As Tottenham’s top four challenge slowly falls apart, with injuries and poor form destroying them, and Chelsea continue to suffer with a busy schedule, Arsenal seem to be strolling towards Champions League qualification for next season.
It all seemed so unlikely two months ago.
This is down to one key element: they have a fresh, fit squad who have only had the Premier League to play for since February. While their defeats to Bradford, Blackburn and Bayern Munich in the three major cup competitions were met with anger by Arsenal fans all over the world, they now appear to be benefiting greatly from those losses.
While their two London rivals are playing two games a week at the moment, resulting in fatigue and increased number of injuries, Arsene Wenger’s side are enjoying a full week between games to prepare for the next one. This has resulted in an awesome spell of form from them, winning six of their last seven Premier League games. Many of those wins have been in tough games too.
Even without their MVP Jack Wilshere they are winning games for fun; something they were simply not achieving when they were participating in all four competitions earlier in the season.
So, here’s a message to all the Arsenal fans out there: although it’s nine years without a trophy for your team, Arsenal’s poor cup form looks like it’s going to earn you a place in the top four of the Premier League rankings.
With a raucous Anfield behind them for the second leg, Liverpool shouldn’t be too frustrated despite the dramatics of its stoppage time loss at Villarreal.
That’s a big part of Jurgen Klopp‘s logic following the 1-0 first leg loss in the UEFA Europa League semifinal, one that came when Adrian scored in the final minute of stoppage time.
[ MORE: Match recap | Why Klopp kept Sturridge on bench ]
Klopp seemed, rightly, more concerned with where Alberto Moreno was on the goal.
From the BBC:
“Of course I’m not too happy with the goal we conceded in the last second. Counter-attacking in the 92nd minute makes not much sense – but it is only the first leg.
“It is 1-0 and they have to come to Anfield where we know how strong we are. We had our moments, we defended really good. This race is not over.
“If we had enough players around the box it was no problem but they played this one chip ball over Kolo [Toure], I don’t know where Alberto [Moreno] was in this moment but that was the only big mistake we made in this game and they scored with it.”
Liverpool had the best odds to win the tournament heading into the first leg, but now needs a multi-goal or shutout win to beat a tricky Villarreal, which enjoys a nice counter attack (They could, of course, also win with a 1-0 win and penalty kicks, but you know what we mean here).
Many were wondering why Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp decided not to use striker Daniel Sturridge in Thursday’s 1-0 loss to Villarreal in the first leg of the two sides’ UEFA Europa League semifinal.
Klopp says the decision was completely tactical, and laid it at the feet of Sturridge not having experience in Thursday’s desired formation.
[ MORE: Watch full Premier League match replays ]
These comments were from before the match. It would be interesting to hear his thoughts after the loss.
“It was a very difficult decision to be honest. I thought about a lot of things and at the end I decided for a little more stability.
In a 4-3-3 we didn’t play with Daniel until now. For today, this 4-3-3, 4-5-1, this very flexible style it makes sense that the player played together before.”
Even well-regarded managers make mistakes, and Liverpool was very much missing a striker’s touch on Thursday (Roberto Firmino did hit the post, and looked somewhat dangerous).
The “FIFA Slayer” is in the building. Rog sits down with Loretta Lynch, the 83rd attorney general of the United States, for an interesting conversation in the latest MiB pod.
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Vitolo scored a goal then drew a penalty, and Kevin Gameiro converted the chance as Sevilla picked up a pair of road goals in a 2-2 draw with Shakhtar Donetsk on Thursday in the first leg of the clubs’ UEFA Europa League semifinal.
Marlos had a goal and an assist for Shakhtar Donetsk, with Taras Stepanenko scoring Shakhtar’s other goal.
Sevilla has won the last two tournaments, and hosts Thursday’s second leg with an advantage toward reaching a third.
[ MORE: Watch full Premier League match replays ]
Gameiro set up that oh-so-pivotal road goal in the first 6 minutes, sliding the ball to Vitolo for his left-footed finish between the legs of Andriy Pyatov.
But the Ukranians weren’t slow to respond, and Shakhtar netted twice before halftime. First Marlos scored a left-footed of his own from Yaroslav Rakitskiy in the 21st minute, and then Marlos turned provider for Stepanenko’s headed finish in the 35th.
[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]
[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]