NBC Sports lead soccer announcer Arlo White in action.

Liverpool on fire, Chelsea stumbling – View from the Booth, with Arlo White

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When watching soccer on TV, have you ever sat there and wondered what the man behind the microphone really thinks?

Maybe this will go someway to helping with that.

In the latest edition of “View from the Booth” NBC Sports’ lead soccer announcer Arlo White talks about Chelsea in trouble, Liverpool staying top of the table and much more Premier League news.

(MORE: View from the Booth Archive)

You can hear Arlo calling live games this weekend on CNBC and NBC Sports Network, and watch every single game available live online via NBC Sports Live Extra,

Let’s get to it.

After two-straight defeats to Everton and Basel, how crucial is Saturday’s game versus Fulham for Chelsea? Jose Mourinho has been talking about his ‘young eggs’ and protecting the young stars he has… but the average age of the side that lost to FC Basel was 27. Is Mourinho covering up for his sides lack of talent? Or just failing to get the best out of them?

Jose Mourinho will always seek to protect his players from criticism by taking the load onboard himself, whatever their age.  The ‘young eggs’ metaphor was certainly a red herring on Wednesday night against Basel. The only truley young players he sent out were Marco Van Ginkel, Oscar and Hazard and the last two are very well established in the Premier League.

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Following defeat to Basel in the Champions League, Mourinho still doesn’t have a settled lineup.

But I think Mourinho was making a broader point. For his 4-2-3-1 system to be successful, the ‘3’ behind the striker need to create and score goals. That is where his squad is most inexperienced, if you add Kevin De Bruyne and Andre Schurrle to the list.

Will Jose settle on a more consistent line-up so that his side can gel in an attacking sense, or will he persevere with this current approach that will lead, he hopes, to any of his six attackers fitting into those three slots inter-changeably?  It’ll be fascinating to see who he sends out against Fulham, as he protects his unbeaten home record in the Premier League at Stamford Bridge.

One team we haven’t spoken much about so far is Aston Villa. Following that great opening day win against Arsenal, they’ve lost three straight, so is it vital they don’t continue on that slippery slope with another loss at Norwich?

Villa have very happy recent memories at Carrow Road, which I’m sure will help them on Saturday.  Their 2-1 win there in May came a few days after the 6-1 thrashing of Sunderland, which effectively saved Villa from a nerve shredding last day survival match against Wigan.

Norwich will be a good test for a Villa side who have lost three on the bounce since that terrific opening day win at Arsenal.

Obviously, there’s one game that stands out on Sunday, Manchester City vs. Manchester United. Who do you think will win? And what impact, psychologically, will victory have for either side?

It will give either side a huge lift, as the loser faces having just 7 points from their opening 5 games.  United will want to replicate their 3-2 win at the Etihad last season (although perhaps not after giving up a 2-0 lead) while City will be desperate to cement their title credentials after a somewhat unconvincing start to the season.  Here’s a decent omen for the blue half of Manchester; they have scored in their last 52 home Premier League games, and since the start of last season they have the most clean sheets in the Premier League with 21.

source: Getty Images
David Moyes and Manuel Pellegrini both make their derby debut this Sunday, 11:00 am ET on NBCSN.

With some tricky games to negotiate this weekend, which team will be top of the table on Sunday evening; Arsenal? Liverpool? Or Tottenham?

I think Liverpool have a great chance of retaining top spot. Unless Southampton hit their stride with immediate effect, Liverpool will win at Anfield tomorrow and move onto 13 points. It’s their last Premier League game without Luis Suarez available, but one nagging doubt I have is how they cope without Coutinho who was brilliant before getting injured at Swansea on Monday.

Out of all the new transfer deadline day signings we’ve now seen in action, is there anyone that has really stood out for you?

Mezut Ozil is the obvious choice. Arsenal seem to have gone from pretenders to contenders with one swish of a pen on a rather large check. Gareth Barry was superb on his debut for Everton against Chelsea last Saturday. Perhaps he can use his loan move to force his way back into the England squad.

Finally, what storylines are you most looking forward to this weekend in the full slate of games?

A side from the games I am involved in at Stamford Bridge and the Etihad Stadium, I’d say the game between Cardiff and Tottenham could deliver the goods. Spurs are looking very good indeed and Christian Eriksen could be the steal of the transfer window, but as we saw on the second weekend of the season when they shocked Manchester City, Cardiff are no slouches at home and will really go after the North Londoners. Could be a cracker.

Ahead of huge top four showdowns, who are the title favorites?

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This weekend is massive. Huge. Monumental.

[ VIDEO: Arsenal-Leicester preview ]

In terms of the Premier League title race having two games between all of the current top four means one thing: bedlam.

Following the Arsenal vs. Leicester City (Watch live, 7 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra) and Manchester City vs. Tottenham Hotspur (Watch live, 11:15 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra) encounter, we should be provided with a much better idea of where the title is heading.

[ VIDEO: Man City-Tottenham preview

Then again, if Arsenal beat Leicester and Man City draw with Spurs, there will be just five points between all four teams. With 13 games to go this is tight and tense and the most open title race we’ve had in decades. It is also awesome.

[ MORE: Arsenal to play in 2016 MLS All-Star Game ] 

Let’s take a look at all four title contenders and try to see who has the best chance of winning this thing on May 15.


Leicester City
Current position: 1st (53 points)
Biggest plus: No pressure, they were meant to be relegated
Biggest negative: None of their current squad have ever been in this situation. How will they cope?
Key man: Jamie Vardy – A few off days in front of goal recently for the PL’s main man. If he regains his touch, the Foxes will win it.
3 key games: Feb. 14 at Arsenal, Apr. 30 at Man United, May 15 at Chelsea
Strength of remaining schedule (1 is weak, 10 is tough): 2/10 – The best of any of the title contenders, on paper, and no cup games.


Tottenham Hotspur
Current position: 2nd (48 points)
Biggest plus: Mauricio Pochettino. He’s met every major challenge head on.
Biggest negative: Having the FA Cup and Europa League to contend with. Relatively small squad compared to the rest.
Key man: Harry Kane – If he can hit yet another purple patch, combined with Spurs’ solid defense, then that will be huge.
3 key games: Feb. 14 at Man City, Mar. 5 vs. Arsenal, Apr. 9 vs. Chelsea
Strength of remaining schedule: 3/10 – A very soft run-in for Spurs between now and the end of the season.


Arsenal
Current position: 3rd (48 points)
Biggest plus: They have the biggest squad and with Cech in goal their defense looks very settled.
Biggest negative: How many times have we been here before? Have to get over mental barrier, plus UCL and FA Cup to focus on too.
Key man: Alexis Sanchez – Hasn’t quite hit top form since returning from his hamstring injury. Can he hit top gear during crunch time?
3 key games: Feb. 14 vs. Leicester City, Mar. 5 vs. Tottenham, May 7 at Man City
Strength of remaining schedule: 6/10 – Probably the toughest out of all the contenders. Really need Sanchez and Mesut Ozil to pull through.


Manchester City
Current position: 4th (47 points)
Biggest plus: Strongest squad and Vincent Kompany should be returning soon. That, and wanting to send Pellegrini out on a high.
Biggest negative: Guardiola arriving means plenty of uncertainty. If Aguero or Kompany go down injured, title run could be over.
Key man: Vincent Kompany – City will always score goals with Aguero, Sterling, Silva and De Bruyne but they need Vinny back. Big time.
3 key games: Mar. 2 at Liverpool, Mar. 20 vs. Man United, May 7 vs. Arsenal
Strength of remaining schedule: 5/10 – Marginally easier than Arsenal’s because they play United and the Gunners at home. Still. Very tough.


 

Arsenal named as 2016 MLS All-Star Game opponent in San Jose

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 28:  Mesut Ozil (C) of Arsenal celebrates scoring his team's second goal with his team mates Hector Bellerin (L) and Aaron Ramsey (R) during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and A.F.C. Bournemouth at Emirates Stadium on December 28, 2015 in London, England.  (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)
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Arsenal is coming to San Jose, California.

On Thursday it was announced that the Premier League giants will take part in the 2016 MLS All-Star Game at Avaya Stadium, home of the San Jose Earthquakes.

[ VIDEO: Ferrell – “I got Mourinho fired”

The decision to play against another PL opponent makes it the ninth time that’s happened and MLS’ best will have faced seven different PL clubs in Fulham, Chelsea, West Ham United, Everton, Manchester United, Tottenham and now Arsenal.

The venue for the 2016 ASG will be San Jose’s splendid, yet slightly compact, Avaya Stadium and the game will take place on July 28 at 9 p.m. ET.

[ VIDEO: Arsenal-Leicester preview

Gunners fans in North America hoping to get tickets for the clash will have to act fast as the ‘Quakes home only holds 18,000 people, but there will be another chance to watch Arsenal play as they will face Chivas Guadalajara at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif. on July 31.

Safe to say Arsene Wenger won’t need to don his famous long padded jacket for matches in California this July…

As well as seeing Arsenal stars Mesut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez, Petr Cech, Olivier Giroud and more, the chance to watch young U.S. international Gedion Zelalem in action will excite many. That said, with the game coming late in July, plenty of Arsenal’s top stars may be on extended breaks due to their exertions for their national teams at the 2016 European Championships and the 2016 Copa America Centenario also being staged in North America.

VIDEO: Previewing the massive Man City vs. Tottenham encounter

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On the same day Arsenal host Leicester City in a clash between two title contenders (Watch live, 7 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra) the two other teams in the top two also meet on Sunday.

Your Valentine’s Day is officially sorted.

[ VIDEO: Ferrell – “I got Mourinho fired”

On Sunday Manchester City welcome Tottenham Hotspur (Watch live, 11:15 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra) to the Etihad Stadium as second-place Spurs sit just one point above fourth-place City. It could not be tighter at the top.

Earlier this season Spurs hammered an injury-hit City 4-1 at White Hart Lane and revenge will be sweet for Sergio Aguero and Co. as both teams are in serious contention to win the Premier League this season.

[ MORE: Preview – Arsenal vs. Leicester ]

In terms of their clashes at the Etihad, Spurs have not found it a happy hunting ground in recent years as they’ve lost four of their last five games away at City. Their last two defeats have been 6-0 and 4-1. Expect a tighter clash this time around as Harry Kane looks to keep his hot-streak going and City will aim to bounce back from their demoralizing, and potentially crucial, home defeat to Leicester last weekend.

So much on the line this Sunday. Click play on the video above to hear all the major headlines heading into this clash.

Mourinho to Man United: Key players to be sold? Locker room unrest, transfer gossip

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The papers are having a field day with the Jose Mourinho to Manchester United whispers.

[ VIDEO: Ferrell – “I got Mourinho fired”

Several different outlets are reporting numerous pieces of gossip about Mourinho, 53, taking over at United this summer and now seems like a good time to round it all up and have a look at what is out there.

[ VIDEO: Arsenal-Leicester preview

Here it goes…

[ REPORT: Mourinho tells friends he’s going to United


First up, the wages.

Okay, Louis Van Gaal, 64, still has a contract with the Red Devils through the 2016-17 season but many believe that barring a miraculous finish to the current campaign the Dutchman will be let go this summer. If that’s the case — and with United six points off the top four it certainly seems like another season of disappointment will play out — then El Confidencial is reporting that Mourinho will be handed a contract worth $20 million a year. That may seem like a lot, but actually it would be $9 million less a year than Manchester City is paying Pep Guardiola to be their boss. Interesting.

Juicy nugget number two: The Daily Mail states that Mourinho has already instructed executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward to sell Juan Mata and Marouane Fellaini. The midfield duo aren’t in Mourinho’s plans with the Portuguese coach selling Mata to United during his time in charge of Chelsea, while he doesn’t appear to be a fan of Belgian midfielder Fellaini either.

No. 3: The Daily Star reports that Mourinho will be handed $420 million to spend on new players and totally rebuild the under-performing squad. The same report claims Mourinho has his eye on Neymar, Edinson Cavani, Thomas Muller, Paul Pogba and Raphael Varane to help restore United to past glories and add to his tally of three Premier League titles during five full seasons with Chelsea.

And finally, and perhaps not unsurprisingly, the Sun reports that United’s locker room is split over whether Mourinho arriving would be a good thing. Well, yeah, with a massive cull on the horizon if he does arrive, it’s not too difficult to understand that the general feeling among the players will be one of trepidation. However, the main issue seems to be where No. 2 Ryan Giggs will fit into Mourinho’s plans if he does get the job.

Again, take these reports with a pinch of salt but it’s certainly interesting to keep your ear to the ground and listen to all of the tidbits circling about Mourinho’s potential arrival at Old Trafford.