Klopp, Wenger dismiss defensive flaws

Leave a comment

LONDON — On Friday night under the lights in north London with the world watching on, two of the Premier League’s great entertainers lived up to their reputations to deliver an early Christmas present.

It was beautiful. It was ugly. It was exactly what we’ve come to expect from both Arsenal and Liverpool.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned ]

The 3-3 draw showcased the good and bad of both teams and underlined why neither will seriously challenge for the Premier League title unless something changes drastically in their soccer DNA.

Speaking to reporters after the game, both Arsene Wenger and Jurgen Klopp saluted their teams attacking instincts but stopped short of slamming their defensive displays even though both clubs have conceded the most goals among the current top seven in the PL table.

“We defended well but you know with their quality going forward they can always score a goal,” Wenger said when asked if he should have ‘parked the bus’ after going 3-2 up. “I hoped that we could score one as well. I think in the second half we were not much in trouble. They  have quality everywhere going forward and it is difficult to say that you can guarantee you don’t concede a goal.”

Saluting the spirit of his team for their comeback, Wenger conceded that the game could have been over at half time and it should have been.

Liverpool’s counter-attacking unit was rampant with Philippe Coutinho pulling the strings and popping up to head home the opener. Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane should have both scored and Arsenal were hanging on for dear life as their fans ripped into Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez and took aim at Wenger.

“It is true that I am frustrated after 3-2 that we couldn’t keep the result but overall what can you say,” Wenger said. “It was a fantastic game with quality going forward on both sides. Us more on quick combination. Them more on fantastic counterattacking pace. That’s why it was always an interesting game.”

For neutrals, sure. But fans of both Arsenal and Liverpool have seen this kind of game far too often for their liking.

Both managers saluted the attacking play of the other and therein lies the problem. The defensive frailties of both Arsenal and Liverpool remained unchecked. Their defensive players aren’t up to scratch and unlike Chelsea last season and Manchester City this season, they’re unwilling to adopt their philosophy and change personnel defensively to solve the issue.

Klopp believes his team need to learn from their five minutes of madness which saw them concede three times just one minute after they went 2-0 up. But how many more times does a collapse of this nature need to happen for the message to sink in?

“On the whole we had more chances. It is not too cool but we had five minutes where we had obvious problems. That’s how it is. We had individual problems. In this case it is not about team defending,” Klopp said. “First goal, that’s why we shouldn’t invite crosses because when the ball is in the box it is at least 50/50, a misjudgment, obviously. Misjudgment the second goal. Third goal, a misjudgment and too deep and offside blah, blah, blah and let them go in the box and make it too easy.

“After these five minutes we reacted much better and deserved, in the end, the point. That is the minimum that we deserved tonight. The result is not what we wanted. The performance for 89 minutes is what we wanted because we played for 94. The five minutes were decisive tonight. Difficult to explain but good to learn from because we need to react differently as individual players in situations like this. We need to be much more angry than sad or disappointed. We gave them and we opened the door for them in those five minutes and they, all respect, they took the chance.”

Liverpool fought back to at least grab a point after their defensive collapse but it is a scene becoming all too familiar this season.

Klopp reacted angrily even when Roberto Firmino made it 3-3, slamming his water bottle into the ground and then apologizing to Arsenal’s fans around him who had been hurling abuse his way. The German coach called it an “aggressive celebration” and you can understand why he’d be incandescent with rage.

During this encounter, Liverpool’s collapse to draw at Sevilla after being 3-0 up in the UEFA Champions League earlier this season sprung to mind, so to did the hammerings at Tottenham and Manchester City this season. So far in 2017-18 they have conceded 12 goals in their three visits to fellow top six contenders.

Still, Klopp believes that Liverpool do not have a problem controlling games from a defensive standpoint and insists that individual mistakes are costing his team dear. Asked about James Milner‘s comments after the game that Liverpool need to learn how to be ‘boring’ in certain situations, Klopp only half agreed.

“He’s 100 percent right. Controlling the game, that’s what he means. But that was not the situation. It was not that we gave the game away,” Klopp said. “It was just that pretty much everybody was in and around the box, the cross comes in the box and we know that, we are professional football players. Everybody saw it. Joe Gomez makes a step in the right direction, shoots the ball to Tottenham and they can play with it. That was not a situation. It was a non situation but because we didn’t react well they had a goal. It was nothing about controlling the game. You can’t avoid all crosses in 95-96 minutes. Second goal, Xhaka shoots a few more times in his life like this and Simon Mignolet saves the balls in 99.99 percent of all situations. Not tonight. So, we have to take that. It is what it is.

“It is not about controlling. Yes, we need to control games but I thought we did control the game but then we opened the door for them. We should have scored. We all know that. We don’t have to talk too much about defense because it was not defense, it was individual. That is possible. Usually not all in one night. We should have scored another four and that is a big compliment for the team. Coming here and playing this kind of football and creating these kind of chances, that is not easy as well. We did it. And that is why everyone in this room thinks that if there would have been a winner tonight, it should have been Liverpool but now we have a point. Okay. That’s it.”

It should have been Liverpool. It could have been Arsenal. It was neither. Given their defensive mistakes, neither side deserved to win.

VIDEO: Chelsea score stunning team goal

Leave a comment

Take a bow, Chelsea.

Willian put the Blues 2-0 up at Brighton early on Saturday and the goal was a thing of beauty.

Latching onto an error from Brighton, Chelsea surged forward through Willian who played the ball into Eden Hazard.

The Belgian played a delicious back heel to Michy Batshuayi and the forward then followed suit to flick the ball into Willian’s path who fired home.

Take a look at the stunning goal in the video above.

Watch Live: Brighton v. Chelsea

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Brighton & Hove Albion host Chelsea at the Amex Stadium on Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

With just one win in their last 12 games, Brighton are being dragged into a relegation battle, while Chelsea aren’t in glittering form with five draws on the spin in all competitions.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE

In team news, Brighton start with Tomer Hemed up top and have top scorer Glenn Murray on the bench. New club-record signing Jurgen Locadia isn’t illegible to make his Brighton debut after his signing was only confirmed late Friday, plus the former PSV Eindhoven forward is struggling with an injury..

Chelsea are without star goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois who has suffered an ankle injury in training, with Willy Caballero coming in to replace him. Alvaro Morata and Pedro are suspended, while Ross Barkley is on the bench and he could make his Chelsea debut.


LINEUPS

Brighton: Ryan; Goldson, Duffy, Dunk, Suttner, Schelotto; Stephens, Propper; March, Gross, Hemed. Subs: Hunemeier, Kayal, Baldock, Murray, Izquierdo, Rosenior, Krul

Chelsea: Caballero; Azpilicueta, Christensen, Rudiger; Moses, Bakayoko, Kante, Alonso; Willian, Batshuayi, Hazard. SubsEduardo, David Luiz, Zappacosta, Sterling, Ampadu, Barkley, Musonda

PL Preview: Manchester City vs. Newcastle

Getty Images
Leave a comment
  • Newcastle has lost 8 PL away matches in a row
  • Man City last lost at home in PL play to Chelsea in Dec 2016
  • Newcastle has picked up 1 of a possible 30 points vs. PL top half this season

Manchester City has a great chance to rebound from its first loss of the season as they host struggling Newcastle at the Etihad on Saturday, live at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC or live online at NBCSports.com.

WATCH LIVE, HERE

The Magpies have picked up their terrible mid-season form of late, but still remain just three points above the drop. They are unbeaten in three, with a win and two draws, and have lost just once in their last five.

Through Newcastle’s losing streak, the Magpies struggled to keep the ball out of their own net, with defensive issues all over the place. They suffered through a nine-game winless run where they conceded 19 goals. However, of late, the roles have reversed, and suddenly they can’t score. In their last four games, they have just two goals.

City, meanwhile, have a few injuries to deal with on the defensive side of things, where they cannot afford them. Fabian Delph went down in the last match and could be out for significant time, along with Vincent Kompany who continues to show his age and history of fitness issues.

INJURIES: Manchester City – OUT: Fabian Delph (knee), Benjamin Mendy (knee). QUESTIONABLE: David Silva (illness), Vincent Kompany (fitness). Newcastle – OUT: Jesus Gamez (ankle). QUESTIONABLE: Dwight Gayle (knock).


What they’re saying

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola on build-up of injuries: “In these situations, it always depends on the mentality of the players, if they can make a step forward. If they can they play in positions that are not natural positions and the other guys help them, everything is going well.”

Newcastle manager Rafa Benitez on not having a full squad: “When you have a short blanket, if you pull it to your face, your feet are cold, if you cover your feet, your top half is cold.”

Prediction

Newcastle has been ok of late, but not nearly enough to keep Manchester City out of the back of the net. This could get ugly, with the Citizens looking to rebound from their season’s first loss. 3-0 Man City with the possibility that it could get much worse if Newcastle gives up.

PL Preview: Burnley vs. Manchester United

Getty Images
1 Comment
  • Burnley has 1 win vs. Man United in last 23 meetings
  • Manchester United has not conceded a goal in 2018
  • Paul Pogba is joint-top of the league with 9 assists

A critical top of the table battle comes our way from Turf Moor (!!) on Saturday as Manchester United travels to Burnley live on NBCSN or live online at NBCSports.com.

WATCH LIVE, HERE

Since losing at Chelsea back in early November, Manchester United in unbeaten away from home and has won four of the five road matches. Burnley, meanwhile, has lost three matches in a row to start the new year and has not won in Premier League play since December 12th against Stoke City.

The goalscoring form of each team is also in stark contrast. Manchester United has not allowed a goal in any competition in 2018, and last conceded back on Boxing Day in a 2-2 draw with this Burnley side. The Clarets, meanwhile, have just one goal in their last three Premier League games and just three goals in their last six.

INJURIES: Burnley – OUT: Chris Wood (knee), Stephen Ward (knee), Jonathan Walters (knee). QUESTIONABLE: Chris Taylor (ribs). Manchester United – OUT: Daley Blind (undisclosed), Eric Bailly (ankle), Michael Carrick (heart), Zlatan Ibrahimovic (knee). QUESTIONABLE: Marouane Fellaini, Antonio Valencia.

What they’re saying

Burnley manager Sean Dyche on the gap in riches between clubs: “I don’t think any of us are surprised by the gap in the Premier League – I think it’s been there a long time and it’s getting harder year on year since the business model of football has changed.”

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho on focusing despite transfer rumors: “In this moment, [Henrikh] Mkhitaryan our player, [Alexis] Sanchez an Arsenal player and with a match tomorrow, I want to switch off and focus on the most important thing, which is the match.”

Prediction

Burnley may be coming back down to Earth, but they are still a formidable team with great organization, and Manchester United will be once again held to a draw, this time 1-1.