Three things we learned from Arsenal v. Man City

Leave a comment

LONDON — Arsenal and Manchester City played out an entertaining 2-2 draw at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday but a point helped neither team in their quest to seal a top four finish.

[ MORE: Arsenal in strange state of flux ]

Leroy Sane and Sergio Aguero twice put City ahead in the first half after Theo Walcott equalized, while Shkodran Mustafi grabbed a point for the Gunners with a second half header.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Both Arsene Wenger and Pep Guardiola went for it, as expected, but the talented attacking teams somewhat canceled each other out with City missing several glorious chances in the second half.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings

Here’s what we learned from north London.


TOP FOUR HANGS IN BALANCE

Both teams knew they needed a win to boost their top four hopes but neither truly took the game by the scruff of the neck.

With defensive mistakes, plenty of giveaways in midfield and missed chances for both, Wenger and Guardiola would have been frustrated with the outcome.

This game perhaps personified why these two hugely talented teams are closer to fourth place than challenging for the title.

The point keeps Arsenal in sixth place on 51 points, while Man City move to 58 points and stay in fourth place. In that respect, City will be happier with the point but this performance, which included another shaky defensive display, proved how far away they are from Chelsea and Tottenham as things stand.

With City heading to Chelsea on Wednesday, Guardiola’s men can still create havoc in the title race if they beat the leaders. This draw all but end their own title aspirations, while they’re just five points ahead of neighbors Manchester United who have a game in hand. City just can’t solidify their spot in the top four and Guardiola will point towards a lack of clinical finishing once again for not getting the three points.

Arsenal’s top four hopes hang in the balance as they’re seven points behind City with a game in hand. With just one win in their last six games, Wenger’s men needed the win but had to settle for a fair point.


DEEP DE BRUYNE

Kevin De Bruyne has been deployed in a deeper midfield role by Pep Guardiola in recent weeks and it’s working rather well. Well, at least for the first 45 minutes it did.

On his recent trip to NBC Sports’ HQ in Stamford, City’s usual deep-lying playmaker Ilkay Gundogan (out for the season with a knee injury) explained that Guardiola likes De Bruyne to play deeper so City can control midfield.

KDB’s assist for Sane’s opening goal was sublime, a rasping 40-yard side-volley which scythed opened Arsenal’s defense in an instance. He also hit the post with a long-range effort and he continued to be a pest with his deep runs as he surged into the box twice just before Sergio Aguero put City back in front. His first charge resulted in an effort hitting the post and his second led to Aguero’s goal.

In the second half KDB was pushed back out wide with Raheem Sterling coming off and Yaya Toure coming on to try and regain some defensive solidity in central midfield.

Often known for his crossing ability, pace from out wide and ability to create and score in the final third, some would say De Bruyne is wasted in a deeper role further from the opponent’s goal. De Bruyne struggled when he shifted back out wide in the second half but more often than not he looks more comfortable in his usual role.

Yet, Guardiola has seen something different, as he often does, and he may transform De Bruyne into a two-way central midfielder.


SANCHEZ, OZIL INDIFFERENT

For the first time in six weeks Mesut Ozil started for Arsenal and the German playmaker was met with a mixed vibe from Gunners fans throughout.

Before kick off the Arsenal mascot for the day was asked by the stadium announcer who his favorite players to meet were: Ozil and Sanchez were the inevitable answers he gave.

How much longer both stay around for Arsenal’s fans to admire remains to be seen but there’s no denying the star quality they provide.

Ozil’s inviting corner was flicked home by Skhodran Mustafi to make it 2-2, while Sanchez danced in from the left flank to set up Walcott for a chance late in the first half and put in a typically committed display even though he couldn’t get the better of Jesus Navas who was surprisingly selected at right back.

The duo linked up well in the box in the first half with Ozil’s clever flick finding Sanchez but Fernandinho‘s perfectly-timed tackle denied the Chilean forward at the crucial moment. They’ll always create chances and look dangerous. Always.

Yet, they both made bad defensive mistakes when trying to overplay in he wrong areas. Ozil gave the ball away cheaply in the build up to Aguero’s goal, while Sanchez got away with playing a lapse flick in his own box which saw Navas cross for Aguero but his header was saved. Moments like that show that sometimes the duo can be too flamboyant and consequently Arsenal lack balance on the defensive side of the ball when they’re both on the pitch.

Whatever happens with the future of Ozil and Sanchez, Arsenal’s rebuild will be much easier with them on board. When Arsenal needed them most on Sunday, they didn’t quite deliver the goods.

Mourinho: Van Gaal left good team, but I brought belief

Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Jose Mourinho and Manchester United are bringing happiness to the Liberty Stadium on Sunday, or at least more of it.

The United boss says the club’s turnaround is emotionally-based, and that the cupboard certainly wasn’t bare when he took over the Red Devils last summer.

[ MORE: Fellaini red  had “a bit of acting” ]

United finished fifth in the Premier League last season, tied for fourth with Man City and 15 points back of Arsenal. Mourinho’s men sit in the same spot this year, but are in the semifinals of the Europa League, have won the League Cup, and have the door open to the Top Four.

So what’s different? Here’s the boss, from the BBC:

“I think Mr. Van Gaal left a good group of boys with very good relations between them.

“[But] I think they missed happiness, they missed trust, belief, this extra bit that brings resilience, brings fight and they have it [now].”

It’s been a bit of a roller coaster with the Bastian Schweinsteiger and Luke Shaw drama, but — like any new manager — Mourinho did have to sort the club. Now we wonder whether he’ll keep it happy or hit a traditional rut by Year Three (assuming he gets there, and United should be very good next season).

Spurs confirm Wembley as 2017-18 home

Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images
Leave a comment

May 14 will indeed be the last time Tottenham Hotspur takes the field at White Hart Lane.

Club chairman Daniel Levy has announced that Spurs will play all of its 2017-18 home matches at Wembley Stadium, and that WHL will be demolished in the offseason.

Spurs have a new venue under construction next door to WHL, calling the venue “the heart” of regeneration plans in the region. From TottenhamHotspur.com:

“This marks a momentous day in our Club’s history as it is the day we formally agreed the demolition of our beloved White Hart Lane.

“The Lane means a huge amount to each and every one of us and we needed to gain greater certainty on the delivery of the new stadium before we made the final decision to commence with the decommissioning of our iconic, historic home for some 118 years.

‘We shall ensure that we give the Lane a fitting farewell when we play our last match here on May 14.”

West Ham’s final match at Upton Park was a memorable one last season, thanks not just to the off-field but the on-field as well. The Irons came back to beat Manchester United 3-2 on a Winston Reid goal.

With Manchester United coincidentally (?) serving as the visitor on May 14, with Top Four if not title implications likely still in play, sign us up for a comfortable seat in front of TV.

Pochettino: Derby matters, but this is about title not “Totteringham”

Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Mauricio Pochettino is a focused boss, one many of us wouldn’t mind as our manager.

The longtime Espyanol man knows a thing or two about being relegated to second fiddle in town, with Catalan rivals Barcelona enveloping the spotlight 99 times out of 100.

That’s why he’s not even bothering with treating Arsenal and “St. Totteringham’s Day” — the Gunners’ annual celebration of clinching a spot above Spurs in the standings — like anything than a derby date.

“I really don’t think about which position Arsenal are in. My view and focus is to try to win every game and try to win the Premier League.

“For me (finishing above Arsenal) is not a motivation. The motivation for me is to win because it’s a derby and I know what it means to win a derby. My motivation is to try to win some titles with Tottenham, and my players improve every day and show we are better than the opposition.”

Spurs as a club is growing in big ways, and aiming to sit atop the Premier League standings every year. Yes Premier League derbies are important, but aiming to finish above a rival versus above all rivals is short-sighted. Pochettino’s got it right.

Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks – Week 35

Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Premier League games continue to come thick and fast with 10 matches on the slate this weekend.

[ STREAM: Every PL game live ] 

If you, like me, love to dissect all the games and predict what the score will be and which team will win, I encourage you to get involved in the comments section below. Let’s have a bit of fun.

Okay, so I’ve consulted my crystal ball and here’s how we see things panning out.

[ STREAM: Premier League “Goal Rush”

With the first section labelled “basically, free money” for the picks I think are dead certs. The section labelled “don’t touch this” means if you’re betting I advise you to stay clear, while the “so you’re telling me there’s a chance” section are the longshots. If it is better odds you are after, those are the picks to go for.


BASICALLY, FREE MONEY

West Brom 2-0 Leicester City – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) – [STREAM]

Man United 2-0 Swansea City – (Sunday, 7 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

Middlesbrough 1-3 Man City – (Sunday, 9:05 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) – [STREAM

Crystal Palace 3-1 Burnley – (Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET, NBC) – [STREAM

DON’T TOUCH THIS… 

Stoke City 2-2 West Ham – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, Premier League Extratime) – [STREAM]

Tottenham 2-1 Arsenal – (Sunday, 11:30 am. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM

Sunderland 1-2 Bournemouth – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, CNBC) – [STREAM

Southampton 2-1 Hull City – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM

“SO YOU’RE TELLING ME THERE’S A CHANCE…”

Watford 2-1 Liverpool – (Monday, 3 p.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM

Everton 2-1 Chelsea – (Sunday, 9:05 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM