Jason Cundy hammered Mikel Arteta for making Ethan Nwaneri the youngest ever Premier League last weekend, Danny Murphy couldn’t understand the logic of blooding the 15-year old against Brentford and plenty of other, less-strident, opinions have been bounced around for and against since Arsenal’s 3-0 win at the Gtech Community Stadium. Evan Ferguson seemed like a good man to ask. The Brighton & Hove Albion and Republic of Ireland U21 striker was only 14 when he featured for Bohemians against Chelsea in a friendly at Dalymount Park. A competitive debut arrived two months later away to Derry City. It seems ridiculous to be turning to a teenager who can’t legally vote or drink a pint until next month as the voice of experience but, hey, Glenavon gave 13-year old Christopher Atherton a run in a cup tie against Dollington only last week. “I’d imagine they are in training with the first team a bit,” Ferguson pointed out. “I don’t think they get thrown straight on the bench, they’d be used to the environment. I’d say it has gone through the club, the parents and that.“ At the end of the day it’s up to the kid. If he feels he’d be able to do it, I don’t see an issue with it. It’s up to them at the end of the day. If he’s good enough there’s no reason that he shouldn’t be able to [play].” Ferguson was fortunate to have a dad, Barry, who had enjoyed his own professional career on both sides of the Irish Sea: Someone he could look to, who understood the game, and there was no pressure one way or the other coming from father to son. He didn’t find the Chelsea game daunting per se and feels no-one actually expects fireworks of a player that young, but the very appearance of a kid that age inevitably brings with it major attention on the assumption that greatness is coming. Nwaneri has been the subject of endless column inches and airtime this week and Ferguson recalled how his involvement against Chelsea caused such a stir at his school Coláiste na hInse in Laytown. The game itself was clearly a Rubicon. “I’d say it’s a lot different coming into a men’s dressing room. That’s the first time with fans so you’re walking out on the pitch and you’re looking around and it’s sort of completely different to schoolboy football. It all depends on a result. If doesn’t matter if you play good, you play bad, it’s all about winning at the end of the day. It’s a different mentality.” The same could be said for tomorrow’s European U21 Championship playoff first-leg against Israel at Tallaght and the return next Tuesday in Tel Aviva, and the recall of Aaron Connolly should only increase the chance of Jim Crawford’s side pulling through. “We all know what he brings to the squad,” said Ferguson. “He’s quick and fast. Jim picked him for a reason and it’s good to see Aaron back in the squad. He will bring a good bit to this team.” Connolly has had to leave Brighton on loan to keep his club career going forward. Ferguson is still in situ on England’s south coast and claimed his first senior goal for the club in a league cup tie against Forest Green last month. A hat-trick for the U23s against Leicester City followed in Premier League 2, but Graham Potter has since left for Chelsea and been replaced by Roberto De Zerbi. That adds an air of uncertainty for every player under contract at the Amex Stadium. Potter was good for Ferguson. He spoke after that Forest Green display about a player whose level of maturity was such that he sometimes forgot how young he was. There was an understanding that the club still needed to be “careful” in his development. That said, a new manager means a new slate and Brighton’s excellent start to the Premier League campaign has been achieved despite a familiar inability to score as much as they should. Maybe De Zerbi will see Ferguson as a means of changing that. “Yeah, it’s a good opportunity for everyone. He’ll be coming in seeing everyone, not for the first time, but personally for the first time, so it could be a good opportunity.”
It’s safe to say that Maury Wills influenced an entire generation of Southern California baseball fans.
Wills died Monday night at the age of 89, and he, Sandy Koufax, and Don Drysdale will be remembered as the beating hearts of Dodgers teams that won two World Series and three National League pennants between 1963 and 1966, and could have (and probably should have) won a fourth in 1962.
At the time, 1-0 and 2-1 scores were common, and a Dodger “rally” might have included a walk, a stolen base, a sacrifice bunt, and a scoring fly ball. Back then, Koufax or Drysdale might have been told, “Here’s your run. Now guard it.”
For example, when Koufax pitched a no-hitter in Philadelphia in 1964, Drysdale, who had been sent ahead to New York to prepare for his next start, heard the radio wrapup about his teammate’s historic third no-hitter and was quoted as saying, “I don’t care about history.” “Who triumphed?”
And it was a time when Wills, who had spent eight seasons in the minors and was hitting.
One month after being called up from Triple-A, he became the National League’s Most Valuable Player three years later, hitting six home runs and driving in 48 runs.
That’s because he stole 104 bases in 117 attempts while playing every game, all 165 of them, and nursing sore legs and hamstrings aggravated by each slide on the rock-hard Dodger Stadium infield. He scored 130 runs this season, accounting for 15.8% of the Dodgers’ total.
The team actually had a productive offensive season that year. Frank Howard hit 31 home runs, 13 in the new Chavez Ravine ballpark and 18 on the road, and drove in 119 runs, while Tommy Davis drove in 153, a club record. (We won’t go into detail about the three-game playoff with the Giants at the end of that season.)
Wills stole 376 bases in six seasons, from 1960 to 1965. During that time, his team led the major leagues in steals every year, and its totals more than doubled the per-team averages in both leagues from 1962 to 1966.
Wills stole 94 bases and scored 92 runs in 1965 for a team that finished eighth in the NL and 15th in baseball in runs per game (3.75) while winning its second World Series in three years.
It must have made no sense to the majority of the rest of the country. But if you grew up hearing Vin Scully’s voice, it made perfect sense. We loved little ball before it was even called little ball.
Home runs were what those jerks in San Francisco, Milwaukee, and Cincinnati would hit with a bludgeon instead of a scalpel. In 1965, the Koufax/Drysdale/Wills Dodgers hit 78 home runs, ranking dead last in the league, with Drysdale hitting seven of them. Nonetheless, they were champions.
It’s no surprise, then, that many of us who grew up in that era of (offensive) limits now intersperse our “Get off my lawn” rants with “Why don’t they (modern players) learn how to bunt?”
Should Wills, despite his modest offensive resume, have been in the Hall of Fame for a long time? I think so. When I became a Hall of Fame voter in 1989, ten years into my BBWAA membership, I voted for Wills every year until he was removed from the ballot in 1992.
My reasoning, then and now: Those who change the game deserve to be immortalized. Few changed it as dramatically as Wills, who turned what we now consider an undervalued asset – base stealing – into a weapon, paving the way for people like Lou Brock, Rickey Henderson, and Tim Raines in the years to come.
In any case, I believe it is a compelling argument. Wills was passed over again by the Golden Era committee last winter, receiving only three votes from the panel of 16, nine fewer than required for induction.
But consider this: If a player is so influential that the opposing team will dig up its infield to prevent him from gaining traction, you might be able to make a Hall of Fame case for him.
Wills’ reminiscences over the last few days have included the series in San Francisco in August 1962, when the Giants overwatered the path between first and second bases to slow him down. But that was only the beginning of the story.
Giants grounds crew chief Matty Schwab and his son Jerry went above and beyond at the request of Manager Alvin Dark. They excavated topsoil, replaced it with a mixture of sand, peat moss, and water, and then covered it with topsoil.
Leo Durocher, who was well-versed in the dark arts as the Giants’ manager and was now the Dodgers’ third base coach, discovered the swamp and informed umpire Tom Gorman. Gorman summoned Matty Schwab and told him to fix it, which involved hauling off the offending soil, mixing some dirt in it, and bringing it back in a wheelbarrow as filler. The final product was even looser than before.
Wills didn’t steal a base in the series, but the Giants swept to pull within 212 games, and the seeds of a comeback were planted.
(It’s on pages 77 and 78 of my book, “Dodgers! An Informal History from Flatbush to Chavez Ravine.”)
Wills had a lifetime OPS+ of 88, which was 12 points lower than the league average. He hit 20 home runs in his 14-year career. Despite this, he was a seven-time All-Star, a two-time Gold Glove winner at shortstop, and, most importantly, a three-time World Series champion (1959, ’63, and ’65).
He created a legacy that base stealers after him expanded. And it would certainly be fitting if next year’s rule changes indeed allow the stolen base to regain prominence.
After all, some of us never de-emphasized it.
Brighton’s new head coach Roberto De Zerbi appears to tick all the same boxes predecessor Graham Potter did across his 40 months in charge. It made sense to the hierarchy that if you had a successful appointment in Potter — who bases his playing style on controlling possession, with an ability to improve players and teams — why not choose somebody like De Zerbi, with a similar track record and principles, to maintain your club’s upward trajectory? Brighton owner-chairman Tony Bloom’s data-driven and proactive recruitment policy had identified the 43-year-old Italian as an outstanding candidate among potential successors for the day Potter left, owing primarily to his work over the past four seasons with Sassuolo in Serie A and Shakhtar Donetsk in Ukraine. A series of character references built up a comprehensive profile of De Zerbi’s management style. On September 8, when Potter’s exit to Chelsea was confirmed, Bloom and his executive team made their move. At the first meeting with De Zerbi, Bloom, chief executive Paul Barber and technical director David Weir were blown away by how much he knew about the evolution in playing style at Brighton under Potter, as well as the players he would have at his disposal. From that moment, they didn’t look beyond De Zerbi, who was a free agent after leaving Shakhtar in July following the Russian invasion of Ukraine. There was no cause to disturb other head coaches catching the eye with impressive work at their clubs, such as Kjetil Knutsen at Bodo/Glimt in Norway or Bo Svensson of Germany’s Mainz.
Brighton moved quickly for De Zerbi (Photo: Mustafa Ciftci/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Further meetings followed to finalise arrangements with De Zerbi, his representatives and the backroom team he is bringing with him from his days at Sassuolo and then Shakhtar after Potter took five members of his coaching and recruitment staff with him to Chelsea.
De Zerbi watched Brighton lose 2-1 to Potter’s Chelsea in a behind-closed-doors friendly at the Amex on Saturday — when both clubs were without a fixture owing to Premier League postponements — then flew back to Italy, before the confirmation on Sunday evening of his appointment on a four-year contract, subject to work permit formalities.
Potter used to be the head coach in the Premier League nearest in philosophy and playing style to Pep Guardiola. But now that’s De Zerbi — another great admirer of the Manchester City manager. Brighton think they have landed an ideal, model-sustaining replacement for “Potterball”. Prepare yourselves for ‘De Zerbismo’. When Potter set out on his coaching journey 14 years ago with Leeds Carnegie in the Northern Counties East League, his ideas on the way the game should be played were shaped by watching Guardiola’s Barcelona side. Mutual regard has developed from a distance since Potter joined Guardiola in the Premier League in 2019, but De Zerbi’s links with him are far greater. The two men sat next to each other at a Manchester restaurant last month in a gathering that included some notable figures from Italian football.
Bivio #DeZerbi: accontentarsi di una ‘piccola’ o aspettare una big? Tra il no al #Bologna e la cena con #Guardiola… https://t.co/xmOr4fLUSe — calciomercato.com (@cmdotcom) September 10, 2022 Behind De Zerbi (second from left) is his new match analyst Andrea Maldera, a former technical coach at AC Milan and Ukraine’s national team under Andriy Shevchenko. At the head of the table is Manuel Estiarte, a long-serving member of Guardiola’s backroom team. To Estairte’s right is Marcello Quinto, who played under De Zerbi at Foggia in Italy and is expected to join his Brighton staff. Quinto worked with Alberto Aquilani last season with Fiorentina’s Under-19 Coppa Italia-winning team. Enzo Maresca, formerly coach of Manchester City’s development squad, is there, too, having returned to the club after his dismissal from Parma in Serie A to replace Juanma Lillo as assistant manager to Guardiola. In front of Maresca is the former Roma midfielder Daniele De Rossi, who was part of Roberto Mancini’s staff with the national team and a candidate at the time for the first-team coaching role at Palermo, the latest club to join the City Football Group stable. In front of De Rossi is former Serbia international defender Aleksandar Kolarov, who spent seven years as a City player, including under Guardiola. They were all in Manchester to watch Guardiola at work in training. De Zerbi and Guardiola played in different eras for Brescia, which is also the city where the former was born. In 2013, when De Zerbi launched his coaching career with Serie D amateurs Darfo Boario, he travelled to the Dolomite Mountains in north east Italy to observe Guardiola in pre-season training with his then-club Bayern Munich. Guardiola returns the respect, always taking interest in other coaches with like-minded styles who are doing good work. He was an occasional spectator at the Mapei Stadium, when time permitted, to watch De Zerbi’s team during his three seasons in charge at Sassuolo. The disciple can sometimes teach the master. De Zerbi’s tactic at Shakhtar of playing two full-backs very narrow, with a central midfielder in front of two central defenders, was replicated by Guardiola with mixed results at City at the start of last season and on the opening weekend of the current one in the 2-0 victory at West Ham. But before Shakhtar, De Zerbi had made his breakthrough at a village club from northern Italy… Sassuolo had never been in Serie A until 10 years ago. De Zerbi transformed both their style of play and performance levels. He didn’t steer Sassuolo to European qualification, as Eusebio Di Francesco did in 2015-16, but he kept them punching above their weight with finishes of 11th and eighth (twice) in Serie A. They missed out, on goal difference, to Roma last year for qualification to the inaugural Europa Conference League — and Roma, under new management with Jose Mourinho replacing Paulo Fonseca, went on to win the competition. Sassuolo’s sustained progression under De Zerbi heightened his appeal to Bloom. Potter did something similar at Brighton over the same time frame, changing the style of play while delivering finishes of 15th, 16th and ninth in the Premier League. As the chart below demonstrates, De Zerbi’s Sassuolo are the only club in the “big five” European leagues since 2017-18 to have improved their possession game more drastically than Brighton did in Potter’s 2019-20 debut season. De Zerbi has become renowned for getting his teams playing out from the back, irrespective of who they were facing or the pressure on the game, luring opponents into playing a high press and then turning it against them. One pattern of play at Sassuolo, recommended by De Zerbi’s goalkeeping coach Giorgio Bianchi, saw the full-backs go high and wide, with two central midfielders positioned on the edge of the penalty area. That type of outside-the-box thinking is reminiscent of the tactical nuances introduced to Brighton by Potter. De Zerbi’s style stems initially from a 15-year playing career as an attacking midfielder who enjoyed being on the ball for — among many other clubs in his homeland — AC Milan and Napoli. This spirit marks him out from iconoclastic Italian coaching greats such as Arrigo Sacchi, who led Milan to two European Cups and the national team to the 1994 World Cup final, where they lost on penalties to Brazil. De Zerbi likes to say he coaches with a No 10 on his back, remarking to Italian newspaper La Repubblica: “The good of the team is also the sum of all our personal ambitions. In this, I’m different from Sacchi.“ Sacchi only sees football in terms of the collective. I, on the other hand, am convinced that a team can be developed by getting the best out of individuals — as long as it doesn’t lead to the selfish and the egotistical.” De Zerbi has three core principles. “I’m interested in individual skill and technique, without which you can’t keep the ball in your own half,” he says, “an understanding of the game, which comes down to concepts like the right posture with which to receive a pass and being able to pass to a team-mate’s preferred foot, and the courage to accept you may make a mistake.” A video that went viral shows De Zerbi explaining the advantage of controlling the ball with the sole of your foot.
#DeZerbi explaining the ‘provocative’ function of using the sole. A quote that says a lot about the way he understands ball-possession: a game of attraction and adaptation rather than a linear progression from A to B. pic. twitter.com/aJZIgDBw73
— Dario Pergolizzi (@dariopergolizzi) June 17, 2022
Guardiola isn’t the only coach from whom De Zerbi has learnt.
When Palermo sacked him in November 2016 after only 12 weeks, he acquired a mobile number for Marcelo Bielsa, sent the Argentinian a text and got invited to watch him take training at French club Lille.
This has led to the perception of De Zerbi as being different from other Italian coaches, and something of a philosopher. He once couldn’t wait to wrap up a post-match interview with Sky Italia because he wanted to go home so he could watch Bielsa’s Leeds on TV.
“I’ve tried to take things from teams that excite me,” he told Spanish newspaper El Pais. “Maurizio Sarri’s Napoli. Luciano Spalletti’s Roma, when Francesco Totti was a false nine. Guardiola’s Barca, Bayern and City, Germany’s 2016 World Cup-winning team, Lucien Favre’s Borussia Monchengladbach, Imanol Alguacil’s Real Sociedad, Quique Setien’s Las Palmas, Bielsa’s Athletic (Bilbao). I’ve added my own ideas to all these.”
But De Zerbi has pushed back on the philosopher tag. “Don’t make me pass for a philosopher,” he has said. “Every coach has their own scale with which to make value judgements. In football, the word philosopher is used in a derogatory sense.“ It is true, though, that I like to play attacking football. Eighty per cent of my work in the week is dedicated to the attacking phase. That’s why I use pre-emptive marking structures (his attacks are structured in such a way that the team are set up to defend the transition). “ If I limited the amount of work I do on the defensive phase to just 20 per cent, we would lose every game. But I don’t. When I train the attack, I pay close attention to our positioning so we aren’t unbalanced when the ball is lost. I have united both phases.” De Zerbi, in common with a lot of Italian coaches including Tottenham’s Antonio Conte, calls himself a “hammer”, which refers to hammering concepts into players. He relates this to his playing career. De Zerbi only made three appearances in Serie A but some claim he had the talent to play more often. He says: “Maybe I was better than I showed but I got what I deserved and that was three games. I was a No 10 in an era when the 4-4-2 prevailed. I wanted to have fun on the pitch. I wouldn’t willingly change my position. If I wasn’t convinced by something, I didn’t easily adapt.
De Zerbi has talked about how his experiences as a player have shaped him as a coach (Photo: Pierre-Philippe Marcou/AFP via Getty Images
“This has influenced who I am as a coach. Compared to coaches in my day, I will really go out of my way to accommodate the skill sets of my players and find the right position for each and every one of them.“ But there’s a flipside. Given how much I bang my head against a wall trying to put them in their best positions, I am three times more demanding than the coaches who wouldn’t do that for me.” De Zerbi’s football has been polarising in Italy. It is a threat to the old order. He has become a cult figure and has a lot of supporters on the punditry circuit. One is Daniele Adani, the former Inter Milan and Brescia centre-back, who was for a time the closest Sky Italia had to their own Gary Neville. Adani believes De Zerbi’s football is the future, and that has started a culture war with Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri about what constitutes good football. Italian football is now divided into two camps, the “giochisti” and the “risultatisti” (performance-based versus results-based). To Adani, Allegri is a results-oriented coach for whom the end justifies the means. De Zerbi was considered part of the new wave, more modern and in tune with trends around Europe. To some, he personified the rejection of Italian football’s traditions. “I don’t see it like that,” De Zerbi says. “I love Italy. I feel 100 per cent Italian and I respect tradition, because even though Italy won the 2006 World Cup playing to its old strength, I felt part of that. I was happy and proud.“ The question I ask myself is: do I like traditional Italian football? Do I want to sit back and play on the counter? No. It’s not what I stand for.” When Italy won the European Championship last year playing a fluid, possession-based attacking style under Mancini, it validated De Zerbi’s way of thinking. De Zerbi is linked with Potter through their ability to improve players, regardless of age or experience. The squad Potter has left behind in Brighton is full of players who flourished during his tenure, from 24-year-old goalkeeper Robert Sanchez to 31-year-old midfielder Pascal Gross. Hertha Berlin’s Kevin-Prince Boateng, who played under De Zerbi at Sassuolo in the first half of the 2018-19 season, raves about his methods. The 35-year-old midfielder puts him above other top coaches he’s worked under, including Jurgen Klopp at Borussia Dortmund and Allegri at Milan.
De Zerbi with Andrea Pirlo in May 2021 (Photo: Alessandro Sabattini/Getty Images) Boateng (Barcelona), Stefano Sensi (Inter) and Merih Demiral (Juventus) all earned big moves after working with De Zerbi. The parallels with Potter at Brighton in this respect are clear. Ben White (Arsenal), Yves Bissouma (Tottenham Hotspur) and Marc Cucurella (Chelsea) have all joined big clubs after working under him. De Zerbi made Sassuolo better while selling top players and improving others. Sensi, signed from Cesena for £4million ($4.5m), went to Inter for nearly £25million. Manuel Locatelli, Domenico Berardi and Giacomo Raspadori were selected for Mancini’s victorious Euros squad. Old traditions die hard, however. Detractors questioned De Zerbi’s record and what they regard as a disproportionately high profile. De Zerbi lost a play-off final with Foggia against Pisa in the third tier, Palermo sacked him after just a few months following seven defeats in succession, and he couldn’t quite save Benevento from relegation. What has he ever won, eh? Others such as Sarri said it was Serie A’s loss and that he would miss him when De Zerbi left his homeland in May last year to take over from Luis Castro at Shakhtar. “I wanted to test myself in a new environment,” De Zerbi told Italian newspaper Il Corriere dello Sport. “A multi-lingual dressing room, the Champions League, preparing for eight games in 25 days. I needed it and wanted a bigger challenge.“There are lots of ways to coach a football team and I’m aligned with the club’s objectives. You train either to win leagues, get into Europe or stay up. Here, I have to win and that’s it, testing out my ideas.” The Russian invasion limited his stay to 14 months, but there was enough evidence in his 30 games to resonate with Brighton that De Zerbi was the ideal candidate to build on the club-record ninth-place finish achieved under Potter last season. Shakhtar lifted the Ukrainian Super Cup at the expense of Dynamo Kyiv, defeated Genk and Monaco to reach the group stage of the Champions League and were top when the war-curtailed league season ended in April. No champions were crowned. Shakhtar sporting director Darijo Srna, speaking to Spanish media outlet AS about De Zerbi, said: “He was our first, second and third choice. He plays incredible football, his style is like tiki-taka and he’s got Brazilian players to do it.“ De Zerbi is at the level of Guardiola in his style and the ideas of the game.” Italy beckoned again for De Zerbi after Shakhtar, but he turned down Bologna when they sacked Sinisa Mihajlovic two weeks ago. De Zerbi said he would have taken the job if his friend Mihajlovic, who was diagnosed in 2019 with leukaemia, had resigned. Morally, it didn’t sit right with him to replace someone he felt deserved more time. Mihajlovic’s wife called De Zerbi a great man. His grasp of English is reasonable and he can comfortably hold one-to-one conversations but to start, he is expected to be more cautious in media duties.
De Zerbi impressed Brighton with his knowledge of their squad and style (Photo: Getty Images ) At Shakhtar, he didn’t use as much English as he would have liked, as there were different interpreters for a multi-lingual squad. That didn’t hold De Zerbi back and at Brighton, he can also lean on some members of his backroom team, whose English is more fluent. De Zerbi has recently refreshed his staff with the addition of Maldera and Quinto is expected to follow. At Sassuolo and Shakhtar, De Zerbi also had fitness coaches Vincenzo Teresa, Marcattilio Marcattilii and Agostino Tibaudi, plus method coach Michele Cavalli. This package of expertise is much-needed at Brighton after Potter left for Chelsea with Billy Reid (assistant), Bjorn Hamberg and Bruno Saltor (coaches), Ben Roberts (goalkeeping coach) and Kyle Macaulay (player recruitment analyst). An unusual three-week break in fixtures, arising from the death of the Queen and the postponement of the home game against Crystal Palace caused originally by clashing rail strikes, also gave Brighton an additional advantage of plenty of time to do their homework. Ambitious and still relatively young, Brighton believe they have the perfect answer to Potter’s sudden departure. Additional contributors: Pol Ballus and John Muller (Top Piero Cruciatti/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Despite his inexperience, Arblaster – who will turn 19 in January – has impressed both coaching staff and teammates with his mature performances and was rewarded with a league debut for his boyhood club, Hull City, after making his first-team debut earlier in the season in the EFL Cup. “Playing for Sheffield United was obviously a dream come true for me, having supported them my entire life,” Arblaster said. Key Blade’s candid admission about his contract status, with a deal set to expire in the summer
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“It’s a huge accomplishment that my family and I are very proud of.”
Arblaster has been a United player since the age of six, and Paul Heckingbottom, the Blades manager and former U23s manager, believes he will be a first-team regular in the coming years.
“This is where I want to be and who I want to play for,” Arblaster told SUTV.
“Being in and around first-team players, as well as training with them every day, has only helped me at this age.” So I’m on a high. Oliver Arblaster celebrates victory for his boyhood club Sheffield United against Hull City: Sportimage / Simon Bellis United suffers a significant injury setback as the Bosnian FA issues a troubling verdict. “Being in and around people who have played hundreds of career games in the league obviously helps my game.” I’m doing everything I can, day in and day out, to learn from them and improve my game. When asked for a footballing hero, Arblaster mentioned midfielder Ollie Norwood as a player he keeps an eye on the most in training and games. When Arblaster was a ball-boy in front of the Kop, the two were pictured celebrating one of Sharp’s goals, and they are now teammates at Bramall Lane. In the presence of some of his proud family, Oliver Arblaster signs a new contract with Sheffield United: Sportimage/Simon Bellis Former Manchester United player takes over as Owls manager for the first time. “He was constantly scoring goals, and who doesn’t look up to him?” Sharp, according to Arblaster. “I used to have a season ticket when I was younger, then I went ball-boying in front of the Kop, and now I’m in and around it.” Isn’t this every Sheffield United fan’s dream? So far, I’m enjoying it.” While you’re here, please consider signing up for our new discounted sports-only package. All the information is available HERE. Your help is greatly appreciated. Football Editor Chris Holt
According to a respected football research group, Manchester United has done more to inflate player transfer fees than any other club in Europe’s big five leagues over the last decade.
According to the CIES Football Observatory, United have overspent on players by £209 million (€238.4 million) since July 2012. According to the study, United spent £1.4 billion (€1.6 billion) on 33 players over a 10-year period, when their market value was estimated to be £1.19 billion (€1.36 billion).
The Italian club was estimated to have paid £204 million (€233 million) over the odds for players in the last decade, while the French champions were estimated to have paid £142 million (€162 million).
United have been chastised for recent transfer fees, most notably the £85 million (€97 million) paid to Leicester for Harry Maguire and the £50 million (€57 million) paid to Crystal Palace for Aaron Wan-Bissaka in 2019.
As the first major tournament approaches, Virgil van Dijk is not haunted by an injury nightmare.
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Christoph Freund will be appointed as Chelsea’s new sporting director.
Wan-Bissaka has only played four minutes of football this season under Erik ten Hag and appears to be surplus to requirements, while Maguire, United’s captain, has lost his starting spot under the new manager.
United’s £227 million (€259 million) outlay on six new signings this summer was their largest close-season outlay, with some targets costing significantly more than their initial valuations.
After having an initial £53 million (€60 million) bid for Antony rejected by Ajax, United ended up paying £85.5 million (€97.5 million) for the Brazilian forward, a month after spending £57 million (€65 million) on Argentina defender Lisandro Martinez from the Dutch club, nearly £20 million (€23 million) more than their opening offer.
Since 2012, Aston Villa has been ranked as the second-worst Premier League club in terms of overspending by the CIES Football Observatory. Villa were accused of overpaying for players by £131 million (€149 million).
According to the study, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Tottenham Hotspur, and Brighton were the only three Premier League clubs out of 36 to invest less than expected to complete the transfer deals evaluated.
CIES cited this as confirmation of the Premier League’s “key role” in “driving up inflation on the transfer market.”
The CIES Football Observatory is a research group within the International Centre for Sports Studies that specializes in football statistics. (2022 Telegraph Media Group Ltd)
As the first major tournament approaches, Virgil van Dijk is not haunted by an injury nightmare.
Kylian Mbappé refuses to participate in France team photo due to image rights concerns.
Christoph Freund will be appointed as Chelsea’s new sporting director.
 Telegraph Media Group Limited
Minkah Fitzpatrick didn’t win Pittsburgh’s season-opening game on Sunday, but the former Alabama All-American made sure the Steelers didn’t lose it.After Cincinnati scored a touchdown on the final snap of the fourth quarter to tie the game, Fitzpatrick raced in to block the extra-point attempt that would have given the Bengals a one-point victory. Instead, the Steelers won 23-20 in overtime. “A lot of people underestimate Minkah and what he’s capable of doing, whether it’s being a box safety, a ballhawk, or even blocking kicks.” Fitzgerald’s block came against a Cincinnati unit that was playing at a disadvantage. Clark Harris, the Bengals’ long snapper, was injured in his 202nd regular-season game, and tight end Mitchell Wilcox was on the football for the extra-point snap.Fitzpatrick was among the 53 former Alabama players who took the field on the first Sunday of the NFL’s 103rd season.Four other former Alabama players were involved in the Pittsburgh-Cincinnati game: Najee Harris started at running back for the Steelers. Harris gained 23 yards on 10 carries and caught two passes for three yards and a touchdown. With 8:46 left in the first half, Harris scored on a 1-yard reception to give Pittsburgh a 17-3 lead. Harris left the game with a foot injury and did not return in overtime. RELATED: 14 NFL TEAM CAPTAINS HAVE ALABAMA FOOTBALL ROOTS Hassenauer appeared but did not record any stats. Steelers cornerback Levi Wallace recorded three tackles and a pass breakup in his first game with the team. Wallace played in his first game without starting in his career. Wallace started 52 regular-season games and five playoff games for the Buffalo Bills over four seasons. Wallace suffered an ankle injury on a 2-point conversion pass by Cincinnati in the third quarter and did not return to the game. Jonah Williams started at left offensive tackle for the Bengals.In the other Sunday games:New Orleans Saints 27, Atlanta Falcons 26 Evans had six tackles and a fumble recovery in his first game with Atlanta. Evans returned the fumble recovery 10 yards to the New Orleans 36-yard line, but the Atlanta offense fumbled the ball back to the Saints. Saints running back Mark Ingram gained 22 yards on four carries and caught one pass for one yard. RELATED: MARK INGRAM BACK IN A FAMILIAR NUMBER FOR SAINTS Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley is suspended by the commissioner and is not eligible to play.Cleveland Browns 26, Carolina Panthers 24 Panthers offensive lineman Bradley Bozeman (Handley) played but did not record any stats. Panthers guard Deonte Brown (Austin) is on the practice squad and is not eligible to play. Cooper had three receptions for 17 yards in his debut with the Browns. Cooper caught the final pass for a 9-yard gain before Cade York made a 58-yard field goal as time expired in Cleveland’s victory. Browns running back Jerome Ford returned a kickoff 29 yards and made a tackle on special teams in his NFL debut. Browns tight end Miller Forristall is on the practice squad and is ineligible to play. Harrison had two tackles and a sack for the Browns, who started Jedrick Wills Jr. at left offensive tackle. Chicago Bears 19, San Francisco 49ers 10 Eddie Jackson started at safety for the Bears. Jackson had three tackles and a pass intercepted. Jackson’s 11th career interception came on a third-and-5 throw by San Francisco quarterback Trey Lance. With 9:42 remaining, Jackson returned the interception 26 yards to put Chicago on the San Francisco 21-yard line. Bears offensive lineman Alex Leatherwood was designated as a game-day inactive. Philadelphia Eagles 38, Detroit Lions 35 Lions defensive tackle Isaiah Buggs made three tackles and broke up a pass. Landon Dickerson started at left guard for the Eagles. Jalen Hurts started at quarterback for the Eagles. Hurts completed 18-of-32 passes for 243 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions and ran 17 times for 90 yards and one touchdown. Hurts scored Philadelphia’s first points on a 1-yard run with 12:56 left in the first half, capping a 13-play, 82-yard drive that tied the score at 7-7. Hurts is tied for second in NFL history with 14 touchdown runs in his first 20 starts. Only Cam Newton had more in his first 20 NFL starts, with 17 in his first 20. Eagles cornerback Josh Jobe played but did not record any stats. Jobe made his NFL debut in this game. Lions center Ross Pierschbacher was on the practice squad and was ineligible to play. DeVonta Smith started at wide receiver for the Eagles. Lions cornerback Saivion Smith is on the practice squad and is ineligible to play. Lions wide receiver Jameson Williams is on reserve/non-football injury and is ineligible to play.Indianapolis Colts 20, Houston Texans 20, OT Colts cornerback Tony Brown played but did not record any stats. Brown was promoted from the practice squad to play in the game. Texans linebacker Christian Harris is on injured reserve and will not be able to play. Autauga Academy’s Howard caught two passes for 38 yards and two touchdowns. Howard, who was released by the Buffalo Bills on Aug. 30, made his first Houston game the third in his career with two touchdown receptions and the first since the 2018 season. Ryan Kelly started at center for the Colts. Texans wide receiver John Metchie III is on reserve/non-football injury and is ineligible to play.Miami Dolphins 20, New England Patriots 7 Patriots defensive tackle Christian Barmore registered a quarterback hit. Damien Harris started at running back for the Patriots, and he made five tackles. Harris rushed for 48 yards on nine carries and caught two passes for 10 yards for the Patriots, who were without linebacker Anfernee Jennings (Dadeville). Mac Jones started at quarterback for the Patriots. Jones finished 21-of-30 passes for 213 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. Jones also fumbled, which Miami recovered for a touchdown. With 4:44 left in the third quarter, Jones threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Ty Montgomery. RELATED: MAC JONES DEALING WITH BACK INJURY AFTER SEASON-OPENER Patriots defensive end LaBryan Ray (James Clemens) is on the practice squad and is ineligible to play. Tua Tagovailoa started at quarterback for the Dolphins. Tagovailoa completed 23-of-33 passes for 270 yards, one touchdown, and no interceptions. RELATED: DOLPHINS WIN 4-0 AGAINST PATRIOTS WITH TUA TAGOVAILOA AT QB Waddle had four receptions for 69 yards and one touchdown, as well as an 8-yard run. With 18 seconds left in the first half, Waddle took a fourth-down pass 42 yards for a touchdown. Patriots outside linebacker Mack Wilson (Carver-Montgomery) made three tackles, including one behind the line of scrimmage. Baltimore Ravens 24, New York Jets 9 Ravens cornerback Jalyn Armour-Davis (St. Paul’s Episcopal) made one tackle on defense and one tackle on special teams in his NFL debut. In his first game with the Ravens, Drake rushed for 31 yards on 11 carries and caught a 15-yard pass. Marlon Humphrey (Hoover) started at cornerback. Humphrey had seven tackles, a quarterback hit, and a fumble recovery. Humphrey recovered a fumble at the Baltimore 15-yard line with 14:03 remaining in the game. The Jets started Mosley (Theodore) at linebacker. Quinnen Williams (Wenonah) started at defensive end for the Jets, making 11 tackles. Jonathan Allen started at defensive tackle for the Washington Commanders, who defeated the Jacksonville Jaguars 28-22. Allen had three tackles, one sack, and two tackles for loss. Phidarian Mathis, a Commanders defensive tackle, played but did not record any stats. Mathis suffered a knee injury in his NFL debut, forcing him to leave the game. RELATED: ALABAMA ROOKIE CARTED OFF IN HIS FIRST NFL GAME Daron Payne (Shades Valley) started at defensive tackle for the Commanders. Payne had three tackles, one sack, three quarterback hits, and two pass breakups for the Commanders. Commanders running back Brian Robinson Jr. (Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa) is on the reserve/non-football injury list and is ineligible to play. Cam Robinson started at left offensive tackle for the Jaguars. Commanders wide receiver Cam Sims was targeted once but did not have a reception in the game. Averett suffered a thumb injury during the game. Raiders guard Lester Cotton (Central-Tuscaloosa) played but did not record any stats. Raiders running back Josh Jacobs started. Jacobs gained 57 yards on 10 carries and caught a 16-yard pass. Chargers punter JK Scott averaged 49.0 yards on four punts and had a net of 48.0 yards. Scott had a 49-yard punt that was downed at the Las Vegas 2-yard line, a 51-yarder that was returned 4 yards to the Las Vegas 23, a 49-yarder that resulted in a fair catch at the Las Vegas 40, and a 47-yarder with a return for no gain to the Las Vegas 21 in his first game with the Chargers.Minnesota Vikings 23, Green Bay Packers 7 Reed had four tackles, one behind the line of scrimmage. Vikings tight end Irv Smith Jr. was targeted twice but did not catch a pass. Smith was injured last season and had elbow surgery in August, so Dalvin Tomlinson started at defensive end for the Vikings. Tomlinson had one tackle and one fumble recovery. With 12:06 remaining in the third quarter, Tomlinson recovered a fumble at the Green Bay 33-yard line. Minnesota capitalized on the turnover with a field goal to take a 20-0 lead. New York Giants 21, Tennessee Titans 20 Titans defensive end Da’Shawn Hand played but did not record any stats. Derrick Henry started at running back for the Titans. The Giants’ Xavier McKinney started at safety and rushed for 82 yards on 21 carries. McKinney had five tackles in his first NFL game. Evan Neal started at right offensive tackle for the Giants. Aaron Robinson started at cornerback for the Giants. Robinson had four tackles on defense, one special teams tackle, and one pass breakup.Tampa Bay Buccaneers 19, Dallas Cowboys 3 Trevon Diggs started at cornerback for the Cowboys. Diggs had three tackles and two tackle breaks in his first game with the Buccaneers. Julio Jones (Foley) caught three passes for 69 yards and ran twice for 17 yards. Jones hadn’t had a rushing attempt since the 2019 season and had only carried the ball twice in one game – on Nov. 6, 2011. Outside linebacker Terrell Lewis of the Los Angeles Rams made his first NFL interception in the game. Week 1 concludes on Monday, when the Denver Broncos face the Seattle Seahawks at 7:15 p.m. Lumen Field in Seattle, CDT. The game will be broadcast on ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, and ESPN Deportes.FOR MORE OF AL.COM’S NFL COVERAGE, VISIT OUR NFL PAGEMark Inabinett is a sports reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter at @AMarkG1. Readers should be aware that if they make a purchase after clicking on one of our affiliate links, we may receive a commission.