Premier League Roundup: Arsenal, Liverpool, Hull and Stoke all win

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It was another superb day of action in the Premier League which didn’t see as many goal scored as last weekend, but there was still plenty of controversy.

From the wet and windy start in the early kickoff at Craven Cottage to late drama at St. Mary’s and St. James’ Park and the late game at Villa Park, there were some tight games in Week 2 of the Premier League.

Plus Hull City and Norwich City fought tooth and nail in a real battle at the KC Stadium in a tremendous game.

We covered them all at ProSoccerTalk, so here are the recaps with plenty more reaction to come. And here are the Premier League standings… it may be a bit earlier to scrutinize the standings but have a go anyway.

Fulham 1-3 Arsenal

The Gunners finally picked up their first points of the season, with a resounding win over Fulham at a soggy Craven Cottage. Olivier Giroud somewhat fortuitously put Arsenal ahead after the impressive Aaron Ramsey had a shot that hit Giroud before the Frenchman tucked the ball home. German international Lukas Podolski then tidied up to nab Arsenal’s second before the break and Podolski struck again to make it 3-0 in the 67th minute. A late consolation for Fulham’s new signing Darren Bent on his debut was all the Cottagers could muster, as Arsene Wenger’s side prospered.

Southampton 1-1 Sunderland

It took just two minutes for Sunderland to take the lead at Southampton, as Italian international Emanuele Giaccherini headed home Sebastian Larsson’s superb corner. The Saints pressed for an equalizer for the next 86 minutes (having 67 percent of the possession but failing to break the Black Cats down) and finally got their breakthrough when Portuguese defender Jose Fonte headed home with two minutes left. St. Mary’s erupted as the points were shared but the Saints really should have grabbed all three as manager Mauricio Pochettino pointed out in his post-match press conference.

Aston Villa 0-1 Liverpool

A fine game at Villa Park as Liverpool snatched their second-straight 1-0 win to open the season. Daniel Sturridge was again the game-winner, as his delightful finish in the 21st minute proved enough to seal three more points for Brendan Rodgers’ side. Villa played well in the second half, with Simon Mignolet pulling off a great save from a powerful Christian Benteke shot in the final few minutes. This Liverpool team is still gelling but after two wins from two and two shutouts, the Reds are on the charge.

Hull City 1-0 Norwich City

Steve Bruce was over the moon following this one, as Hull City grabbed a win despite playing for over an hour down a man. Yannick Sagbo was sent off in the 27th minute for throwing his weight around, but Hull were already 1-0 up thanks to Robbie Brady’s penalty five minutes earlier. A nervy final 60 minutes played out at the KC Stadium but Hull beat Norwich and now head to Manchester City next weekend. A much needed win for the newly promoted side.

Newcastle 0-0 West Ham United

This game never really got going until stoppage time. West Ham looked solid and reduced Newcastle to speculative efforts throughout, and the Hammers had two great chances through Winston Reid and Kevin Nolan either side of half time. But in the 91st minute Modibo Maiga thought he’d won it for the Hammers but his tap in goal from five yards out was from an offside position. Then Newcastle spurned a glorious opportunity to grab all three points in the 93rd minute, when Sammy Ameobi’s cross hit the post and rebounded to Yoan Gouffran four yards out… but somehow the Frenchman hit his effort over.

Everton 0-0 West Bromwich Albion

Another stalemate, but this one was by no means boring as the Toffees came unstuck at home to West Brom. In Roberto Martinez’ first game in charge at Goodison Park, Everton started brightly but ‘keeper Ben Foster was in inspired form for the Baggies. He went off injured late on and Marouane Fellaini also grabbed the win but his shot in the 82nd minute beat substitute goalkeeper Luke Daniels, but not the post.

Stoke City 2-1 Crystal Palace

It was all going so well for newly promoted Crystal Palace at half time. 1-0 up away from home at one of the toughest venues to visit in the Premier League, Ian Holloway’s men were all smiles as they walked off the pitch. But then Stoke turned quickly turned the game on its head. New Palace signing Marouane Chamakh had opened the scoring with a lovely finish after 31 minutes. But then Stoke struck twice in the space of four minutes through Charlie Adam and Ryan Shawcross to seal Mark Hughes’ first win in charge of the Potters. Palace remain pointless after two games.

The Mendy Effect: Pep praises injured back

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Full back Benjamin Mendy cost Pep Guardiola and Manchester City $68 million, but perhaps he’ll be just as valuable as a very expensive sports psychologist.

The “Shark Team” member was amusing on social media even before his ACL injury sent him to the sidelines until at least April, but he’s become a must-follow Twitter fixture with his in-game messages (See some of his work below).

[ MORE: MLS Decision Day preview ]

City faces Burnley at 10 a.m. ET Saturday (Watch live on CNBC and online via NBCSports.com).

It’s fairly clear his act has translated in private, too, as apparently Mendy is just as good in group messages (Let us in, Pep. We won’t tell anyone). From ManCity.com:

“Usually, players who are out for a long time with injury are sad. They sometimes train apart and feel isolated.

“Mendy decided to be present. He is communicating on social media, WhatsApp and he calls his teammates and messages me. He is going to be so important outside the pitch because people like him make the atmosphere much better.”

It’s not surprising for anyone who’s been following the former Le Havre, Marseille and Monaco man.

Keep in mind, these Tweets below are from the last few days alone!

Ozil to Manchester United?!? Wenger reacts to gossip

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Sometimes, even the biggest Arsene Wenger detractors have to feel for the guy.

Coming off a thrilling late win in Serbia, one that saw Olivier Giroud cap off a team goal straight out of the creative Wenger playbook, the manager should’ve been discussing how to stretch those good vibes into this weekend’s visit to Goodison Park.

[ MORE: MLS Decision Day preview ]

Yet no. Instead of talking about how the Gunners would respect the struggling Toffees, Wenger had to address speculation from several outlets claiming Mesut Ozil would move to Manchester United, perhaps as soon as January.

Feeling it? No, no Wenger was not feeling it. From Arsenal.com:

“We have to deal with all kinds of speculation when the players are at the end of their contracts. On the other hand, to be professional is to give 100 per cent as long as you are somewhere. For the rest, we came out many times and said that’s the situation. It [the media] can come out tomorrow and say that he extends his contract here. It will be exactly the same, it will not change anything. When you play the next game, commit 100 per cent. … When a player plays for Arsenal Football Club, his commitment cannot be linked with the length of his contract, it has just to be linked with the responsibility and the ambition he has to win the football game.”
Of course most big clubs have to deal with such drama on a year-to-year basis and, yes, having Ozil and Alexis Sanchez still in town was completely avoidable. But the idea that Ozil could leave, for free, to Manchester United? We’re sure Gooners the world over will be thrilled with the gossip.

MLS Decision Day preview: Much at stake

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Four teams can claim a Western Conference second round berth, while four more can earn a valuable first-round bye in the East.

Yep, there’s plenty to play for beyond the West’s final playoff spot Sunday during Major League Soccer’s Decision Day, when every team will take the pitch for 4 p.m. ET kickoffs.

[ MORE: Conte feels pressure ]

Here’s what we do know regarding the playoffs:

  1. Supporters’ Shield winning Toronto FC gets a first round bye, while No. 6 seed New York Red Bulls are headed to the road for a first round playoff
  2. New England, Montreal, Philadelphia, Orlando, DC, Minnesota, Colorado, and LA will not make the playoffs
  3. Full stop.

So, yes, this will be fun.

First, let’s look at the Eastern Conference Standings ahead of Sunday’s extravaganza:

Eastern Conference
Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
Toronto FC 33 20 8 5 72 35 37 13-3-1 7-5-4 68
x – New York City FC 33 16 8 9 54 41 13 10-4-2 6-4-7 56
x – Chicago 33 16 7 10 61 44 17 12-3-2 4-4-8 55
x – Atlanta 33 15 9 9 68 38 30 11-2-3 4-7-6 54
x – Columbus 33 16 5 12 51 47 4 12-2-3 4-3-9 53
x – New York 33 13 8 12 51 46 5 9-6-2 4-2-10 47

— New York City FC controls its bye destiny, though Columbus could join them on 56 points and would pass them on tiebreakers (wins).

— If that happens, Chicago could claim the second bye with a win or draw in Houston (The Fire owns the goal differential tiebreaker).

— If New York City and Chicago lose or draw, Atlanta could finish second with a home win over TFC.

— Columbus can finish second with a win and non-wins for Chicago and Atlanta.

Western Conference
Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
x – Vancouver 33 15 7 11 49 47 2 9-5-3 6-2-8 52
x – Portland 33 14 8 11 58 49 9 10-4-2 4-4-9 50
x – Seattle 33 13 11 9 49 39 10 10-5-1 3-6-8 50
x – Sporting KC 33 12 13 8 39 27 12 10-6-1 2-7-7 49
x – Houston 33 12 11 10 54 45 9 11-4-1 1-7-9 47
San Jose 33 12 7 14 36 58 -22 9-5-2 3-2-12 43
FC Dallas 33 10 13 10 43 47 -4 7-7-2 3-6-8 43
Real Salt Lake 33 12 6 15 47 54 -7 8-4-4 4-2-11 42

Byes

— Vancouver finishes first with a win or draw at Portland. The ‘Caps could finish as low as third with a loss to Portland and a Seattle win versus Colorado.

— Portland finishes first — and wins the Cascadia Cup — with a win over visiting Vancouver.

— Seattle can claim a first round bye with a win over visiting Colorado and a Vancouver win over Portland.

— Sporting KC can finish second with a win at Real Salt Lake and non-wins for Portland and Seattle.

Final playoff spot

— San Jose claims the sixth seed with a home win over Minnesota. They can also finish sixth with a draw joined by non-wins for FC Dallas at home to LA and Real Salt Lake at home versus SKC.

— FC Dallas claims the sixth seed with a win over LA and a San Jose draw or loss versus Minnesota. FCD gets sixth with a draw, and a San Jose loss coupled with a RSL loss or draw versus SKC.

—  Real Salt Lake gets sixth with a win over SKC, and non-wins from San Jose and Dallas. RSL could also get sixth with a draw and losses for San Jose and Dallas.

(Photo by Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images)

Schedule
FC Dallas vs. LA Galaxy
DC United vs. New York Red Bulls
San Jose vs. Minnesota United
Real Salt Lake vs. Sporting KC
Houston vs. Chicago
Seattle vs. Colorado
Philadelphia vs. Orlando City
Portland vs. Vancouver
Montreal vs. New England
New York City vs. Columbus
Atlanta vs. Toronto

Predictions

— NYCFC hangs on for a draw against Columbus, earning a bye, leaving Chicago to host New York Red Bulls and Atlanta off to Columbus for the first round of the playoffs (We have Toronto beating Atlanta on Sunday).

— Vancouver and Portland draw, while Seattle beats Colorado. The ‘Caps and Sounders get byes, while Seattle takes back the Cascadia Cup.

— San Jose beats Minnesota, gaining the West’s sixth seed. The Quakes head to Portland for the first round, while SKC hosts Houston.

Conte feels pressure, but “most important thing is to work”

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Chelsea has sputtered a bit in its bid to repeat as Premier League champions, though this isn’t quite “stop me if you’ve heard this one before.”

The Blues sit fifth in the Premier League table with 13 points, nine behind leaders Manchester City, and tossed away a 2-0 lead before rallying to draw Roma at midweek.

The Blues host fourth-placed Watford to kick off Saturday’s Premier League action at 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday (Watch live on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com)

[ MORE: West Ham 0-3 Brighton ]

And while fans are frustrated with the plan, Chelsea was in 15th at the end of October during Jose Mourinho’s ill-fated follow-up to the 2014-15 Premier League title.

Still, manager Antonio Conte feels their pain, although he’s satisfied with the effort. From Chelsea’s official site:

“Do I feel the pressure? Every manager feels pressure, but I try to give all of myself into my job, so I’m happy when I go home because I know in every moment I give all of myself for the fans, the players and the club. In football you know anything can happen, but the most important thing is to work.”

Chelsea may not look as good as Man City or Manchester United, but is still well-positioned to finish amongst the leaders and is leading a very difficult UCL group with Roma and Atletico Madrid. Things are fine, but the gossip storm just won’t leave Conte and his future at Chelsea alone (Thanks, Italian press).