Three things we learned from Arsenal v. Man City

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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.

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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.

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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.

Premier League TV, streaming schedule

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More midweek action is coming up in the Premier League. Let the festive fun continue.

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The full TV schedule for this weekend is below, plus you can watch every single second of every single game live online via NBC Sports.com,the NBC Sports App and by purchasing the new “Premier League Pass” via NBC Sports Gold.

Gold also includes an extensive selection of shoulder programming such as Premier League News, Premier League Today and NBC Sports originals such as Premier League Download and much more.

[ STREAM: Premier League live here ] 

You can also watch Premier League “Goal Rush” at for all the goals as they go in. Goal Rush is available via NBC Sports.com and the NBC Sports App.

[ MORE: Premier League “Goal Rush” ] 

If you’re looking for full-event replays of Premier League games, you can find them here for the games streamed on NBCSports.com and here for the games on NBC Sports Gold.

Here’s your full TV schedule for the coming days. Enjoy.


FULL TV SCHEDULE

Tuesday
2:45 p.m. ET: Burnley vs. Stoke City – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
2:45 p.m. ET: Crystal Palace vs. Watford – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
3 p.m. ET: Huddersfield Town vs. Chelsea – NBCSN [STREAM

Wednesday
2:45 p.m. ET: Swansea City vs. Manchester City – NBCSN [STREAM]
2:45.m. ET: Southampton vs. Leicester City – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
2:45 p.m. ET: Newcastle United vs. Everton – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
3 p.m. ET: West Ham United vs. Arsenal – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
3 p.m. ET: Liverpool vs. West Brom – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
3 p.m. ET: Manchester United vs. Bournemouth – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
3 p.m. ET: Tottenham Hotspur vs. Brighton & Hove Albion – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]

Premier League notes: Wanyama, Bolasie return after long layoffs, Sakho injured

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Two Premier League clubs saw a pair of players return to the field after long spells on the sidelines.

Tottenham revealed that Victor Wanyama took part in training on Monday for the first time since suffering a knee injury in late August, which has kept him off the field since then. Wanyama started in both of Tottenham’s first two fixtures of the season before the injury.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ]

At the same time in the northwest of England, Yannick Bolasie returned to the field for Everton’s reserves for the first time since suffering a torn ACL last December against Manchester United. Everton manager Sam Allardyce hinted recently that Bolasie could even make the first team subs bench before the end of the calendar year as he continues his rehab.

(more…)

Report: Sporting KC on verge of signing French midfielder Croizet

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Sporting Kansas City could be adding some European flair to its midfield this offseason.

According to multiple reports, the MLS club is in negotiations to sign French midfielder Yohan Croizet, who currently plays for Belgian first division side KV Mechelen. Croizet, who reportedly cost Mechelen a transfer fee worth more than $1 million, has started all 15 games he’s played for his side this season but has been substituted off on seven occasions and Mechelen are currently struggling in the league, sitting in 13th place with 18 points from 18 games.

Croizet hasn’t played since November 17, and appears on his way out.

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Sporting Kansas City coach Peter Vermes, a Hungarian-American, is no stranger to the European market and has brought over plenty of diamonds in the rough from Europe to star with Sporting KC. Some previous examples, though in different positions from Croizet, include current winger Gerso, Krisztián Németh, Uri Rosell, and Aurelien Collin.

It will be interesting to see where Croizet plays in the Sporting KC side should it sign him, and how he works with Benny Feilhaber, who is turning 33-years old in January.

Arsenal lands Ostersunds in Europa League draw

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Arsenal will face a team with an English connection in the UEFA Europa League Round of 32.

The Gunners were paired with Swedish side Ostersunds in the Europa League knockout stage draw Monday, with matches set to be played on February 15 and February 22. Ostersund are managed by Englishman Graham Potter, who played in the Championship and lower in England before starting his managerial career with Ostersunds in 2010 in the fourth tier of Swedish soccer.

[READ: UCL draw+analysis]

Ostersunds surprised many earlier this year winning the Swedish Cup to qualify for the Europa League, and then advanced out of a group that included Hertha Berlin and Athletic Bilbao.

It represents an interesting draw for Arsenal, which will have to balance the squad during a tough February. The weekend prior to the first-leg match is the second leg of the North London derby against Tottenham, and following the second match with Ostersunds is a showdown with Manchester City.

Here’s a look at how the rest of the draw shook out: