Bilic backs Payet to improve squad

first_imgSlaven Bilic has backed new recruit Dimitri Payet to “make every player better than they actually are” at West Ham. Hammers boss Bilic hailed the £11million summer capture from Marseille as his “number one target” but admitted he will chase two more Upton Park additions. France playmaker Payet is set for his full competitive debut as West Ham host Astra Giurgui in Thursday night’s Europa League third qualifying round. Press Association Former Arsenal star Song spent last season on loan at West Ham but faces three months on the sidelines with ankle trouble. The 27-year-old is locked in negotiations over the length of a potential Hammers contract, with Barcelona ready to let him leave on a free transfer. West Ham have also been linked with a £12million bid for Fenerbahce striker Moussa Sow – with Bilic refusing to bide his time as he seeks further squad improvements. “That is very tricky because you can’t wait that long,” said Bilic when asked if securing Europa League football would boost West Ham bargaining power. “So we will have to risk one way or another. “Like any other manager you put your players on the sheet and you go ‘we are ok, we are ok’. “But considering that this is the Premier League and we might play in Europe and the Premier League is very tough and very long then of course I would like to have one or two. “But we are not talking about five, six, seven or whatever. “I am happy with my team and squad, we might need one or two. “You have to spend. You have to be clever of course but even Einstein would have to spend money. “So of course there is a budget and fair play so you have to calculate and do it. “I have done it with big help from the chairman and the board and the scouts and my staff. “We bought really good players. We didn’t buy players to just add numbers.” The former Croatia manager conceded West Ham cannot hang fire on transfer plans while they fight to secure European football for the season ahead. “It’s still early days but Dimitri it’s not only my opinion but I know so far he’s not only a great player, he’s a great professional, he’s a good lad,” said Bilic. “He has mixed already. He’s the kind of player I thought we really needed, that’s going to make every player better than they actually are. “He’s got everything. He likes to take responsibility. “He was my number one target and I am grateful to chairman that we got him. And it was done like that – not in four weeks. “He’s doing really well at the moment. Not only him but all the guys but you ask about him. “It may go a bit up and down. But we’re going to help him and he’s going to help us.” Bilic remains confident West Ham can yet complete a permanent deal to bring Barcelona midfielder Alex Song back to Upton Park for the season ahead. last_img read more

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Juve to Smash Record for Higuain

first_imgJuventus are set to smash Italy’s transfer record by snatching striker Gonzalo Higuain from Napoli after triggering his release clause of €94.7 million, Italian media said yesterday.All that remains is the Argentine poacher’s signature, which is regarded as a formality, local press said.“It’s all true. Gonzalo Higuain will live in Turin,” declared the Turin daily La Stampa, considered the voice of the Agnelli family – which runs Juventus.He will be “the lethal weapon” that the Italian champions have been crying out for, it added, calling the move the “coup of the summer”.Higuain, 28, who has been linked with a number of top clubs around Europe, is expected to sign for four years with a salary of 7.5 million euros a year.The transfer – the most expensive in the history of Italian football – is a warning of intent from Juve, who could recoup more than that with the possible sale to Manchester United of midfielder Paul Pogba.That transfer saga is reported to be ongoing.Despite helping Napoli to second place behind Juve last season, Higuain is reportedly keen to move to Turin because of the club’s raised profile among Europe’s elite after several years on the sidelines.He joined Napoli for 40 million euros from Real Madrid in 2013 and has gone on to become one of the most exciting, and most consistent strikers in Italy’s top flight.He hit a stunning 36 goals last season to break Gunnar Nordahl’s 66-year-old record of 35 goals for AC Milan in a 20-team season, which he achieved in 1950.At Juventus, Higuain would join up with fellow Argentina international striker Paulo Dybala, who finished Serie A’s second-highest scorer last season on 19.Share this:FacebookRedditTwitterPrintPinterestEmailWhatsAppSkypeLinkedInTumblrPocketTelegramlast_img read more

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Penalties might be the Trojans’ downfall

first_imgRemember how Arizona State unraveled a year ago? A promising beginning to the 2011 season, punctuated by a 43-22 victory over USC in the fourth week, quickly spiraled into mediocrity as the Sun Devils lost their final five games.You didn’t need to be a college football pundit to determine the source of their woes: a lack of discipline.Cheap shot · In 2011, senior safety T.J. McDonald was suspended for the first half of the game against Colorado for “head-hunting” receivers. – Carlo Acenas | Daily TrojanMore specifically, the Sun Devils finished 120th in the Football Bowl Subdivision in penalty yards per game; I might add that the FBS only fielded 120 teams in 2011.This unfortunate distinction effectively doomed former coach Dennis Erickson’s career in Tempe, completing a five-year stretch in which his teams, outside of a middling 76th finish in his first year, never finished better than 108th in the nation in penalty yards per game. By the end of Erickson’s tenure, the patients were undeniably running the asylum.In advance of last season’s matchup at Arizona State, USC then-junior quarterback Matt Barkley famously called out middle linebacker Vontaze Burfict, who earned a whopping 17 personal fouls in his career, as a dirty player who seeks to injure opponents intentionally. Barkley later earned Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott’s reprimand for stating the obvious, levying a character attack on a fellow Pac-12 player.Now that Arizona State is only averaging 4.5 penalties per game and Burfict has played his way out of the 2012 NFL draft’s first round and into undrafted free agent status, who is the NCAA’s most penalized football team, you might ask? Who is no. 120, if you will?The statistics don’t lie: It’s No. 10 USC. The Trojans average 10 penalties per game — more than double the number the incumbent bad boy Sun Devils post. In fact, USC’s 78.3 penalty yards per game is essentially on par with 2011 Arizona State’s 79.8 figure, which was universally panned as outrageous at the time.Now, USC isn’t a dirty team — just undisciplined. Perhaps the only Trojan with a reputation as a head-hunter is senior safety T.J. McDonald, who was suspended for the first half of USC’s 42-17 victory over Colorado last season for repeated targeting of defenseless receivers.Reviewing the distribution of USC’s penalties this season, sloppiness on offense is the greatest offender. Of the team’s 60 penalties, 29 have come on either a delay of game, false start or holding penalty.Responsibility for these types of penalties falls primarily on the quarterback and offensive line, which is surprising because USC returns five of six starters from the 2011 group, the only change being offensive tackle Aundrey Walker instead of 2012 NFL first-round draft pick Matt Kalil. Walker also just so happens to be the most heavily penalized player on the team — a development that has forced USC coach Lane Kiffin to open up his spot for competition with freshman Max Tuerk.One would expect a return to the Coliseum would help solve many of these issues, as crowd noise on the road drowns out Barkley’s cadences and can contribute to false starts and delay of games, but USC has essentially taken penalties at an equal clip at the Coliseum and away — eight per game at home compared to 11 on the road.Though personal foul penalties — those most commonly associated with dirty teams — are still problematic, they have ultimately not been as much of an issue for USC.But toss in four more substitution infraction penalties, and it’s clear that  a veteran USC offensive unit is, for some inexplicable combination of reasons, struggling to just line up correctly and snap the ball.To be honest, I’m baffled. There’s no way to rationalize this number of penalties. What can be said, however, is that USC’s final box scores would look a lot more commensurate with the games we watched if the Trojans buckled down and didn’t take so many penalties.What can also be said is that USC’s current pace is bad news if it genuinely considers itself a top-tier team with BCS bowl aspirations. There’s absolutely no chance of beating No. 3 Oregon if the Trojans take 14 penalties like they did against Utah.The 2011 Arizona State team collapsed under the weight of its inattention to detail and selfish penalties after the play. With the meat of its schedule finally here, USC needs to reverse course quickly unless it also wishes to experience a similar downward trajectory. “Leveling the Playing Field” runs Fridays. If you would like to comment on this story, visit DailyTrojan.com or email Sean at [email protected]last_img read more

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Tipp’s O’Brien returns to flat racing

first_imgThe two-time flat champion has two rides for his father Aidan on East India and Hans Holbein.Elsewhere, the Paul Webber-trained Cantlow will be Tony McCoy’s final ride in the Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse on Easter Monday. The 10-year-old was one of 30 declared for the €275,000 contest this morning and the field also includes three reserves for the first time.last_img

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