Quick Six: Arsenal’s woes, top three’s goals, and the headlines from this weekend’s PL action

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On a weekend where Chelsea’s rout of Arsenal stole the headlines, Saturday’s result at Stamford Bridge dominates our Quick Six:

1. The most Arsenal thing they could have done

In hindsight, the strangest part of Chelsea’s barrage was its unpredictability. It’s not that we couldn’t foresee Arsenal collapsing in a big game. Gooners have been here before. It’s that nobody was willing to predict it. And yet, as Chelsea scored twice in seven minutes, three times in 17, the feeling was less shock than de ja vu. It wasn’t unpredictable because we couldn’t foresee it. It was unpredictable because we wouldn’t admit it. Arsenal was going to get blown out.

Samuel Eto’o had Arsenal down after five minutes, a lead André Schürrle doubled moments later. When Eden Hazard converted after Andre Marriner’s own headline (more below), Chelsea was up three and a man, an advantage that helped Oscar (two) and Mohamed Salah finish the job. On a day when Arsenal could have pulled within one point of first, the Gunners title hopes died on the wrong end of a 6-0 embarrassment.

(MORE: Chelsea 6-0 Arsenal: Blues hammer Gunners, as bizarre red card ruins Wenger’s big day (video))

And yet nobody’s talking about how impressive Chelsea was. This is how low our regard for Arsenal has fallen. It’s unfair (the team does have 62 points, after all), but it’s reality. Beating Arsenal by six grabs headlines, but it doesn’t change our view of a club. It only reinforces our view of Arsenal.

2. Andre Marriner shows his ‘perceptual expertise’

Let’s not dance around this one. There’s an established realm of psychology that addresses why Andre Marriner might have sent off the wrong man on Saturday. Marriner is white. Both Kieran Gibbs (the man sent off) and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (the man who should have been sent off) are black. And yes, these things are important.

From the American Psychological Association’s Siri Carpenter, in a feature titled “Why do ‘they all look alike’?”:

People are notoriously awful at recognizing faces from other races. It’s a human foible often explained by the notion that we have more experience looking at members of our own race and thus acquire “perceptual expertise” for characteristics of our own kind.

… [Kent State University’s Daniel Levin, PhD] says, people place inordinate emphasis on race categories–whether someone is white, black or Asian–ignoring information that would help them recognize people as individuals. In recent research, Levin has shown that people can, in fact, perceive fine differences among faces of people from other races–as long as they’re using those differences to make race classifications.

For example, Levin explains, “When a white person looks at another white person’s nose, they’re likely to think to themselves, ‘That’s John’s nose.’ When they look at a black person’s nose, they’re likely to think, ‘That’s a black nose.'”

(Note: I am not a trained psychologist, so if there are better references for this phenomenon, fire away in the comments.)

Marriner later apologized for his mistake, one that may not be related to race at all. If it is, it’s both explicable (in the psychological sense) and something that should never happened in an environment where everybody wears huge, distinguishing numbers on their backs.

(MORE: Andre Marriner apologizes for error in Arsenal’s loss to Chelsea)

Now if only there was some kind of way officials could look at video footage to confirm …

source: AP3. Chelsea shines light on Arsenal’s Wenger dilemma

Saturday’s rout highlighted the Wenger conundrum. The man has been a huge asset to the club – somebody that defines their modern era. Once Manchester United finishes outside of Champions League, Arsenal will be the only team in the Premier League with top-four finishes in every season since Wenger’s arrival (in 1996). In the plights of the Red Devils, Liverpool, and Tottenham, you can see why Wenger’s success is so admirable.

But he’s not José Mourinho. He’s not Carlo Ancelotti. And he’s being passed by managers like Brendan Rodgers. Whereas the level of competition in the mid-90s meant Wenger’s ability to evaluate talent, instill a consistent style, and manage a squad could carry the Gunners to the top, now he also needs to be a master game manager to win the titles.

He’s just not, part of the reason he can’t beat Mourinho. And whereas we see Brendan Rodgers is making subtle tweaks every week to exploit his competition, Wenger has maintained a more consistent approach, one that leaves his players sitting ducks for the league’s best managers. As the likes of Manuel Pellegrini, Guus Hiddink, and Ancelotti cycle in and out of the league, Arsenal’s plight becomes more pronounced.

If Wegner left, Arsenal’s would be one the most sought after jobs in the world. But they can’t let him go. He’s still too good at what he does, even if that means Arsenal seems to have no chance when in games like Saturday’s.

It’s the conundrum of this era of Arsenal soccer: Appreciate the good; swallow the bad; hope things change in the future.

4. Top three’s outburst underscores the divide

Chelsea wasn’t the only team to get its goals out of its system. Liverpool and Manchester City also blew up. Continuing their pursuits of the league’s goal scoring record, the teams posted six and five (respectively) in their Saturday wins. If Arsenal’s loss didn’t highlight the divide between the top three and the rest of the league, 17 goals from that trio did.

It was a combination of coincidence and competition. All three happened to click on the same day. All three happened to play teams playing like relegation battlers. Fulham and Cardiff City are in the drop, while Arsenal plays like it is in very specific situations. Combine those factors with teams hitting their strides as they pursue first place and you get a series of embarrassing results.

(MORE: Liverpool’s six-spot in Wales | City posts five on Fulham)

It was good for the highlight reels, with hat tricks from Luis Suárez and Yaya Touré boosting each stars prodigious totals (Suárez is up to a league-leading 28; Touré leads midfielders with 16). For the losers, however, it was only good for demoralization. Fulham and Cardiff still sit in the league’s bottom two, while Arsenal look destined for another fourth place finish.

5. Wayne Rooney’s First should have been WORTH two

Part of me wants to say “Poor Adrian,” but most of me wants to thank him. Wayne Rooney’s goal from just inside West Ham’s half left the Hammers’ keeper on his back and United up at Upton Park.

source: Getty Images6. Eriksen, Sigurdsson stop Tottenham’s fall

For all the issues Tim Sherwood has managing Spurs, motivating his players isn’t one of them. Even when they’ve looked aimless tactically, the players have put in the work, an effort that paid off in Sunday’s last hour at White Hart Lane. After falling behind two within 30 minutes, Tottenham got two goals and an assist from Christian Eriksen, with the Danish international assisting on Gylfi Sigurdsson’s stoppage time winner.

(MORE: Tottenham 3-2 Southampton: Sigurdsson puts icing on three-goal comeback after Eriksen double)

Mistakes by Nathaniel Clyne and Dejan Lovren helped, but on a weekend where we saw leads snowball, Tottenham’s resolve deserves some credit. While we (read: I) mocked the idea that something would carry over from Spurs’ loss at Benfica, Sherwood was proven correct. The same fight that pulled Tottenham within one goal of extra time in Lisbon brought them all the way back in North London.

If returning to Europa is a goal, the win moved Spurs a step closer, mostly by throwing a major wrench into one of their pursuers’ chase. More readily, it stopped the four-game slide that had begun to send their season into chaos. Instead of trying to manage a sinking ship, the team can get back to seeing who will be part of next year’s crew.

Serie A: Roma prep for Liverpool by beating SPAL; Benevento win at Milan

Elisabetta Baracchi/ANSA via AP
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A roundup of all of Saturday’s action in Italy’s top flight…

[ MORE: Man United reach FA Cup final | Premier League preview ]

SPAL 2013 0-3 Roma

A few hours after a reserves-heavy Liverpool side played last-place West Bromwich Albion to a 2-2 draw in the Premier League, Roma, the Reds’ UEFA Champions League semifinal foes beginning Tuesday, hammered 17th-place SPAL on the back of goals scored by Radja Nainggolan and Patrik Schick.

Roma shocked the world — and Barcelona — to reach the semifinals, but still have a battle on their hands to finish inside Serie A’s top-four and qualify for next season’s Champions League. Following Saturday’s victory, Eusebio Di Francesco’s side is three and four points clear of fourth- and fifth-place Lazio and Inter Milan, respectively, though both of the chasing sides play on Sunday.

AC Milan 0-1 Benevento

The 2017-18 season has treated AC Milan, who spent massively last summer, far worse than Roma. Following Sunday’s home defeat to first-year top-flight (and last-place) side Benevento, Gennaro Gattuso’s side sits sixth (final automatic Europa League place) and lead seventh-place Atalanta, who play on Sunday, by just two points.

Pietro Iemmello scored the game’s only goal in the 29th minute.

Elsewhere in Serie A

Sassuolo 1-0 Fiorentina

Sunday’s Serie A schedule

Cagliari vs. Bologna — 6:30 a.m. ET
Lazio vs. Sampdoria — 9 a.m. ET
Chievo vs. Inter Milan — 9 a.m. ET
Atalanta vs. Torino — 9 a.m. ET
Udinese vs. Crotone — 9 a.m. ET
Juventus vs. Napoli — 2:45 p.m. ET

Barcelona cruise past Sevilla, lift historic 4th straight Copa del Rey

AP Photo/Francisco Seco
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MADRID (AP) Barcelona became the first team in 85 years to win four straight Copa del Rey titles after blowing away Sevilla 5-0 in the final on Saturday.

Luis Suarez scored twice, and Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta, and Philippe Coutinho also made the scoresheet for Barcelona’s record-extending 30th Copa triumph, and sixth in the last decade.

Sevilla was trying to win a sixth Copa and save a season which will end without any trophies and maybe not even a place in the Europa League next season.

The final took place at Atletico Madrid’s Wanda Metropolitano Stadium in the capital amid the ongoing political turmoil involving Catalonia’s bid for independence.

There were jeers by part of the Barcelona crowd when the national anthem was played, but the boos were largely subdued by the reaction of the numerous Sevilla fans in the crowd. Spain’s King Felipe VI smiled and saluted the fans after the anthem.

No other team had won four Copa titles in a row since Athletic Bilbao from 1930-33. The only other team to do it was Real Madrid from 1905-08.

Barcelona lost a chance to win the treble when it was eliminated by Roma in the quarterfinals of the Champions League, but it is three points away from winning the Spanish league.

PL Sunday preview: Man City’s title trot; Wenger’s farewell tour

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Manchester City will play as the confirmed champions of the Premier League, though they won’t celebrate as such for a couple more weeks, on Sunday. Meanwhile, the only manager Arsenal have known for more than two decades begins saying goodbye

[ MORE: Man United come back to beat Spurs, reach FA Cup final ]

Arsenal vs. West Ham United — 8:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

So begins the Arsene Wenger farewell tour, and with a London derby at that. Wenger announced on Friday that he’ll leave Arsenal at the end of the current season, which has little to no chance of seeing the Gunners finish in the PL’s top-five, let alone the top-four. Sunday’s clash with West Ham will be the first of Wenger’s three remaining games at the Emirates Stadium, including the Europa League semifinal against Atletico Madrid on Thursday. Unfortunately for Wenger, three of his final five PL games (four of seven in all competitions) will be played away from home, where his side has lost five straight in league play.

Speaking of lost and wayward seasons, 14th-place West Ham are almost mathematically clear of relegation (there’s currently three places and six points between themselves and 18th-place Southampton). It’s hardly the future they imagined upon moving to the London Stadium at the start of last season. Andy Carroll scored the late equalizer in the Hammers’ 1-1 draw with Stoke City on Monday, which rescued perhaps a perfectly timed point with all five remaining games to be played against sides currently in the top-nine (Arsenal, Man City, Leicester, Man United and Everton).

INJURIES: Arsenal — OUT: Henrikh Mkhitaryan (knee), Santi Cazorla (achilles); QUESTIONABLE: Jack Wilshere (ankle) | West Ham — OUT: James Collins (hamstring), Sam Byram (ankle), Winston Reid (knee), Michail Antonio (hamstring), Pedro Obiang (knee)


Stoke City vs. Burnley — 8:30 a.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold

Here’s what’s at stake at the bet365 Stadium on Sunday:

Stoke sit two places and five points adrift of safety from relegation, with four games left to play (17th-place Swansea City have a game in hand, to boot). After 10 seasons in the PL, it’s looking more and more likely that Paul Lambert (with a tip of the cap to Mark Hughes earlier in the season) will take the Potters back to the Championship for the first time since they won promotion in 2008.

Burnley trail Arsenal by just two points (though the Clarets have played one more game than the Gunners) in the race for sixth place. A sixth-place finish would be the club’s highest top-flight finish since 1966 (3rd).

INJURIES: Stoke — QUESTIONABLE: Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting (groin) | Burnley — OUT: Steven Defour (knee), Scott Arfield (calf), Robbie Brady (knee), Jonathan Walters (fitness); QUESTIONABLE: Ben Mee (knock), Georges-Kevin Nkoudou (hamstring)


Manchester City vs. Swansea City — 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

While Man City won’t lift the PL trophy until their May 6 clash with Huddersfield Town, Sunday’s visit from Swansea will be Pep Guardiola‘s side’s first outing since clinching the title courtesy of Man United’s defeat to West Bromwich Albion last weekend. Guardiola’s focus has turned to breaking the all-time PL points record (95 — they currently have 87 with five games still to play).

“In the past, I won the league at Bayern and at Barca with five, six or seven games (left) but the next games were not good,” he said this week. “We have to think about how many points we can get, it can be a good argument. What we need to do is already done, the points record is not the most important thing, but maybe it can help us to be focused. It would be uncomfortable to finish in a bad way, there always has to be a target and maybe scoring the most goals and winning the most points will be a good focus.”

INJURIES: Man City — OUT: Sergio Aguero (knee), Benjamin Mendy (knee); QUESTIONABLE: John Stones (thigh) | Swansea — OUT: Wilfried Bony (knee), Leroy Fer (achilles), Renato Sanches (hamstring)

LAFC erase 2-goal deficits to beat Montreal in 8-goal thriller

Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press via AP
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The game in 100 words (or less): LAFC are, by definition, an expansion team; they are, to the eye, also very much an expansion team, in that they experience drastic mood swings from one game to the next and, on a number of occasions already this season, from one half to the next — or, as evidenced in Saturday’s 5-3 win over Montreal Impact, one 15-minute period to the next. 2-0 down after 16 minutes, Larent Ciman wanted the ground to open up and swallow him whole as his return to Montreal wasn’t going so swimmingly. The Belgian proceeded to score a stunning free kick eight minutes later. Montreal went down to 10 men and Evan Bush saved a penalty in the 33rd minute. Ignacio Piatti completed his hat trick on 43 minutes to restore the two-goal lead. LAFC score four second-half goals to run away with all three points, racking up 26 shots (18 of which were on target) in the process. Through two games this weekend, MLS has seen 14 goals scored.

[ MORE: Sporting KC increase West lead with 6-0 win over Vancouver ]

Three Four moments that mattered

24′ — Ciman’s free kick just about bursts through the back of the net — If not for the net, this ball continues to slowly rise until it cross the U.S.-Canada border and begins to orbit the planet in outer space.

43′ — Piatti smashes past Miller for 3-1 — Piatti takes his hat trick with aplomb, letting the ball bounce across his body before pulling it back across the face of goal and just inside the far post.

52′ — Feilhaber picks out the top corner for 3-2 — The comeback is on… again.

83′ — Vela bags the winner from the spot — Bush denied Marco Ureña from the spot in the first half, and so nearly did it again in the 83rd, but Carlos Vela’s effort crept over the line to make it 4-3.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage | MLS Three Things ]

Man of the match: Ignacio Piatti

Goalscorers: Piatti (9′, 16′, 43′), Ciman (24′), Feilhaber (52′), Raitala (57′ – OG), Vela (83′ – PK), Blessing (89′)