Arsenal 1 – Aston Villa 3: Benteke penalties sink Gunners (Video)

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Arsenal scored early but defensive mistakes in the box cost them as Christian Benteke buried two penalties and gave Aston Villa a shock 3-1 win on the road at the Emirates.

Olivier Giroud began the scoring in just the 6th minute when Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain sprinted down the touchline before cutting back behind the defense and hitting Giroud who was free in the middle.  The French striker used just one touch to direction the ball perfectly to the far post past Brad Guzan.

Guzan barely escaped a chance for Arsenal to go 2 up when the American spilled the ball outside of the net, and it fell to Theo Walcott with an empty net but his cross to the front of goal found a Villa defender.

Christian Benteke then pulled Villa level when Wojciech Szczesny was forced to bring down Gabriel Agbonlahor in the box.  Agbonlahor shot a ball ahead through the defense, and trailing his touch all by himself, Szczseny had no choice.  Szczesny saved Benteke’s original penalty, but the ball came back to the Belgian and he headed in the rebound.  It was a superb performance by Agbonlahor on the day, who ran the thin Arsenal defense ragged.

Szczesny did exactly the same as Guzan before in the 36th minute, deciding to play as an outfield player outside of the box and almost allowed Villa to pull ahead, but the defenders held in time for the Polish keeper to make his way back and make a pretty-looking diving save.

Arsenal continued to build from Jack Wilshire in the midfield in the second half as the game got chippy.  Yellow cards began to fly, and Arsenal defender Laurent Koscielny brought down Agbonlahor to give away a second penalty. Benteke buried this one for the lead. Arsenal will believe they’ve been harshly judged, as Koscielny went in hard but did get a foot on the ball before bringing Agbonlahor down.

Koscielny then had insult added to injury when he barely made contact with Andreas Weimann but the winger went down anyways and drew Koscielny’s second yellow.  Arsenal still managed to keep attacking. Santi Cazorla banged a 79th minute shot into the ground and it came up and ricocheted off the crossbar.  Bacary Sagna went down hard in added time, making Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger’s headaches even worse for after the match.

When Arsenal threw everything forward, they continued to come close, but it bit them in the end as a counter fell to Antonio Luna who buried the one-on-one breakaway past Szczesny to secure the result on his club debut.

The Arsenal fans came down hard on Wenger at the end of the match, berating him for having made no moves so far in the transfer window.

Lineups

Arsenal: Wojciech Szczesny; Bacary Sagna (Lukas Podolski, 90′), Per Mertesacker, Laurent Koscielny, Kieran Gibbs (Carl Jenkinson, 28′); Tomas Rosicky, Jack Wilshire; Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Santi Cazorla, 45′), Aaron Ramsey; Olivier Giroud.

Aston Villa: Brad Guzan; Nathan Baker (Ciaran Clark, 17′), Ron Vlaar, Antonio Luna, Matthew Lowton; Karim El Ahmadi, Ashley Westwood, Fabian Delph; Andreas Weimann (Leandro Bacuna, 88′), Gabriel Agbonlahor, Christian Benteke.

Reaction

Arsene Wenger: “I didn’t like the spirit with which he [Anthony Taylor] refereed this game,” Wenger fumed. “That for me is the most worrying thing, more than the decisions he made. I was quite amazed how stubborn his behaviour was through the whole game. I was really amazed. I can’t fault the spirit of the team. Everything went against us. Injuries, decisions and we had a bit of bad luck.”

Wenger: “I want our fans to be happy and proud of their team and when we lost at home, I just have to be sorry.”

Villa captain Ron Vlaar: “I thought maybe I could have got a second yellow but I was standing there and I couldn’t just disappear out of nothing. It’s a little bit silly to get two yellows for obstruction and the second yellow for Laurent Koscielny, I don’t know if that was one. But it’s his [Taylor’s] decision and that’s not the reason we won the game.”

FIFA seeking sponsors for video replays at World Cup

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LONDON (AP) Video replays will be used at the World Cup for the first time and talks are underway with potential sponsor branding to appear when the technology is used, a FIFA executive said on Monday.

Soccer’s rule-making panel met Monday to assess recent trials ahead of video assistant referees (VAR) being officially approved by FIFA later this season for use in Russia in June and July.

“Definitely VAR will happen,” FIFA chief commercial officer Philippe Le Floc’h told The Associated Press. “It’s great to have technology in football because this is also a fair(ness) thing.”

Referees were assisted for the first time by high-tech aids at a World Cup in 2014 when goal-line technology was used. That system sees a message instantly flash on referees’ watches saying only whether the ball crossed the line.

Video review is used when there is a “clear and obvious error” involving goals, penalty awards, red cards, and mistaken identity.

Replays could lead to delays in games in Russia as different angles are reviewed, presenting an opportunity for FIFA to brand up the segment on the global broadcast feed.

“We are talking to various technological companies who are very interested with what we are doing on the technology side of things,” Floc’h said on board the World Cup trophy tour plane during a stop at London Stansted Airport.

The final decision on allowing replays to become part of the rules of the game falls to the International Football Association Board on March 3 when its annual meeting is held at FIFA.

Video review has been expected at the World Cup because FIFA controls half the votes in IFAB’s decision. The other voters are the four British soccer federations.

Monday’s meeting brought together IFAB technical experts, FIFA refereeing officials, and researchers from the University of Leuven in Belgium, who have studied use of video review in 804 games across more than 20 competitions.

“The discussions we had today do not indicate that further experiments need to be conducted,” said Johannes Holzmueller, FIFA’s lead official for technological innovation.

Watch Live: Swansea City vs. Liverpool

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Swansea City’s bid to slow down steamrolling Liverpool begins at 3 p.m. ET Monday at the Liberty Stadium (Watch live on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

The rampaging Reds are coming off a 4-3 win that ended Manchester City’s unbeaten Premier League season, and will hope to avoid a let down against desperate Swans.

The Welsh hosts are six points adrift in the race for Premier League safety, and look set for a 5-4-1 with Jordan Ayew the only forward. Wilfried Bony and Oliver McBurnie are on the bench along with attack-minded Luciano Narsingh.

LINEUPS

Swansea City: Fabianski, Naughton, Van der Hoorn, Fernandez, Mawson, Olsson, Ki, Fer, Clucas, Dyer, Ayew. Subs: Nordfeldt, Bartley, Roque Mesa, Carroll, Narsingh, McBurnie, Bony.

Liverpool: Karius, Gomez, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson, Can, Wijnaldum, Salah, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Mane, Firmino. Subs: Mignolet, Milner, Klavan, Lallana, Ings, Solanke, Alexander-Arnold.

Kevin De Bruyne commits to Man City through 2022-23

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Kevin De Bruyne is one of the best players in the world, and he’s committing his prime to the club which has taken him to the next level.

[ MORE: How will Arsenal, Man Utd line up? ]

Manchester City announced a new deal for the Belgian wizard, keeping him at the Etihad Stadium through 2023.

De Bruyne, 26, has posted 31 goals and 38 assists for Pep Guardiola‘s men since returning to England from the Bundesliga, and appreciates being given a lot more money. From ManCity.com:

“As I’ve said previously, my intention has always been to stay here at City, where I’ve felt at home from day one. Not only are we winning – we are playing great football. It’s a pleasure to be a part of and I’m really excited about what we can achieve in the coming years.”

De Bruyne is in the discussion for a Ballon d’Or finalist spot this year, along with Lionel Messi, Neymar, Gareth Bale, Harry Kane, and others (Hot take: This does seem to be year Ronaldo possibly knocked off, barring a remarkable run in the Champions League or World Cup).

After the swap: Alexis, Mkhi-infused XIs for Man Utd, Arsenal

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The deal is done: Henrikh Mkhitaryan has moved to Arsenal with Alexis Sanchez going the other way in a monumental January move.

[ MORE: Transfer rumor roundup ]

How will it look for each side once the shape’s settled?

Arsenal

When Henrikh Mkhitaryan was at his very best — for Borussia Dortmund in 2014-15 — he was deployed as a left or right wing. He contributed 23 goals and 32 assists in 52 matches during his final season at the Westfalenstadion, and predictably saw those numbers drop as Jose Mourinho consistently moved him toward an attacking center midfield role.

He’ll get the chance to go out wide again at the Emirates Stadium, though perhaps not always to the extreme flanks. Expect Alexandre Lacazette‘s numbers to explode with this move.

Arsene Wenger used a 4-3-3 to batter Crystal Palace 4-1 at the weekend, with Ozil on the right wing and Alex Iwobi on the left. The club still needs better at center defensive mid while Aaron Ramsey is out, so that will likely keep the lineup similar until he returns (at a minimum):

Cech

Bellerin — Mustafi — Koscielny — Montreal

Elneny (Ramsey, eventually)

Xhaka — Wilshere

Ozil — Lacazette — Mkhitaryan

By the way, a lot of Arsenal supporters aren’t feeling great about this (understatement alert):

Manchester United

Alexis Sanchez prefers left wing, too, and Mourinho has a trio of in-form players who like that side of the field. Anthony Martial is red hot but plays wider than Jesse Lingard, and it seems one of them will take the slot of Juan Mata to the right of Paul Pogba in a 4-1-4-1. Marcus Rashford could also see the far right positioning.

But against top competition — continued apologies to Burnley — it’s usually a 4-2-3-1 for Mourinho with Pogba dropping next to Nemanja Matic a little deeper in the formation. Lingard has been getting the run as CAM here, usually to the detriment of Juan Mata. With Alexis as the clear-cut left wing in this formation, it causes real combat for the two other slots between Mata, Lingard, Rashford, and Martial.

So while it’s likely we’d see something like this in a big game for Manchester United…

De Gea

Young — Jones — Smalling — Valencia

Matic — Pogba

Martial — Lingard —  Sanchez

Lukaku

… We’d love to see something more like this:

De Gea

Young — Jones — Smalling — Valencia

Matic — Herrera

Pogba

Martial — Lukaku — Sanchez

How do you think Wenger and Mou will run ’em out?