Emre Can

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It’s time for Arsenal to hit the reset button

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John Cross of the Mirror wrote yesterday that this is the worst Arsenal team in 20 years. He’s right, and that means it’s time to blow the squad up.

Sitting in 6th and coming off an embarrassing 2-1 loss at 13th placed Bourneouth, there is no quick fix to return this club to Champions League caliber, having slowly emaciated through years of poor transfer policy and miserable contract management.

Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil, and even Jack Wilshere could all potentially leave this summer for zero return, the loss of prime talent at the height of its monetary value. Even if Sanchez does leave this January, which looks likely, he’ll leave for a cut-rate price.

In recent years, Arsenal has failed to prepare for the stark decline of defensive stalwarts Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny, left with Rob Holding, Calum Chambers, and occasionally an out of position Nacho Monreal at the back. In Holding’s five Premier League starts this season, Arsenal has conceded 11 goals; Chambers has started the last four games, with just one win and seven goals conceded.

[ MORE: Man United, Chelsea battle for Alexis Sanchez ]

It doesn’t end there. With Francis Coquelin failing to live up to his sky-high potential shown early in his career, the Gunners brought in Granit Xhaka, who has been utterly useless, succeeding more at reducing his side to 10 men than he has in providing defensive cover or possessional strength. The 25-year-old Swiss is rated the 21st-best midfielder in the Premier League this season according to Squawka’s player ratings, behind guys like West Ham’s Manuel Lanzini and Watford’s Abdoulaye Doucore.

Hector Bellerin has declined for two seasons straight. Petr Cech looks all of his 35 years old, leaving fans longing for Wojciech Szczesny, who has performed his backup duties to Gianluigi Buffon to perfection (six goals conceded in 10 Serie A appearances). Lucas Perez lasted one season before being shipped out on loan. Mohamed Elneny can’t even beat out Xhaka for a starting spot. Gabriel Paulista was a flop; Mathieu Debuchy too.

The miserable squad makeup has forced youth products Alex Iwobi, Chuba Akpom, Yaya Sanogo, and Ainsley Maitland-Niles into spot starts over the last few years, with none of the above able to grab a foothold among Premier League competition.

Meanwhile, on the outgoing side, the club has sold players like Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain who has been revived under Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool. They let Szczesny leave for Italy. Even back to the Robin Van Persie sale in the summer of 2012, they handed a top talent to a Premier League rival where he won a title. Arsenal hasn’t broken its record sale since shipping Marc Overmars to Barcelona in 2000 for $49 million, proving they can’t cash in on top talent when necessary. Allowing Alexis Sanchez to leave for pennies on the dollar (if anything) is a disaster of epic proportions, but not the first – they held onto players like Lukas Podolski too long, eventually saying goodbye far past peak value for little return.

And so, the Gunners have no other option. They must completely blow up the squad and start over. It will take some time, it will take heavy investment given the lack of assets at the club, and it might take a painful season or two. But it is what must be done. They only need to look north to Anfield to get a solid blueprint of what a top club grinding out a successful rebuild looks like.

Liverpool was in the same situation in 2015. The squad was aging, the transfer policy was poor, and aside from a 2nd place finish the year before which masked some of the problems plaguing the club, they hadn’t qualified for the Champions League since 2010. So, Fenway Sports Group blew the whole thing up. They sold Raheem Sterling, who would take years to finally blossom under Pep Guardiola at Manchester City, for top dollar. They saw Steven Gerrard, Luis Enrique, and Pepe Reina out. They got rid of failures like Mario Balotelli and Lazar Markovic. They used money from the painful but necessary sale of Luis Suarez to bring in Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane. They swung and missed on Christian Benteke, but righted that wrong quickly and got most of their money back. They brought in a veteran grinder in James Milner on a free. Eventually, smart money was spent on Emre Can, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Mohamed Salah, and they found a gem in Philippe Coutinho for just $16 million.

The key however, through all that, was the home run hire of Jurgen Klopp, who has had plenty of growing pains in the Premier League, but is the perfect manager for a rebuild. A loyal and enigmatic character who grooms young players brilliantly, Klopp has mixed cheap veterans with promising youngsters with amazing touch, and can tactically mask squad weaknesses with the best of them. The Reds still have a ways to go as they slowly climb the ladder to perennial Champions League contender, still sporting massive holes at defense and goalkeeper, but shrewd decision-making at the top now has Liverpool with the resources to patch holes while still allowing the stars of the squad to shine.

No rebuild is perfect, and no rebuild is without pain and mistakes, but it is preferable to the alternative in the long-run. Manchester United has been able to avoid a full-on squad nuke when left in a similar position after the departure of Sir Alex Ferguson, but only because of near-unlimited resources and the hiring of managers who mask deficiencies with short-term band-aids such as negative tactics which infuriate supporters and yet fail to achieve the heights the club once reached on a regular basis.

It’s clear that Arsenal must follow Liverpool’s example and sacrifice a few battles to win the war. The first step is letting go of Arsene Wenger and finding someone to lead them through the muck and still be there on the other side. While Carlo Ancelotti would be a big-name get, he wouldn’t fit a long-term plan as snug as someone like Diego Simeone.

The next step – which is no cake walk – would be to retool the squad without many assets of value on hand. Players like Jack Wilshere must be retained, while recent transfers Alexandre Lacazette and Sead Kolasinac have shown enough promise and work rate to build around. The rest are expendable, and departures are required to both raise funds and provide turnover. Aaron Ramsey would be a rare example of someone who could net a solid return while also proving replaceable, as would Hector Bellerin at just 22 years old. Expired has-beens over 30 in Koscielny, Mertesacker, and Debuchy are all immediately out the door despite minimal return, while keeping Olivier Giroud and Nacho Monreal would provide valuable veteran leaders who can still produce on the field.

These aren’t all the answers, and it can’t all be done at once, but it’s a starting point. As is, the Gunners are slowly bleeding out, and instead of layers and layers of gauze, upper management should invest in wide-scale surgery for the long-term health of the club.

Roundtable: Discussing the best of 2017

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As 2017 comes to a close, it is time to reflect on what has happened in the Premier League and elsewhere in the soccer world over the past 12 months.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Below we take a look back at 2017, as our writers select their top moments.


Top Premier League moment

Joe Prince-Wright: Being at West Brom to see Chelsea win the Premier League title in May was pretty special. It was a game which summed up why they won the title last season. They ground out victories time and time again and Michy Batshuayi‘s late winner sparked an unexpected party as it seemed like they’d have to wait a few more days to win the trophy. From Antonio Conte‘s press conference after the game being gatecrashed by Diego Costa, John Terry and David Luiz to the celebrations with the fans at the end of the game, it was a moment which really stood out and epitomized the incredible turnaround Conte led after the shambles of 12 months before.

Nick Mendola: Honestly, given the way Chelsea’s players bailed on Jose Mourinho, to see that same bunch enabling fiery Antonio Conte to don an inflatable crown as PL champion might be it for me.

Matt Reed: The Clarets stunning Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on opening day. Burnley has since proven that its a worthy top-10 side, but losing Gary Cahill in the early minutes to a red card and then the subsequent effects were just unimaginable in London.


Top Premier League player

JPW: I have to go with Harry Kane. Yes, Kevin De Bruyne and David De Gea have also been superb, but Kane’s goalscoring record of 39 PL goals in 2017 to set a new record says it all. Consistently he has delivered on a historic level.

NM: It’s been Harry Kane, David De Gea, and Eden Hazard, and I’m *just* tabbing Hazard based on his resurgent last season and success with a wider variety of attackers (though I’m certainly not holding squad stability against Kane).

MR: Kevin De Bruyne has been a marvel to watch evolve, and now he’s really becoming not just one of the best Premier League players, but one of the top talents in the world. The Belgian has been deadly in front of goal, but what’s been even more impressive is his ability to create for his teammates.


Most memorable Premier League goal

JPW: Emre Can‘s incredible flying volley takes some beating, as does Olivier Giroud’s scorpion kick way back on New Year’s Day 2017, but I’m going with Sofiane Boufal‘s solo goal for Southampton against West Brom. I was at St Mary’s that day and the crescendo of noise as he got closer and closer to goal, leaving a trail of defenders in his wake, will always stay with me. Utter bedlam when the ball hit the back of the net.

NM: Honorable mention to Wayne Rooney‘s half-field goal and Emre Can’s overhead kick, but Eden Hazard’s half-field dribble against Arsenal — capped by fooling Laurent Koscielny and Petr Cech — was out of this world.

MR: It’s arguable that other goals were better, but Wayne Rooney’s half-field scorcher against West Ham was certainly the most memorable. Great technique. Brilliant first-time effort. Nothing else to really say.


Most surprising Premier League moment

JPW: It’s probably how ordinary Manchester United have been in the Premier League in 2017. Yes, they focused on the Europa League and cup competitions last season, but there’s be little progress in their style of play or the way Jose Mourinho is setting them up. I thought they’d be much further along than they are right now.

NM: Claudio Ranieri being fired by Leicester City less than a year after engineering perhaps the most memorable championship season in soccer history. Given the players went on to fail Craig Shakespeare, proving it wasn’t about the manager, they should remain ashamed.

MR: Less than 12 months removed from winning the title, Claudio Ranieri’s firing in February wasn’t as much a shock as Leicester’s poor form. Ultimately the Foxes survived relegation, but nobody could have expected that the team would be forced into such sweeping changes after completing their historic feat a season prior.


Top three players on the planet

JPW: Wow. This is tough. I have to go with Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo but the third place is so tough. Harry Kane probably deserves to be there because he has more goals than anyone else at the top level in 2017, but how do you leave out Neymar or Kevin De Bruyne? I’m going to give Kane the nod. 1) Messi, 2) Ronaldo, 3) Kane.

NM: 1. Lionel Messi – When you’re the greatest ever, you’re the greatest of the year. 2. Neymar – His Brazil work shows that it’s not just about being a part of two great tridents. 3. Harry Kane – Can’t deny what he’s done for Spurs, and England.

MR: In terms of form, you could very easily argue that Mo Salah and Kevin De Bruyne belong on this list, but when it comes to sustainability, Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar are still the best of the best. We’ve all been waiting for Messi and Ronaldo to drop off in form for some time now, but it just doesn’t seem to happen. Even this season, when Real isn’t at its best, Ronaldo has scored 16 goals in all competitions.


Most memorable soccer moment, globally

JPW: The Barcelona vs. Paris Saint-Germain Champions League Round of 16 second leg was bonkers. The way Barca somehow came back from the dead to win 6-1 on the night with two goals in stoppage time sealing their passage to the last eight was remarkable. It didn’t seem possible.

NM: The United States and its overly confident head coach Bruce Arena getting overrun by Trinidad and Tobago’s B Team and eliminated from World Cup qualification. Yep. Still angry.

MR: 6-1. In one of the most high-profile matches in last season’s Champions League, Barcelona stormed back from dead and advanced to the quarterfinals after its six-goal effort against PSG. The fact that Neymar went on to join PSG later in the year only added fuel to fire for any potential future meetings between the two clubs.


Top moments in U.S. Soccer/Major League Soccer

JPW: Obviously the most memorable moment of 2017 for the USMNT was not making the World Cup after that horrendous display against Trinidad & Tobago’s reserve squad. It will take us all a very, very long time to forget that. On the positive side of things, seeing the rise of Christian Pulisic has been superb and he is exceeding what we all expected him to achieve at such a young age. In MLS, there’s no doubting that Toronto FC winning MLS Cup was a huge moment. Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco have delivered what was expected and they did it in style with a record breaking season. We are seeing the start of another MLS dynasty, I’m sure of it.

NM: I have a lot of admiration for the way Toronto FC made good on the promise of 2016 by winning every competition it entered in 2017 (especially with oft-criticized USMNT stars Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore doing plenty along the way) and essentially anything Christian Pulisic did was wonderful this season (One of the few players who looked good even when the USMNT was throwing up all over itself). The continued development of other U.S. youngsters (Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams) is also encouraging but not quite to the level of top moment.

MR: It certainly wasn’t the best moment by any stretch, but we’ll remember the USMNT missing out on the 2018 World Cup for a very, very long time. Not just because of the magnitude of our nation being left out of the tournament, but the way in which everything fell apart at the most critical points in the World Cup qualifying cycle.

In MLS, Toronto FC’s treble was the first of its kind. While some will argue that having the Canadian Championship count is a bit of a stretch, TFC was the best team from start to finish this MLS season, and they’ve built a squad that could contend for various titles in the future.


Pick your ultimate Best XI from World Soccer in 2017

Joe Prince-Wright
Goalkeeper: David De Gea
Defenders: Cezar Azpilicueta, Sergio Ramos, Jan Vertonghen
Midfielders: Toni Kroos, N'Golo Kante, Kevin De Bruyne, Mohamed Salah
Forwards: Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Harry Kane

Nick Mendola
Goalkeeper: David De Gea
Defenders: Sergio Ramos, Jan Vertonghen, Mats Hummels
Midfielders: N’Golo Kante, Toni Kroos, Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard
Forwards: Lionel Messi, Harry Kane, Neymar

Matt Reed
Goalkeeper: David De Gea
Defenders: Cezar Azpilicueta, Sergio Ramos, Giorgio Chiellini, David Alaba
Midfielders: Andres Iniesta, Kevin De Bruyne, Mohamed Salah
Forwards: Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar


Your main hope/wish for the soccer world in 2018

JPW: That the 2018 World Cup becomes a true celebration of everything that is great about the Beautiful Game rather than turning into a VAR nightmare. The biggest stars will be on show and there are at least six legitimate contenders to win the trophy. I cannot wait for the World Cup.

NM: That U.S. Soccer’s new president sees his job as an honor and not keys to a palace, and that he finds the manager — or finds the people to find the manager — who believes in choosing the best players with the best mentalities, not beholden to or singularly opposed to a league.

MR: Teams like Man City and Barcelona are well-deserved leaders of their respective leagues, but I’d like to see the title races in the five major European divisions tighten a bit just for competition’s sake. Outside of Serie A, England, Spain, Germany and France already appear decided, which makes for a somewhat unexciting second half of the season.

Can Van Dijk at CB drastically improve Liverpool’s midfield?

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Virgil Van Dijk might just fix Liverpool.

Perhaps that’s what you’d expect from a $100 million man, but the 26-year-old center back is more than the simplicity of a massive buy.

[ MORE: VVD to the Reds ]

Van Dijk is the prototype to fix what ails Jurgen Klopp‘s Reds.

Liverpool’s defensive record has been much better of late, with the 3-3 draw versus Arsenal their first time allowing multiple goals in league play since Oct. 22 (The Reds went on to batter Swans 5-0 on Boxing Day).

And perhaps the knowledge that “VVD” was headed for Anfield is what kept Klopp’s composure in the face of that rough performance. Klopp is a man who likes to lean on his first choice center backs, and he hasn’t had a lot to like beyond Joel Matip (who’s battled injuries).

[ MORE: Matip with JPW ]

When Borussia Dortmund was functioning at its highest under Klopp, he was able to “set it and forget it” with Neven Subotic and Mats Hummels. Should Van Dijk quickly adapt to Anfield, there’s little question he has the capability to be as impactful on a set-up as Hummels.

Now Liverpool’s work isn’t done, and the club faces an interesting proposition: Van Dijk will be at his absolute best with improved center mids in front of him. Witness how the Dutchman found his next level when Oriol Romeu found his at Southampton, almost symbiotic.

This would be quickly amended should Liverpool convince RB Leipzig to let Naby Keita leave six months early to revolutionize the Reds’ midfield. Jordan Henderson has struggled for fitness and form, and could improve mightily with better center backs or a partner in the midfield. Emre Can, unlikely to stay beyond this season, also fits this in a micro sense.

Klopp will want to find an upgrade from Simon Mignolet and Loris Karius at goalkeeper at some point, and has to navigate the Philippe Coutinho situation in January, but the Reds can make a push higher into the Top Four with Keita or another improvement in front of Van Dijk.

Midseason Premier League awards

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At the halfway point of the Premier League season, it is time to take a look back at the opening 19 weeks of the 2017-18 campaign.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Below our writers select their award winners for several different categories, plus pick their moments and team of the season so far.

Get involved and let us know your selections in the comments section below.


Joe Prince-Wright (3-4-3 formation)
Goalkeeper: David De Gea
Defenders: Cesar Azpilicueta, John Stones, Phil Jones
Midfielders: Kyle Walker, Kevin De Bruyne, David Silva, Philippe Coutinho
Forwards: Mohamed Salah, Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling

Nick Mendola
Goalkeeper: David De Gea
Defenders: Ashley Young, Kurt Zouma, Harry Maguire, Marcos Alonso
Midfielders: Kevin De Bruyne, N'Golo Kante, David Silva
Forwards: Mohamed Salah, Harry Kane, Leroy Sane

Andy Edwards
Goalkeeper: David De Gea
Defenders: Nicolas Otamendi, Marcos Alonso, James Tarkowski, Cesar Azpilicueta
Midfielders: Kevin De Bruyne, David Silva, N’Golo Kante
Forwards: Mohamed Salah, Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling

Kyle Bonn
Goalkeeper: David De Gea
Defenders: Kyle Walker, Nicolas Otamendi, Cesar Azpilicueta, Sead Kolasinac
Midfielder: Paul Pogba, Kevin De Bruyne, David Silva, Eden Hazard
Forwards: Mohamed Salah, Harry Kane

Matt Reed
Goalkeeper: David De Gea
Defenders: Cesar Azpilicueta, Phil Jones, Nicolas Otamendi, Ben Davies
Midfielders: N’Golo Kante, Nemanja Matic, Kevin De Bruyne
Forwards: Harry Kane, Sergio Aguero, Mohamed Salah


Player of the Year (so far)

JPW: Kevin De Bruyne is in the conversation as the best player on the planet who isn’t named Messi and Ronaldo. He has completely transformed his game from a winger to a central playmaker and he can simply do it all. Goals, assists, killer passes, he has everything in his locker and is probably the most complete player in the world right now.

NM: Kevin De Bruyne — Wizard, magician, conductor, maestro. Choose your playmaking term, this guy is the straw that stirs Pep Guardiola‘s drink.

AE: Kevin De Bruyne

KB: Kevin De Bruyne is bossing the Premier League, and all we have to do is sit back, watch, and enjoy.

MR: There are a host of players worthy of this title, but all things considered Mohamed Salah is the man. He’s not only brought Liverpool’s attack to another dimension, but he’s completely silenced the worries surrounding the Liverpool attack that were thrown around prior to this season when Philippe Coutinho’s impending departure was all that Reds supporters could discuss.


Manager of the Year (so far)

JPW: This is actually a little bit tougher than just selecting Pep Guardiola. With City on an incredible 17-game winning run, Guardiola will of course get all the plaudits. That said, the relative success of Sean Dyche at Burnley and David Wagner at Huddersfield must be mentioned. Both have overachieved massively with limited resources but the beauty of watching Man City week in, week out means Guardiola gets the nod.

NM: Manager of the Year — Guardiola — With massive respect to Sean Dyche, I can’t in sound mind override Pep’s unbeaten run in the deepest league on Earth.

AE: Pep Guardiola.

KB: Pep Guardiola. Manchester City has a chance at history, and given how under fire he was last year, this turnaround is incredible.

MR: It’s an easy selection because Man City has propelled itself to a 13-point lead at the PL summit, but Pep Guardiola has done everything right in his second season in charge at the Etihad Stadium. He’s guided Kevin de Bruyne to being the best creator in England and gotten the best out of Raheem Sterling, while shoring up the backline with Kyle Walker and Danilo, as well as Benjamin Mendy — who has barely even seen the pitch due to injury. Give Guardiola time and the Spaniard always seems to find a way to turn gold into more gold, or something like that.


Young Player of the Year (21 and under)

JPW: I’m going to have to go with Leroy Sane. He has added extra power to his game but still kept his speed and his trickery. At 21 years of age he looks incredibly mature and is such an intelligent player on and off the ball.

NM: Leroy Sane — Just sliding in at 21, the German has been a menace on the wings, racing to the end line with abandon and serving up cross after cross. Honorable mention to Watford’s unearthed Brazilian gem Richarlison (20).

AE: Leroy Sane.

KB: For me it’s Gabriel Jesus – barely. Sane is just as good a pick. Manchester City with two Young Player candidates…that team is set up.

MR: Despite rotating with Sergio Aguero, Man City’s young Brazilian striker doesn’t seem to miss a beat when he’s on the pitch. Gabriel Jesus has 10 goals in all competitions this season, and he looks frightening getting forward each time City manages a push in the attack.


Comeback Player

JPW: This is a really tough category. Fabian Delph has been a revelation at left back for City and Fernandinho in midfield, while Riyad Mahrez is back to his best at Leicester and you could argue that Mohamed Salah falls into this category too. Is David Silva really a comeback player? He’s always been sheer class but this season he has taken his game to another level. That said, his Man City teammate John Stones is my pick. He’s improved so much under Guardiola and looks a better defender this season.

NM: Countless nominees for this one, including Wayne Rooney, Fabian Delph, Kurt Zouma, and Emre Can. But I’ll go with Riyad Mahrez, who Leicester City has to hope is willing to hang out through the season.

AE: Fabian Delph

KB: Aaron Ramsey, who missed an enormous amount of time for a multitude of injuries last season, and while none of them were terribly serious, each successive injury seemed to stop Ramsey’s form in its tracks, forcing him to start from scratch again. He’s having a fantastic season thus far. However, I still have my eye on Luke Shaw. There’s a long way to go on that one, but Shaw is finally showing signs that he still can be the player Manchester United expected when they shelled out big money to lure him away from Southampton. He’s struggled mightily with injuries, but if he can break his way into that Red Devils side, he can prove a massive asset. Problem is Ashley Young is having a great season in front of him at LB.

MR: When Pep Guardiola went out and made big adjustments to the Man City backline this summer, he didn’t address the center of his defense. With captain Vincent Kompany missing much time due to injury in the past few seasons, it was a bit of a gamble to just rely on young defender John Stones, but Kompany has found his form once again and anchored a defense that has conceded just 12 goals all season.


Best individual team performance

JPW: Their have been some incredible displays from PL teams in Europe with all five making it through to the last 16, but City’s demolition of Stoke City proved just how good they are going forward. They won 7-2 but it could have been 12-2. Everything clicked, as it has for most of this season.

NM: Can I go with a Premier League team in Europe? Because Spurs win over Real Madrid was pretty magical. If forced to stay domestic, I choose Man City 4-1 Spurs.

AE: Manchester City 5-0 Liverpool

KB: Manchester City 5-0 Crystal Palace. City has had a number of candidates this season, but that game had the best combination of beautiful attacking play, possessional strength, and smothering defending.

MR: The Clarets were granted a gift early on in their season opener against Chelsea when Gary Cahill was sent off inside the opening 15 minutes, but Burnley took full advantage with a 3-2 win at Stamford Bridge. Not only does it appear that Burnley could contend for a top four position, but their win against the defending league champions made for a great storyline to kick off the 2017/18 campaign.


Best individual player performance

JPW: Kevin De Bruyne against Tottenham Hotspur in their 4-1 win. He ran the show, scored a great goal moments after being clattered by Dele Alli and drove his team to victory without his partner in crime David Silva, who he gave a nod to during his goal celebration. True class.

NM: Wayne Rooney’s hat trick against West Ham, mostly because I feel dicey not giving him Comeback Player of the Year.

AE: David De Gea — Arsenal 1-3 Man United

KB: Kevin De Bruyne vs. Arsenal. De Gea’s performance against Arsenal was wild, but De Bruyne puts forth an effort across a full 90 minutes that proves he is the Premier League maestro.

MR: Goalscorers always get the recognition, but David de Gea’s 14-save performance against Arsenal was just as special to watch from a goalkeeping perspective. In a match that could have easily been flipping in favor of the Gunners, De Gea made acrobatic stops time and time again to preserve the victory for he and his side.


Best fans/atmosphere in Premier League

JPW: Huddersfield Town at the John Smith’s Stadium. Their fans create a wonderful atmosphere win, lose or draw. The Terriers have a 12th man and they’re so hard to beat at home.

NM: Newcastle United at St. James’ Park

KB: Anfield. Can’t beat it.

MR: It could very easily vary on a week-to-week basis, but Anfield is always one of the best places to take in a match. The Liverpool supporters are impassioned whether winning or losing, and their “You’ll Never Walk Alone” is one of the most iconic sports fandom songs in all of sport.


Signing of the Year (so far)

JPW: Mohamed Salah has been a revelation at Liverpool and you can see why Jurgen Klopp‘s analytic department was pleading with him to sign the Egyptian winger. Plenty of eyebrows were raised when he signed but Salah is the PL’s top scorer and has 21 goals in all competitions for Liverpool. Simply stunning. Other contenders include Ederson, Alvaro Morata, Davinson Sanchez and Harry Maguire, who have all made a big difference to their respective teams.

NM: Mohamed Salah, Liverpool

AE: Mohamed Salah, Liverpool

KB: Mohamed Salah, Liverpool. Unquestionably.

MR: In his return to the PL, Mohamed Salah has been every bit the player that Liverpool had hoped that he could be. The top goalscorer in England, and arguably the most dynamic attacking player, Salah is not only poised to win the Golden Boot but also validate himself as one of the best wingers in the world.


Game of the season (so far)

JPW: Arsenal 3-3 Liverpool. I had the pleasure of being on-site at the Emirates Stadium for that game. I thought the 3-1 win for Manchester United at Arsenal would take some beating as that end-to-end game had it all, but the dramatic goals and comeback from Arsenal made this a truly unbelievable encounter. It could have ended up 5-5.

AE: Arsenal 3-3 Liverpool

KB: Arsenal 1-3 Manchester United

MR: Liverpool’s 3-2 victory over Leicester City at the King Power Stadium was one full of drama and exquisite attacking from both sides. A penalty save by Simon Mignolet was the key difference for the two sides, while the Foxes thought that they should have had another penalty late on in the match.


Goal of the season (so far)

JPW: Sofiane Boufal for Southampton against West Brom. Saints badly needed inspiration and Boufal delivered with an amazing 70-yard run and fine finish. St Mary’s was rocking as he scored that winning goal.

NM: Wayne Rooney vs. West Ham — 60 yards, on the laces. There is no other.

KB: I refuse to give Wayne Rooney this award because, while a 60-yarder is cool, the net was wide open. There haven’t been any surefire stunners yet, and while I think Jermain Defoe‘s volley against Crystal Palace should have a go, and Rajiv van la Parre’s against West Brom was spectacular, Sofiane Boufal’s incredible run against West Brom (poor Baggies!) does the trick, mostly because the two defenders crashing into each other halfway through is just a thing of beauty.

Watch Live: Arsenal v. Liverpool

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Arsenal host Liverpool on Friday (Watch live, 2:45 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) in a huge top four clash to kick off the festive feast of Premier League action.

Liverpool sit in fourth but are just one point and one place ahead of Arsenal who have won 13 of their last 14 home games in the PL, but have lost all three of their last PL matches against Arsenal.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE

In team news Arsenal start with Alex Iwobi and keep Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Jack Wilshere in the lineup, with Shkodran Mustafi and Sead Kolasinac on the bench.

Liverpool start with Sadio Mane and Emre Can who come in for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Georginio Wijnaldum.

LINEUPS

Arsenal: Cech; Bellerin, Koscielny, Monreal, Maitland-Niles; Wilshere, Xhaka; Iwobi, Ozil, Sanchez; Lacazette. Subs: Ospina, Walcott, Mustafi, Welbeck, Kolasinac, Coquelin, Elneny

Liverpool: Mignolet; Gomez, Lovren, Klavan, Robertson; Henderson, Can; Mane, Coutinho, Salah; Firmino. Subs: Karius, Wijnaldum, Milner, Lallana, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Solanke, Alexander-Arnold