Arsenal v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League

Offshore drilling, England: at Arsenal 5, Tottenham Hotspur 2

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The season’s first North London Derby was defined in the 18th minute when former Arsenal forward Emmanuel Adebayor was dismissed after a studs up lunge on Santi Cazorla. Tottenham, up one at the time though Adebayor, went on to concede the next four goals, Spurs losing their fourth in five when full time blew on the Gunners’ 5-2 victory.

The result may amplify the already tedious criticism of Tottenham manager André Villas-Boas, with English football determined to permanently brand the man who had to audacity to try (and fail) to change Chelsea. Few pundits will note that Tottenham looked the better side before going a man down. Conceding possession while waiting to utilize their speed, Spurs looked set to expose an Arsenal side that had no way to contain Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon.

Thanks to Adebayor, Arsenal didn’t have to, Arsene Wenger’s team comfortably winning a match which will be spun into another strike against Villas-Boas.

Man of the Match: It’s difficult to honor a best player when 72 minutes of 11-on-10 soccer allowed Arsenal to dominate without star performances. With Santi Cazorla, however, there was reason for Gooners to be encouraged.

After being among the best players in the league for over the season’s first month, Cazorla’s been merely very good since. Today, after a slow start, he recaptured that early season form, and while that stride may not be as easy to replicate when the opposition’s not debilitated, Arsenal has reason to think their best player may ready for another run.

Threesome of knowledge: What we learned

Emmanuel Adebayor changes matches.

Last week against another of his former clubs, Adebayor provided a small spark, his return from injury reminding us there are few forwards in the world that can match the Togo international’s grace, speed, and athleticism. The performance gave Villas-Boas cause to switch his formation, the 4-3-3 coach going to a 4-4-2 so he could get both Adebayor and Jermain Defoe into the team.

Today, we were reminded of another of Adebayor’s gifts – the gift of very poor judgment. For the fourth time in his career (the third time from Howard Webb), Adebayor saw red in a Premier League match, with today’s challenge being inexcusable.

Even if you put the health concern aside (and that’s really the biggest concern), lunging studs up is an indefensible decision. Let alone in the opponent’s half. Let alone so early in the game. Let alone with your team up 1-0.

Adebayor’s decision cost his team the match.

MORE PREMIER LEAGUE: Phil Neville out 6-8 weeks.

Podolski, Giroud continue to contribute.

We brought it up after Arsenal’s trip to Schalke, but with the duo combining for two goals today, Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud appear to have fully woken up. Having combined for six goals in the last three games, the pair have left their early season struggles behind. For the season, the two summer buys have combined for seven goals and three assists.

Their emergence, along with Theo Walcott claiming the right wing role, have solidified an attack that struggled for goals at the season’s onset. Arsenal went 211 minutes without scoring to start the season. Over their last four games, the Gunners have scored 13 times.

MORE PREMIER LEAGUE: Man City unload on Guzan, Villa

Villas-Boas is willing to change it up.

Throughout his short coaching career, André Villas-Boas has been a 4-3-3 man. And he probably still is a 4-3-3 man, even though he came out in a surprise 4-4-2 today. Adebayor and Defoe started up top, with Aaron Lennon and Gareth Bale pushed back into traditional wide midfield roles.

With Adebayor suspended for next week’s match versus West Ham United, we’ll likely see a return to the 4-3-3; however, going forward, the new formation could remain an option, especially with Clint Dempsey and Gylfi Sigurdsson failing to make an impact at their new club.

Those two attacking midfielders are the biggest losers in a possible formation switch, but it’s a loss they’ve brought upon themselves. Neither Dempsey nor Sigurdsson have done enough to keep one of the forwards on the bench. Against Manchester City, Adebayor showed what he can bring to the team, and Defoe is contributing too much, too often to be relegated to the bench.

Villas-Boas is putting his best players out there and finding a system that suits them. Right now, neither Dempsey nor Sigurdsson are among them.

Packaged for takeaway

  • Arsenal had five different goal scorers: Per Mertesacker (which first for Arsenal), Podolski, Giroud, Cazorla, Walcott.
  • Thomas Vermaelen got another start at left back ahead of André Santos, who came on late for Podolski. There’s no reason not to persist with playing the center half out of position until Kieran Gibbs returns.
  • Hugo Lloris was back in goal for Tottenham. We talked about that and Dempsey’s benching here.
  • Despite playing on a shorthanded team, Gareth Bale still terrorized Arsenal’s defense, the Wales international eventually scoring Tottenham’s second goal.
  • As you’d expect when Arsenal’s up a man, they dominated possession, posting a 66 percent Opta number.

Champions League playoff roundup: Man City eases through, Ajax bounced

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - AUGUST 24:  Joe Hart of Manchester City looks on prior to the UEFA Champions League Play-off Second Leg match between Manchester City and Steaua Bucharest at Etihad Stadium on August 24, 2016 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
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The result was never in doubt for Manchester City after a 6-0 demolition of Steaua Bucharest in the first leg, but the Premier League side made it official as they eased into the group stage with a 0-0 second leg result at the Etihad.

Joe Hart started and played what could be his final match in a City shirt, with Pep Guardiola handing him potentially one last showing in front of the home fans. The fan favorite received a thunderous welcome from the home fans who understood the situation.

Guardiola rested Sergio Aguero, Raheem Sterling, and David Silva but still put forth a strong side, and Fabian Delph‘s 58th minute goal sent Man City home with an easy victory and clean sheet. There was a scary moment when Kelechi Iheanacho appeared to pull up lame with a hamstring injury, and then suddenly passed out on the field, but he came to just before a Bucharest player was about to attempt to resuscitate him. The young striker was brought off in favor of Fernandinho in the 75th minute.

Also through easily is Borussia Monchengladbach, with a 6-1 home win over Young Boys to complete a 9-2 aggregate victory. Thorgan Hazard opened the scoring just nine minutes in with a solid bit of skill, and Raffael continued his solid run of form with a hat-trick to easy the Germans through. Hazard would eventually cap off a hat-trick in the 84th minute as well.

In the surprise of the round, Dutch giants Ajax saw themselves bow out of the Champions League following a 4-1 aggregate defeat to last year’s Russian Premier League runners up FC Rostov. The spot in the group stage was there for the taking after a 1-1 first leg in the Netherlands, but Ajax was hammered on Wednesday 4-1 in Russia. Rostov managed four goals with four different goalscorers, including Ecudorian international Christian Noboa. The visitors, meanwhile, didn’t even manage a shot on target until the 73rd minute.

FC Koln needed a late equalizer to send them through over APOEL Nicosia, as Paraguayan international Federico Santander scored in the 86th minute to level the match at 1-1 and give the visitors a 2-1 aggregate win. Finally, Dinamo Zagreb completed a stunning comeback, scoring twice after the 87th minute to beat Red Bull Salzburg 2-1 on the day in Austria and 3-2 on aggregate. Junior Fernandes scored in the 87th to level things at 1-1 and requiring extra time. Then Algerian international El Arabi Hilal Soudani bagged the winner in the 97th minute, sending the Croatians through to the group stage.

Coleman explains why he stayed as Wales coach, rejected Hull

ZENICA, BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA - OCTOBER 10: Head coach Chris Coleman of Wales celebrates after the Euro 2016 qualifying football match between Bosnia and Herzegovina and Wales at the Stadium Bilino Polje in Elbasan on October 10, 2015. (Photo by Srdjan Stevanovic/Getty Images)
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CARDIFF, Wales (AP) — Chris Coleman says he chose to remain as Wales manager despite interest from Premier League side Hull because he’s in a job that is “close to his heart.”

The Football Association of Wales rejected an approach for Coleman from Hull this month, with the Welshman deciding to stay on rather than resigning.

Coleman, who guided Wales to the European Championship semifinals against the odds, said on Wednesday that “if someone comes and it’s the Premier League, anybody, you kind of look at it sideways. Of course.”

But, Coleman added, managing your country “comes around once, if you’re lucky.”

Coleman has made no secret of his desire to manage in club football in the future, but says “what I’ve got here is something very special and close to my heart.”

FOLLOW LIVE: The UEFA Champions League finds its last five group stage teams

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - AUGUST 24:  Joe Hart of Manchester City warms up prior to the UEFA Champions League Play-off Second Leg match between Manchester City and Steaua Bucharest at Etihad Stadium on August 24, 2016 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
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Who’s going to join Porto, Monaco, Legia Warsaw, Ludogorets Razgrad and Celtic as playoff teams to join the UEFA Champions League group stage?

The biggest names of Wednesday’s slate are cruising after their first legs, with Manchester City and Borussia Monchengladbach putting five and three goals on the board, respectively.

[ MORE: Champions League Tues. roundup ]

Could the match be Joe Hart‘s last for City? The longtime backstop gets the call with the transfer window a week away.

In the other three cases, things are wide open. Rostov plays Ajax, Red Bull Salzburg faces Dinamo Zagreb, and APOEL lines up Copenhagen.

Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League slateFOLLOW LIVE

Borussia Monchengladbach (3) vs. (1) BSC Young Boys
Rostov (1) vs. (1) Ajax
Red Bull Salzburg (1) vs. (1) Dinamo Zagreb
APOEL (0) vs. (1) Copenhagen
Manchester City (5) vs. Steaua Bucuresti (0)

FOLLOW LIVE – EFL CUP: Four Americans in the 18 for Fulham, Sunderland, Bournemouth

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - AUGUST 13: Lynden Gooch of Sunderland challenges David Silva of Manchester City during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Sunderland at Etihad Stadium on August 13, 2016 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
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The newly-renamed EFL Cup, formerly the League Cup, rolls on Wednesday with four more matches ahead of the evening’s third-round draw.

American attacker Lynden Gooch starts for Sunderland, while Tim Ream starts for Fulham and Luca de la Torre is on the Cottagers’ bench. Emerson Hyndman is on the bench for Bournemouth.

Tuesday’s action saw Premier League sides West Brom and Watford excused from the tournament.

Wednesday’s EFL Cup scheduleFOLLOW LIVE

Accrington Stanley vs. Burnley
Fulham vs. Middlesbrough
Morecambe vs. Bournemouth
Sunderland vs. Shrewsbury Town