Sunderland have terminated the contract of Adam Johnson after he plead guilty to two charges related to sexual activity with a 15-year-old girl.
Johnson has been at the center of a controversy surrounding this incident for some time. The club gave him ample time to exonerate himself but with news that he had plead guilty, they have moved to terminate his contract with immediate effect. Johnson scored the first goal in the Black Cats' late comeback against Liverpool on Saturday but that will apparently be his last contribution at the club.
West Ham has moved to ensure that their star man remains the headline attraction as the Hammers move into the Olympic Stadium starting next season.
There have at least been hints at rumors that bigger clubs like Manchester City might be casting eager eyes toward the Hammers' star signing from this past summer. In order to lock down the player (or at least lock in a bigger transfer fee should he leave), the Hammers have extended Payet's deal through the 2021 season. The only minor concern here is that will take him through his year 33 season which means he might start slipping off of his best over the final year or two of the deal.
Despite on-field frustrations, Bojan Krkic has signed a contract extension at Stoke City that will take him through the 2020 season.
Despite his name having been around at big clubs seemingly forever, Krkic is still only 25-years-old. From that point of view, the contract extension certainly makes sense for Stoke City. What is less clear is why they are doing it now given that Mark Hughes has left Bojan out of his starting line-up twice in Stoke City's past three Premier League matches. With the two parties married for the foreseeable future, we have to assume Bojan will get back to starting soon.
Arsene Wenger updated Santi Cazorla's status today indicating that the player is on a fitness program and that it will be weeks and not months until he is back playing.
The phrase "weeks not months" isn't exactly informative when it comes to estimating a return date. The implication, if you want to parse the words, is that it is less than two months which would line up with the original end of March/early April timeline that has been the prognosis for some time. Wenger certainly used language that could be interpreted as sooner than that but we'll wait until we hear about a specific match that is being targeted before we get too excited about an early return.
Arsene Wenger has indicated that Danny Welbeck's recovery is continuing and that he could be ready for the club's FA Cup date with Hull City next weekend.
With Olivier Giroud, Alexis Sanchez, Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Joel Campbell all fit, the next question becomes how likely it is that Danny Welbeck will get significant minutes for Arsenal this season or at any time in the near future. Theo Walcott has proven effective at least occasionally in a central forward role and Joel Campbell has asserted himself in the race for minutes as a wide attacker. It leaves Welbeck's spot in serious question and makes a summer move seem like a real possibility if he can remain fit for the final few months of the season.
Joe Ledley will face a late fitness test but Jason Puncheon has been sidelined for a "long period" and the Palace winger will not be available until March at the earliest.
However, there was better news for the Eagles. Dwight Gayle has trained this week and Alan Pardew remains "hopeful" that the striker will be available for the visit of Watford. Connor Wickham has be added to the squad after completing his ban for elbowing Jan Vertonghen. Bakary Sako and Yannick Bolasie are running, both "should be back to face Tottenham in the FA Cup" next weekend. James McArthur "could" play again this season after a specialist consultation confirmed his ankle ligament injury would not require surgery: "It will heal itself," said the surgeon.
Alan Pardew confirmed that this weekend's match will come too soo for Yannick Bolasie and Bakary Sako, but the duo is in line to return to training next week.
Bolasie has missed the past six weeks with a leg injury and the Crystal Palace attack has struggled mightily in his absence with only three goals and no wins since Boxing Day. Upon his return, Bolasie could be a shrewd fantasy pickup considering his stellar second-half to last season. Sako is set to join him in full training next week as he recovers from a hamstring injury that has kept him out for a month. The former Wolves forward aggravated the injury upon his initial return after missing a month and has only made one appearance in the past two months.
Crystal Palace may finally see the end of its attacking woes with Dwight Gayle and Connor Wickham set to return for the weekend match against Watford.
Pardew expressed hope that the club's goalscoring struggles will come to an end soon: "Gayley is hopefully available, he's trained this week. Connor returns after his ban. So it's a little bit better." Gayle has missed the past month with a hamstring injury after almost leaving the club in the winter transfer window. Wickham also returns from his three-match ban for violent conduct after elbowing Jan Vertonghen in the face in Week 24. Even if he is fully fit, it's very unlikely Gayle will start this weekend against Watford, although Wickham has a chance despite Emmanuel Adebayor's arrival. However, it's best to stay away from the Palace attack in your fantasy outings until the Eagles get back to their scoring ways, having scored only three goals during their ongoing eight-match league winless streak.