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Arsenal “lucky” after controversial victory over Sunderland

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SUNDERLAND — Arsene Wenger had a wry smile on his face as he recalled the pivotal play which swung the game in his sides favor during their 3-1 win on Saturday against Sunderland.

Arsenal got away with one.

“We were a bit lucky in that situation,” Wenger said. “We were a bit lucky because this type of situation can go against your favor and in the favor of Sunderland.”

At the center of all this was the highly-controversial decision to disallow a goal from USMNT forward Jozy Altidore that would have made it 2-2 with 20 minutes to go.

(MORE: Di Canio blasts ref after Altidore goal controversially disallowed)

Sunderland forward Altidore was pulled back by Arsenal’s Bacary Sagna on the edge of the box but continued to bulldoze his way through the defense and slotted the ball into the back of the net.

But as the 23-year-old U.S. international rounded the goal to celebrate what he thought was his first Premier League strike in a Sunderland shirt, referee Martin Atkinson pulled the play back and awarded Sunderland a free kick.

Altidore, Black Cats manager Paolo Di Canio and every Sunderland fan in the Stadium of Light threw their arms into the air in disbelief.

“Look it is one of these things that are controversial,” Wenger continued. “Because the referee had blown the whistle before the ball on the foul. If there is no goal people moan because he didn’t give a foul. He could have given a foul for Sagna as well, as they were both holding each other off.”

But to make matters worse, Atkinson only booked Sagna despite many believing the French defender was the last man and deserved a straight red card.

“Was Sagna last man? No,” Wenger said. “I don’t think he was last man because Koscielny was covering.”

Overall, Arsenal deserved to pick up their third-straight win to leave them top of the Premier League after four games. They stroked the ball around with consummate ease, with Ozil, Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey all reading off the same hymn sheet.

(MORE: Arsene Wenger lauds Giroud and Ramsey after Arsenal win)

Arsenal had taken a first half lead through Olivier Giroud but a penalty kick from Craig Gardner leveled the score before Ramsey volleyed them back in front and the slotted home to make it 3-1 after Altidore’s goal was controversially ruled out.

Wenger was pleased with the first half display and admitted that the Gunners had to fight hard in the second half to seal the victory.

“We had an outstanding first half and with plenty of chances but we were only 1-0 up at half time,” Wenger said. “The break came at the right time for Sunderland. They came back with a different proposition in the second half, they came back strong. We dropped physically but after that we found the mental resources to find two goals again and overall it was a very eventful game.”

PREVIEW: Tottenham Hotspur’s “To Dare Is To Do”

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The latest Premier League Download makes its debut on Sunday, as we dive deep into Tottenham Hotspur.

With a brand new stadium under construction and a solid look at perennial top-end pushes, Spurs are among the more intriguing stories in the Premier League.

[ MORE: JPW’s Premier League Picks ]

Spurs host Stoke City on Sunday at 8:30 a.m. EDT on NBCSN, and “Tottenham Hotspur: To Dare Is To Do” debuts at 11 a.m. EDT, right after the match.

Ahead of Boro, Allardyce rips his Palace players

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 04: Sam Allardyce, Manager of Crystal Palace looks on during the Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Sunderland at Selhurst Park on February 4, 2017 in London, England.  (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images
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Sam Allardyce continues to have a public go at his players.

The embattled Crystal Palace boss says his resume should have his Eagles players latching onto his directives. He’s previously said he “thought it would be easier“.

The Eagles, seemingly, aren’t. Palace has dropped in form since Allardyce took over for Alan Pardew, and sits 19th in the PL table.

[ MORE: Who is Man Utd opponent Rostov? ]

That’s only two points from safety, and Allardyce isn’t massaging his players to get them over the hump. From The Guardian:

“The advice I’ve given [players] over the years must have been pretty good because I’ve been managing at this level for such a long time now,” said Allardyce.

“My experience and my qualifications are far greater than theirs. They can talk about tactics and systems, that’s fine, but they’re players are they’re paid to play. I’m the manager, and the system and tactics are my expertise, not theirs. When I set those out, they have to put them into practice. Stay focused, stay within the game-plan.”

Allardyce has won less than 36 percent of his matches at every stop except West Ham since 2007, and he went 68W-46D-68L with the Irons. Palace has a massive match against visiting Middlesbrough this weekend, and this is one heck of a risky ploy to motivate his troops.

Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks – Week 26

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Premier League action is back after the FA Cup break, with plenty of big games on the way.

[ STREAM: Every PL game live ] 

If you, like me, love to dissect all the games and predict what the score will be and which team will win, I encourage you to get involved in the comments section below. Let’s have a bit of fun.

[ VIDEO: Previews of every game

Okay, so I’ve consulted my crystal ball and here’s how we see things panning out. Click play on the videos below to hear my score prediction and preview of each game.

[ STREAM: Premier League “Goal Rush”

With the first section labelled “basically, free money” for the picks I think are dead certs. The section labelled “don’t touch this” means if you’re betting I advise you to stay clear, while the “so you’re telling me there’s a chance” section are the longshots. If it is better odds you are after, those are the picks to go for.


BASICALLY, FREE MONEY

Leicester City 1-4 Liverpool – (Monday, 3 p.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM

Hull City 2-0 Burnley – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) – [STREAM]

West Brom 3-1 Bournemouth – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) – [STREAM]

Chelsea 3-1 Swansea City – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

DON’T TOUCH THIS… 

Crystal Palace 1-1 Middlesbrough – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, CNBC) – [STREAM]

Everton 1-1 Sunderland– (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) – [STREAM]

Watford 1-2 West Ham – (Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET, NBC) – [STREAM]

“SO YOU’RE TELLING ME THERE’S A CHANCE…”

Tottenham 2-2 Stoke City – (Sunday, 8:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM

Report: Sounders on verge of adding AC Milan’s Honda

MILAN, ITALY - JANUARY 21: Keisuke Honda of AC Milan attends prior the Serie A match between AC Milan and SSC Napoli at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on January 21, 2017 in Milan, Italy.  (Photo by Getty Images/Getty Images)
Photo by Getty Images
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The Seattle Sounders may have a game-changing transfer on their hands (inasmuch as a game can be changed for a reigning MLS Cup winner).

AC Milan is reportedly willing to release Keisuke Honda from his contract, clearing the way for Seattle to add the 30-year-old attacker.

Honda has 36 goals in 82 caps for Japan, and has played just 15 minutes in Serie A since Oct. 25 despite his status as a regular call-up for country.

[ MOURINHO: Ranieri firing is absurd ]

This untenable situation would be a boon for Seattle, who would gain Honda despite recent gossip linking him to Watford, Southampton, Spurs, and others.

The idea of Honda on the pitch with Nicolas Lodeiro and Clint Dempsey could spell a major sophomore season for forward Jordan Morris.

If this Japanese import has even a modicum of the success as another Seattle team’s look to Asia — See: Suzuki, Ichiro — look out.