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Premier League Preview: Arsenal vs Manchester City

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  • Manchester City has not conceded a goal in 508 minutes.
  • Of the eight times City has scored 5 or more goals in a game this season, only one came on the road.
  • A win would put the Gunners three points from the top; a loss gives Everton a chance to pull within three of Arsenal.

It’s a pivotal match for both clubs in the top-four picture as red-hot Manchester City travels to the Emirates for a date with Arsene Wenger’s Gunners at 1:30pm ET on NBCSN or live online at NBC Sports Live Extra.

For Manchester City, who have not conceded a goal in over five straight Premier League matches, the title is theirs to lose – and so are the record books.  Another clean sheet would put their streak at a club record 598 minutes.  Already, their streak is City’s best in the top flight since 1915.

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Add the fact that Manuel Pellegrini and company have bagged 11 goals in that span (eight in their last two) and Arsenal will have plenty to think about on both ends of the pitch.

The same can’t be said for the Gunners.

Wenger’s bunch have been up to their usual late-season slide recently, picking up just four points thus far through March and seeing themselves outscored 9-3 largely thanks to a 6-0 spanking by Chelsea.

(MORE: Arsene Wenger deeply regrets not signing Yaya Toure)

With an away win, Arsenal are all but mathematically eliminated from the title contention, while Manchester City would kick off their three-match gauntlet in a positive fashion.

Following this weekend’s fixture, City will host Southampton at the Etihad before traveling to Anfield for a potential title-decider against Liverpool. Following that, City could be in the clear with just Sunderland, West Brom, Crystal Palace, Everton, Aston Villa, and West Ham left on the docket, making this stretch even more important.

Not too much has changed on the injury front for either side.  Arsenal will still be without Mesut Ozil and Jack Wilshere, while Laurent Koscielny misses out thanks to a calf injury. Pellegrini misses Sergio Aguero and Matija Nastasic while welcoming back David Silva.

What they’re saying:

Pellegrini on Arsenal: “I think Arsenal have a chance of winning the title. Maybe they didn’t play well or have the results they needed in the last two matches. But I think that all the teams will drop points also from now until the end of the season, so I continue thinking that Arsenal have a lot of chances to fight for the title.”

Wenger on their current position: “We want to finish first in the league and everything else, the other priorities are still there. You want to be in the Champions League of course, but it is never good enough to be anything other than first and you hope always you are the best. If you ask any team, and they have to be in the top four (so) you cannot say as well it is a shame, but you want to be first – you do not work day and night to be second.”

David Silva on City’s position: “I think another win would make us favorites. There will still be a long way to go but we’ll be in a great position going into the final few weeks. If we win them all, there is nothing anyone can do to stop us.”

Prediction:

With two teams coming into the match in almost completely opposite form, there’s an easy route.  Arsenal will have to fight hard to win the match, and Wenger will have them looking for revenge after the Chelsea defeat led to many counting them out. It’s hard to see a club like the Gunners laying down and dying like they did at Stamford Bridge twice in such a short span, and for that reason I like a 2-2 draw in this match, much to the delight of Chelsea and Liverpool fans.

Hull City promoted, but Steve Bruce still considering future

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 28:  Steve Bruce, manager of Hull City lifts the trophy after victory in the Sky Bet Championship Play Off Final match between Hull City and Sheffield Wednesday at Wembley Stadium on May 28, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
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Steve Bruce saw Hull City go down to the Championship, and pulled the Tigers right back up the Premier League.

Hull won promotion at the first time of asking after defeating Sheffield Wednesday 1-0 on Saturday, but Bruce wants to see stability at the KC Stadium.

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The club remains up for sale after owner Assem Allam saw his request to change the team name to Hull Tigers denied by the English Football Association.

From the BBC:

“I’ll sit down with the owners. It’s not often you walk away from the Premier League – that’s where I want to manage,” Bruce told BBC Radio 5 live.

“But I have to be given certain assurances that we’re all moving in the right direction.

“I keep hearing too many stories that there’s a takeover imminent. We’ll see what develops,” added the 55-year-old.

The longtime Manchester United back has been around the managerial block a few times, and it’d be nice to see him stay at Hull for the long term. He’s led the Tigers into the Premier League on two occasions, and is — seriously — the seventh longest tenured manager in the Football League. He would enter the Premier League as the second-longest serving manager, to Arsene Wenger.

BREAKING: Olympiacos striker Pulido kidnapped in Mexico

DRENTHE, NETHERLANDS - JULY 29:  Alan Pulido of Olympiacos in action during the pre season friendly match between FC Twente and Olympiacos Piraeus held at Sportpark Veenoord on July 29, 2015 in New Amsterdam and Veenoord, Netherlands.  (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
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Terrifying news out of Mexico, where 25-year-old Mexican national team striker Alan Pulido has reportedly been kidnapped in his hometown.

Pulido, 25, has four goals in six caps for El Tri and moved to Olympiacos in 2015, where he scored five goals in eight matches.

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Various reports claim that Pulido and his girlfriend were taken after masked gunmen cut off the vehicle in which they were riding, and only released the girlfriend.

From the Associated Press:

The official says the 25-year-old player was kidnapped near his hometown of Ciudad Victoria on Sunday after leaving a party.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the case under investigation.

Klinsmann hails Zardes’ character; USMNT forward likes his first touch

COLUMBUS, OH - MARCH 29:  Gyasi Zardes #9 of the United States Men's National Team controls the ball against Guatemala during the FIFA 2018  World Cup qualifier on March 29, 2016 at MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. The United States defeated Guatemala 4-0.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
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Gyasi Zardes’ remarkable rise from Cal State Bakersfield to fixture on the United States men’s national team is one of the better stories in recent team history.

The USMNT attacker nabbed his fourth and fifth international goals in Saturday night’s blowout of Bolivia, and he’s up to 25 caps since making his debut in Jan. 2015.

[ USMNT-BOLIVIA: Recap3 things | Player ratings ]

Jurgen Klinsmann deserves some credit for putting the L.A. Galaxy on the field almost religiously as Zardes works on so many facets of his game. He’s improved dramatically in positioning, runs and 1v1 battles and reportedly soaks up information like a sponge. Klinsmann loves the guy, and for good reason.

It’s also important to note that, despite his ever-present status, Zardes remains 24 and a work in progress.

From MLSSoccer.com:

“Sometimes it’s perfect, and maybe the next day it’s not so good, but it’s totally fine – because every player has his strengths and weaknesses. So as long as they keep on working on those weaknesses and getting them better and better, it’s totally fine. He’s very straight in his thought process in front of the goal. He knows exactly what he wants to do.

“You have to follow your first thought. That’s crucial. If you start to have two thoughts, then you’re going to get messed up. He was very calm, putting two goals in there, and the whole game he was involved. It’s coming along.”

Zardes’ club goal production dropped last year from roughly a goal every other game to one every three, but he’s been growing as a playmaer and this season has four goals and four assists through 11 matches.

I really like Zardes — see my post calling for his USMNT call-up in 2014 — but let me say one negative thing about his bristling at first touch questions and saying, “To be honest, me personally, I think I have a good first touch”: I’m glad he feels that way and his woes may be a bit overblown, but calling his Saturday goals first touch goals is accurate but kind of hilarious.

The criticism of his first touch, which his betrayed him on major scoring chances in each of the last two USMNT matches, has nothing to do when his first touch is directed at goal. On his brace last night, the first was a good finish where he had to work it past the keeper and the second was a plant foot shot. Both, in fact, were shots.

Those count as your first touch on the ball, but when we discuss first touch it’s about taking the ball off a pass or dribble and possessing it for a purpose. Of course he was right to shoot, but it’s cool if your eyes rolled pretty hard in reading his comments.

Koeman: Manchester United “don’t deserve a medal” for treatment of Louis van Gaal

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 20:  Louis van Gaal, Manager of  Manchester United talks to Ronald Koeman, Manager of Southampton during the  Barclays Premier League match between Southampton and Manchester United at St Mary's Stadium on September 20, 2015 in Southampton, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Tony Marshall/Getty Images)
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When it comes to the firing of Louis Van Gaal, his countryman has his back.

Southampton boss Ronald Koeman doesn’t like the way Manchester United handled LVG’s fate with the team, firing him within hours of the Red Devils winning the FA Cup.

Like many, Koeman doesn’t buy that the LVG to Jose Mourinho transition happened in a week.

[ MORE: Early and (purposefully) absurd 2016-17 PL predictions ]

Given the gossip mill since Chelsea fired Mourinho in January, that’s not a hard thing to buy, and Koeman is angry that LVG was kept out of the loop. Reports claim that Van Gaal had drawn-up plans for 2016-17 with him on the day he was let go.

From Sky Sports:

“If Louis was not told about getting the sack until after the FA Cup final, then Manchester United as a club don’t deserve a medal for the way they treated him.

“If you know a little bit about the business at the highest level in football, then you know that these kind of deals are not done overnight.”

Koeman hedges his words with conditionals, but there’s little doubt what he means. Managers generally stand together when it comes to dismissals, but it’s nice to see someone stand up for LVG’s treatment (whether he deserved to be canned or not).