Preview: Arsenal vs. Tottenham Hotspur

2 Comments
  • The previous six games has seen a total of 31 goals
  • Spurs have won just once at Arsenal since the inaugural 1992-93 Premier League season
  • Arsenal haven’t loss their opening two home league game since1949-50

This game, this derby, this season… it has a whole lot of extra spice to it. In North London on Sunday everything will come to a standstill as Arsenal and Tottenham (11am ET, watch live on NBCSN and via NBC Sports Live Extra) face off at the Emirates Stadium.

With Gareth Bale’s transfer saga coming to a close, all the talk this week has been about Tottenham’s seven new arrivals as they’ve spent over $140 million on the likes of Erik Lamela, Roberto Soldado and Paulinho. While Arsenal fans can only dream about such reinforcements as Arsene Wenger’s squad looks incredibly thin.

The one respite over recent weeks, despite all the missed opportunities in the transfer market, has been Arsenal’s qualification for the Champions League group stage for the 16th straight season.

The North London derby is an incredibly passionate event where both sets of supporters come together to create a crescendo of noise. These two teams are closer now than they’ve ever been this season, so expect the volume to be cranked up even higher.

source: Getty Images
Can Spurs’ new signings make Bale a distant memory?

With the Gunners promising to spend big in the final days of the transfer window, a defeat to their bitter rivals may force the directors hands to dig even deeper into their pockets. Arsenal’s diehard fans want some more attacking talent to arrive and top of that list is Real Madrid trio Angel Di Maria, Karim Benzema and Mesut Ozil. But after Arsenal’s 3-1 win away at Fulham, the signs are that players such as Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud will come good this season.

Yet for Tottenham their star player Bale is set to seal his switch to Spanish giants Real Madrid before the deadline on Monday. But it’s said that Spurs are dragging their heels in order to not let Arsenal buy one, or all three, of Madrid’s attackers who will be put out of the lineup as the Welshman arrives. Another extra storyline adding to the rigmarole of this tense clash.

This season so far has seen Spurs start off with two 1-0 wins against Crystal Palace and Swansea. Arsenal lost to Aston Villa 3-1 in a shock opening day defeat but bounced back against Fulham. Injury wise, Lukas Podolski, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Mikel Arteta are sidelined for Arsenal. For Tottenham Aaron Lennon is doubtful, while Emmanuel Adebayor and Benoit Assou-Ekotto are also missing.

You don’t want to miss this one, as North London’s finest collide in a pivotal early season battle.

What they’re saying

Arsene Wenger on Tottenham losing Bale and Spurs’ rebuild: “It has a negative impact when you lose your best players, always. Because you are perceived by your fans as having a lack of ambition. The rest of the squad loses strength in their team. We have gone through that process consistently and it always demands a mental adjustment to keep your ambition alive. It’s very difficult. There is a technical risk when you buy more than three players. Because you unbalance the stability of your squad a little bit. “It’s always difficult when you bring so many players in to predict how well they will do. You have to integrate more, your squad is always a balance, and there’s a bit more risk. It can work as well. It can click fantastically well. But there is a little risk in the stability of the squad and the technical consistency.”

Arsenal defender Bacary Sagna on rivalry: “As I have said before, we can beat anyone. We have very talented players who are young and motivated. This game is one of the highlights of the season because it is a derby – we know how important it is for the fans, the club and the players to win it. The atmosphere is just magic and it will be even more magic if we win on Sunday.”

Andre Villas-Boas on Tottenham’s : “We have the quality to go there and win. I think we will set up to try to win the game and hopefully achieve the result we want. Yes. It is a different type of proposition on Sunday but it has special ingredients of a game that is unique in English football and full of emotion.Hopefully, if we set up properly, the match for sure will be a great game, because both teams want to play, want to win, want to attack, and hopefully it can be a present for the fans.”

Prediction

This is an incredibly tough game to call, I mean both teams are so desperate to not lose that it could be a stalemate. Then again Arsenal have won the last two meetings 5-2 at the Emirates and it should be a cracking atmosphere at the Emirates. Tottenham’s new-look team have been solid yet unspectacular, while the Gunners have been written off again this season. I expect an Arsenal backlash and a crucial home win to get Arsenal one step ahead of their rivals.

Arena reacts to USMNT draw, expects CONCACAF fight to end

2 Comments

Bruce Arena didn’t enjoy watching Tuesday’s 1-1 draw between the United States and Panama, but he’s not upset with the result.

“The referee didn’t blow his whistle too much, and that’s the way the game looked for 90 minutes,” Arena said.

[ MORE: Player ratings | 3 things ]

Arena’s Yanks struggled to find their flow in the draw, ravaged by injuries to their back line. Arena praised his back four for their performance in difficult circumstances on the road with new teammates.

And he’s feeling a lot better than a week ago, when the U.S. had zero points and sat last in the table.

[ WATCH: Full match replay (Spanish) ]

“We’re obviously in better shape with four points in two games. We’ve made progress. Every game in qualifying is going to be critical for every team. Everyone’s in it. It’s going to be a battle for the second, third, and fourth spots.”

The Americans’ next World Cup qualifier is June 8 against Trinidad and Tobago before a June 11 road trip to Azteca to face Mexico.

Panama 1-1 USMNT: Ugly, scrappy point for both sides

Leave a comment

The United States will finish the international break in the Hex’s fourth place after a 1-1 draw at Panama in World Cup qualifying on Tuesday.

Clint Dempsey scored off a feed from Christian Pulisic to give the U.S. a brief 1-0 lead, and Gabriel Gomez leveled the score before halftime.

The Americans’ next World Cup qualifier is June 8 against Trinidad and Tobago before a June 11 road trip to Azteca to face Mexico.

[ MORE: Player ratings | 3 things ]

Here’s the Hex table as it stands, with the U.S. on pace for a playoff spot against Asia’s playoff winner:

Mexico — 10 points
Costa Rica — 7 points
Panama — 5 points
———————
USMNT — 4 points
———————-
Honduras — 4 points
Trinidad and Tobago — 3 points

[ WATCH: Full match replay (Spanish) ]

The first 10 minutes were a bit frenetic, with the U.S. focused on adventurous first touch passes when it managed to earn the ball from Panama.

That feel wasn’t aided by the officiating, as Cesar Ramos was inconsistent in a very physical opening quarter-hour (and never pulled a single card).

Felipe Baloy flashed a header over the cross bar off a 16th minute corner kick as he lost Jozy Altidore and nodded back across goal. It was a bit of set piece foreshadowing, as Arena has yet to fix a long-held USMNT problem.

Christian Pulisic was fired up when Luis Tejada shoved him to the turf in the 20th minute.

Tim Ream bailed out Jorge Villafana, who wasn’t as composed and smart as his Friday versus Panama, sliding to divert Armando Cooper’s cross for a corner kick.

Jermaine Jones cued up Pulisic moments later, but the youngster had to wait for a bounding ball to settle before Panama conceded a corner. That opportunity was wasted by an overly aggressive Gonzalez, who was called for a foul before the ball arrived in the 18.

Howard saw his first danger and averted it when Alberto Quintero shook Zusi to rip a shot on frame. It was 0-0 after 32 minutes.

Then, the breakthrough. Dempsey moved to within a goal of Landon donovan’s all-time mark thanks to Pulisic, who cooked Felipe Baloy and held off Roman Torres before laying off to the veteran. 1-0, 39′.

The lead lasted all of three minutes, as Gomez pounced on a loose ball with the Yanks’ back line at sixes and sevens off a long throw-in. Gomez turned off Jermaine Jones and lost Villafana to bury his chance behind Howard. 1-1, 44′.

The second half began with more chunky play until Villafana blazed down the left wing on an overlapping run to cross for Pulisic, whose shot was forced out for a corner which led to nothing.

Dempsey then turned a Michael Bradley free kick to a waiting Jaime Penedo as the Yanks started to refind their flow.

Panama found a doorstep chance when Torres nodded down for Tejada, but Howard made an exceptional nether regions “leg” save to keep it 1-1.

Arena introduced Alejandro Bedoya for Darlington Nagbe with 20 minutes to play, a move that was a testament to the physical nature of the game.

Fittingly, it was creative work from Pulisic that helped the U.S. win a corner kick soon after, though Penedo claimed the offering.

More chances came Panama’s way, as the U.S. spent much of the late stages desperately clearing loose balls. On another night, with better finishing from Tejada, the Yanks would’ve been sunk.

Three takeaways from the USMNT’s 1-1 draw at Panama

AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco
Leave a comment

What did we learn from the United States’ 1-1 draw in Panama City on Wednesday?

For one thing, that the coach isn’t going to matter without a number of your very best players.

[ MORE: Match recap | Player ratings ]

The USMNT saw precious few moments of brilliance from its injury-ravaged side, saved by its soon-to-be all-time leading scorer, its 18-year-old star attacker, and its legendary goalkeeper.

But mainly, we saw that you can change the boss, but you need better performances to make a difference.

Limits of depth tested in ugly affair

Bruce Arena was without his best center back pairing thanks to injury, and you could argue he was without his best back four if you see Fabian Johnson as a left back (John Brooks, Geoff Cameron, DeAndre Yedlin, and Johnson).

The U.S. also couldn’t pair Bobby Wood with Jozy Altidore or Clint Dempsey, and lost Sebastian Lletget to injury on Friday. Timmy Chandler has rarely thrived with the USMNT, but it certainly would’ve been nice if Arena had called him up for the second match alone (He was suspended Friday for yellow card accumulation).

Given the above, this was not a pretty match. You just have to hope this isn’t the result that keeps them from Russia.

Mexico, revisited (What game plan?)

This might be an unpopular take, but Tuesday’s loss was nothing more than the performance put forth against Mexico in Columbus.

The main differences? Tim Howard was there to make a tremendous save, and Panama is nowhere near to the level of El Tri.

[ WATCH: Full match replay (Spanish) ]

The Yanks didn’t have a great plan other than to outwork Panama. This isn’t a big knock on the coach’s tactics given the lack of starting caliber players noted above, but once Panama flooded the middle of the pitch with fouls and tight tackles, an answer wasn’t provided by the players or the coach.

Plan B hasn’t been a U.S. strong suit for a long time, perhaps back to the finer moments of the Bob Bradley era. Arena got away with one on Tuesday.

Rough road ahead

This is something we know, but my was it reinforced: Winning CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers at home is a necessity, because there’s carnage and bad pitches on the road.

Perhaps that could’ve changed if referee Cesar Ramos brought a yellow card out for either team at any point in the proceedings. Christian Pulisic and Darlington Nagbe were fouled as part of Panama’s game plan, and the Yanks’ beleaguered defense went with a similar plan as the sloppy match wore into the waning moments.

The U.S. is still in control of its own World Cup destiny, of course, but simply must handle its business in remaining home matches against Trinidad and Tobago, Panama, and Costa Rica. T&T is next, and anything other than three points sends them into Azteca in a bad, bad way.

Player ratings from the USMNT’s 1-1 draw in Panama

Leave a comment

Player ratings reverted to old form after Tuesday’s 1-1 draw in Panama City, though fortunately one of the other U.S. tropes is dead.

That’s because “Christian Pulisic is the future” can officially be moved into “Christian Pulisic is the present”.

[ MORE: Match recap | 3 things ]

The Borussia Dortmund teenager again manufactured the United States’ best moment, feeding Clint Dempsey for the Yanks’ lone goal.

Starting XI

Tim Howard  — 7 — Don’t know what he’s supposed to do on the goal, but his jewels save to deny Luis Tejada could be a World Cup saver.

Jorge Villafana  — 4 — One of the many star men from the win over Honduras was too adventurous and less composed. Bad combo.

Omar Gonzalez  — 4 — I say this in a way that ignores Timmy Chandler’s fine work in the Bundesliga: Is Gonzalez going to be Bruce Arena’s Chandler? Hopefully this is the last time he has to start.

Tim Ream — 5 — Had a bad time on the goal, and made several bad plays. But it’s hard to get a read on the Fulham’s man night because he bailed out Gonzalez and Villafana on a number of occasions.

Graham Zusi  — 5 — Gets bumped up a point for handling a very difficult situation, still adapting to right back in a match where Panama’s tactics were to attack his side. A better second half than the first.

Michael Bradley  — 6 — Nothing exceptional from the captain, but still an upgrade from his form under Jurgen Klinsmann. A little too deep in the formation on the evening, but that could’ve been the plan?

Jermaine Jones  (Off 75′) — 5 — Ornery as usual, his only successes came in standing up for his oft-fouled midfield mates.

Darlington Nagbe  (Off 68′) — 6  — This game looked set up for him to pick the ball up from Michael Bradley and dance into the midfield, but he only got a few chances as Panama’s tactics were aimed at fouling the Yanks’ two best dribblers in him and Pulisic.

Christian Pulisic  — 9 — A simply incredible bit of work to work two veteran defenders and assist Dempsey’s goal. Failing an unforeseen dip in company, Pulisic is going to be one of the most important players in American men’s history.

Clint Dempsey  — 6 — Scored the goal that earned the point, but otherwise fought to be a part of the match. That’s the sign of a legend, though, still finding a way to make himself matter on a poor evening.

Jozy Altidore  — 5 — Might’ve had a dozen touches in the game. Part of this was down to the U.S. aiming balls at his head and not his feet, but not his day.

Subs

Alejandro Bedoya (On 68′)  — 6 — Dogged work rate from the Union man.

Kellyn Acosta (On 75′) — 6 — Some creativity on display in limited time

Paul Arriola (On 83′) — N/A —