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.

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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.

“Emotional” Mertesacker: Send Wenger off “with a cup”

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Arsenal defender Per Mertesacker has made 220 appearances for the club, all with one man in charge of the Gunners: Arsene Wenger.

[ MORE: The latest Arsene Wenger news ]

Mertesacker has won three FA Cups with Wenger, and he took up his pen — or laptop — for Sunday’s Matchday program.

The 33-year-old German says it’s down to Arsenal’s players to send off Wenger right: With two more successful rounds in the UEFA Europa League against Atletico Madrid and either Red Bull Salzburg or Marseille. From the BBC:

“We were only informed on Friday about the manager’s decision to step down at the end of the season, so it’s still quite emotional,” Mertesacker said.

“He’s been the major figure of this club for more than 20 years. He’s been so impressive for me and he has trusted me so much throughout my career, in bringing me here and making me captain even when I was injured. He also gave me a future role here at the club so I am very grateful and humbled for the opportunity he gave to me.

“There’s now an emphasis on us doing it for him too. We want to give him the send-off he deserves: with a cup.”

The French legend to end his time at Arsenal against Marseille would be delightful, don’t you think?

Watch Live: Arsenal-West Ham, Stoke-Burnley

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The Premier League has a pair of 8:30 a.m. ET Sunday kickoffs for us this morning, including one of Arsene Wenger‘s final matches at Arsenal.

There’s a London Derby between Arsenal and West Ham United at the Emirates Stadium, as the Gunners look to stay fresh for Atletico Madrid and the Hammers aim to firm up their Premier League status for next season (Watch live at 8:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

LINEUPS

Arsenal: Ospina, Bellerin, Koscielny, Mustafi, Monreal, Elneny, Xhaka, Ramsey, Iwobi, Welbeck, Lacazette. Subs: Macey, Mertesacker, Holding, Chambers, Maitland-Niles, Nelson. Aubameyang.

West Ham United: Hart, Zabaleta, Ogbonna, Rice, Cresswell, Masuaku, Kouyate, Noble, Fernandes, Mario, Arnautovic. Subs: Adrian, Cullen, Evra, Lanzini, Hugill, Carroll, Chicharito.


Stoke City’s climb out of the relegation zone will have to overcome Burnley’s desires for a Top Six place, as the Clarets can pass sixth place Arsenal with a win and a Gunners loss to West Ham (Watch live at 8:30 a.m. ET on NBC Sports Gold via NBCSports.com).

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

LINEUPS

Stoke City: Butland; Johnson, Shawcross, M.Indi, Pieters; Bauer, Allen, Badou, Shaqiri; Crouch, Diouf. Subs: Haugaard, Zouma, Ireland, Cameron, Fletcher, Ramadan, Campbell.

Burnley: Pope, Lowton, Long, Tarkowski, Ward, Lennon, Cork, Westwood, Gudmundsson, Wood, Barnes. Subs: Heaton, Taylor, Marney, Vokes, Hendrick, Walters, Bardsley.

Ligue 1: Depay’s goal streak hits 5 games; Lyon reeling in Monaco

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MONACO (AP) Lyon won at Dijon 5-2 and moved within one point of second-place Monaco in the French league on Friday.

Lyon’s sixth straight league win kept them level on points with fourth-place Marseille.

The team finishing second qualifies automatically for next season’s Champions League, while the team in third goes into the playoffs. After this weekend, there will be four rounds remaining.

Memphis Depay has scored or created 12 of Lyon’s 16 last goals.

The Netherlands forward opened the scoring in the fourth minute with a close-range volley, and set up the fourth goal for winger Bertrand Traore in the 77th.

Depay almost scored another, just failing to reach right back Rafael‘s cross in the 50th. Midfielder Houssem Aouar followed up and his strike was turned into his own net by defender Valentin Rosier.

Lyon’s other goals came from forwards Nabil Fekir in the 53rd and Maxwell Cornet in the 82nd.


MONACO (AP) — After losing the French title last weekend, Monaco is in danger of throwing away second place after losing at Guingamp 3-1 on Saturday.

The defeat leaves Monaco just one point ahead of Lyon and Marseille as the three sides chase an automatic place in the Champions League with four games left.

Monaco was thrashed by champion Paris Saint-Germain 7-1 last Sunday and the defense leaked easily again, albeit with a little help from one of its defenders.

A makeshift Monaco fell behind midway through the first half after Brazilian defender Jemerson was given a red card for stopping a shot on the line. He was sent off and veteran forward Jimmy Briand netted from the penalty spot for mid-table Guingamp.

Monaco capitulated and trailed 3-0 after 47 minutes. Defender Almamy Toure replied in vain with a consolation goal midway through the second half.


Marseille crushed Lille 5-1 to join Lyon on 69 points. Lyon, which won at Dijon 5-2 on Friday for a sixth straight win, has a better goal difference.

Marseille also has the Europa League and plays the first leg of its semifinal at home to Austrian side Salzburg next Thursday. But Lyon has only Ligue 1 to think about.

Still, Marseille is also brimming with confidence these days, especially winger Florian Thauvin.

He scored twice against Lille to extend his career-best league tally to 19. Greece striker Kostas Mitroglou also netted twice, and forward Lucas Ocampos completed the rout against 19th-place Lille.

In other matches: Amiens won against Strasbourg 3-1; struggling Toulouse beat Angers 2-0, and last-place Metz drew at home to Caen 1-1.

PSG is at Bordeaux on Sunday. Also, Nice is at home to Montpellier, and Saint-Etienne takes on Troyes.

UEFA says Europa League trophy not damaged after being stolen

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NYON, Switzerland (AP) UEFA says the Europa League trophy was not damaged after being stolen in Mexico.

The silverware was at a promotional event in the central city of Leon when it was reported by authorities to have been taken from a vehicle.

The theft came ahead of the semifinals of Europe’s second-tier club competition.

UEFA says the “Europa League trophy was in Mexico for a partner event and got briefly stolen. It was quickly recovered and has suffered no damages.”

In the semifinal first legs next week, Arsenal plays Atletico Madrid and Marseille takes on Salzburg.