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Offshore drilling, England: at Everton 2, Liverpool 2

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Man of the Match: Luis Suárez detracted from his own play when, celebrating the first (ultimately, own) goal, he ran to the Everton bench to bellyflop in front of David Moyes, an orchestrated response to the manager’s critique of the Liverpool forward’s diving. Thankfully, Suárez managed to stay on his feet for most of the afternoon, scoring a goal of his own in the 20th minute. In second half stoppage time, he nearly capped his villainous performance when he put in a shot from five yards out  only to have the assistant referee wrongly wave it off.

It was a quintessential Suárez performance. He was the best player on the field, but his antics detracted from his brilliance, even if Moyes’ comments baited the celebration. On a day he was nearly heroic, he adorned the mask of the villain. With Suárez, there seems no other way.

Packaged for takeaway:

  • The energy of a Merseyside derby met with sloppy first half defending to produce four goals by intermission, two for each side. After a horrible Premier League Saturday, we needed something to cheer about.
  • The own goal hit off Leighton Baines by Suárez opened the scoring, Everton’s defense left in rivets after Seamus Coleman’s mistimed challenge took the right back out of the position, allowing Suso to put a ball through the box from the left. Despite fouls by Baines and James Naismith (the former a possible penalty), play was allowed to continue. When Baines turned toward Suárez after taking down Raheem Sterling, the Everton left back had just enough time to see the shot deflect off his leg an into goal.
  • Suárez doubled Liverpool’s lead in the 20th minute, heading a Steven Gerrard cross into the lower left hand corner after Leon Osman committed a foul in a dangerous spot.
  • The Everton midfielder, playing inside in the absence of Darron Gibson, made amends two minutes later, his 18-yard volley after a weak punch from Brad Jones (playing for Pepe Reina) sailing into the left side of Liverpool’s goal.
  • At the 30-minute mark, lax defending on an Everton throw-in allowed a Marouane Fellaini cross to float into the six. Naismith had an easy finish after José Enrique, having drifted inside from his left back position, failed to act.
  • Predictably, the match settled down in the second half, with each manager making (or, having to make) tweaks coming out of the dressing room. Everton’s Kevin Mirallas, the team’s best player over the first 45 minutes, was injured and came off for Magaye Gueye. Liverpool shifted from a two to a three-man central defense, bringing Sebastian Coates on to play between Martin Skrtel and Daniel Agger.
  • The change helped reinforce the defense, but it also handed the initiative to Everton (who, in fairness, were already dictating play in the first half). For the first half hour after intermission, Everton had Liverpool packed in their own end, even if the change in formation meant there were fewer chances to be had.
  • Perhaps it was Liverpool’s unfamiliarity with the 3-5-2, but the Reds didn’t look comfortable coming out of their own half until the match’s last 15 minutes. Then they were able to create chances for Gerrard (blocked by Phil Jagielka) and Suárez (blocked by Baines), though aside from one painfully missed Raheem Sterling chance, they were never able to truly test Tim Howard.
  • In the 93rd minute, a restart headed down by Coates was put home by Suarez, giving Liverpool an apparent winner. A late call by the assistant referee kept the goal of the scoresheet, though it was unclear why the flag went up. Most often, the call is offside, but Suárez was clearly on. While Coastes seemed to climb over the back of an Everton defender, it would have been difficult for the AR to see the foul from his position. Regardless, Liverpool’s winner came off the books.
  • By full time, the match had given us an antidote to Saturday’s sleeping spell, though it was poor defending rather than exquisite execution that produced the final score. A review of the team sheets sees few player who stood out for their excellence (Mirallas, Suárez) than those who were exposed for their weaknesses.
  • The win pushes Everton back up to fourth, passing Arsenal, while Liverpool remain in the bottom half.

Antonio Conte on Chelsea’s struggles: “We haven’t got a magic wand”

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 24:  Antonio Conte, Manager of Chelsea looks on during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Chelsea at the Emirates Stadium on September 24, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
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Antonio Conte knows turning things around at Chelsea will not be easy.

[ MORE: Wenger to coach England?

Especially since, well, waving a magic wand around will do absolutely nothing to solve their defensive frailties.

Chelsea’s Italian manager was seething following their 3-0 drubbing at Arsenal last weekend as his team looked all over the place defensively and they’ve now conceded nine times in their last four games.

For a manager of Conte’s ilk who prides himself on setting up his teams to be tough to beat and stingy at the back, it hurt him. Big time.

Speaking to the press ahead of Chelsea’s game at Hull City on Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET online via NBC Sports) Conte knows the size of the task facing him.

“It is never good when you lose, but I think also in these two games we saw and learnt a lot of important things. We must work very hard to recover,” Conte said. “We finished 10th last season – when you finish 10th it means you have problems. Now we are trying to solve this situation, but we haven’t got a magic wand.

“We faced two teams who were very strong (Liverpool and Arsenal) and for me, these two teams are now at the top. We have a lot to improve, but this is the hope we must have. I see the present and the opportunity to improve, it’s not easy. But we know this.”

The Italian also revealed that captain John Terry will not return for this game so he may well have to continue with the likes of Gary Cahill and Branislav Ivanovic in defense, despite both of those long-time Chelsea defenders going through a tough time in terms of their form.

It will be intriguing to see if Conte switches to a 3-5-2 formation this week at Hull. The Tigers usually only play with one man up front, Abel Hernandez, so it would seem unlikely Conte will add an extra man in the center of his defense.

That said, such has been the shocking nature of Chelsea’s defending in recent weeks, the Italian will try anything — expect from magic — to turn this slump around and get back on track after three-straight wins to start the PL campaign had many people touting them as title contenders.

What is Arsenal’s best XI from Arsene Wenger’s 20 years in charge?

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Wow. This was tough.

With Arsene Wenger celebrating 20 years in charge at Arsenal on October 1, tomorrow, now seems like a good time to look back at all the players he’s managed and pick the best XI during his two decades at the helm of the Gunners.

[ MORE: Wenger to England? ]

Of course his early teams dominated the Premier League, winning three PL titles in his first eight seasons in charge which included the “Invincibles” and going 49 games unbeaten in the Premier League. Arsenal fans won’t need reminding that they haven’t won a title for 12 years but that doesn’t mean plenty more fine players haven’t played for the Gunners in that time period.

Below is my selection of the best XI to play for Arsenal under Wenger, and I urge you to tell us yours in the comments section below.

Remember: At 12:30 p.m. ET, this Saturday, Oct. 1, NBCSN presents a new Premier League Download: Inside the Mind of Arsene Wenger, hosted by The Men in Blazers’ Roger Bennett to celebrate 20 years at Arsenal. Promo video is above.


JPW’s best Arsenal XI under Arsene Wenger

—– Seaman —–

— Dixon — Adams — Campbell — Cole —

—- Pires — Vieira — Fabregas — Sanchez —-

—– Henry — Bergkamp —– 

Iniesta in, Fabregas out as Spain seeks to avenge loss to Italy

TOULOUSE, FRANCE - JUNE 13: Andres Iniesta of Spain shoots at goal during the UEFA EURO 2016 Group D match between Spain and Czech Republic at Stadium Municipal on June 13, 2016 in Toulouse, France.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
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MADRID (AP) Andres Iniesta will lead Spain in its World Cup qualifying matches against Italy and Albania after returning from injury.

[ MORE: Wenger to coach England?

Spain will be seeking to avenge a loss to Italy at the European Championship that ended the team’s bid for a third consecutive continental title.

Spain coach Julen Lopetegui named Iniesta to his squad on Friday for the upcoming away qualifiers Oct. 6 and 9.

“The return of Andres is very good news for us,” Lopetegui said. “He has played consistently for the past month. We are happy he is here, above all given the rivals we have to face.”

Chelsea’s Cesc Fabregas was not included in Lopetegui’s squad after losing his place in Antonio Conte‘s starting lineup for most of this season.

The most notable inclusion was Napoli forward Jose Callejon in place of new Barcelona striker Paco Alcacer, who was dropped. He will join an attack consisting of Diego Costa, Alvaro Morata, Manuel “Nolito” Agudo and Victor “Vitolo” Machin.

Midfielder Francisco “Isco” Alarcon returned to the squad in detriment of Real Madrid teammate Marco Asensio. Madrid defender Nacho Fernandez and Sevilla goalkeeper Sergio Rico were also back after missing Lopetegui’s first list.

The 2-0 loss to Italy in the round-of-16 of Euro 2016 marked the end of Vicente del Bosque’s long and successful stint as Spain’s manager. Lopetegui has since been tasked with rejuvenating a team that won the 2010 World Cup and 2008 and 2012 European Championships.

Under Lopetegui, Spain beat Lichtenstein 8-0 its first qualifier for the 2018 World Cup after beating Belgium in a friendly in his debut. Iniesta missed those two matches with a knee injury.

Both Italy and Albania won their opening qualifiers in Group G.

While Italy is clearly Spain’s main rival for the group, Albania is riding high after winning its first match at a major tournament at Euro 2016.

“These are two important matches, but they are not definitive,” Lopetegui said. “We know how tough they will be and we are motivated to meet the challenge. We will not settle for draws.”

Spain:

Goalkeepers: David De Gea (Manchester United), Pepe Reina (Napoli), Sergio Rico (Sevilla).

Defenders: Nacho Fernandez (Real Madrid), Jordi Alba (Barcelona), Dani Carvajal (Real Madrid), Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid), Gerard Pique (Barcelona), Javi Martinez (Bayern Munich).

Midfielders: Jorge “Koke” Resurreccion (Atletico Madrid), Sergi Roberto (Barcelona), Saul Niguez (Atletico Madrid), Sergio Busquets (Barcelona), David Silva (Manchester City), Lucas Vazquez (Real Madrid), Thiago Alcantara (Bayern Munich), Andres Iniesta (Barcelona), Francisco “Isco” Alarcon (Real Madrid).

Forwards: Jose Callejon (Napoli), Victor “Vitolo” Machin (Sevilla), Alvaro Morata (Real Madrid), Diego Costa (Chelsea), Manuel “Nolito” Agudo (Manchester City).

Why is Jose Mourinho upset with his Man United coaching staff?

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 29:  Jose Mourinho, Manager of Manchester United looks on prior to kickoff during the UEFA Europa League group A match between Manchester United FC and FC Zorya Luhansk at Old Trafford on September 29, 2016 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
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Jose Mourinho was visibly upset during Manchester United’s 1-0 Europa League win against Zorya Luhansk on Thursday.

Why, I hear you ask?

[ MORE: Wenger to coach England? ]

Well, it all centers around his coaching staff as Zorya’s lineup surprised Mourinho and his players, most notably Paul Pogba, were incredible confused.

At the beginning of the game Mourinho yelled towards his coaches and looked bemused alongside Pogba. After the game, which Zlatan Ibrahimovic‘s lone goal decided, Mourinho explained what the problem was all about.

“It was set pieces, organisation, they changed their team before the game,” Mourinho said. “Paul Pogba was a bit confused with the changes and obviously I want my assistants to take care of all the details.”

Mourinho was in discussions with assistant manager Rui Faria and Pogba but he was seen staring moodily at analyst Giovanni Cerra and then he took his frustration out on the bench.

The former FC Porto, Chelsea, Inter Milan and Real Madrid manager is a stickler for details and after spending many years as an assistant manager himself, he expects every meticulous detail to be spot on from his assistants.

Turns out there is a small margin for error when Mourinho is your boss.

With United winning three games on the spin after losing three in a row, Mourinho isn’t getting ahead of himself but anything other than a convincing win over Stoke City this Sunday (Watch live, 7 a.m ET online via NBC Sports) will not be greeted warmly.

One final note: it’s worth remembering that Mourinho has turned on his staff at other clubs before when things weren’t going so well…