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Wenger hits out about Chelsea’s first goal; Bellerin update

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LONDON — Arsene Wenger cut a frustrated figure high up in the stand at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

[ MORE: 3 things learned

Serving the third match of his four-game touchline ban, he TV cameras often panned to Arsenal’s manager struggling to get messages down to this assistant coaches on the bench.

In truth, even if he was on the touchline it wouldn’t have made much difference.

[ MORE: Conte reacts to victory ]

Arsenal put in an inept defensive display and now trail Premier League leaders Chelsea by 12 points with 14 games to go.

But should Marcos Alonso‘s goal, which set them on their way to a fifth-straight home victory over Arsenal in the league, have been disallowed for a foul on Hector Bellerin?

“Of course it was a foul,” Wenger said bluntly. “But he allowed the goal and after that, I feel we started well, but after that it was a much more difficult task because we were 1-0 down and Chelsea is very strong at defending and very good on transition in counter attack. We paid for that.”

The decision to take Bellerin off, who looked extremely dazed, came very quickly and Wenger has called for more fouls given for aerial battles. He also confirmed that Bellerin was confused after suffering the blow to his face from Alonso’s elbow and “didn’t know what the score was” as he walked off the pitch.

“The decision was for me very quick but you have to respect that, it’s the head,” Wenger said. “One of the particularities of the games today is that referees are much more severe with tackles on the ground and let more go with elbows in the face. It is not only today but in many, many games I see that. It is more dangerous to hit in the head than in the legs.”

Bellerin’s injury aside, Wenger admitted that plenty of his players weren’t up to their usual levels at Stamford Bridge.

Asked if Arsenal’s slim title chances are now over, he wouldn’t throw the towel in and said he would be focusing on the next game.

“We were maybe not good enough in possession to get our game more dangerous. We lost many balls in positions where you can’t afford to lose it when you play against a team who is good on counter attack. Overall, look at all their shots. Our goalkeeper didn’t have a lot to save today, even if I concede we did not create a lot in the final third. It was the kind of game Chelsea loves and they mastered it very well.”

What about Chelsea, are they the champions elect?

“They look at the moment in full confidence, powerful, strong, they don’t concede goals. It’s theirs to lose. They are in the best position. They don’t play in Europe. They can wait every week for the next game and prepare properly. They are in a very, very strong position.”

Arsenal are not.

After a fourth defeat in nine games in the Premier League they are now embroiled in a battle for a top four finish. Arsenal has 47 points, with Tottenham on 47 points, plus Liverpool and Manchester City on 46 points ahead of the later games in Week 23.

That means one of those giants won’t finish in the top four and given Arsenal’s back-to-back defeats and slack defensive display at Chelsea, the Gunners will be looking over their shoulders nervously.

With Wenger’s contract running up in the summer, plus the futures of Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil (both of whom had off days) up in the air. There’s a massive few months coming up in Arsenal’s future.

Klopp: Liverpool “not 500 miles away” from Man City’s standard

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Jurgen Klopp remains bullish on his Liverpool’s credentials as one of the Premier League’s top-four sides title challengers this season.

[ MORE: Saturday’s PL roundup | Sunday preview — Spurs vs. Liverpool ]

While everyone else might be writing off the Reds due to their propensity for defensive disasters on an every-game basis, Klopp refuses to concede that a gap of “500 miles” exists between his side and Manchester City, the early-days runaway leaders of the 2017-18 season — quotes from the Guardian:

“I don’t compare City with us, but I think everyone can see we are not 500 miles away. But they fly. It was a very decisive day when we lost 5-0. Dealing with a 5-0 defeat is not the easiest thing. We didn’t lose confidence but we were not that fluent afterwards and it was not like we could close our eyes and finish [thinking about it]. They did exactly the opposite. I saw the Stoke goals, you see the shot from Fernandinho and you think, ‘If it works, it works even like this.’ They are a fantastic team and we don’t have to compare, but it starts so early again with us having to apologize for the season so far because one team is flying.”

“Their way of football I would say is not something we are too far away from but to be as clinical as they have been so far? We weren’t.

“That’s the thing. We are still in the race, not with City in the moment because they have I don’t how many points, and I don’t say already that we should only fight for a top-four place. Performance-wise we are a team that should be there but now we have to get the results.”

[ TACTICS SESSION: Inside the brilliant mind of Kevin De Bruyne ]

All due respect to Klopp and Liverpool, the league table says City currently have 25 points (having played one game more), while Liverpool have 13. That’s not a difference of 500 points, but taking into account not only results but performances, it might as well be.

Ligue 1: Falcao, Balde score to keep Monaco close to PSG

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PARIS (AP) French champion Monaco got back to winning ways with a 2-0 home win against Caen on Saturday.

Monaco lost three and drew one of its previous four games in all competitions. But coach Leonardo Jardim’s side was largely in control against a Caen side that started brightly and faded after Keita Balde’s opening goal and first for Monaco.

“It was important to win, to get a bit of confidence back,” Jardim said. “We’ve been working hard and the players were very serious today.”

Captain Radamel Falcao scored his league-leading 13th from the penalty spot in the 59th, confidently sending goalkeeper Remy Vercoutre the wrong way.

The win moved second-place Monaco within three points of Paris Saint-Germain, having played one game more. Unbeaten PSG is away at bitter rival Marseille on Sunday.

Falcao’s partnership with teen star Kylian Mbappe was crucial to Monaco’s charge to the league title and the Champions League semifinals last season. Mbappe left to join PSG in a high-profile move — as did several other key players — but Falcao’s new partnership with the unselfish Balde looks a promising one.

“We’ve lost a few players and we need a bit of time, it’s been a bit difficult for us,” Monaco goalkeeper Danijel Subasic said. “I hope we can stay at the top of the table and that the young players can shine. We have a lot of quality here.”

Balde has been sharp in his handful of appearances since joining from Lazio in the offseason, but mainly as a link player and a provider.

This time, the Senegal forward finished off the move as he ran onto Thomas Lemar’s perfectly weighted pass into his path, cut across a defender on the edge of the penalty area and slotted the ball into the bottom left corner.

Lemar almost created another goal when his corner was headed against the crossbar by Brazilian defender Jemerson late in the first half.

Falcao put the game beyond doubt from the spot after Slovenian midfielder Jan Repas fouled attacking midfielder Rony Lopes.


After a tricky start to his tenure at Nantes, Italian coach Claudio Ranieri has turned things around.

Nantes beat Guingamp 2-1 at home to move up to third place, extending Ranieri’s unbeaten run to eight matches after losing the first two.

Nantes, which scored through defender Chidozie Awaziem and midfielder Abdoulaye Toure, is just two points behind Monaco.

The 2 Robbies: Terriers Triumph And Chelsea Leave It Late

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Robbie Earle and Robbie Mustoe start today’s show off by discussing Huddersfield Town’s surprising win against Manchester United (00:20), Jose Mourinho’s measured post-match interview (03:50), praise Manchester City again (10:30), discuss Sean Dyche’s next move (16:10), analyze that exciting match between Chelsea and Watford (18:30) and finally, weigh in on Slaven Bilic’s future at West Ham United (27:30).

Join Earle & Mustoe on The 2 Robbies Football Show, Saturdays at 5pm ET. Listen on the NBCSports Radio App and call 855-323-4622 in the U.S. for lively passionate debate.

All of the The 2 Robbies content can be accessed by clicking on this link:

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Follow them on Twitter @The2Robbies

La Liga: Barca win to maintain lead, but Valencia won’t go away

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Barcelona regained a four-point cushion atop the Spanish league with a ho-hum 2-0 win over visiting Malaga and surging Valencia dismissed Sevilla 4-0 at home on Saturday.

Barcelona faced last-placed Malaga in the closing match of the day, with added pressure from second-placed Valencia, which has won five in a row.

Barcelona is unbeaten after starting with seven straight wins and drawing with Atletico Madrid last week.

Seldom-used Gerard Deulofeu opened the scoring for Barcelona after just two minutes, and Andres Iniesta celebrated his first of the season in the second half thanks to a brilliant assist by Lionel Messi.

Defending champion Real Madrid hosts Eibar on Sunday.

Barcelona benefited from a flagrant referee misjudgment to get its go-ahead goal against Malaga. Left back Lucas Digne was allowed to center the ball after it clearly crossed the byline, and Deulofeu acrobatically back-footed it inside the net.

Despite the blow, the visitors got back up and managed to neutralize Barcelona for most of the first half, but lost striker Diego Rolan just before the second period. The Uruguayan import was forced off by injury.

Without Rolan, Malaga lacked bite in its pressure of the home backline, and Barcelona was able to polish ball circulation and find Messi with more frequency.

Messi received a clean pass from defender Javier Mascherano, drew the defense, and dropped a perfect pass for Iniesta, whose shot was deflected by defender Roberto Rosales on its way to the upper left corner.

Malaga surrendered and Barcelona dominated the rest of the way.


Gonzalo Guedes opened the scoring for Valencia near halftime with a majestic strike from outside the box after deftly outmaneuvering two defenders on the chase.

Simone Zaza added his eighth league goal after the break with a spin and low cross shot. Santi Mina came off the bench and scored the third with just five minutes to go, finishing off a speedy counterattack for the hosts.

But the show was all Guedes, and the Portuguese midfielder rounded off his great game with the closer, subtly poking the ball over goalkeeper Sergio Rico in added time.

Sevilla has lost three in a row in all competitions. Managed by Eduardo Berizzo, the team started off red-hot in La Liga but has floundered lately, ranking fifth.