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.

Leicester City boss Claudio Ranieri: Our goal is 40 points

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When Claudio Ranieri was brought into Leicester City this summer, he set a goal for the club: Get 40 points and stay up in the Premier League.

A third of the way through the season, Ranieri has far exceeded expectations, sitting top of the table with 28 points through 13 matches.

[ WATCH: PL TV Schedule — Week 14 ]

Originally thought of as a favorite for relegation, the perception of Leicester has changed very quickly, as both Arsene Wenger and Louis Van Gaal said you could not rule them out as title contenders.

Responding to Wenger’s comments, Ranieri played down the Foxes’ title chances, saying their goal is still to get 40 points and stay above the drop.

Thank you to Arsene but he’s a joker. He knows the truth very well. The league is very strange and open but our goal is 40 points.

Our goal at the moment is this but let me see the next two months and then maybe I change the goal.

Like everybody else I am also curious in these days to watch my team, and to see how we respond in these big matches.

At this point last season, Leicester sat bottom of the table with a record of 2-4-7 and ten points. Today, Leicester is top of the table with a record of 8-4-1 and 28 points. Under Nigel Pearson, the Foxes won just 11 games all of last season, with seven of those coming from the final nine matches in a legendary run to stave off relegation.

[ RELATED: Prince-Wright’s Premier League Picks — Week 14 ]

With a tough run of matches coming up against the likes of Manchester United, Everton, Liverpool and Manchester City, Ranieri is trying to keep his side in check, knowing you can never take anything for granted in the Premier League. However, if Leicester was to pull out a win over United on Saturday, Foxes’ fans will certainly have much higher hopes than 40 points.

Report: Guardiola to take manager’s job at Man City next season

Pep Guardiola, Bayern Munich

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Manchester City desperately want to lure Pep Guardiola away from Bayern Munich and pay the Spaniard tactician lots and lots of money to come manage in the Premier League.

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Of course we’ve all heard it before — a number of times, in fact. So, what’s different about the latest report, hitting the headlines very late Thursday night in Europe, linking the 44-year-old to Man City?

Well, apparently, we’ve moved past “Man City will offer Guardiola whatever he wants to come to the Etihad Stadium,” and arrived at “Guardiola has agreed terms to become manager at Man City.”

However, the respected Spanish radio station Cadena COPE is reporting that Guardiola has already decided he would like “a change of scenery” and will succeed Manuel Pellegrini at the Etihad Stadium.

“Pep Guardiola will leave Bayern Munich at the end of this season and will train Manchester City next season,” read the report.

“Guardiola has decided on a change of scenery. He considers his time in Germany will end on 30 June after three seasons and, therefore, fulfil one of his wishes: to coach in England.”

With all due respect to every player Man City have signed in the last decade, the acquisition of Guardiola would be, by far, their greatest coup to date — a manager with a clear ethos, a clear plan of action and a track record of having succeeded and won in the UEFA Champions League, which remains the most elusive trophy to City’s cabinet.

Mourinho-Costa feud could mean January transfer activity for Chelsea

Diego Costa & Jose Mourinho, Chelsea FC
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Perhaps no man in the footballing world has been embroiled in more controversy this season than Jose Mourinho, who remains in charge of Chelsea despite a horrid start to the club’s 2015-16 Premier League campaign.

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The Portuguese mastermind has fallen out with a number of his own players and staff this season, so why not add another name to the growing list? Come on down, Diego Costa, you’re Mourinho’s next combatant.

The two reportedly got into a heated locker-room exchange following Tuesday’s UEFA Champions League victory over Maccabi Tel Aviv. Given Costa’s increasingly poor form all the way back to the final weeks and months of the 2014-15 season — just seven goals scored in the last 10 months — Mourinho is reportedly less and less sure the Brazilian-turned-Spaniard is the right man to lead the line for the reigning PL champions.

The details of Mourinho and Costa’s halftime spat, from the Guardian:

Mourinho, just as he did after a similar situation against Norwich on Saturday, made his frustrations clear at the forward’s lack of anticipation over an Eden Hazard pass, which would have provided the striker with a tap-in had he been on the move. Costa returned his manager’s remonstrations in kind. Oscar and John Terry tried to calm him down only to be pushed aside. The manager subsequently suggested there had been “a few kisses, a few cuddles” in the dressing room at the interval, and “no problem,” though the public show of dissent was notable.

The club’s hierarchy is reportedly considering dipping into the transfer market in January — something they’re extremely loath to do — to replace the misfiring Costa. The names of Emmanuel Adebayor, Robin Van Persie and Saido Berahino are the biggest currently linked with the Blues, given the lack of elite players typically available — as well as not being cup-tied in the Champions League — during the January window.

Chelsea, who currently sit 15th in the PL, return to league action on Sunday when they visit Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane (Watch live at 6:30 a.m. ET on USA and online via Live Extra).

Wenger expects “hunting lion” Sanchez to be fit for Norwich clash

Alexis Sanchez, Arsenal FC
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Alexis Sanchez is, by regular human standards, questionable for Arsenal’s Premier League clash with Norwich City on Sunday (Watch live at 11 a.m. ET on Live Extra), thanks to a tweak to his hamstring during Tuesday’s UEFA Champions League victory over Dinamo Zagreb.

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There’s just one problem with the above premise: Sanchez, according to manager Arsene Wenger, isn’t exactly human; he’s more like a lion, says Wenger — a hunting lion chasing after and feasting on its prey.

Wenger, on Sanchez’s ability to recover quickly and star for the Gunners — quotes from the Guardian:

“When he does something, he does it 100%. He finishes and you think: ‘He’s dead now.’ But then he recovers and gives 100% again. You always see signs of exhaustion but it’s not [that], because two days later, he’s fine.

“His style is very explosive, it’s a very committed style. Jamie Vardy is a bit similar. When they go, they go. They are like the lion. He has to catch the animal in the first 200 metres. If he doesn’t get there, he’s dead [on his feet] afterwards. They are these kind of killers. When they go, it is to kill and after, they have to stop.”

“I take information, especially from the medical people who know him and treat him everyday and after, we look at his overall recovery as well. When there are alarming signs, we want to make the right decision at the right moment but as long as the guys are confident, they score goals – it is always difficult to rest them.”

Sanchez’s production this season — 9 goals, 4 assists in 17 appearances – all competitions — is right on par with his spectacular debut in the PL last season. “What is also remarkable is that he goes to South America to play,” Wenger went on to say. “He comes back on Thursday night and on Saturday he can play without a problem, even if he’s jet-lagged.”

Expect Sanchez to feature on Sunday, and probably to score a goal or two, as well.