Arsenal 3-4 Liverpool: Coutinho stars in season’s first heavyweight bout

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  • Walcott gave Arsenal a 1-0 first-half lead
  • Reds scored 4 goals in a row
  • Gunners nearly brought it back level

Liverpool did not play well across the first 45 minutes, but they have Philippe Coutinho, and with the Brazilian spark plug, the fuse can ignite at any moment.

Coutinho scored a pair and assisted another as Liverpool won a free-flowing game 4-3 at the Emirates. The game swung back and forth, as the Gunners were up 1-0 most of the first half, the Reds scored four goals in a row to take control, and then the home side came just short of completing a remarkable late comeback.

The match began with a cagey nature, with Arsenal holding a fair amount of possession but being pressured by the Jurgen Klopp press. The first chance fell to the Gunners on 15 minutes when a long ball from Monreal was not cleared properly by Alberto Moreno, who instead headed directly into the path of Aaron Ramsey. The Reds defender made up for his mistake with a pinpoint tackle to see out the chance.

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Liverpool pressed well, but their attack seemed disjointed, finding themselves in offside positions or misplaced passes that killed chances early. The Reds had their first opportunity on 23 minutes, when Georgino Wijnaldum won the ball back from Monreal, leading Jordan Henderson to deliver a ball in to a free Roberto Firmino, but Hector Bellerin just put Firmino under enough pressure to see him bungle the chance.

Arsenal should have gone in front when given a penalty in the 29th minute. Moreno needlessly dropped Theo Walcott at the edge of the area, and the referee pointed directly to the spot. Simon Mignolet produced a fantastic save on the penalty, as Walcott looked to poke it into the low corner. Walcott would atone minutes later, however, as he’d get behind Moreno. Alex Iwobi found him on the right, and the English international found the far corner for a 1-0 Arsenal lead.

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Liverpool’s physical nature of play began to build up the card count, with Moreno earning himself a yellow card for his foul on Walcott, and both Adam Lallana and Dejan Lovren picked up first-half cautions. The Reds appeared second-best for much of the first half, but Philippe Coutinho single-handedly brought them back level on the stroke of halftime.

Into first-half injury time, Coutinho won a questionable free-kick, and took the strike from well outside the area, and from at least 30 yards out he deposited an absolutely outrageous strike into the top corner past a helpless Petr Cech. The goal is the second straight on opening day for Coutinho, having scored the 1-0 winner against Stoke City last season.

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Following the break, Liverpool looked much more cohesive, and they were duly rewarded. Coutinho cut into the left edge of the box and plucked a beautiful flick to a waiting Adam Lallana on the far side. The England international chested it down and finished cooly from a tight angle for a 2-1 lead just four minutes after the break.

Just minutes after that, Coutinho would get his second goal and put the Reds 3-1 up as Nathaniel Clyne whipped in a pacey cross and the Brazilian easily touched home from point-blank range. Arsenal looked shell-shocked, and it would get worse. Sadio Mane ran straight around Calum Chambers and ripped an off-balance scorcher into the top corner for a 4-1 Liverpool lead.

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The Reds weren’t able to celebrate their stunning scoreline for long, as the Gunners picked up a lifeline in what turned into a goal fest. Substitute Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain scored just 56 seconds after Mane’s goal, emulating his predecessor by flicking the ball past Nathaniel Clyne and beating Simon Mignolet at his near post.

Coutinho was removed on 70 minutes after cramping up suddenly on a one-on-two breakaway, replaced by Emre Can. Arsenal brought on debutant Granit Xhaka to shore up the midfield, and the Gunners would grab a lifeline. With 15 minutes remaining, a beautiful curling free-kick from substitute Santi Cazorla glanced off the head of a rising Chambers in the box, and the Gunners were suddenly back within one.

The home side poured numbers and pressure forward, but it wasn’t enough as the Gunners were downed by Liverpool at home for just the second time in their last 21 meetings.

Zouma signs new Chelsea contract, is immediately loaned to Stoke City

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Kurt Zouma‘s long-term future is secure at Chelsea, but his short-term future will be away from Stamford Bridge.

The France international centerback signed a new six-year contract with Chelsea and was promptly sent out on a season-long loan to Stoke City. Zouma made just three starts and nine total appearances last season as he came back from a torn ACL suffered in February 2016.

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“It is fantastic Kurt has chosen to commit his future to Chelsea,” Chelsea technical director Michael Emenalo said in a statement. “He has shown his talent since joining us three years ago, and has returned from a serious injury with a fantastic attitude.

“Now he has the opportunity to play regularly in the Premier League and we will be monitoring his progress closely while he is at Stoke.”

The move to Stoke will give Zouma a new experience, playing for a mid-table side in the Premier League, and it will be interesting to see where he fits in at centerback, battling with American Geoff Cameron and Englishman Ryan Shawcross.

Even with John Terry leaving the club, Zouma was likely to be second-choice in the back three for Chelsea and if he wants to make France’s squad for the 2018 World Cup, he’ll have to play regularly.

 

 

 

Morata signs five-year contract at Chelsea

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Chelsea FC will have another Spanish international leading the front line, with Diego Costa likely on his way out of town.

The club announced that Alvaro Morata has completed a transfer from Real Madrid, signing a five-year contract at Stamford Bridge. The BBC reports the transfer fee at nearly $78 million.

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“I am so happy to be here,” Morata said in a statement. “It’s an incredible emotion to be part of this big club. I am looking to work hard, score as many goals as I can and to win as many trophies as possible.”

Morata emerged as an option to replace Costa after Romelu Lukaku decided on joining Manchester United over his former club Chelsea. Morata, who was a Manchester United target at first, then turned his sights on London after becoming disillusioned in Madrid, playing second-fiddle to Karim Benzema.

Despite not being first-choice up top, Morata scored 15 goals in 26 La Liga games and another three in the UEFA Champions League, which Real Madrid went on to win over Morata’s former club Juventus. Morata started for Juventus the last time the club had been in the Champions League final.

Despite being just 24, Morata is emerging as one of the world’s top forwards. He has nine goals in 19 games for the Spanish National Team and now is the right time for him to experience the challenge of the Premier League, where the games come thick and fast and the pace of the game is a step up from what he’s experienced in Spain and Italy.

However, the tactical knowledge he’s learned in both places should help him in England, where he can position himself between the opposing centerbacks.

 

Report: Neymar tells Barcelona teammates he’s off to PSG

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Brazilian star Neymar isn’t keeping his future plans under wraps, at least when it comes to his current club teammates.

According to a report in French newspaper Le Parisien, Neymar has started telling his Barcelona teammates that he’s intends to join Paris Saint-Germain. Spanish publication Marca meanwhile is reporting that Neymar’s teammates are trying to persuade him to stay in Catalonia for the season.

The Le Parisien report adds that certain officials at Barcelona believe the transfer is imminent and are resigned to losing one of their stars this summer. The report also said that it was a “decisive step” that Neymar was on board with the deal, going along with his father and agent.

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Rumors intensified over the past few days as reports emerged in Spain that Neymar had agreed on a contract with PSG, and all that was awaiting was PSG exercising Neymar’s release clause, worth nearly $260 million (€222 million). On paper, PSG’s Qatari owners can probably afford that tremendous sum but it still remains to be seen whether PSG will see this move over the line.

Should Neymar move, it would break transfer records for the price of the deal as well as shock the world, as Neymar seemed settled and happy in Barcelona playing alongside the likes of fellow South Americans Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez.

Neymar and Barcelona are currently in New York training ahead of the club’s friendly match in the International Champions Cup against Juventus Saturday at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.

Liverpool complete signing of Hull’s Robertson

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Liverpool has added to its defensive depth with the signing of one of Scotland’s bright young stars.

The club announced the signing of left back Andy Robertson for a reported $10.4 million, which can rise to $13 million with add-on clauses.

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Robertson made 33 appearances for Hull City last season in the Premier League, scoring a goal and assisting on two others. While Robertson is joining Liverpool, midfielder Kevin Stewart is heading the opposite direction, joining the Championship club for a reported $5.2 million.

Robertson will likely compete with Alberto Moreno for the starting left back position, and with Liverpool competing in the Premier League plus three cup competitions, depth at every position will be crucial when injuries and fatigue sets in.