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Three things Learned: Liverpool-Man City

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Liverpool battered Manchester City 3-0 in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League quarterfinal at Anfield on Wednesday, as Jurgen Klopp‘s men have one foot in the last four of the European Cup.

An incredible first 30 minutes saw Liverpool score three times as Mohamed Salah, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Sadio Mane were on target against a stunned Man City side who didn’t muster a single shot on target.

[ RECAP: Liverpool 3-0 Man City ]

Pep Guardiola‘s City never recovered from Liverpool’s fast start and didn’t muster a single shot on target in the first half as they missed Sergio Aguero and put in a shaky defensive display.

Here’s what we learned from another famous European night for Liverpool at Anfield.


ENGLISH TRIO STIFLE CITY’S MIDFIELD

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jordan Henderson and James Milner stifled Manchester City’s star midfield duo of David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne on Wednesday as the English trio pressed high in the first half and didn’t stop running until the final whistle.

It was a bold move for Klopp to tell his players to press high from the start, but he stuck to his philosophy and it paid off handsomely with Milner, the Ox and Henderson setting the tone for a near-perfect display.

Sure, Liverpool sat back and City had plenty of the ball in the second half but the damage was done early on by the home side.

If Liverpool were going to have any chance of beating City, that had to play this way. Their second goal summed up their approach perfectly as James Milner snapped in with a challenge and the onrushing Oxlade-Chamberlain, just as he did in January, rifled home at the Kop.

In the 4-3 league win against City in January, Liverpool played this way but it didn’t work as well. Emre Can and Georginio Wijnaldum didn’t have the defensive discipline of Milner and Henderson and that allowed Oxlade-Chamberlain the chance to surge forward and create problems.

Man City didn’t get going in the first half and that was because Liverpool’s midfield didn’t let them.

Henderson, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Milner set the tone for a special win as Liverpool are dreaming of the UCL semifinals.

Perhaps we shouldn’t be so surprised about this win. After all, Klopp has now beaten Guardiola six times as a manager which is more than any other coach.

Klopp’s heavy metal style destroyed Guardiola’s Man City masterpiece, especially in the midfield area they almost always dominate.


Kyle Walker, CITY FREEZE AS PEP HANDS INITIATIVE TO LIVERPOOL

You can’t complain about the way Guardiola has set up Man City this season. They’re 16 points clear atop the Premier League with just one defeat all season. But Pep got it badly wrong on Wednesday.

And his demeanor on the sidelines suggested that he knew he had got it wrong.

From the off Man City’s manager handed the psychological initiative to Liverpool as he decided to start Ilkay Gundogan on the right of midfield over Raheem Sterling. Not only did City lose Sterling’s pace and attacking intent but it also unsettled Kyle Walker behind him at right back and that had a huge impact on City’s entire defense.

On Liverpool’s first goal Walker tried to cheat as he didn’t get over close enough to get to Salah and then as the loose ball fell to him in the box from Firmino’s shot, he hesitated and allowed Firmino to knick in and tee up Salah to make it 1-0. Walker was also caught out and unable to challenge Mane for Liverpool’s third goal and his shaky display spread to the rest of the City backline as both Nicolas Otamendi and Vincent Kompany failed to cope with the movement and pressure from Liverpool’s entire attacking unit.

Pep admitted his mistake in the second half as Sterling came on after 57 minutes for Gundogan but the England winger, who has scored 21 goals this season, struggled to make an impact just days after he played a key part in City ripping Everton apart.

City have given themselves a mountain to climb for the second leg at the Etihad Stadium next Tuesday but given the fact they smacked 10-man Liverpool 5-0 earlier this season, Guardiola will know his team are capable of turning this around.

But his tactical gamble and City’s defense freezing has dug them a heck of a hole to get out of.


LIVERPOOL FEED OFF ANFIELD CAULDRON

It felt like Klopp’s entire project at Liverpool was building towards this night. When he was hired in October 2015, phrases such as “heavy metal football” and “full throttle” hung in the air.

For better and for worse it has been that way ever since and Wednesday felt like the night  Klopp’s philosophy and planning all come together perfectly.

This was a huge statement from Klopp.

Before the game Liverpool’s fans lined the cramped streets around Anfield to welcome their team bus in as it obviously inspired them to a rapid start. Unsavory scenes involving Man City’s team bus having debris thrown at it by Liverpool fans was strongly condemned by the club in a statement as City’s players appeared to be rattled.

Thanks to the fast start and early goals, the atmosphere at Anfield was consistent with so many special European nights on that hallowed turf in the past. It helped their players focus on keeping a clean sheet after their incredible start and not conceding an away goal was hugely important.

Liverpool are now unbeaten in their last 15 European games at home and they will hope one more famous Anfield night is coming up as they dream of winning a sixth European Cup.

If Klopp’s project continues on this trajectory, there will be plenty of special European nights for his team to enjoy in the future.

Top Premier League storylines – Week 35

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It’s a short Premier League weekend with the FA Cup taking place, but all eyes will be on the Emirates Stadium after Friday’s stunning news.

Arsene Wenger begins his farewell tour at Arsenal this Sunday as the Gunners host a London derby against West Ham United.

[MORE: Arsene Wenger’s legacy

Arsenal aims to finish season on a high
Arsenal vs. West Ham —  8:30 a.m. ET Sunday on NBCSN

The decision to step down has taken attention away from Arsenal’s defeat last Sunday when Newcastle came back from a one-goal deficit to defeat the Gunners, 2-1. Perhaps with the manager on his way out, Arsenal’s players will be extra motivated to end the season on a high note. If Arsenal continue to slip up, it could be out of Europe entirely, as the club sits just two points above seventh place.

For West Ham, a win would all but ensure the club’s place in the Premier League next season, but the club currently sit just six points above the relegation zone, and with the team going through a rough past few months, every point gained at home or away counts.

Does a guard of honor await Manchester City?
Manchester City vs. Swansea City —  11:30 a.m. ET Sunday on NBCSN

By virtue of Manchester United’s defeat last Sunday, Manchester City became officially Premier League champions-elect.

The club will get to raise the trophy officially at the end of the season, but for now, it appears Swansea City will be the first club to show its respect to Man City’s dominance throughout the season with a guard of honor. Man City is still chasing more Premier League records, but Swansea City, just four points above the drop zone, needs this win more.

Relegation scrap on tap
Watford vs. Crystal Palace —  10:00 a.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN

It’s a proverbial six-pointer as Watford, about as far north you can go in the London area, takes on Crystal Palace in south London in a key relegation battle.

Just three points separate the two sides, but a win for Watford would push the club up to 40 points while a win for Palace would put the Eagles even on points with the Hornets at 37 each. Interestingly, via the Premier League, “Watford are winless in their last six home meetings with Crystal Palace in all competitions (D3 L3), since a 2-0 victory in the Championship in February 2009.”

Stats behind Wenger’s time at Arsenal

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When you manage for nearly 22 years, you’re sure to accumulate numerous statistical milestones.

Arsene Wenger holds the record for most Premier League games managed (823), FA Cups won (7) and of course, his incredible run of 49 games without defeat with the 2003/2004 Arsenal invincibles team.

[MORE: ALL COVERAGE OF ARSENE WENGER’S DEPARTURE]

Our friends at Opta have put together some statistics together on Wenger’s achievements over his time at the club that spans three decades.

Arsene Wenger’s Career (as of April 20, 2018)

Titles

Premier League 🏆🏆🏆

FA Cup 🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆

Community Shield 🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆


Games Managed

Premier League – 823 games, 473 wins, 199 draws, 151 losses, 57.5% winning percentage

UEFA Champions League – 177 games, 83 wins, 41 draws, 53 losses

FA Cup – 109 games, 73 wins, 22 draws, 14 losses

League Cup – 73 games, 42 wins, 9 draws, 22 losses

UEFA Cup/Europa League – 23 games, 14 wins, 5 draws, 4 losses

UEFA Champions League qualifying – 14 games, 13 wins, 1 draw, 0 losses

Community Shield – 9 games, 6 wins, 2 draws, 1 loss

(more…)

Bocanegra, Hucles to chair USSF technical development group

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CHICAGO (AP) Former U.S. men’s captain Carlos Bocanegra and retired women’s midfielder Angela Hucles will chair a new technical development committee established by the U.S. Soccer Federation.

The organization also appointed eight chief officers who will report to chief executive officer Dan Flynn, but the final two direct reports remain to be hired: general managers for the men’s and women’s national teams.

Bocanegra currently works as the vice president and technical director for Atlanta United while Hucles is a former CEO and has spoken at sports leadership summits. Both Bocanegra and Hucles are members of the U.S. Soccer board. Bocanegra in particular has been floated for the position of U.S. Men’s National Team general manager, and this appointment could be the first step. And with more than 100 caps for the U.S. Women’s National Team and time spent as an executive, Hucles could also be angling for the USWNT general manager position.

The USSF said its board also established a new commercial committee, raising the board’s committee total to six under new president Carlos Cordeiro, who succeeded Sunil Gulati in February.

Nico Romeijn was promoted to chief sport development officer from head of coaching education, Ryan Mooney to chief soccer officer from director of sport development and Brian Remedi to chief stakeholders officer from chief administrative officer. Tonya Wallach was appointed chief talent and inclusion officer

Department heads continuing senior roles who are direct reports to Flynn include Jay Berhalter (chief commercial and strategy officer), Neil Buethe (chief communications officer), Eric Gleason (chief financial officer) and Lydia Wahlke (chief legal counsel).

Kroenke’s statement on Wenger

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Stan Kroenke has been a mostly hands-off owner for Arsenal over the past 10 years, preferring to put his trust in Arsene Wenger.

But today, with Wenger’s public announcement that he will step away at the end of the season, Kroenke released a poignant statement, calling on the club’s fans around the globe to back the side as it looks to hold on to a place in next season’s Europa League.

[MORE: Reaction to Arsene Wenger’s decision]

“This is one of the most difficult days we have ever had in all our years in sport,” Kroenke said. “One of the main reasons we got involved with Arsenal was because of what Arsène has brought to the club on and off the pitch. His longevity and consistency over such a sustained period at the highest level of the game will never be matched.

“Arsène has unparalleled class and we will always be grateful to him. Everyone who loves Arsenal and everyone who loves football owes him a debt of gratitude. Three Premier League titles, including an entire season unbeaten, seven FA Cup triumphs and 20 successive years in the Champions League is an exceptional record. He has also transformed the identity of our club and of English football with his vision for how the game can be played.

“We have high ambitions to build on Arsène’s remarkable tenure and to honour his vision by ensuring that Arsenal competes for and wins the biggest and most important prizes in the game.

“We must now focus on making a strong finish to the season and ask our millions of fans around the world to join us in paying appropriate tribute to one of the greats of Arsenal’s history and one of the greats of the game.”

Kroenke has drawn the ire of many Arsenal fans who had been calling for Wenger to be sacked for years, as the Arsenal board year after year continued to offer Wenger a new contract. It appeared that as long as the club was stable financially, with UEFA Champions League television revenues coming in and the team competing for a top-four Premier League position, the board was content.

However, the last two seasons have seen Arsenal slip, with a record amount of defeats during Wenger’s tenure and a second-consecutive season outside of the Champions League, leading to more lost revenue.