Premier League Roundup: Gunners-Red Devils stalemate, Liverpool gain ground, Spurs impress at Newcastle

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Wednesday’s focus was destined to be at the top of the table, with Chelsea’s Tuesday slip at West Brom opening the door for Arsenal and Manchester City. But when the Gunners were held by a rival at the Emirates and City’s game was called off, Liverpool ended up the big beneficiary of Chelsea’s misstep. After a comeback win at Craven Cottage, the Reds are only four points off the top.

While those may have been the day’s most important results, the most impressive came at St. James’ Park. Continuing their rise under Tim Sherwood, Spurs posted a lopsided result on Newcastle, who have now been outscored 10-0 in their last three games.

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With weather forcing two matches to be postponed, Wednesday may not have been as busy as anticipated, but with the title race continuing to tighten, the close of the mid-week match day still helped intensify the drama at the top of the Premier League.

Here’s the lowdown:

Arsenal 0-0 Manchester United

Given how Arsène Wenger and David Moyes have approached recent big games, this result is more unsatisfying than outright surprising. With neither team showing the urgency you’d expect given their places in the table, both sides were left a disappointing result. Arsenal missed their chance to exploit a weaker opponent to go first in the Premier League, while United failed to take advantage of a relatively reserved Arsenal to keep up with Liverpool.

Fulham 2-3 Liverpool

Kolo Touré’s comical own goal put the visitors down early, but thanks to a long ball from Steve Gerrard that put Daniel Sturridge in on goal, Liverpool was able to equalize just before intermission. Goals from Kieran Richardson and Philippe Coutinho had the sides even in the 72nd minute, but just before full-time, a Sescha Riether foul on Sturridge in the right of the Fulham area gave Liverpool a reward for their control. Finishing off David Stockdale’s right upright, Gerrard gave Liverpool a 3-2 win that pulled them within four points of Chelsea at the top of the table.

Newcastle 0-4 Tottenham

Spurs pounced on a third straight disappointing performance by Newcastle to stay within three points of Liverpool for England’s final Champions League spot. Two more goals from Emmanuel Adebayor along with tallies from Paulinho and Nacer Chadli sent the Magpies to their worst loss since the season’s opening round,  leaving Newcastle unable to reclaim eighth place from Southampton

Stoke City 1-1 Swansea City

An early goal from Peter Crouch send the Potters into halftime up one, but seven minutes into the second half, Swansea capitalized on their large edge in possession to score through Chico Flores. With close calls from Wilfried Bony and Jonathan De Guzman late, the visitors had two chances to take full points. Come full-time, Stoke had pushed their unbeaten streak to three while Swansea claimed their second result under player-coach Garry Monk.

Postponed

Everton vs. Crystal Palace
Manchester City vs. Sunderland

Mexico captain Guardado suffers hamstring injury

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With the World Cup still half a year away, there’s plenty of time to heal from injuries and get the body right after tweaking things during the club season.

And yet, there will still be some concern among Mexico fans.

Team captain Andres Guardado suffered a hamstring tear, his club Real Betis confirmed on Monday, and is expected to miss 3-4 weeks. That’s nothing to write home about when it comes to preparing for the big tournament, but with Guardado 31 years old and struggling with injuries in recent years, Mexico fans will be keenly aware that hamstring injuries can return with a vengeance if not given the right time to heal.

Guardado has shown his age in recent times, not necessarily with his play on the field, which has been critical to his country, but with his fitness. Guardado has just four full 90 minute performances for Mexico dating back to October of 2016, missing time with ankle, leg, and now hamstring injuries in that span.

The 31-year-old has had a fine season so far for Real Betis, scoring one goal and assisting six while appearing in all 15 La Liga matches for the club thus far. The club sits 12th in the La Liga table with 18 points.

Guardado will be fine with plenty of time to spare, but if not fully healed properly, there’s always the risk that muscle injuries can flare back up, and Mexico fans will hope that their captain’s club gives him plenty of rest to recover.

Mark Hughes wants Stoke City to “suck it up”

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Mark Hughes is under fire at Stoke City with the Potters firmly entrenched in the relegation battle, and with that he’s charging his players, staff, and himself to gut the rest of the season out.

With Stoke heading to Turf Moor to take on Burnley, they sit just three points above the drop. The players were faced with jeers from angry fans at the train station following this past weekend’s 5-1 disaster against Tottenham. The fiery Hughes is hoping to use this jarring moment to jolt his squad.

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“That is still resonating. It’s good we have a game because it is still fresh in their ears probably, and they can use it as a motivating factor,” said Hughes during his pre-match press conference.

“You either suck it up and do ­something about it or you go under, and we can’t accept players like that. I don’t feel we have players like that.”

With managers nowadays often reaching into the excuses barrel as they hope to save their own skins, Hughes refuses to do just that, instead placing the decision firmly on the players shoulders, telling them they are the only ones who can save the club.

“Maybe some hadn’t ­confronted that before – but sometimes you need a reality check, and understand how our results and ­performances affect people,” Hughes said. “When people criticize you, you have to grow a thick skin in this industry. If you don’t, you’re in the wrong place.”

Louis van Gaal calls Mourinho’s United “far more boring”

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Louis Van Gaal has picked just the right time to pipe up.

The former Manchester United manager, who took flak while in charge for his side being hideous to watch, has now taken shots of his own at his successor Jose Mourinho, kicking Manchester United while they’re down after a 2-1 derby defeat at home.

The Dutchman told Fox Sports Netherlands, “If you ask me how did I do at United, I will say it was my best year ever, given the circumstances I was working under. We played football that was quite alright. But it’s not football that is appreciated in England. And yet, right now, looking at United, I have to conclude Mourinho is not being criticized while it’s far more boring football.”

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Van Gaal was blasted consistently for playing a boring style, especially in front of the home crowd, and now Mourinho is being criticized for the same concept. Mourinho was denounced for similar reasons while in charge of Chelsea, but with the club winning multiple titles under his leadership, the noise was always less while the team was winning. With Manchester United still unable to crack the top 4, Mourinho is feeling the heat.

“What United produce now is defensive football,” van Gaal said. “I always played attacking football. The proof is that the opposition were always parking the bus. They don’t do that now because Jose Mourinho plays so defensive.”

To van Gaal’s point, Manchester United is seventh in the Premier League in possession, holding 51% possession this season. They were out-possessed by Manchester City 65-35 at Old Trafford over the weekend. Meanwhile, van Gaal’s last full season with Manchester United, the 2015/16 season, saw the Red Devils hold 54%, which ranked third in the Premier League, just a percentage point behind leaders Arsenal. However, van Gaal’s United ranked 15th in the Premier League in total shots, while Mourinho’s United this season ranks sixth at this point.

Van Gaal made sure to point out he prefers their cross-town rivals.

“I would rather watch City play than United. You need quality in a squad and it’s clear City have a better squad.”

Conte blames fatigue for dip in Chelsea form

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Antonio Conte has figured out what is plaguing his Chelsea side as they sit 14 points back of Premier League leaders Manchester City.

“I think when you play every three days, it is impossible to have a training session and to work on the physical aspects,” Conte said in his pre-match press conference as the Blues get set to play Huddersfield Town on Tuesday. “It’s impossible. It’s impossible because you have to prepare with the players for a game every three days.”

Chelsea has yet to find itself eliminated from a single competition, drawn against Barcelona in the Champions League while navigating fixtures across all four competitions.

And yet, this is nothing new for Conte. The Blues boss is more than familiar with fixture congestion, having taken charge of Juventus and regularly competing at a high level on multiple fronts. In 2012/13, he won the Serie A title, won the Supercoppa Italia, and reached the quarterfinals of the Champions League.

However, this is new for Conte at Chelsea. Last season, the Blues did not take part in a European competition thanks to their disastrous season the previous year. While they reached the FA Cup final, they were knocked out of the EFL Cup in the 4th round.

“We have to try to do our best,” Conte said. “For sure, some players can be tired, that’s normal because some players are playing from this summer and our tours in China and Singapore. It’s normal. But I repeat we have to find the best solution. We have to find more rotations. I’m doing this, we will try and do our best with hunger and desire. We will fight.”

As an example, Conte said Alvaro Morata will miss the match on Tuesday against Huddersfield Town due to fatigue, with the Spaniard battling a slight back injury. “Morata is out. He is a bit tired and he has a problem in his back.