seems reluctant to recall former fan favourite Aleksandar Mitrovic despite his recent resurgence, and is pursuing other targets that employ a similar game to the Serbian.

On loan in the Championship last term Mitrovic regained his confidence and eye for goal, and he was pivotal in Fulham’s  push for promotion, netting an impressive 12 goals in 11 games for the Cottagers in a period he described as “the best four months of my career”.

The former Anderlecht man seems to have curbed his disciplinary issues and simplified his game up top, with his link-up play representing some of the finest in world football last term. And the time could be perfect for his return to Tyneside.

Photo: Getty Images

It is evident from rumours surrounding Rondon and Sporting Lisbon talisman Bas Dost (Marca), that Benitez is actively seeking a physical linchpin to orchestrate play in the final third and Mitrovic could be his best option.

Newcastle are not famed for their spending in transfer markets and they have a ready-made solution returning to the club imminently.

Benitez should reevaluate his current pursuits and give Mitrovic one last chance. On last season’s evidence, the results could be brilliant.

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English Premier League

Cenk Tosun could become an elite striker under Marco Silva next term

Everton’s star talisman could benefit massively from Marco Silva’s regime at Goodison Park.

Jamie Watts

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Everton‘s star striker Cenk Tosun recently vowed to reach new levels and is convinced he can be even better next season, after impressing in his debut campaign in a shackled Toffees side, in quotes via the official club website.

And the Turkish international will be thrilled by the appointment of Marco Silva, as he will likely be spearheading a far more progressive and attacking team next term.

The highly-rated forward netted an impressive five goals in only 12 starts for Sam Allardyce’s side, after joining from Turkish giants Besiktas in the winter window and helping Everton to reach a comfortable eighth-place finish in the process.

Photo: Getty Images

Known for his clinical edge in front of goal, the Turk did not disappoint, boasting an impressive 42 per cent accuracy rating for shots-on-target, bettering the likes of Tottenham‘s Harry Kane on 41 per cent.

However, his output was limited by Allardyce’s pragmatic style, with the striker often feeding on scraps in attacking areas, and he undoubtedly has higher levels to hit if Silva can accommodate the 27-year-old properly and surround him with like-minded attacking players.

The recent names circulating in the Everton rumour mill certainly suggest Tosun’s supply line will be richer after the summer, with the likes of Sporting Lisbon’s Gelson Martins and Bas Dost being touted as potential arrivals (A Bola).

Photo: Getty Images

The new Everton manager is sure to see Tosun as a vital member of his squad going forward, as the club aim to see results for their £27 million investment.

While owner Farhad Moshiri’s ambitions of European football at Goodison Park dovetail with the Turkish international’s Champions League pedigree.

Considering the numbers Tosun managed under Allardyce, there is no telling how many goals he could bag under the tutelage of Silva in an attack-minded outfit. And many could be surprised at his impact next season.

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Arsenal

Why Manchester United must go all out to steal Alexis Sanchez away from Manchester City

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Photo: Reuters

In the midst of winter, things are starting to heat up.

It seemed for all the world that Manchester City were finally going to get their man in the January transfer window after missing out on Arsenal talisman Alexis Sanchez on deadline day in late August.

On that occasion they offered £60 million to lure the Chilean to the Etihad, only to see their offer rebuffed by the Gunners after Arsene Wenger failed with his pursuit of replacement Thomas Lemar.

Instead, it seemed inevitable that Pep Guardiola would finally persuade Arsenal into selling once January came around, a feeling that has grown due to a lack of contract negotiations between Sanchez and his current Club – although it may not be as straightforward a move as first seemed.

Quite sensational reports from around the globe over the past two days have now suggested that City’s bitter rivals Manchester United are also in the race to sign the soon to be out-of-contract Arsenal forward.

Sky Sports Italia were the ones that broke the news on Thursday, claiming that United have now entered advanced talks with Sanchez’s agent ahead of a proposed move to Old Trafford this month.

The report also claims that United are preparing to offer a larger transfer fee – which the The Guardian believe to be in the region of £25 million – than Manchester City, and that any deal that would see Sanchez move to Old Trafford could also see the out-of-favour Henrikh Mkhitaryan go the other way.

And quite frankly, if there’s any truth behind these reports, United should go all out to get him.

After starting the Premier League season in fine form, setting the pace with City at the top of the table, United’s form has derailed somewhat and it seems that their pre-season hopes of the title are a distant memory.

That’s not to say that they’ve been poor, because they haven’t.

Not many teams only lose three times in the opening 22 league matches yet find themselves 15 points behind the leaders, and the size of the gap is testament to just how good City have been.

Yet it’s hard to deny that there has been a spark missing at Old Trafford this season since their blistering start to the 2017-18 campaign, and a player in the mould of Sanchez could be exactly the tonic required for a mid-season boost.

There’s a distinct lack of width in the United side, something that boss Jose Mourinho has been aware of for a while after trying – and ultimately failing – with his pursuit of Ivan Perisic last year.

Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford, Jesse Lingard and Juan Mata have all played their parts in wide areas but none are fully comfortable there, and United are in need of a fully-fledged winger who possesses the talent to deliver consistently into the area for the likes of Romelu Lukaku to work with.

And in Sanchez there’s few better options around as of now.

His Premier League pedigree is anything but a secret, scoring 31 times in his last 57 appearances since the start of last season, and he can add 13 assists to his impressive record during this period.

Mourinho is on the hunt for a creative hub and the Chilean forward is just that, and despite coming in for criticism this season for his performances he’s still created 50 clear-cut chances for Arsenal, only second to Mesut Ozil.

For a point of comparison United’s most creative player this season has been Mata, crafting 31 opportunities for his teammates, and that just shows the impact Sanchez could have upon arrival.

Yet, a move for Sanchez would run far deeper than just his creativity.

He’s a player ideal for Mourinho, one that’s determined, willing to give his all until the final whistle and leave nothing behind on the pitch, and his never-say-die attitude could lift the Old Trafford dressing room no end.

It seems to be a viewpoint that is shared by those with an avid interest in United too, with ex-defender Phil Neville telling Sky Sports that it could be an ‘unbelievable’ coup for them should they pull it off.

Addressing the transfer rumours yesterday, he said:

“It’s pretty obvious he’s not going to stay at Arsenal. I think if United were going to buy him, £25m would be an absolute snip.

“United missed out on buying Ivan Perisic in the summer, and with that missed out on a winger. I think Sanchez provides the quality, the goals and the world-class ability he has got.

“I think it would be an unbelievable signing. If you look back at the big signings over the decades, [Eric] Cantona came out of the hat, [Robin] Van Persie was a surprise, and they both helped United win titles. I think this could have a similar impact. He’s got the character to play at Old Trafford.”

His point on Cantona and Van Persie is a hugely valid one, and whilst a move for Sanchez now isn’t likely to help them overhaul Manchester City this season it sets them up perfectly for next time out – and could help their Champions League push in the latter part of 2017-2018.

However, perhaps more than anything, being able to hijack Manchester City’s proposed move for him would almost give them an air of having something over their rivals in a season where Guardiola has dominated.

Should the rumours be true, and should both Manchester sides be in for Sanchez, then ultimately the Chilean’s choice of final destination will be down to his personal preference – and this would say a lot.

January is often known for being a more mundane transfer window than the summer installment but that’s certainly not the case this time around, and Manchester United could be drawing ever closer to one of the most memorable hijacks in Premier League history.

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