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MLB

Will the Cowboys fire Mike McCarthy in Year 1? Jerry Jones could be forced by rumors, more losses

The Cowboys are 2-4 under new head coach Mike McCarthy. Don’t expect the season-ending injury to quarterback Dak Prescott or McCarthy’s big contract to keep him immune from being fired by Jerry Jones after his first season in Dallas — or worse, during it.

The speculation has been sparked by a bombshell report earlier this week by Jane Slater, a locked-in Cowboys correspondent for NFL Network, citing the team’s players aren’t either happy with or buying into McCarthy’s coaching style. 

Since Slater’s scoop, McCarthy has gone from having a built-in free pass to being firmly on the hot seat to be a one-and-done coach. Although Jones was patient with McCarthy’s predecessor, Jason Garrett, giving him nine and a half seasons, this situation is much different.

Jones had a strong, long rapport with Garrett, loving him since he was Troy Aikman’s backup QB during the Cowboys’ early 1990s glory years. In the end, Garrett posted an 85-67 record and had only one losing season, 2015, when injuries led to a 4-12 mark. He also was a likable, organized and smart coach, despite the big playoff results (only three trips) not being there.

IYER: Dak Prescott’s injury gives Cowboys even more reason to work out contract

McCarthy did go 125-77-2 in 13 years in Green Bay, with 10 playoff wins, including Super Bowl 45, which the Packers won at the Cowboys’ stadium. But in the end of his Packers’ tenure, there was a sense the team was underachieving with many reports of a tenuous relationship between McCarthy and quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

Green Bay unceremoniously fired McCarthy in the middle of the 2018 season and he spent a year away from the NFL in 2019. The Packers are now up to 17-4 with McCarthy’s young replacement, Matt LaFleur.

When Jones had to finally make his move on Garrett to try to break the Cowboys out of yo-yoing and mediocrity, there was a feeling he might lure a bigger-time winning coach, a big college name, a young offensive-minded hotshot, or a combination of all three (see Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley). Instead, Jones quickly, to the shock of many, settled on the fading McCarthy, 10 years removed from his ring.

As another former Packers Super Bowl-winning coach, Vince Lombardi, might say, “the ring is the thing.” There’s no doubt Jones, with his team in a 24-year Super Bowl drought, envisioned McCarthy finding glory again with a chance of scenery. But when you go for a marriage of convenience, nay coincidence, there’s a good chance for a divorce.

The problem is, other than McCarthy wisely retaining young offensive coordinator Kellen Moore, he hasn’t inspired much confidence that he still has it in motivating players, despite saying he worked to adapt better to the modern NFL in his time away. The defense that used to bend without breaking is in shambles with Mike Nolan as coordinator. When the team was rallying early in the season, it was evident that it was more around Prescott and less about McCarthy.

Then Prescott didn’t play in Week 6, and there came the listless, lifeless debacle, a Monday melodrama playing out in prime time in a 38-10 home loss to the Cardinals. That didn’t look like a team pushing to step up and help the “next man up,” Andy Dalton. There were big mental and physical lapses. They were lackadaisical when they should have been laser-focused to fully turn the corner from a 1-3 start.

Jones, according to multiple reports, gave McCarthy a five-year, $30 million deal, or the exact value of Garrett’s final contract with the Cowboys. Jones saw Garrett’s deal through its expiration in 2019 and simply didn’t extend him.

When the Cowboys got clipped by the Eagles in the end to lose the weak NFC East and not make the playoffs, Jones was searching for better results, not a regression that would have the same thing happen again, even with the Eagles stumbling more out of the gate.

Despite no Prescott, despite a wave of offensive line injuries, with the level of the Dallas’ offensive talent in relation to Philadelphia, New York and Washington, Jones should expect his team to take back the division, still in first place going into Week 7. 

The game at Washington is a must-win with the Eagles positioned to take over the top spot in the division with a Cowboys loss. Consider the Cowboys have beaten Washington three straight times, in seven of the past eight meetings and nine of the past of 11, all under Garrett. For all the Cowboys’ issues with the Eagles, they at least have owned Washington of late. McCarthy cannot start the losing to WFT again.

This latest matchup for McCarthy is critical coming off that Cardinals embarrassment to save face and the season. Because after that the Cowboys could be limping into a Sunday night matchup at the Eagles in Week 8. The mighty Steelers visit Dallas in Week 9 and a trip to the Ravens looms to begin December.

There’s a real possibility the Cowboys could be 2-7 or 3-6, which is totally unacceptable under McCarthy, even with Dalton. Then consider the Cowboys have a bye week before hosting the Vikings in Week 11, followed quickly by Thanksgiving vs. Washington in Week 12.

Although saying bye to McCarthy during the bye would seem to be a drastic overreaction by Jones, if the players don’t get more motivation and the team keeps going through the motions with its performances, it is now a strong possibility. Three or more games under .500 after midseason might confirm falling out of contention sooner than expected, with the Eagles improving and getting healthier fast.

If McCarthy and the Cowboys show a little better in the short term and the Eagles stay within reach, the next critical point for McCarthy’s job security will be after Christmas. The Cowboys host the 49ers in Week 15 on Dec. 20, a week before their home rematch with the Eagles. The goal, like with late last season, is making that a de facto NFC East title game again.

The bottom line is the Cowboys are now under heavier pressure to turn things around, not less with Prescott. Anything less than the playoffs should not be acceptable to Jones. The Falcons and Texans already will be on the lookout for new coaches in 2021, as likely the Lions, too. It’s unlikely that top candidates such as Eric Bieniemy will go another year without being hired. Also, for a redo, Jones can think about that young offensive hotshot, whether it’s the well-liked Kellen Moore, only 32, or Panthers rising superstar Joe Brady, only 31, before someone else steals them, a la the Saints and Sean Payton.

Jones went inside the box with his hire and it’s rolling toward being more disastrous than imagined. The clock is ticking for McCarthy to get it right, or Jones will gladly eat his money and get a better man for the most-demanding sideline job in the NFL.

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Rugby

Cats will need to prise flag from Richmond’s grip: Selwood

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Geelong will need to execute their plan to perfection to prise the 2020 premiership cup from Richmond's iron grip as they head into the decider at the Gabba on Saturday night as slight underdogs against a Tigers team that has won two of the past three flags.

The Cats' champion skipper Joel Selwood – who played in three flags with Geelong before becoming captain in 2012 – said their challenge was clear as they knew Richmond would not just hand over the title.

Richmond captain Trent Cotchin (left) and Geelong counterpart Joel Selwood with the premiership cup.Credit:Getty Images

Both coaches said they would take unchanged teams into the grand final with Scott set to join Hardwick as a two-time premiership coach if the Cats prevail at the Gabba.

Scott said although the Cats were confident that their plan could beat the Tigers, its execution under pressure remained Geelong's big challenge. He said Richmond deserved to be slight favourites.

"I'd said over and over again they have clearly been the best team of the last three or four years, there is no doubting that," Scott said.

"They have been the benchmark and they should – and I am sure they do – have real confidence in their system."

Selwood will lead the team into a grand final for the first time after playing in three premierships before he turned 24 and will played alongside Gary Ablett for the final time in their fourth grand final as teammates.

Selwood said the desire to send Ablett off in style would provide "very little" extra motivation, however he hoped they would be able to celebrate together at the end of the match.

Cotchin will become the first Richmond player to be a three-time premiership captain if the Tigers win and the eighth person in the game's history to be captain in three flags.

The Tigers are looking to win back-to-back flags for the first time since 1973-74 with Cotchin defending their culture despite a number of off-field incidents throughout 2020.

"We are really proud of what we have created and continue to create," Cotchin said.

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Soccer

Woodward insists United will explore options after Big Picture flop

Ed Woodward insists Manchester United will explore options ‘to make the English game stronger and more sustainable’ after they and Liverpool failed to get Project Big Picture off the ground following Premier League vote

  • Manchester United were driving force behind Project Big Picture with Liverpool
  • Contentious proposals were shot down at meeting with other top flight clubs 
  • Undeterred, Ed Woodward outlined commitment to helping football pyramid 
  • Covid-19 has had a £70m negative impact on United’s turnover of £509million

Ed Woodward says he is ‘committed to exploring options’ following Manchester United’s role in the controversial Project Big Picture.

The club, along with Liverpool, came up with proposals for a major power shift in the Premier League towards its big six clubs in exchange for what was billed as a rescue package for the EFL.

The hugely contentious proposals were blown out of the water at a top flight meeting last week, but Woodward has vowed to press ahead.

Manchester United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward is ‘exploring options’ after Project Big Picture was dismissed by other Premier League clubs in a meeting last week 

In a statement released alongside the club’s annual figures, which highlight the impact of Covid 19 on finances, the United executive vice chairman said: ‘Our focus remains on protecting the health of our colleagues, fans and community while adapting to the significant economic ramifications of the pandemic. 

‘Within that context, our top priority is to get fans back into the stadium safely and as soon as possible. We are also committed to playing a constructive role in helping the wider football pyramid through this period of adversity, while exploring options for making the English game stronger and more sustainable in the long-term. 

‘This requires strategic vision and leadership from all stakeholders, and we look forward to helping drive forward that process in a timely manner.’

United have extended their expiring shirt sponsorship with Chevrolet by six months, which is expected to net them an extra £11m. However, they announced a £23.2m loss for last season, which was also impacted 41.9 per cent drop in broadcasting income.

Liverpool and United were the primary driving forces behind Project Big Picture 

Woodward said United are committed to playing a role in creating a sustainable football future

Ahead of the pandemic, United had expected to bring in £560m to £580m of revenue compared with last year’s record £627.1m, with the drop thanks largely due to a lack of Champions League football last season.

However, the figures – for the fourth quarter and full financial year – show that Covid has had a £70m negative impact on turnover, which was £509m.

Only one Premier League home match, two top flight away matches and an FA Cup quarter-final were played over the fourth quarter period, which runs from April 1 to June 30. All of those were behind closed doors.

Woodward added: ‘On the pitch, we have strengthened the team over the summer and we remain committed to our objective of winning trophies, playing entertaining, attacking football with a blend of academy graduates and high-quality recruits, while carefully managing our resources to protect the long-term resilience of the club.’

The annual figures relate to 1 July 2019 to 30 June 2020.

Woodward announced the clubs annual figures and revealed a negative impact on turnover




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Soccer

Will Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea seize their Champions League chance?

Last season’s Champions League ended in bitter disappointment for the Premier League’s representatives.

Holders Liverpool crashed out in the round of 16, their fate sealed in a wild defeat to Atletico Madrid at Anfield. Tottenham, the previous year’s runners-up, were outclassed by RB Leipzig at the same juncture, while Chelsea suffered a similar fate against Bayern Munich.

Manchester City went one round better, beating Real Madrid to reach the quarter-finals, but their hopes of European glory disappeared during a chastening 3-1 loss to Lyon. A year on from an all-English final, there were no Premier League sides in the last four.

Bayern went on to lift the trophy, dispatching Paris Saint-Germain 1-0 in the final, and the Bavarian club are now favourites to go on and win it again. Elsewhere across Europe, however, the usual contenders are perhaps not as strong as in previous years.

Real Madrid remain in a state of transition post-Cristiano Ronaldo while Barcelona still seem to be teetering on the brink of full-blown crisis following a tumultuous summer in which a disillusioned Lionel Messi tried to engineer his departure.

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The two Spanish teams, normally leading Champions League candidates, are rated by the bookmakers as 12/1 and 14/1 outsiders to lift the crown. There is uncertainty around Italian heavyweights Juventus, too, after the appointment of Andrea Pirlo as head coach this summer.

Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea are not without problems of their own, of course. There are other names in the frame too. But the Premier League quartet head into this year’s competition knowing it’s open. Will they seize their chance?

Liverpool face test of depth

The group-stage draw was relatively kind to Liverpool. Ajax and Atalanta are not to be underestimated, of course, but their opponents are not as fearsome as they might have been.

Liverpool would be expected to progress without any problem in usual circumstances but the opening weeks of the Premier League campaign have been far from straightforward. Jurgen Klopp’s side, imperious for so much of last season, have already suffered a 7-2 thrashing by Aston Villa. On Saturday, they stumbled again against Everton at Goodison Park.

More worrying than the result, however, was the injury which has ruled out Virgil van Dijk for most of the season. The Netherlands defender has been practically ever-present for Liverpool since January 2018. His impact on their defence has been transformative. But they must now learn to cope without him.

Liverpool's Group D opponents

It is a daunting prospect. Not just because of the lack of depth at centre-back – Joel Matip, Joe Gomez and midfielder Fabinho are their only other senior options in the position – but because of the schedule that lies ahead. This season’s fixture list is even more packed than usual given the delays caused by the coronavirus shutdown earlier this year.

Klopp knows just how draining the Champions League can be having reached the final in consecutive years in 2018 and 2019.

This year, his resources look stretched before the first ball has even been kicked. Without Van Dijk and with even less recovery time than usual, it will take a Herculean effort to go the distance for a third time in four years.

Man City their own worst enemy?

Manchester City’s 3-1 loss to Lyon in last season’s quarter-finals left fans with a sense of deja-vu. Once again, against less-fancied opponents, Pep Guardiola appeared to overthink his tactics and his City side were punished. “Different year, same stuff,” surmised Kevin De Bruyne.

The feeling remains Guardiola’s City are their own worst enemy when it comes to the Champions League. Before last year’s exit against Lyon, there was Tottenham. Before that, there was Monaco. All three were sides City were expected to beat, and yet all of them progressed at their expense.

Man City's Group C opponents

Guardiola’s approach has come under scrutiny but there is also the broader problem of what appears to be a psychological block on the European stage. Manchester City, domestically dominant for much of Guardiola’s reign, often appear inhibited in the Champions League.

This year, following their reprieve from a European ban, the challenge is to finally throw off those shackles. The opening weeks of the Premier League campaign have included a 5-2 reverse against Leicester, but their passage to the knockout stages does not look overly difficult having been drawn in a group with Porto, Marseille and Olympiakos.

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City have also taken action to address the defensive frailties on show against Lyon last season. Ruben Dias is not the first centre-back to be brought to the club at great expense during Guardiola’s reign, but the hope is he will live up to his potential in the same way as Aymeric Laporte.

If that pairing proves as solid as hoped, and if Guardiola and his players learn the lessons of their past mistakes, then perhaps this might finally be their year. When it comes to quality, few sides can match them.

Man Utd face tough task in group stage

Manchester United’s 4-1 win over Newcastle on Saturday eased the pressure on Ole Gunnar Solskjaer following their 6-1 thrashing by Tottenham before the international break. But he will be judged by what happens in the weeks ahead.

In between Premier League fixtures against Chelsea, Arsenal and high-flying Everton, Manchester United begin their Champions League campaign against Paris Saint-Germain, RB Leipzig and Istanbul Basaksehir. The group-stage draw was not kind to them.

Group H opponents

The trip to the Parc des Princes on Tuesday evokes memories of their last visit, in March 2019, when they upset the odds with a thrilling 3-1 win to book their place in the quarter-finals. The result convinced the club’s hierarchy to hand Solskjaer the manager’s job on a permanent basis.

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They will need to summon the same spirit this time around, but their start to the season has been fraught, with their defeats to Crystal Palace and Spurs following a difficult summer in the transfer market, and PSG look a different beast having reached their first Champions League final last season.

RB Leipzig are a formidable opponent too. That much was apparent in the way they dismantled Tottenham last season. A trip to Istanbul is not an easy proposition either – even if the absence of fans will deprive the hosts of the atmosphere that often works to their advantage.

New-look Chelsea target lift-off

Chelsea spent over £200m on new recruits after their transfer ban was lifted this summer, with Timo Werner, Kai Havertz, Hakim Ziyech, Thiago Silva, Edouard Mendy and Ben Chilwell providing an injection of quality and transforming the look of the side.

The intention was to turn Chelsea from top-four contenders into title challengers and the Premier League is not the only competition in their sights.

Last year, Chelsea’s Champions League involvement ended with a 7-1 aggregate defeat to Bayern Munich which underlined just how far behind the elite they had fallen. This year, however, they hope to bridge that gap.

Chelsea's Group E opponents

Saturday’s 3-3 draw with Southampton was a reminder their defensive flaws will not be fixed overnight, but the squad certainly looks well equipped to compete on multiple fronts this season and, while Sevilla possess undoubted European pedigree, Chelsea’s Champions League group has not thrown up any major obstacles.

Lampard will aim to take advantage and, when it comes to resolving the side’s defensive issues, he will hope Thiago Silva, a man with a wealth of experience at Champions League level, will carry his form from PSG’s run to last season’s final into this year’s competition.

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MLB

Will the Jets go 0-16 with Adam Gase? Breaking down New York’s chances to avoid winless season

The Jets found a new low for their embarrassing 2020 NFL season with head coach Adam Gase. In falling to 0-6 in Week 6 on Sunday, the Jets were shut out, 24-0, by Gase’s former team, the Dolphins.

With the Giants and Falcons cracking goose eggs with their first wins of the season earlier in the day, the Jets are the only NFL team still in danger of a dubious distinction this season: Finishing 0-16. Since the NFL schedule expanded, only two teams, the 2008 Lions and 2017 Browns, have failed to record a victory.

The Jets’ current average margin of defeat is more than 18 points. This is the worst Jets team in 24 seasons. That 1996 version, in the second and final year under coach Rich Kotite, started 0-9 and finished 1-15, with only a win over the Cardinals in Week 9. In contrast, that team’s average margin of defeat was “only” 10.9 points. That also was more expected, following a 3-13 effort in 1995.

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New York finished 7-9 under Gase last season, a mark they won’t come close to reaching again this season. Playing in Miami looked like a reasonable winning shot a few weeks ago, but now the Dolphins (3-3) are in second place, with a better record than the Patriots (2-3).

Now it’s looking like the only week of the season in which the Jets won’t lose is their Week 10 bye a month from now. Here’s a look at their chances to win just one of their 10 remaining games.

Week 7 vs. Bills, Oct. 25

Before Buffalo steps on to the field vs. Kansas City on Monday night, the Jets’ next home opponent is an 11-point initial favorite, according to BetOnline. The Jets lost to the Bills 27-17 in Week 1, despite showing some life in the second half with 14 points. It’s a rivalry game and the Bills might be coming off a couple letdowns against the Titans and the Chiefs, but that gives them every reason to rebound big in the division. Chances of Jets winning: 2 percent

Week 8 at Chiefs, Nov. 1

The Jets’ defense is going up against Patrick Mahomes and Gase is coaching against Andy Reid. Chances of Jets winning: 0 percent.

Week 9 vs. Patriots, Nov. 9

Normally, this would be a no-chance home game, but the transitive property says the Broncos beat both the Jets and Patriots in tight, ugly games. Plus, there is the Monday night major underdog factor in play here and New England is looking less impressive by the week. That said, it’s Bill Belichick vs. Gase. Chances of Jets winning: 3 percent

Week 10 bye, Nov. 15

Chances of Jets losing: 0 percent | Chances of Jets winning: 0 percent

Week 11 at Chargers, Nov. 22

The Jets looked awful playing in this window on the East Coast in Miami in Week 6. Going on a long road trip from New York to Los Angeles doesn’t sound inspiring. But if the Jets somehow can make it a close, one-possession game against the Chargers, you know the Chargers will lose, so there’s that. Chances of Jets winning: 10 percent

Week 12 vs. Dolphins, Nov. 29

The way Ryan Fitzpatrick is playing and winning games, it’s hard to see the Dolphins turning to Tua Tagovailoa full-time anytime soon. But they could easily get cold and need to make a change, this time Tagovailoa seeing significant snaps against the Jets. Still, we won’t shake 24-0 from our brain anytime soon. Chances of Jets winning: 5 percent

Week 13 vs. Raiders, Dec. 6

The Raiders look like a serious wild-card contender and Derek Carr, Josh Jacobs and Darren Waller are leading an offense the Jets’ defense cannot stop. This is a tricky trip and Las Vegas didn’t look good at New England. But the Raiders will be motivated playing for something and Jon Gruden won’t let them lose to Gase. Chances of Jets winning: 3 percent

Week 14 at Seahawks, Dec. 13

The Seahawks’ quarterback is Russell Wilson. It’s also a Pete Carroll and Brian Schottenheimer revenge game. And a Jamal Adams revenge game. Chances of Jets winning: 0 percent

Week 15 at Rams, Dec. 20

The Rams are coached by Sean McVay. Wll the Jets still be coached by Gase at this point? You’re a mean one, Mr. Grinch. Chances of Jets winning: 0 percent.

Week 16 vs. Browns, Dec. 27

These Browns aren’t those Browns, just like the Raiders aren’t those Raiders. Odell Beckham Jr. back-to-back back in New York? Cool. Chances of Jets winning: 3 percent

Week 17 at Patriots, Jan. 3

The Patriots won’t be in that full resting player mode like they typically are and be willing to give away a victory in Week 17. In fact, it’s more likely they will need to win to have any chance to sneak into the playoffs on the final day of the regular season. Chances of Jets winning: 0 percent.

So unless they get some big breaks against former Jets assistant Anthony Lynn and can steal one against the Chargers, the Jets have a better chance of arriving at 0-16 than Gase departing before the end of the season. That sums up exactly why the Jets are on a direct, non-stop flight to winless history.

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MLB

The Latest: Browns will have Beckham vs. Steelers


The Latest on Week 6 in the NFL (all times EDT):

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12 p.m.

Star receiver Odell Beckham Jr. is active and expected to be available when the surprising Cleveland Browns travel to face the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday.

Beckham Jr. had his second negative COVID-19 test in 24 hours on Saturday, clearing him to rejoin his teammates. The receiver was kept away from Cleveland’s facility and didn’t practice for two days after feeling ill on Thursday and being sent home

The league has instructed teams to remove anyone showing symptoms similar to COVID-19 even if they are caused by a cold or the flu. The Browns are off to a 4-1 start and trying to earn their first win in Pittsburgh since 2003. The Steelers (4-0) are one of four undefeated teams remaining in the league.

Beckham has had a good start in his second season with the Browns, who acquired the star in a blockbuster trade with the New York Giants. He has 21 catches for 294 yards and three touchdowns and also had an electrifying 50-yard TD run that sealed a win in Dallas.

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Tennis

Wimbledon WILL go ahead even if it takes place behind closed doors

Wimbledon WILL go ahead next year with or without fans and optimistic tournament chiefs are planning for FULL CAPACITY despite coronavirus still keeping crowds away

  • Wimbledon will take place next year even if it is to be staged behind closed doors
  • The Championships were cancelled this year because of the Covid-19 pandemic
  • In response, plans have been drawn up to make sure the tournament goes ahead 

Wimbledon is set to go ahead next year even if the tournament has to be staged behind closed doors.

The Championships was cancelled this summer for the first time since World War II because of the coronavirus pandemic and the All England Club is planning for several scenarios for 2021.

Chief executive Sally Bolton said: ‘Staging the Championships in 2021 is our number one priority and we are actively engaged in scenario planning in order to deliver on that priority.’ 

Wimbledon will take place next year even if fans are not allowed to return to SW19

This year’s cancellation  saw Novak Djokovic denied the chance to defend his singles title

The AELTC is developing plans for a full-capacity tournament – which appears highly unlikely – a reduced-capacity event as well as one held with no fans.

Wimbledon will have been closely watching the recent US Open, played behind closed doors, and the French Open, where 1,000 fans a day were eventually admitted, down from a hoped-for 11,500.

Both tournaments were deemed overall successes, with very few positive Covid-19 cases and broad player support.

Another major factor for Wimbledon is the AELTC will now be unable to secure pandemic insurance, which was prudently put in place a number of years ago and ensured losses from this year’s cancelled tournament were minimised. 

Former Great Britain Davis Cup player Jamie Baker, meanwhile, has been appointed head of professional tennis and tournament director and will take on the role of liaising with the player community, ATP, WTA and International Tennis Federation over Wimbledon’s plans.

The scheduled start of the Wimbledon championships is for June 28 next year

Wimbledon’s statement read: ‘Our overriding priority will continue to be the health and safety of all of our stakeholders, in particular our guests, our staff, and our competitors.

‘We are working closely with the relevant government and public health authorities, alongside the rest of the sports industry, to understand the varying challenges and opportunities presented by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.’  

Two-time Wimbledon champion Andy Murray supports the decision to hold the tournament next year, following the success of other majors like the French Open and Australian Open.

‘I would like to see Wimbledon go ahead regardless of whether there are fans or not,’ Murray said, after his French Open first-round defeat by Stan Wawrinka.

‘But we’ll see what they decide. I think the events that have gone on so far, the ones I’ve been involved in, have been pretty successful.

But two-times winner Andy Murray has recently called for the championships to take place 

‘I guess it would be up to the fans. If the fans are enjoying watching it and they are getting good TV ratings, then that would suggest people would still like to see tennis and watch the major events.

‘For a player, it is not the same without fans, but I’d still way rather be playing the event than not, that’s for sure.’ 

Wimbledon has been working closely with the club’s local communities during the pandemic and will continue to provide 200 hot meals a day to people in need.

More than £750,000 has been donated to local and national charities and organisations while 30,000 of the famous Wimbledon towels that were intended to be used for the 2020 tournament have been donated towards other causes, including refugee projects and support for the homeless. 




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Soccer

Thomas Partey: Where will he fit in at Arsenal? He gives Mikel Arteta options

It was in conversation with Sky Sports in July that Mikel Arteta first outlined his desire for Arsenal to become tactically adaptable.

“We want to have versatility,” he said. “We will be more difficult to control if we are able to master two or three different formations without driving the players crazy.

“Always with the same principles, but being able to change system, and to attack and defend in different ways.”

It was with that in mind that Arsenal completed the £45m signing of Thomas Partey on Deadline Day. The Ghanaian is known for his physical and technical qualities, but that’s not all he brings.

“I think he allows us to play different formations,” explained Arteta after his arrival. “He can fit within those formations in different positions. He is going to give us a little bit more adaptability.”

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Arsenal supporters hope to see the 27-year-old in action for the first time in Saturday’s visit to Manchester City, live on Sky Sports Premier League, but what are the formations Arteta is alluding to? And where exactly will Partey fit into them?

A back three with Partey as a pivot

Arteta used a 3-4-3 formation to good effect in the latter stages of last season, continuing with the same system in the new campaign after the switch from the previously favoured 4-2-3-1 helped the Gunners on their way to FA Cup glory in August.

The deployment of three centre-backs has given Arsenal greater defensive solidity – they have only conceded 15 goals in 18 games since the change of formation – so it would be no surprise to see Arteta continue in the same way in the short-term.

Partey rarely played in a 3-4-3 system at Atletico Madrid – Diego Simeone favours a 4-4-2 – but he is certainly accustomed to playing in a two-man pivot in central midfield.

As a right-footer who primarily operates on his natural side, he would most likely be paired with the left-footed Granit Xhaka.

There are plenty of reasons to believe he would be a good fit for this role in a 3-4-3. Partey excels at initiating attacks from deep positions, able to withstand pressure on the ball and beat the opposition’s press either through passing or dribbling.

His one-on-one ability is one of his biggest strengths. Partey is an imposing physical presence at 6ft 1in, but he also boasts impressive skill, a light touch and excellent close control. Last season, only one Atletico player – winger Vitolo – averaged more successful dribbles than him per 90 minutes in La Liga.

That dribbling ability would complement Xhaka’s ball-playing prowess in a 3-4-3 formation, and it would be especially useful to Arteta given the manager’s preference for inviting pressure in deep areas and playing out from the back at every opportunity.

Partey, like Xhaka, is an accomplished passer, and as well as being an excellent dribbler, he possesses the power and stamina to shuttle between his own box and the opposition’s at speed – his former coaches describe him as a “physical marvel” – meaning he could contribute effectively at both ends of the pitch.

Partey on right of midfield three

Partey also gives Arteta the option of using a 4-3-3. The 27-year-old could play in the holding role in that system, but it is perhaps more likely that he would line up on the right of the midfield three.

It is worth noting that Arteta initially intended to use a 4-3-3 formation following the restart last season, but his plans were wrecked when Xhaka and Pablo Mari suffered injuries in the first half of Arsenal’s 3-0 loss to Manchester City on their last visit to the Etihad Stadium in June.

Arteta persisted with the system against Brighton three days after that game at the Etihad, but the 2-1 reverse at the Amex Stadium prompted him to make the change to a back three.

Arteta has not looked back since, but Partey’s arrival may change his plans again. A 4-3-3 formation would put more responsibility on the shoulders of his centre-backs, who would become a two-man pairing rather than a trio, but it would give the Gunners an extra body in midfield and allow them greater numbers going forward.



Manchester City
Arsenal

With Partey on the right, Xhaka would likely occupy the holding role. The left-sided Bukayo Saka might be a better fit than the right-footed Dani Ceballos for the third midfield spot in that system, but that duo could be fielded together if Partey took the deeper role in place of Xhaka.

Partey would still be expected to contribute defensively if he lined up on the right-hand side of the three, but the presence of an extra man in midfield would also give him more attacking licence, which is no bad thing for a player with a keen eye for goal and an excellent long-range shot.

Since the start of the 2017/18 campaign, Partey has scored more open-play goals from outside the box in La Liga (five) than any other player.

He is also adept at linking the midfield and the attack, as shown by the fact he made more passes into the final third than any other Atletico player during their run to the Champions League quarter-finals last season. In a 4-3-3, he would be expected to provide the same kind of service for Arsenal’s front three.

A deeper role in a 4-2-3-1 formation

If Arteta does decide to revert to a back four, he might prefer to use a 4-2-3-1 shape, with Partey again forming a double pivot with Xhaka. Unlike in the 3-4-3, however, there would also be room in the line-up for a third midfielder to be pushed forward into the No 10 role.

This may be an attractive option for Arteta given his side’s issues with creativity. For all Arsenal’s obvious progress since his appointment, only Sheffield United have had fewer shots among teams to have been in the Premier League in both seasons. The Gunners also rank low for expected goals.

  • Partey: Arteta plans key to move
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  • Edu explains Partey signing

Mesut Ozil is the most obvious fit for the No 10 role given his pedigree, but the German has fallen out of favour with Arteta and may well have played his last game for the club having been omitted from their Europa League squad last week.

In Ozil’s absence, Ceballos is perhaps the best candidate to step into the role. The Spaniard has impressed since being re-purposed as a deep-lying midfielder by Arteta in the second half of last season, but he is a naturally attacking player and admitted he would prefer to play further forward in an interview with Sky Sports in July.

With Partey and Xhaka mopping up behind him, Ceballos would be free to focus on creating scoring chances.

Arsenal’s current system leaves a gap between their midfield and their attack in the middle third of the pitch, but Partey’s arrival will allow Arteta to fill it. It will also allow a level of tactical adaptability he has long strived for.

Partey’s adaptability explained

Partey’s adaptability dates back to the early years of his career.

He was used in the same position he plays now during his breakthrough season on loan from Atletico Madrid at Mallorca in Spain’s second division in 2013/14, but in the subsequent campaign with Almeria in La Liga, he showed the necessary aptitude to fill in elsewhere too.

“I used him as an attacking midfielder, a central midfield and even a centre-back,” recalled former Almeria manager Sergi Barjuan in a recent interview.

That adaptability proved useful to Simeone when he returned to Atletico. Partey originally found himself a long way down the midfield pecking order there, but he impressed his coaches when filling in at right-back and on the wing.

The circumstances were challenging, but being moved between positions ultimately helped his development. By the time he was eventually deployed in his preferred central midfield role by Simeone, he was a far more complete player than before.

“He is not just a defensive midfielder,” Javi Baños, his former youth coach at Atletico, told Sky Sports recently. “He is now a more adventurous player, with freedom in his movements and scoring ability.”

With Partey entering his prime and preparing for a possible Premier League debut on Saturday, the hope for Arteta is that his £45m man will have a transformative impact in his new surroundings.

Watch Manchester City vs Arsenal live on Sky Sports Premier League HD from 5pm on Saturday; kick-off 5.30pm

International Break? Not For Super 6!

During the brief international break, there is still £250,000 up for grabs with Super 6. Play for free, entries by 3pm Saturday.

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Bulgaria 0-1 Wales: Jonny Williams nets late winner

Bulgaria 0-1 Wales: Jonny Williams nets late winner to send Ryan Giggs’ men top of Nations League group

  • The visitors had the better of the first half but failed to create clear chances 
  • Rabbi Matondo missed a glorious chance to open the scoring in the second half
  • Jonny Williams came on to score his first international goal in the 85th minute  

Jonny Williams produced a glorious finish to score his first goal for Wales and keep Ryan Giggs’ men top of their Nations League Group.

Without key men Gareth Bale, Aaron Ramsey and Joe Allen and also missing suspended front man Kieffer Moore and injured playmaker David Brooks, it looked for long periods as though Wales would end the international break without a single goal in three games.

But with five minutes remaining Liverpool youngster Neco Williams burst clear down the right and his cross was brilliantly swept in at the near post by his namesake Jonny, who had replaced Harry Wilson in the 72nd minute. 

Jonathan Williams celebrates after scoring the winning goal for Wales in the 85th minute

Earlier, substitute Rabbi Matondo missed three good second-half opportunities, while Bulgaria’s best chance fell to Bozhidar Kraev. The result means Wales – who lost goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey to injury towards the end – stay above Finland at the top of Group B4.

A desperately dull first half came to life soon after the break when Dan James was booked for a poor tackle on Cicinho, sparking fury on the Bulgarian bench.

Then Wales had a let-off when Kiril Despodov’s cross was inches too high for Kraev to head it into an open goal.

At the other end, Matondo twice came close for Wales, first with a 40-yard run and shot that fell just wide, and then when he failed to convert debutant Rhys Norrington-Davies’ low ball from the left.

Matondo missed an even better chance with 16 minutes remaining when he somehow guided Tyler Roberts’ perfect pass over the top from six yards.

Wales suffered a blow towards the end when Hennessey, winning his 94th cap, injured himself moving to collect a ball for a goal-kick, and was replaced by Adam Davies. But there was late joy when Williams struck.


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Premier League WILL bail out League One and League Two clubs

Premier League WILL bail out struggling League One and League Two clubs with £50m in grants and interest-free loans… but the Championship misses out on cash injection as clubs vote to scrap Project Big Picture

  • The Premier League will bail out struggling League One and League Two clubs 
  • The top flight announced it will provide £50m in grants and interest free loans 
  • However, it was decided Championship clubs will miss out on the cash injection 
  • The move comes after Project Big Picture was scrapped by the top flight today 

The Premier League has announced that League One and League Two clubs will be bailed out with £50m in grants and interest-free loans, but Championship clubs will miss out.

The 20 Premier League clubs met on Wednesday via video conference to discuss the controversial Project Big Picture plans, which were put forward by Liverpool and Manchester United last weekend.

But the 20 clubs swiftly rejected the proposals and instead agreed to a widespread strategy review and also gave the green light to a new bailout offer to the EFL after their opening attempt was rejected. 

Premier League will bail out struggling League One and League Two clubs amid coronavirus

The top flight will make available £50m in grants and interest-free loans for the two leagues 

And it was agreed among top flight clubs that they would make available a rescue package to help League One and League Two clubs as they risk going out of business as a result of financial ramifications of the coronavirus pandemic.

However, a statement by the Premier League outlined that the rescue package was for the bottom two divisions in the EFL, meaning the Championship clubs will miss out on the cash injection.

The reasoning behind this was that, in the top flight’s view, League One and League Two clubs have been more seriously impacted by the lack of matchday revenue caused by behind-closed-doors games.

The two leagues have been impacted most by lack of matchday revenue due to coronavirus

‘At today’s meeting it was agreed to make available a rescue package which aims to ensure that League One and League Two clubs will not go out of business as a result of the financial impact of COVID-19 and be able to complete the 2020-21 season,’ a statement from the Premier League read.

‘League One and League Two clubs rely more heavily on matchday revenue and have fewer resources at their disposal than Championship or Premier League clubs and are therefore more at risk, especially at a time when fans are excluded from attending matches.’

The statement went onto outline that the renewed offer will consist of grants and interest-loan fees totalling £50m. The Premier League had given £27.2m of solidarity payments to League One and League Two earlier this year.

The Premier League have vowed to help the EFL after rejecting Project Big Picture today 


Liverpool’s John W Henry (L) and Manchester United’s Joel Glazer (R) were behind the plans

EFL chief Rick Parry supported the plans that would have afforded more power to the Big Six

The Premier League added that discussions as to how to financially support Championship clubs will continue. 

The EFL rejected the Premier League’s initial £150million rescue package – a £40m grant and £110m loan dependent on a series of conditions.

The lower divisions would have had to give top-flight clubs control of the calendar, their spending levels and post-Brexit work-permit arrangements, as well as scrapping the League Cup and accepting there will be no promotion from the Championship in the event of curtailment unless 75 per cent of fixtures have been completed.

The EFL have been seeking a bailout from the Premier League to help them cope with the Covid-19 crisis since May, when a rescue package was made mandatory if the Government was to support Project Restart.  




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