Arsenal v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League

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

1 Comment

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.

Jose Mourinho wants Diego Costa to process game situations “faster”

during the Barclays Premier League match between Stoke City and Chelsea at Britannia Stadium on November 7, 2015 in Stoke on Trent, England.
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho isn’t worried about Diego Costa‘s lack of goals this season, but he does know the problem.

Costa scored the winner against Norwich last time out, but has just three goals on the year and has looked frustrated often in recent matches. And the boss believes there’s still work to be done with Costa, particularly off the ball.

“Everything is OK, no problem, no problem,” Mourinho said in his pre-match press conference before Chelsea visits Spurs on Sunday. “But he’s not reading the game properly in these actions. That was my opinion. As a striker he must read. You have to play not only when you have the ball but when others have the ball. You have to anticipate things and read the game faster. Everything is an accumulation [of confidence]. You’re not on fire again just because you’ve scored a winning goal against Norwich. It’s all a process.”

Mourinho exploded at Costa in the waning moments of Chelsea’s 4-0 win over Maccabi Tel Aviv, with the manager focused on improving the Spaniard’s effort level.

“In the game I told him, from a distance, that I was not happy with the movement he did,” Mourinho said. “He told me a few nice words from where he was. And nothing happened.”

Despite the manager’s frustrations, Costa could be the only option on Sunday. Radamel Falcao is injured and Loic Remy’s wife is scheduled to give birth soon, leaving Chelsea’s main man as maybe the only man.

The match against Spurs is a huge one for the Blues. Chelsea seems to have recovered slightly from its early-season tumble down the table, but their only two wins since the 2-0 victory over Arsenal in mid-September have been against Aston Villa and Norwich, and a marquee win would see them firmly announce an intention to return to last season’s form. The competition will be stiff, as Spurs’ high press could frustrate Costa, potentially sending him into another mood. But it could also give him opportunities should the hosts slip on Sunday.

Premier League preview: Manchester City vs. Southampton

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 21: Manuel Pellegrini, manager of Manchester City looks on during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Liverpool at Etihad Stadium on November 21, 2015 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment
  • Manchester City has lost both its home matches against top-10 sides this season
  • Southampton is six matches away unbeaten – club record is seven
  • Southampton has lost five straight at the Etihad across all competitions

Depending on results, Manchester City could be on top of the league come the end of the weekend if they can pick up three points when they welcome Southampton to the Etihad on Saturday (Watch live, 10:00 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra).

Unfortunately, they’ll face the Saints very banged up, something which has caused the home side plenty of issues recently. Goalkeeper Joe Hart suffered a hamstring injury midweek and will miss out, as will defenders Vincent Kompany, Pablo Zabaleta and Eliaquim Mangala.

[ WATCH LIVE: Stream every PL game via Live Extra ]

Manuel Pellegrini‘s squad struggled mightily at times without Sergio Aguero up front during his four-match injury absence. Aguero is back and scored last week in the 4-1 loss to Liverpool, but now the back line is giving the Chilean boss headaches. They broke again midweek, a 1-0 loss to Juventus in Champions League play leaving City fans scratching their heads.

Southampton saw its six-match unbeaten run come to a surprising end against Stoke City last weekend, and that puts them in an awkward spot, stuck in a clogged portion of the Premier League table where the gap between sixth and 11th is just two points. With a difficult London list of Spurs, Arsenal, and West Ham on the docket surrounding the December holidays, stolen points here at the Etihad would go a long way later on.

The Saints are also shorthanded, with Graziano Pelle suspended for yellow card accumulation after picking up his fifth of the season against Stoke. With Jay Rodriguez still sidelined, that leaves Shane Long to lead the Southampton attack.

What they’re saying

Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini on injury problems: “All the clubs have the same problems here in England and in other European leagues, because the players have to play so many games in the year and they have to go to their national squads with long flights.”

Southampton midfielder Steven Davis on Manchester City: “The demand from their fans is to win every game and they’re coming off the back of a couple of bad results. They will be looking to put it right. It should be an entertaining game but we’ll need to be at our best to get something. I’m confident we can go there and do that.”


Because of Manchester City’s defensive issues, summer signing Nicolas Otamendi will be forced back into the starting lineup after finding himself on the bench for the Liverpool loss. Since Otamendi looked off the pace in his first two Premier League matches (both of which City lost), he has acclimated quite well – the club has conceded just three goals in the Argentinian’s five matches following those two defeats.

With the striker issues for Southampton, City will use the return of David Silva to run Southampton down. Silva is known for playing his part in early goals, and the first 15 minutes will be key in this match. Manchester City will get one early, and they will return to their winning ways on a 2-0 victory.

Words fly as Mathieu Valbuena opens up about blackmail scandal

LISBON, PORTUGAL - SEPTEMBER 04: France's midfielder Matthieu Valbuena celebrating France goal during the Friendly match between Portugal and France on September 04, 2015 in Lisbon, Portugal.  (Photo by Carlos Rodrigues/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Lyon midfielder Mathieu Valbuena has spoken out for the first time about the sex tape scandal that has rocked the French national team.

If what he says proves to be true, Karim Benzema could be in a whole heap of trouble.

Valbuena told his story to French newspaper Le Monde, where he explained how things began in May of 2015 with a phone call from Djibril Cisse that suggested someone had a tape of the 31-year-old Valbuena. A few days later a blocked number called Valbuena asking to meet in Dubai about the video. The Frenchman got the police involved, and then Benzema approached him during national team training.

“He [Benzema] spoke to me about a video. Immediately, I thought back to what the police chief had told me on Sunday [that someone would approach him about the video].  Then he asked me to meet a friend that he presented to be very reliable, very serious, someone that he had complete confidence in, to arrange all of that. So, anyway, I am not an idiot!

I was sceptical to say the least. Even if, it was true, at the start I said to him: “Thank you for warning me”, I was doubtful that if he wants me to meet someone, it is not for nothing. The way in which he conveyed things, it was certainly to provoke me to see someone, indirectly, it means to pay this person to destroy the video.”

Valbuena said Benzema never actually asked him to pay for the video to be destroyed, but that it was heavily implied. “I played his game, I told him, me I would like very much to pay for my freedom, but we all know that if you pay, it is endless, there will always be copies etc. He told me: ‘Don’t worry, I have total confidence in my friend, there will be no more duplicates, they will be destroyed.’ He insisted a lot for me to meet his friend.”

The Frenchman later would implicate Samir Nasri as someone who, according to Valbuena, had offered to approach him instead of Benzema. “[Nasri] is someone who is no longer part of the French national team. My relationship has always been difficult with Nasri. Now, nothing surprises me.”

Both have responded. Benzema’s lawyer gave an interview to French radio station RMC saying that there was contact between the two about the tape, but that the conversation saw Benzema encourage Valbuena not to pay for anything. Nasri also spoke to RMC, completely denying any involvement in the case by saying, “It is not my problem, not my situation.”

Benzema has been charged with conspiracy to blackmail for his role as an intermediary, but the investigation is still in the preliminary stages.

Premier League preview: Leicester City vs. Manchester United

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 07:  Jamie Vardy of Leicester City celebrates scoring his team's second goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Leicester City and Watford at The King Power Stadium on November 7, 2015 in Leicester, England.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Getty Images
1 Comment
  • Leicester sits atop the Premier League table with 28 points
  •  Manchester United has conceded just once in their last 7 league games
  • Leicester’s Premier League games have produced 48 goals, the most in the league

Yes, this is #1 vs #2. No, your eyes are not deceiving you.

And yet somehow, that magnificent lede has been buried thanks to one Jamie Vardy.

The 28-year-old can break Ruud Van Nistelrooy’s Premier League record of 10 straight games with a goal as Leicester City hosts Van Nistelrooy’s former team Manchester United at King Power Stadium (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra).

[ WATCH LIVE: Stream every PL game via Live Extra ]

The Foxes are firmly atop the Premier League table, but many question whether they can hang onto that, and even others remain skeptical whether they can truly challenge for a top four spot this season. Saturday’s game will be a true test of their ability to remain in the hunt for the long haul, as the Red Devils are just a point off the top and, while it hasn’t been pretty at times this year, van Gaal’s men have done enough to pick up results in key situations.

On the other end, Manchester United has conceded just one goal in its last five league matches, and has not allowed a goal from open play since the Arsenal drubbing in early October. Can Vardy find space in the tight Red Devils’ back line?

Both teams are relatively healthy coming into this matchup. Leicester is only missing long-term absentee Matty Jones, while Manchester United is a little more banged up with Ander Herrera, Phil Jones, and Michael Carrick likely out alongside Luke Shaw and Antonio Valencia.

What they’re saying

Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal on Leicester City’s chances at title“Normally these kind of clubs can compete for long time, then at the end it becomes more difficult. But in England because of the quality of the teams, because every team has the money to buy players – and they have bought players – the difference in the Premier League between the clubs is not so high.”

Leicester City manager Claudio Ranieri on the Foxes’ aim“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.”


Manchester United’s results have been there, and they’ve created a ton of chances. On the flip side, Leicester’s improved defensive organization is solid enough to hold off the Red Devils. This one ends 1-1, and there is no change at the top. Vardy gets the Foxes’ goal, because who doesn’t like fun things?