Arsenal's Arteta celebrates scoring against Wigan Athletic during their English Premier League soccer match in Wigan

This is your third place team, England: Spot kick sees Arsenal past Wigan

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The game was emblematic of Arsenal’s season, one which sees the Gunners move third (temporarily) after a 1-0 victory at Wigan. Against one of the worst teams in the Premier League, the only thing that separated the Gunners from the Latics was a second half penalty kick. Mikel Arteta buried it, just as he buried the two decisive kicks against West Brom. Arsenal had their three points.

Unlike two weeks ago at the Emirates, there was no major issue surrounding today’s first penalty. Theo Walcott cut across Jean Beausejour, drew a penalty that would be called most other days, and Arsenal had their rout to deserved victory.

But the performance won’t assuage any doubts about Arsène Wenger’s club. For 90 minutes, Arsenal was unable to distinguish themselves from a team destined to battle relegation. Against high pressure which would have exposed as naively ambitious against previous Gunners squads, Arsenal failed to score an open play goal. They had four shots on target to Wigan’s three. The teams shared possession: 50-50.

If form holds over the next two days, Arsenal will be back in fifth come Sunday night, a place far more fitting their play than the heights of Champions League. They have in common with Everton and West Brom than rival Tottenham, a description which may be a slight to the Toffees.

MORE: Late Barry goal rescues Manchester City

Whereas Everton showed on the season’s first Monday that they can compete against the top of the table (and in turn be undone by a fall slump), Arsenal’s only shown something is missing. They no longer have the quality to consistently distinguish themselves from most of the league.

Is it the absence of Robin van Persie? Yes. Days like these, he could find a goal from nothing.

Perhaps they miss Alex Song? Yes. He would have helped Arsenal keep more of the ball.

Or maybe the team hasn’t recovered from the Cesc Fabregas sale? As talismanic as the Barça-bred star was, it makes sense Arsenal’s had trouble replacing his drive through the middle.

MORE: Is Dempsey still a starter for Spurs?

After a series of defections, Arsenal is nowhere near the team their brand implies. We know this, but sometimes it’s valuable to repeat the obvious. On days when they can’t prove better than the Wigans of the world, it’s constructive to remember the reasons why.

Arsenal is not as good as they used to be, they’re not as good as they want to be, and they have trouble on the road to teams like Wigan. They need some luck to beat West Brom at home, and they lose in the League Cup to Bradford City. All of which makes perfect sense.

Well, not the Bradford City part.

Klinsmann side-steps blame, calls USA-Mexico one of world’s best rivalries

Jurgen Klinsmann, USMNT
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The rivalry between the national soccer teams of the United States and Mexico is one of the fiercest and most unique of its kind in the world of sports. Anyone who’s participated in, or simply attended, a competitive fixture between the two sides will immediately attest to that.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s USMNT coverage ]

Speaking to ahead of Saturday’s clash against Mexico at the Rose Bowl, it’s quite interesting to hear current USMNT head coach Jurgen Klinsmann describe the rivalry from his point of view, both before and after having coached in it on a number of occasions.

Before we get to that, though, Klinsmann had a bit more blame side step regarding his side’s fourth-place finish at the 2015 Gold Cup, the USMNT’s worst-ever showing at the tournament for CONCACAF nations.

Q: What did you learn from this summer’s CONCACAF Gold Cup, where you lost to Jamaica in the semi-finals?

A: There were so many things that happened in the tournament and decisions that were made that affected the outcome. It was difficult for the players to know what to expect. For Mexico and for Panama it was the same thing. The lesson is that you just have to roll with it and try to control the things you can.

What’s the no. 1 thing players can’t control? Who gets called into the team/plays in the games.

What was the no. 1 problem for the USMNT at this summer’s Gold Cup? Who got called up/played game after game despite performing very poorly. Ultimately, it’s what undid them in the semifinals and third-place game.

Just once — once — would it hurt Klinsmann to answer a question with an “I,” or “me,” or even “we?” The question was “What did you learn,” yet the answer always come back to “the players,” or “they,” or “them.” At this point, Klinsmann either believes he’s infallible, or he’s simply trying to see how many ridiculous statements he can get away with.

Q: You’ve been in the top US job for almost five years now and you’ve met Mexico many times. How would you define the rivalry between these countries on the pitch? Can you compare it with others you’ve experienced?

A: The USA-Mexico rivalry is one of the greats in world football. For me, it compares to Germany-Holland in terms of the intensity and emotion it brings out in the fans. As USA coach, it was a learning curve to understand how much this rivalry means to our fans. We had won some games against big nations, but the reaction from everyone to when we went down to [Estadio] Azteca and beat Mexico there for the first time was just amazing.

Q: What makes the rivalry unique?

A: What is unique is that there are so many Mexican-Americans living in the United States, so the rivalry crosses borders. We have seen many times in these last years that younger Mexican-Americans will wear a Mexico jersey to our game, and when we start doing well they take it off and have a U.S. jersey underneath! More and more they’re supporting us, and we hope to continue to win them over.

Klinsmann gets this one absolutely right. With the two countries situated right next to each other, the aforementioned immigration of so many Mexican soccer fans into the U.S., and the classic battles between the two sides over the years, USA-Mexico not only feels amazing to get one over on your rivals, but perhaps more than anything it’s avoiding that feeling of defeat, of embarrassment, of being taunted and haunted for days, weeks, months and sometimes years, that makes beating the old foe so satisfying.

Ozil, Coquelin: Arsenal can win the title this season

Mesut Ozil, Arsenal FC
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I suppose, in theory, that any Premier League club that fields a team could win the league title for a given season, so the above headline could have been written in reference to any one of 20 teams a few short weeks ago.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Fast forward eight rounds of fixtures to the present day, and it’s becoming clearer and clearer with every passing week that it’s a three-horse race — Manchester City, Arsenal and Manchester United, who currently sit 1-2-3 atop the league — for the 2015-16 Premier League title.

So — and stick with me for just a second — why not Arsenal? [The crowd gasps loudly] Arsenal midfielders Mesut Ozil and Francis Coquelin believe the Gunners have what it takes to win the title this year, so why doesn’t anyone else?

Ozil and Coquelin, on Arsenal’s progression to title contenders — quotes from the Guardian:

Ozil: “We have a great team with many world-class players. Our goal is to win the Premier League and I think that this season it’s possible to do it, if we all stay healthy. But the season is long.”

Ozil: “I didn’t expect [Bayern Munich] to beat Dortmund 5-1. Their recent results show they are simply in great shape … But our victory against Manchester United was a sign: when we play and want it 100 percent, then we can beat Bayern.

“We are playing at home. Although we have respect for them, we don’t have any fear. We know how to score goals against Bayern and we can be successful. It will be difficult – but we have the potential to beat any team.”

Coquelin: “We proved a lot of people wrong. Inside the dressing room we knew we could do good things this season. We knew we could be contenders, but obviously we have to be consistent.

“We are getting stronger against the big teams. We beat City last season, now United. It’s all about consistency. The league is getting tougher, so we need to be getting results every week … We knew we had to put it right after Olympiakos and that’s what we’ve done.”

Coquelin is absolutely right — no one expected Arsenal to throttle Man United the way they did on Sunday. The Gunners acquitted themselves quite well, though it should be mentioned that Louis Van Gaal set up United to fail miserably with the immobile midfield duo of Michael Carrick and Bastian Schweinsteiger against a quick, dynamic Arsenal unit.

[ MORE: “Super computer” predicts final Premier League standings ]

That’s not meant to take anything away from Arsenal’s scintillating performance, because they did exactly what they should be doing against a poorly planned side — that’s not always been the case for Arsenal against top teams. The Gunners will play hosts to Man City on Dec. 19; perhaps we’ll better be able to dub them contenders or pretenders based their showing that day.