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Tim Sherwood adamant that Tottenham “deserved to win” against Arsenal

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Tottenham manager Tim Sherwood was adamant following his side’s 0-1 loss to Arsenal on Sunday: Spurs deserved to win the North London derby.

“I think we were better than them, we deserved to win,” Sherwood said.

The difference in the match, according to the Tottenham manager, was a wonder strike by Tomas Rosicky.

“I’m willing him to shoot from that distance,” Sherwood said of the Czech midfielder. “But he sticks it in the top corner and there is nothing we can do about that.”

One week after questioning his squad’s ‘character and guts’ following the 4-0 shellacking by Chelsea, Sherwood credited his side’s mentality while dealing a dig at his triumphant rivals.

“We showed character, absolutely,” Sherwood continued. “If you give me that between now and the end of the season, no problem. We will be where we are meant to be. The result for Arsenal will paper over a lot of cracks. They were outplayed today and they’re title contenders.”

So did Spurs deserve to win that game?

A look at the match stats suggests that Tottenham was, in fact, the better team. Spurs dominated possession (59/41), had 10 more attempts on goal (17 to 7), three more corners (5 to 2) and 27 more crosses from open play (27 to 0). Tottenham’s efforts also passed the site-test as Spurs spent the majority of the match in the opposition’s end, and poured forward late in a desperate attempt to find an equalizer.

That said, ‘deservedness’ is in the eye of the beholder. Arsenal entered the match struggling with a number of key injuries to their midfield with Mesut Ozil, Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey and Theo Walcott all sidelined. That situation, combined with Rosicky’s early goal, allowed Arsenal to adopt a defensive, counter-attacking approach to the match.

Choosing such an approach was unusual for manager Arsene Wenger but hardly surprising given the circumstances. In the 77th minute he removed winger Lukas Podolski for a defender, Nacho Monreal, and eight minutes later he made another defensive switch subbing off midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain for center-back Thomas Vermaelen.

With a healthy squad, it’s doubtful Wenger would have adopted such a strategy. But recognizing the desperate need to take all three points in order to remain in title talks, it was a plan that Wenger was unapologetic to make. “We were under pressure to win and it was a huge result,” Wenger said. “To stay in the title race we knew it was vital to win. The early goal influenced the way we played too much. We wanted to protect the lead.”

What Sherwood failed to recognize in his post-match interview is that ‘being the better side’ and ‘deserving to win’ do not go hand-in-hand. Spurs were the ‘better side’ on Sunday. But when you fail to score and can’t point to stone-wall penalties or red cards that haven’t been given, and circumstances required the opposition to adopt an unusual defensive approach the proved to work, labeling yourself the ‘deserving to win’ is a bit rich.

 

City Council approves plans for new Los Angeles soccer venue

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LOS ANGELES (AP) The City Council has approved plans to build a $250 million stadium for Major League Soccer’s expansion Los Angeles Football Club.

[ MORE: Can MLS teams begin to create separation in Week 10? ]

The council voted 12-0 Friday to move forward with a 22,000-seat stadium on the site of the old Sports Arena next to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and USC.

The 15-acre complex is also slated to include a conference center, restaurants, 140,000 square feet of plazas and streetscapes, and a soccer museum.

At its center would be the home to the new MLS team when it makes its debut in 2018.

LAFC is owned by Malaysian billionaire Vincent Tan, American venture capitalist Henry Nguyen and a celebrity-studded list of investors including Magic Johnson, Tony Robbins, Mia Hamm and Nomar Garciaparra.

Barcelona reportedly seeking out Nice winger Hatem Ben Afra

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Lost in the 2015-16 campaign has been Nice attacker Hatem Ben Afra.

[ MORE: Leicester can provide more magic at home vs. Everton ]

While Paris Saint-Germain has stolen the spotlight in France for much of this season, the former Newcastle midfielder has been nothing short of special for Les Aiglons.

[ MORE: Prince-Wright’s PL picks are in for Week 37 ]

That has left La Liga giant Barcelona contacting the 29-year old Frenchman over his services, according to Nice president Jean Pierre Rivere.

Rivere told France 3 he wouldn’t mind Ben Afra exiting the club:

“I would be very happy for him and for Nice if this move comes off,” Rivère said. “You do not reject Barcelona, but it is up to him to decide. If I was a player and Barcelona was offered to me I would not ask questions, I would go! But it is not yet done according to what I am told.”

In 32 appearances this season for Nice, Ben Afra has notched 17 goals and added five assists. He ranks third in goals, only behind PSG’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Alexandre Lacazette of Lyon.

Barcelona could very well be the frontrunners to acquire the talented attacker, but several European sides have also expressed interest in Ben Afra. Premier League clubs Chelsea and Liverpool, as well as AC Milan have also been named as potential suitors.

[ MORE: What do other PL teams have to say about Leicester? ]

Ben Afra’s age may be a bit of a concern for the Blaugrana though, in addition to the fact that this current season is the only time in his career that he has tallied double-digit goals. The Lyon academy product could provide solid depth to Barcelona’s attack should a deal get finalized.

Follow @MattReedFutbol

Premier League Preview: Leicester City vs. Everton

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  • Leicester simply playing for home pride
  • Everton seek top-10 finish

Leicester City host Everton on Saturday from the King Power Stadium (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on USA and online via Live Extra) in hopes of providing its fans with a season-capping victory, after winning the Premier League title on Monday.

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By now everyone has seen Christian Fuchs‘ video of the Leicester players in celebration mode, but there are still two games left to play. The match against Everton may be more about pride than anything else, but it can still represent an important feat for the club and serve as a true celebration in front of their home supporters.

Jamie Vardy‘s return will provide the fans with yet another moment to applaud and you’d expect the Leicester forward to want to add to his 22 PL goals.

[ MORE: Norwich in desperate need of three points vs. Manchester United ]

The Foxes will be met by an Everton side that don’t really have anything to play for either. Toffees manager Roberto Martinez will surely be looking for a win with his job on the line, however, it’s left to be seen whether or not he can actually maintain his position. Everton has finished in the PL top 10 each of the last eight seasons, and a finish outside of that mark would be a huge setback for the club.

What they’re saying…

Ranieri on his team competing: “Inside me there are two people. One is a very aggressive, I want to win, I won the Premier League but now I want to win on Saturday.”

Martinez on Leicester not letting up: “I’m sure any sort of celebration could affect you in the long term if you had to face a difficult month. In a 90-minute game where the stadium is going to be an historic environment, I’m sure that can only be positive for the home team.”

Prediction

The title is already theirs but why wouldn’t Leicester win this match? The KP Stadium will be rocking into the night and the Foxes will come away with a convincing 3-0 win against Everton.

Follow @MattReedFutbol

Premier League Preview: Norwich City vs. Manchester United

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  • Norwich sit two points out of 17th place
  • United in battle with West Ham for Europe
  • Canaries are losers of three straight

Norwich City host Manchester United from Carrow Road on Saturday (Watch live, 7:45 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra) as the Canaries seek Premier League safety with two weeks remaining.

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With their season on the line, Norwich is facing desperation as they meet Manchester United. The Canaries posted just one win in four matches in April, leaving them 19th in the PL. While neither Newcastle nor Sunderland were able to create separation between themselves and Norwich, a win against United is a necessity with three games left to play.

Goals have come at a minimum this season for the Canaries, leaving Nathan Redmond and Dieumerci Mbokani in need of a big game. Each player has notched five goals this season for the side.

[ MORE: Ranieri’s on-field changes as manager have propelled Leicester ]

Disappointment has surrounded United for much of the 2015-16 season, however, the Red Devils still have important matches to play down the stretch. That starts with Norwich. Sitting four points behind fourth place Manchester City and holding a game in hand, Louis Van Gaal‘s club can close the gap on the Citizens with a strong performance on Saturday.

What they’re saying…

Neil on match’s importance: “Everybody knows the situation, so I don’t think it is going to have massive difference in terms of how we would approach the game or they (relegation rivals) would approach the game. What it does do is apply pressure to their game, but there will be pressure on that anyway. They will recognise and we recognise that all the teams need to win games to stay in the division.”

Van Gaal on injury struggles: “I always talk about facts, not about hypothetical circumstance and activities. I can only say that in the end of November we had first position, after that we had a big decline.”

Prediction

Despite playing in front of a feisty home crowd at Carrow Road and picking up a 2-1 victory early this season against United, the Canaries chances aren’t too optimistic. Norwich hasn’t scored in three straight matches, all of which were losses. With United still playing for something I don’t expect the Red Devils to drop this match. Give United the points on the road, 3-1, leaving Norwich to rely on Aston Villa and Chelsea to pick up wins.

Follow @MattReedFutbol

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