Arsenal’s Vermaelen May Start at Stoke, Express Reports: Soccer Roundup

The following is a roundup of soccer stories from U.K. newspapers, with clickable links to the Web.

Vermaelen’s Return

Thomas Vermaelen may return for Arsenal at Stoke this weekend, making his first start for the team since August, the Express said.

The Belgian defender played in the first three games of the season, and then was out with an Achilles heel injury. He played 90 minutes in a reserve match last week, the newspaper said.

Milan Target

AC Milan is willing to pay 18 million pounds ($29.7 million) to bring Chelsea midfielder Michael Essien to Italy, the Daily Mirror said.

The Ghana national team member has three years on his contract with the London club, but Milan may tempt Chelsea by offering players along with cash, the newspaper said.

Newcastle Effort

Newcastle is trying to beat competition from Liverpool and Tottenham to sign Ipswich’s Connor Wickham, the Daily Mail said.

Coach Alan Pardew worked with the teenager at Reading, and will promise the striker regular Premier League soccer, the newspaper said. He’s valued at about 10 million pounds, and Newcastle still has the 35 million pounds left from selling Andy Carroll to Liverpool, the newspaper said.

West Ham Replacements

West Ham may replace manager Avram Grant even if the club stays in the Premier League, and has drawn up a list of replacements including Blackpool’s Ian Holloway and Queens Park Rangers’ Neil Warnock, the Guardian said.

Paul Lambert, Malky Mackay, Chris Hughton, Slaven Bilic and Martin O’Neill will also be considered, the newspaper said.

Gunner Jones?

Blackburn defender Phil Jones, who is being pursued by Manchester United, Liverpool and Tottenham, may hold out for Arsenal, saying the Gunners play the “prettiest football in the Premier League,” the Independent said.

Arsenal have been monitoring the 19-year-old and his teammate Steven N’Zonzi, the newspaper said.

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