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Premier League Team of the Week (Matchweek 4)

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Matchweek 4 of the Premier League saw a number of notable performances but none better than the following Starting XI.

Goalkeeper: Jussi Jääskeläinen (West Ham United) 

Jussi Jääskeläinen was at it again on Saturday, sprawling his way to five saves and a third clean sheet of the season. The Flying Fin had a number of fine parries during the match but none better than his 13th minute point-blank save on Italian international Pablo Osvaldo.

Defender: Robert Huth (Stoke City) 

Robert Huth led the Stoke City backline that held Manchester City goal-less at the Britannia, handing the Potters their second straight clean sheet. The tough-as-nails German overcame getting knocked out cold by the leaping effort of Alvaro Negredo to rip into a team high five tackles and dominate the airways, winning seven of eight aerial duels.

Defender: Curtis Davies (Hull City)

Curtis Davies has been a revelation in Hull City’s opening four matches and this week the center-back finally gets recognized for his standout performances after nodding home the Tigers only goal of the game. The 28 year old was equally sharp on the defensive side of the ball, streaking his way to 10 clearances and three interceptions.

Defender: Phil Jagielka (Everton)

Holding the high-powered Chelsea offense at bay is a massive achievement and for that, Everton captain Phil Jagielka gets the nod. The England international led the Toffees back four with a game-high 12 clearances.

Midfielder: Gylfi Sigurdsson (Tottenham Hotspur)

With all of Spurs new signings, Gylfi Sigurdsson risked finding himself the odd man out this season at White Hart Lane. But handed a chance to prove himself against Norwich City and the Iceland international made the most of it, scoring a fantastic opener before completing his brace from close range. It’s performances like that which will give manager Andre Villas-Boas headaches when filling out the team sheet going forward.

Midfielder: Aaron Ramsey (Arsenal)

Speaking of doubles, Aaron Ramsey’s two goal effort in Arsenal’s victory over Sunderland brought to light just how brilliant the Wales international has been this season. The brace was his second of the season, after notching an impressive double against Fenerbahce in the second leg of Champions League qualifying.

Midfielder: Gareth Barry (Everton)

What can you say about Gareth Barry? After being left for dead by Manuel Pellegrini at Manchester City, Barry was scooped up by Everton on a season long loan and in his debut for the Merseyside club the 32 year old was totally dominant. Time after time Barry thwarted the Chelsea attack, most notably when his sliding block on Samuel Eto’o denied the striker a sure-fire goal.

Midfielder: Hatem Ben Arfa (Newcastle)

Arguably the most in-form winger in the Premier League, Hatem Ben Arfa (pictured) enjoyed yet another sensational day for the Magpies. With his combination of blinding quickness and slippery skills, the Frenchman torched the Aston Villa defense, scoring the opener and creating the game-winner with a hard hit shot that Brad Guzan could only parry into the path of Yoan Gouffran.

Midfielder: Mesut Ozil (Arsenal)

The German international showed no need for a Premier League adjustment period as he played his way to a fine debut for the Gunners. His assist on Olivier Giroud had Arsenal supporters cooing and when it emerged that he played the entire match with the flu, he became an instant cult hero.

Striker: Wayne Rooney (Manchester United)

Coming back from the head gash that prevented him from appearing in the 1-0 loss to Liverpool, Wayne Rooney was fantastic once again. Rooney was all over the place against Palace, creating four chances on eight crosses, pounding five shots on goal and scoring a peach of a free kick. David Moyes has pledged to play Rooney as the supporting striker directly inside Robin van Persie and with with the destructive Marouane Fellaini freeing the England international up, his manager’s target of 30 goals is well within sight.

Striker: Olivier Giroud (Arsenal)

Olivier Giroud made it four goals in four matches for Arsenal when he latched on to Ozil’s low cross to deftly sweep home the Gunners opener. Up top, the Frenchman is a force to be reckoned with not only for his eye for goal but for his competitiveness which on Saturday resulted in winning a match high 12 duels.

Chelsea’s Courtois says FA Cup or Champions League final a must

Thibaut Courtois, Chelsea FC
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Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois is used to big matches, whether at Stamford Bridge, with the Belgian national team or during his loan to Atletico Madrid.

[ SPORTSWORLD: Courtois “standing tall” at Chelsea ]

If he doesn’t get one or two of those contests by the end of this season, a bad season will become an utter failure.

Courtois says it’s a long way to the Top Four, but Chelsea hasn’t given up on that hope. Regardless, he’s targeting wins over Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain in the FA Cup and UEFA Champions League, respectively.

From ChelseaFC.com:

“After that we play in the Champions League and FA Cup against two great sides and we have to try to win those games because the only way to save our season is to reach the final in one or both of them.”

Chelsea’s star has fallen this year, but this is still largely the team that won the Premier League last season. Courtois’ goals are not unreasonable.

LIVE – West Ham vs. Liverpool in FA Cup 4th round replay

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - JANUARY 30:  Nathaniel Clyne of Liverpool is watched by Dimitri Payet of West Ham United during the Emirates FA Cup Fourth Round match between Liverpool and West Ham United at Anfield on January 30, 2016 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
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Two Premier League teams clash in the FA Cup on Tuesday with a place in the last 16 on the line.

West Ham United welcome Liverpool to Upton Park (Follow live, 2:45 p.m. ET) following the 0-0 draw between the teams at Anfield 10 days ago.

[ LIVE: Follow West Ham-Liverpool here

Slaven Bilic‘s side will fancy their chances of getting past an injury-hit Liverpool squad and creating another famous FA Cup memory in their final season at the Boleyn Ground. With Dimitri Payet in contract negotiations about extending his stay at the Hammers, can the French playmaker lead them to a big win?

After missing Liverpool’s late collapse on Saturday during the 2-2 draw with Sunderland due to a bout of suspected appendicitis, manager Jurgen Klopp will return to the dugout. The German coach has already guided the Reds to one Wembley final during his debut season in charge as they face Manchester City in the League Cup final in less than three weeks time.

The winner of this clash will travel to second-tier Blackburn Rovers and they’ll be heavy favorites to reach the FA Cup quarterfinals.

Click on the link above to follow the game live, plus we will have a recap, reaction and analysis following the encounter in east London.

State of the USMNT: What is Klinsmann’s best XI for World Cup qualifiers?

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With the U.S. men’s national team ending their January camp with two narrow friendly wins over Iceland and Canada, head coach Jurgen Klinsmann and his staff will now be sitting back and thinking: “What did we learn? Who impressed? Who struggled?”

Or something like that.

[ MORE: American takeover at Everton update

Each year the January camp provides domestic based players — mostly from Major League Soccer but a sprinkling of other guys too — with the chance to impress Klinsmann and his staff in close quarters for multiple weeks in California. Many current U.S. regulars earned their stripes in January’s gone by and have established themselves ever since.

This January was no different as the experienced core of players — Michael Bradley, Matt Besler and Jozy Altidore among them — showed their class and several promising players worked hard to get minutes in the friendlies.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

However, despite some glimmers of hope from youngsters such as Jordan Morris and Jerome Kiesewetter, what we learned about the USMNT heading into the two CONCACAF 2018 World Cup qualifiers in March is that the established players remain the best hope for success. Sure, the likes of John Brooks is impressing in the Bundesliga, Matt Miazga sealed a move to Chelsea and Lee Nguyen took his chance in January camp, but the old guard should remain in place through this next batch of World Cup qualifiers against Guatemala home and away on Mar. 25 and 29 and the Copa America Centenario this summer.

Question marks remain regarding some veterans, which could keep the situation a little more fluid than it should be.

One of those is Tim Howard with speculation of him moving away from Everton mounting plus a straight-up battle between Howard and Brad Guzan for the starting spot, while Clint Dempsey‘s status with the national team still seems to be somewhat clouded. Overall, though, the settled core of players who played together at the World Cup — plus or minus a few who have performed consistently over the last 18 months — should be kept together by Klinsmann. During last summer’s Gold Cup disappointment there was plenty of experimenting, especially in defense, but now is the time to settle things down and realize the following guys are the players you should count on going forward.

Below is my selection — feel free to select your own in the comments section — for the best XI available to Klinsmann, plus seven subs, assuming everyone is fit and available.

USMNT’s Best XI as of Feb. 9, 2016

—– Howard —–

— F. Johnson — Cameron — Besler — Ream —

—- Bradley —- Williams —-

—- Bedoya —- Dempsey —- Zardes —-

—– Altidore —–

Subs: Guzan, Brooks, Jones, Yedlin, Nagbe, Morris, Johannsson

Ahead of huge title clash, influential Leicester scout transfers to Arsenal

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 06:  Riyad Mahrez of Leicester City celebrates scoring his team's second goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Leicester City at the Etihad Stadium on February 6, 2016 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
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Ben Wrigglesworth might not be a man you’ve heard a lot about, but he has been influential in helping Leicester City’s unlikely charge to the top of the Premier League.

Now, he’s been poached by Leicester’s main title rivals: Arsenal.

[ MORE: Spurs, Arsenal to battle for title?

Ahead of the monster clash between the Foxes and Gunners at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday (Watch live, 7 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra) the man who unearthed the likes of Riyad Mahrez and N'Golo Kante has transferred to Arsenal and is now their First Team Video Scout.

Wrigglesworth, Leicester’s former Head of Technical Scouting, announced he would be leaving the Foxes via his Twitter page (see below) and he has now accepted a new role as part of Steve Rowley’s team at Arsenal.

It is believed he will not only help with the scouting of players but will also analyze Arsenal’s first team and the opposition.

[ MORE: Recapping Week 25 in the PL ]

Arsenal will unveil a new player performance center at their training HQ this summer and have recently purchased a soccer data company based in America, statDNA, to help them with scouting and player analysis.

With several Premier League teams now having huge player databases monitored by a team of talented individuals — often, like Wrigglesworth, with no pro playing experience — scouring the globe for the next bargain, the Moneyball vibe is strong.