Quick Six: City maintains control, Chelsea stumbles, and the rest of the headlines from the Premier League weekend

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1. City stays in the drivers’ seat

This is where that big, expensive squad pays off. David Silva and Fernandinho’s health kept them out of Manuel Pellegrini’s starting XI. Sergio Agüero was lost after scoring an early equalizer. Despite being unable to get full shifts from three of the team’s four best players, Manchester City overcame an early deficit to win at Goodison Park, earning three points that allowed the club to finish the weekend top of the table.

Liverpool has a chance to overtake City with a result tomorrow at Selhurst, but with their title destiny in hand, the Citizens can still render that result irrelevant. With wins at home against Aston Villa and West Ham (neither of whom sit higher than 12th), Manchester City can claim its second title in three years, potentially without the dramatics that accompanied the last one.

(MORE: Everton 2-3 Manchester City: Dzeko’s double sends City top (video))

2. Chelsea squanders its chance to go top

How does a team go from winning at Anfield despite missing half its starters to being drawn at home against a team that sits at the bottom of the form table? That’s a question José Mourinho and his players have to ask themselves after today’s 0-0 at Stamford Bridge, a result that leaves Chelsea one point behind Manchester City and Liverpool.

After the game, Mourinho expressed surprise at Norwich’s conservative approach. Unfortunately, that’s a tactic Chelsea’s had trouble with all year. Against teams that come after them and allow Chelsea to play on the counter (often the teams at the top of the table), the Blues look like the best team in the league. After the circuit’s bottom dwellers, Chelsea looks inexplicably vulnerable.

(MORE: Chelsea 0-0 Norwich City: No goals, no consequences (yet))

Psychologically, tactically, there are good explanations why Chelsea has trouble making the transition, though these are the types of problems great coaches should be expected to overcome. Roman Abramovich is paying Mourinho commensurate with his reputation, has supplied him with one of the world’s most talented squads, and appears to have sacrificed some of his aesthetic preferences to make peace with Mourinho’s approach. The least Mourinho can do is beat Norwich at home.

3. Fulham, Cardiff City go down

Saturday losses confirmed the season’s first teams to be relegate. Cardiff City, after winning last year’s Championship, goes back down after a loss at Newcastle, with most people ready to point the finger at Vincent Tan for the team’s inability to stay up. Fulham, on the other hand, ends a 13-year stay in the top flight after a 4-1 loss at Stoke.

It’d be too much to say Cardiff will be missed, but after a season defined by turmoil over results, it’s the sympathize with Bluebirds fans whose top flight dream turned sour. The Malky Mackay-Vincent Tan struggle the former coach allowed to play out in the press sent the club into a tailspin from which it couldn’t recover. Even if Mackay put the same energy into managing as he did engineering his narrative, it’s unclear Tan’s presence could be overcome.

(MORE: Newcastle 3-0 Cardiff City: Bluebirds are relegated | Stoke City 4-1 Fulham: Fulham are relegated)

Fulham, conversely, had become a fixture in the top flight. The club;s relegation is sure to hit Americans hard, with many using the presence of players like Brain McBride, Carlos Bocanegra, and Clint Dempsey as reason to claim the club as their own. Now, like those that latched onto Bolton when Stuart Holden joined the Trotters, they’ll assume a new life as fans of a second division club, many of them having never known relegation from the Premier League.

4. Sunderland under attack

After Saturday’s win at Old Trafford, the Black Cats have won three in a row, taking 10 of 12 points to put the team on the brink of survival. Whereas Sunderland were in last place as early as three weeks ago, now Gus Poyet’s side is one point from safety, its goal difference and game in hand meaning the Black Cats would have to lose out to go down.

(MORE: Manchester United 0-1 Sunderland: Giggs’ honeymoon over (video))

There is another possibility that emerged this week, though according to the Premier League, the Gang of Three’s desire to get Sunderland docked points won’t happen. If the Black Cats continue playing as they did this weekend, however, the claim will be irrelevant. Even if a points deduction happens, Sunderland are unlikely to be docked more than three. Between Norwich’s trip to Arsenal next weekend and the Black Cats’ remaining fixtures (vs. West Brom; vs. Swansea), the Canaries will struggle to stay that close.

(MORE: Bottom three ready to fight Sunderland’s light ineligible player penalty | Attempt to dock points likely to fail)

source: AP5. Giggs gets a taste of managerial reality

Seemingly decades ago, on an edition of NFL Countdown, then-studio analyst Bill Parcells — two-time Super Bowl-winner with the New York Giants — was asked who he thought should be favored in a game near the end of the regular season . His answer, delivered with Parcells’ trademark comedic snide: “The team that wants it more usually wins the game.”

Obviously it’s an over-simplification (at least, beyond National Football League games), but in watching Saturday’s game at Old Trafford, you were reminded that only one of those teams had anything to play for. Sunderland — less talented, at the bottom of the table — needed points to help secure survival. Manchester United had no stakes. The players don’t even know who they’ll be playing for next year.

As Parcells would have predicted, Sunderland got a result, but for Ryan Giggs, it was a dose of reality. The interim Red Devils boss made it look easy the week before against Norwich, but against a much stronger side, the same solutions fell short. He couldn’t get his team up for a meaningless game.

6. Arsenal clinches Champions League spot

With Everton’s loss on Saturday, Arsenal clinched fourth place, ensuring another crack at UEFA Champions League. While the result also queued a series of jokes about the Gunners winning Arsène Wenger’s hypothetical trophy, it also left the club with the distinction of being the only team to finish in the top four every year since Wenger took over. After Manchester United’s fall, Arsenal stands alone.

Despite that achievement, Wenger still had to answer questions about whether Sunday’s match against West Brom would be his last at the Emirates. With his contract extension still unsigned, the prying is understandable, but in such inquiries, there’s more than a faint note of skepticism about Arsenal’s recent trend. Though the Gunners survived in this year’s title race longer than most expected, they also had to hold off a late challenge for fourth. Those challenges are becoming more serious as Wenger’s tenure goes on.

Some familiar with the club’s inner-workings suggest there wouldn’t be a huge effort to dissuade Wenger should he elect to walk away. If he wins the FA Cup, now might be the best time to do so.

Unfortunately, after another year where Arsenal survived in the top four, the impasse at the Emirates continues. Wenger’s legacy at the club means he’s practically un-fireable, even though some might embrace the chance to move on.

Mauritania president stops Cup final out of boredom, sends it to PKs

WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 06:  President of Mauritania Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz (2nd R) speaks as U.S. President Barack Obama (R) listens during a session on "Investing in Africa's Future" of the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit August 6, 2014 at the State Department in Washington, DC. President Obama hosted the last day of the first-ever summit to strengthen ties between the United States and African nations.  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images
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Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz has taken over a country by coup d’etat, seen his country taken from him by coup d’etat, and also been shot in a possible assassination attempt — one that was labeled an “accidental shooting” by a soldier — so he’s not much for boredom.

But apparently the Mauritania president wasn’t going to leave his country’s Super Cup final between FC Tevragh-Zeina and ACS Ksar without finding out who won.

[ MORE: Klinsmann backs Altidore ahead of busy 2016 for USMNT ]

Bored by a 1-1 match, Abdel Aziz decided the game didn’t need to be played anymore. The president called down to the field, and demand the match be immediately settled by penalty kicks.

The referee complied, and the match was immediately sent to a shootout.

Of course, this is now being hailed as a misunderstanding of sorts. From Gazetta World, via Deadspin:

“I deny in the strongest terms the intervention of the President of the Republic,” the federation’s president, Ahmed Ould Abderrahmane, wrote in a statement. “The decision was made due ​​to organisational issues in accordance with the presidents and the coaches of the two teams.”

Organizational issues… like the organizations decided that if the president didn’t want the game to go on any longer, the game shouldn’t go on any longer.

What I want to know is how rival fans break this down when arguing.

Tevragh-Zeina supporter: “We won the Super Cup!”

ACS Ksar supporter:Yeah. Cause the President ordered it.”

Tevragh-Zeina supporter: “Make your own breaks.”

I’ll stop with the jokes here, because I’ve turned to Google and have learned more about Mauritania in the last 20 minutes than I have in my entire life.

Leicester who? Unlikely Angers thriving, ends PSG’s long win streak

Ludovic Butelle - Angers
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Paris Saint-Germain’s only loss this year came at the hands of Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League, and only three clubs in France have managed to even split the points with the Ligue 1 giants.

But Tuesday in Angers, the better story in France took hold of the headlines, as Angers became the third club to hold PSG in Ligue 1 play. Les Parisiens entered the 0-0 draw on a nine-match Ligue 1 win streak.

It’s not just the draw that’s impressive, though. While Angers supporters might’ve signed up for that before the season started. it’s par for the course right now (even if Laurent Blanc wasn’t impressed with Tuesday’s bus parking display).

[ MORE: Klopp not seeking an upgrade to Mignolet ]

The draw with the league leaders brought the newly-promoted club into third place, a point behind No. 2 Caen. And while no one’s pegging, well, anyone to overcome PSG’s 14-point lead at the table, Angers is competing for a place in Europe.

A big part of that is a well-traveled 32-year-old goalkeeper playing out of his gourd. Ludovic Butelle has now posted three-straight clean sheets to help Angers rebound from a three-match losing skid, and overcome scoring just 14 goals this season by conceding just nine.

Whether Les Scoïstes can stay ahead of the pack is one thing, but it looks fairly good that Angers can make it multiple top-flight seasons for the first time since 1981.

In another French note, former U.S. coach Bob Bradley earned his first win for Le Havre. The Ligue 2 side is now in fourth place in their promotion chase, six points out of first.


Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
Paris SG 16 13 3 0 37 8 29 6-1-0 7-2-0 42
Caen 15 9 1 5 18 15 3 5-1-2 4-0-3 28
Angers 16 7 6 3 14 9 5 3-5-1 4-1-2 27
Lyon 16 7 5 4 21 14 7 4-2-2 3-3-2 26
Nice 16 7 4 5 30 19 11 3-1-3 4-3-2 25
St. Etienne 15 8 1 6 20 19 1 5-1-2 3-0-4 25
Monaco 15 6 6 3 21 21 0 2-3-2 4-3-1 24
Lorient 16 5 7 4 24 21 3 4-3-2 1-4-2 22
Rennes 15 5 7 3 21 18 3 2-3-2 3-4-1 22
Nantes 16 6 3 7 12 15 -3 3-2-3 3-1-4 21
Marseille 15 5 4 6 23 17 6 2-3-3 3-1-3 19
Guingamp 15 5 4 6 15 20 -5 3-3-1 2-1-5 19
Montpellier 15 5 3 7 18 19 -1 4-0-4 1-3-3 18
Bordeaux 15 4 6 5 20 25 -5 4-2-2 0-4-3 18
Reims 15 4 4 7 15 19 -4 3-2-3 1-2-4 16
Gazelec Ajaccio 15 4 4 7 14 19 -5 2-3-2 2-1-5 16
SC Bastia 15 4 3 8 15 21 -6 4-0-3 0-3-5 15
Lille 15 2 8 5 8 11 -3 2-2-3 0-6-2 14
Toulouse 15 2 6 7 14 28 -14 2-4-1 0-2-6 12
Troyes 15 0 5 10 8 30 -22 0-4-4 0-1-6 5

Venezuela coach offers to quit if it helps players’ dispute

AP Photo/Juan Karita
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CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) Venezuela coach Noel Sanvicente has offered to step down if it helps the national soccer team’s dispute with their federation.

Fifteen players in the national team are threatening to quit unless the entire board of directors of the Venezuela Football Federation resign.

The federation has yet to make any public reaction to the players, who made their statement on social media on Monday, but released a letter on Tuesday in which Sanvicente apologized to the players for unintended offense by his own previous lack of comment.

“If my departure contributes so that these differences are overcome, then I’ll step aside,” Sanvicente said.

The players accuse interim president Laureano Gonzalez of mistreatment and slander, following recent allegations that several players were conspiring to oust Sanvicente.

[ MORE: League Cup roundup sees Man City, Stoke, Everton advance ]

“We accept criticism of our performances and, as a team, take responsibility for the results, but in no way do we accept that we were preparing a movement to get the national coach out,” the players said. “We are upset and disillusioned by the lack of support from the national team’s coaching staff over these accusations.

“Our integrity isn’t negotiable, and the damage done can only be repaired renewing the federation’s leadership. We can’t continue working in an environment damaged by these officials.”

The signatories included Genoa midfielder Tomas Rincon, and West Bromwich Albion striker Salomon Rondon.

Gonzalez took over as head of the federation after longtime president Rafael Esquivel was arrested in Switzerland in May as part of the U.S. and Swiss investigations into corruption at FIFA. In September, Switzerland agreed to extradite him to the United States.

Despite progress in recent years under former coach Cesar Farias, Venezuela has lost four straight matches in South American qualifying for the 2018 World Cup.

Mounting tensions in the national squad were evident following the recent loss to Ecuador when Sanvicente accused his players of a lack of commitment and a sense of entitlement.

“Sorry to kill your stories”: Klopp not seeking new Liverpool GK

during the UEFA Europa League Group B match between Liverpool FC and FC Girondins de Bordeaux at Anfield on November 26, 2015 in Liverpool, United Kingdom.

The topic of goalkeeper Simon Mignolet is a lightning rod for a certain subset of Liverpool fans, but you can count Jurgen Klopp in the group that likes him just fine, thank you.

[ MORE: USMNT back Alvarado on Club America’s transfer list? ]

The 27-year-old Belgian has been the man between the sticks for Klopp since the manager took over at Anfield, and Klopp is already tiring of the rumors that he’s looking for better in the goalkeeping department.

From the BBC:

“I’m absolutely satisfied with our goalkeeper situation.

“I’m sorry to kill your stories about German goalkeepers and different goalkeepers from Stoke – we are not looking for another goalkeeper.”

Pretty clear cut there. Jack Butland would be nice and all, but Klopp’s fine with Mignolet and ex-Bolton man Adam Bogdan.

Do you think they need better?