Arsenal could be own worst enemy as title challenge sees tension rise

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LONDON — Following their 1-1 draw with Everton on Arsenal, one thing is clear as we enter the cold winter months of the long Premier League season and teams at the top of the table continue to drop points.

Arsenal only have one main competitor for the title… themselves.

After their slightly nervous display on Sunday, Arsene Wenger revealed that his side must stay focused on the matter on hand as they’re five points clear at the summit. Despite all the hype and hubbub from many speculating a first Premier League title since 2004 will arrive at the Emirates this season, their long-time French manager is urging caution but believes his team are much stronger than they have been in recent years.

“We have shown consistency up until now and an absolutely fantastic attitude,” Wenger said. “That’s why we are different to last season. We are a better team too and more stable defensively and better offensively. Overall, you could see today with the toughness of the game we have to prepare ourselves for every single game.”

The weight of expectancy on Arsenal’s shoulder was palpable from the offset in an entertaining end-to-end game, as Everton put in an impressive display that pushed the league leaders to their limits.

(MORE: Arsenal 1-1 Everton – Late breakthroughs cancel as Deulofeu denies Arsenal all 3 points)

When Mesut Ozil put Arsenal 1-0 up in the 80th minute, the relief was obvious amongst the home fans as they celebrated the strike with thunderous chants of “1-0 to the Arsenal” and they believed, that was that. Many times this season it has been, as five shutout wins from their last seven league games prove, but that huge sigh of relief following Ozil’s goal turned into groans of discontent four minutes later as Gerard Deulofeu scored a stunning late equalizer to send Arsenal’s fans into silence.

Ozil’s opener should have kicked Arsenal on but they sat back, looked edgy and failure to clear several crosses late on cost them all three points. Wenger was left scratching his head.

“The regret I have is that we were pulled back after being 1-0 up with seven minutes to go,” Wenger said. “You have to give credit to Everton, they continue to play well and they always looked dangerous. We played against a very good side we are disappointed to get caught with one at the end, but it’s still a point.”

Throughout the draw with the Toffees, especially early on, Arsenal’s fans were getting on their sides back as their team gave the ball away needlessly and the away side were pressing the Gunners high up the pitch to great success. Negativity reigned supreme around the Emirates as large spells of prominent silence from the home fans was telling. U.S. international ‘keeper Tim Howard put in an inspired performance in goal for Everton, pulling off three fantastic stops to thwart the league leaders as anxiety levels rose in the Emirates as the pulsating clash wore on.

source: Reuters
Deulofeu’s late goal stunned the Gunners as their mental toughness in the tough moment coming up will be key.

“We took time to get into the game, Everton started stronger,” Wenger said. “After that we had three one-on-one’s against the ‘keeper in the first half. But we didn’t our chances very well.”

Wenger was right, plenty of players like Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere and Santi Cazorla weren’t quite at the races as needless giveaways were greeted with endless sighs and cries of disbelief from the home fans. You can’t blame the players for feeling a bit under pressure, Arsenal’s fans are desperate for some silverware after eight barren years and reminders of that are all around the Gunners stars as they continue to stay on top of the PL.

Emblazoned on the balconies splitting up the four tiers of the vast 60,000 plus Emirates Stadium are the outlines of which trophies they’ve won and which year they’ve won them in. FA Cups, Premier League titles, League Cups… they all hang over the pitch as an ominous reminder, to the players at least, of Arsenal’s great history and level of success spanning decades.

Asked afterwards if Arsenal were serious title contenders this season, Wenger kept his cards close to his chest.

“It depends what you call serious,” Wenger said. “As long as we are five points ahead we cannot rule ourselves out. So, let’s keep that going. It shows you that it will be a tough a Premier League and consistency, in the end, will be a reward. Consistency if of course down to us to keep this attitude going from now until the end of the season.”

This season many expect them to break that duck of no trophies since switching from their historic Highbury Stadium for the Emirates back in 2006. But as the nervy atmosphere on Sunday suggested, that huge level of expectancy could bring the walls crumbling down around them.

Against Everton, some cracks were starting to show.

Their next two games against Manchester City and Chelsea may reveal further blemishes but the toughest task will be how to deal with their own demons that have robbed them of success in recent campaigns. Mental toughness is key and Wenger believe his sides attitude is spot on, as Arsenal have rolled teams over all season and deservedly sit top of the standings.

But now the biggest battle of all is coming up, a battle against themselves.

USMNT midfielder Weston McKennie injured in Schalke draw

AP Photo/Martin Meissner
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Look away, U.S. Men’s National Team fans.

American and Schalke midfielder Weston McKennie was forced out of Sunday’s 1-1 Bundesliga draw against Hanover 96 after the 19-year-old collided with Felix Kraus.

McKennie, who entered the match in the 62nd minute for Leon Goretzka, managed to stay on the field for nearly 20 minutes before being substituted out.

To this point there has been no indication that the young USMNT player’s injury is serious.

More to follow…

Watford announces Gracia as Silva replacement

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Watford’s replacement for fired manager Marco Silva is indeed veteran Spanish boss Javi Gracia.

[ MORE: Watford fires Silva, blames Everton ]

The Hornets announced the 47-year-old’s hiring on Sunday, hours after firing Silva and blaming Everton’s pursuit of the manager for the club’s fall from European contender to the fringe of a relegation battle.

Watford is still four points clear of the drop following Southampton’s draw with Spurs on Sunday.

Gracia led Malaga to eighth and ninth place finishes in La Liga between 2014-16 before spending last season at Rubin Kazan.

Gracia, 47, has led promotion campaigns in Spain and has plenty of experience with perceived smaller clubs battling the drop zone.

Watford will hope the Hornets don’t reach that point after flirting with the Top Seven for the first quarter of the Premier League season.

Pochettino on sloppy Spurs draw, dismisses Malcom “rumor”

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Mauricio Pochettino knows St. Mary’s well, and the ex-Southampton boss has managed a rainy, sloppy match or three there in the past.

[ RECAP: Saints 1-1 Spurs ]

So he knows it’s possible to play well in those circumstances, leaving him feeling like Tottenham Hotspur’s 1-1 draw at Southampton on Sunday was a wasted opportunity against a struggling Saints side.

“It is temporary that Southampton are in the relegation zone, for sure they will push up the table,” Pochettino said. “It is two points we are going to miss at the end of the season because it is so tough between six or seven teams.”

[ MORE: Bertrand reacts to draw ]

So why couldn’t Spurs find their foothold? Well, aside from sickness keeping Christian Eriksen and Hugo Lloris out of the lineup, a bug that may’ve affected more on the team, Spurs just weren’t up to snuff.

“We struggled to play,” Pochettino said. “It was in possession, we made mistakes which allowed them to play. To win the game we should do better and play better. It wasn’t great.

Pochettino was also asked about Spurs’ reported pursuit of 20-year-old Bordeaux star Malcom, who has seven goals and five assists in Ligue 1 this season.

“That is a rumor and I don’t want to speak about it. I am happy with our squad. We are open to quality players but you know very well it is difficult in this transfer window.”

MLS SuperDraft 2018 Live Tracker: Rounds 3 & 4

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Newcomers Los Angeles FC made some serious waves during the opening rounds of the 2018 MLS SuperDraft, and other clubs will be looking to follow in their footsteps on Day 2.

Bob Bradley‘s side came up with a pair of defensive picks inside the top 3 on Friday, nabbing Joao Moutinho and Tristan Blackmon to help solidify a growing roster for the Western Conference side.

[ SOURCES: NYCFC’s Jack Harrison likely to join PL side Stoke City ]

Meanwhile, the Chicago Fire were active early and often, which benefitted Veljko Paunovic’s club in a big way. The playoff side from a season ago managed to get two of the draft’s most talented attacking players in Wake Forest forward Jon Bakero and Syracuse product Mo Adams.

Which players slipped through the cracks on Day 1 and will help provide relief to MLS rosters on Day 2?

Follow along on PST as we track the day’s transactions, beginning at 2 p.m. ET.

Third round

47. Los Angeles FC — Jordan Jones — Forward (Oregon State)
48. LA Galaxy — Nate Schultz — Defender (Akron)
49. D.C. United (traded to Fire) — Elliot Collier — Forward (Loyola)
50. Colorado Rapids — Thomas Olsen — Goalkeeper (San Diego)
51. Real Salt Lake — Pass
52. New York City FC — Alex Bumpus — Defender (Kentucky)
53. Montreal Impact — Ken Krolicki — Midfielder (Michigan State)
54. Philadelphia Union — Mike Catalano — Midfielder (Wisconsin)
55. Philadelphia Union — Aidan Apodaca — (Cal Baptist)
56. Real Salt Lake — Pass
57. FC Dallas — Amer Sasivarevic — Midfielder (Grand Canyon)
58. San Jose Earthquakes — Kevin Partida — (UNLV)
59. Houston Dynamo — Pablo Aguilar — Midfielder (Virginia)
60. Montreal Impact — Pass
61. Portland Timbers — Caleb Duvernay — Defender (NC State)
62. Vancouver Whitecaps — Cory Brown — Defender (Xavier)
63. Portland Timbers — Timmy Mueller — Forward (Oregon State)
64. Portland Timbers  — Stuart Holthusen — Forward (Akron)
65. New York City FC — Pass
66. Houston Dynamo —  Sheldon Sullivan — Defender (Virginia)
67. Columbus Crew — Luis Argudo — Midfielder (Wake Forest)
68. Seattle Sounders — Chris Bared — Defender (Villanova)
69. Toronto FC — Andre Morrison — Defender (Hartford)

——

Fourth round

70. Atlanta United — Paul Christensen — Goalkeeper (Portland)
71. D.C. United — Afonso Pinheiro — Forward (Albany)
72. Colorado Rapids –Brian Iloski — (UCLA)
73. Colorado Rapids — Niki Jackson — Forward (Grand Canyon)
74. D.C. United — Rafael Andrade Santos — Midfielder (VCU)
75. Sporting KC — Will Bagrou — Forward (Mercer)
76. Montreal Impact — Pass
77. Philadelphia Union –Matt Danilack — Midfielder (Dartmouth)
78. New England Revolution — Nicolas Samayoa — Defender (Florida Gulf Coast)
79. Real Salt Lake — Pass
80. FC Dallas — Noah Franke — Defender (Creighton)
81. San Jose Earthquakes — Pass
82. Sporting KC –Wilfred Williams — Defender (Oakland)
83. New York Red Bulls — Jared Stroud — (Colgate)
84. Chicago Fire — Josh Morton — Defender (California)
85. New York Red Bulls — Jose Aguinaga — (Rider)
86. Vancouver Whitecaps — Pass
87. Portland Timbers — Mamadou Guirassy — Forward (NJIT)
88. New York City FC — Pass
89. Houston Dynamo — Manny Padilla — Defender (San Francisco)
90. LA Galaxy — Pass
91. D.C. United — Pass
92. Toronto FC — Ben White — Defender (Gonzaga)

Below is a recap of the action from Day 1, which featured the first two rounds of the draft on Friday.


First round

1. Los Angeles FC — Joao Moutinho — Defender (Akron)*
2.LA Galaxy — Tomas Hilliard-Arce — Defender (Stanford)*
3.DC United (traded to LAFC) — Tristan Blackmon — Defender (Pacific University)
4. Montreal Impact (traded to FC Dallas) — Francis Atuahene — Forward (Michigan)
5. Minnesota United (traded to Fire) — Jon Bakero — Forward (Wake Forest)
6. Orlando City — Chris Mueller — Forward (Wisconsin)
7. Montreal Impact (traded to Minnesota) — Mason Toye — Forward (Indiana)*
8. New England Revolution — Brandon Bye — Defender (Western Michigan)
9. New England Revolution — Mark Segbers — Defender (Wisconsin)
10. Real Salt Lake (traded to Fire) — Mo Adams — Midfielder (Syracuse)*
11. FC Dallas — Ema Twumasi — Midfielder (Wake Forest)*
12. San Jose Earthquakes — Paul Marie — Midfielder/Defender (FIU)
13. Sporting KC — Eric Dick — Goalkeeper (Butler)
14. Atlanta United — Jon Gallagher — Forward (Notre Dame)
15. Chicago Fire (traded to Minnesota) — Wyatt Omsberg — Defender (Dartmouth)
16. New York Red Bulls — Brian White — Forward (Duke)
17. Vancouver Whitecaps — Justin Fiddes — Defender (Washingt0n)
18. Sporting KC — Graham Smith — Defender (Denver)
19. New York City FC — Jeff Caldwell — Goalkeeper (Virginia)
20. Houston Dynamo — Michael Nelson — Goalkeeper (SMU)
21. Columbus Crew — Ben Lungaard — Goalkeeper (Virginia Tech)
22. Seattle Sounders — Alex Roldan — Midfielder (Univ. of Seattle)
23. Toronto FC (traded to Minnesota) — Carter Manley — Defender (Duke)

——

Second round

24. LAFC — Pol Calvet Planellas — Midfielder (Pittsburgh)
25. Colorado Rapids — Alan Winn — Forward (North Carolina)
26. Vancouver Whitecaps — Lucas Stauffer — Defender (Creighton)
27. Colorado Rapids — Frantzdy Pierrot — Forward (Coastal Carolina)
28. Minnesota United (traded to Toronto FC) — Tim Kubel — Defender (Louisville)
29. FC Dallas — Mauro Cichero — Forward (SMU)
30. San Jose Earthquakes — Danny Musovski — Forward (UNLV)
31. New York Red Bulls — Niko De Vera — Defender (Akron)
32. Columbus Crew — Edward Opoku — Forward (Virginia)
33. Real Salt Lake — Ricky Lopez-Espin — Midfielder (Creighton)
34. FC Dallas — Chris Lema — Midfield (Georgetown)
35. San Jose Earthquakes — Mohamed Thiaw — Forward (Louisville)
36. Atlanta United — Oliver Shannon — Midfielder (Clemson)
37. Atlanta United — Gordon Wild — Forward (Maryland)*
38. Chicago Fire — Diego Campos — Midfielder (Clemson)
39. New York Red Bulls — Tom Barlow — Forward (Wisconsin)
40. LA Galaxy — Drew Skundrich — Midfielder (Stanford)
41. Minnesota United — Xavier Gomez — Midfielder (Nebraska-Omaha)
42. New York City FC — AJ Paterson — Defender (Wright St.)
43. Houston Dynamo — Mac Steeves — Forward (Providence)
44. Columbus Crew — Jake Rozhansky — Midfielder (Maryland)
45. Seattle Sounders — Markus Fjortoft — Defender (Duke)
46. Toronto FC — Drew Shepherd — Goalkeeper (Western Michigan)

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