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Transfer Round-up

West Ham round-up: Sampdoria striker monitored; Bilic defends Noble; Lanzini discusses pressure

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As West Ham continue to seek a striker to fire them up the league table next season, the Mirror say that they could look to activate Colombian striker Luis Muriel’s £24 million release clause after he has scored ten goals and recorded a further nine assist in 28 games for the Serie A side this season.

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The 25-year-old centre-forward has scored once in nine caps for his country but continues to show signs of improvements and could test his skills in the Premier League.

Slaven Bilic has spoken out to defend captain Mark Noble as he has revealed that the midfielder has been given an extended break over the international break, writing for the Evening Standard:

“We will miss Mark Noble tomorrow, not only as a player but as captain also. There may be some skippers in football whose responsibility ends when they go up for the toss of the coin but not many… At West Ham, Mark is an excellent captain but it is draining, more so for him maybe because he lives and breathes the club. I know he said something about some fans not understanding the game which has annoyed some people but I have spoken to him and I know one hundred per cent that he would not want to upset the supporters — because he is one also. He was trying to protect the team and individuals within the team. I have said to him that, because he has played most of the games but is now injured, he can go away if he needs to — and come back fresh.”

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The experienced central midfielder has been on the end of criticism this week after some questionable displays against Chelsea and Bournemouth, but Bilic insists that he deserves his place in the starting eleven.

One man who has stepped up is Manuel Lanzini, who has told Sky Sports that he is comfortable with the tag of a replacement for Dimitri Payet as he said:

“Well, I would not say I am feeling the pressure at the moment. Of course, Dimi was a very important player for us and we linked up very well on the pitch. He could help take the pressure off other players with the way he could create space and make things happen. But I am very comfortable with the way things are going at the moment and I feel that I am a very important part of the team, which is just what I wanted. I am feeling fit and confident. The coach has shown faith in me as have my team-mates and that’s just what I need in order to show what I am capable of doing on the pitch.”

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The 24-year-old has recorded six goals and two assists in 25 Premier League appearances this season and has shone with his pace and skill on the ball.

Featured Image: All rights reserved by Craig Ballantyne.

Sam is a football journalist focusing on English football at all levels and Spanish football. He also writes for Spain's biggest daily sports newspaper, MARCA, as well as The Boot Room. 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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