Olivier Giroud

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Top Premier League story lines – Week 4

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It’s back, friends, and the Premier League’s fourth week again finds a battle of giants on the docket.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

Liverpool visits Man City as the league’s five UEFA Champions League sides eyeball their table positioning as well as European group stage debuts next week.

Elsewhere, Europa League entrants Arsenal and Everton have home matches while Swansea City’s big name signings should debut versus Rafa Benitez‘s embattled Newcastle United.


Fireworks exploding in the distance
Manchester City – Liverpool (Saturday, 7:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN) STREAM ] 

Temporary towers soar Saturday at the Etihad Stadium when Pep Guardiola‘s City and Jurgen Klopp‘s Reds bid for second place or better in the Premier League. Both attack-minded sides have seven points, and harbor dreams of a title.

Both sides were hopeful of landing Virgil Van Dijk or another center back stud before Deadline Day, and this match faces the prospect of goals upon goals. Philippe Coutinho is back training for the Reds, and Klopp will have to find the best fit for his attack once the Brazilian is ready to enter the fold.

City is off to Feyenoord to start its UEFA Champions League campaign on Wednesday, the same day Liverpool hosts ex-City men Nolito, Jesus Navas, and Sevilla.

The much anticipated Emirates Stadium reception for Arsene Wenger
Arsenal – Bournemouth (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBCSN) STREAM ] 

The Gunners have one win in three matches to start the season, could not land any late transfer targets, and sold neither Alexis Sanchez nor Mesut Ozil. The #WengerOut brigade is at full throat, and who knows what’s cooking from the North London faithful as oft-rumored Wenger replacement Eddie Howe and Bournemouth hit the scene in search of its first points of the season.

Bournemouth broke Arsenal’s four-match Hex in a 3-3 draw at the Vitality Stadium in January. Could this be the day it finds love at the Emirates?

Nathan Ake of AFC Bournemouth and Olivier Giroud of Arsenal (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

Early separation day for Spurs, Toffees
Everton – Tottenham Hotspur (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, CNBC) STREAM ] 

On form, Spurs arguably deserve to be 3-0 but have followed up their strong performance at Newcastle with poor finishing days against Chelsea and Burnley. They also can’t afford to look past the Toffees and to their Wednesday’s UCL visit from Borussia Dortmund.

The Toffees have an extra day to prepare for Europa League, where they’ll look to the road and a Thursday trip to Atalanta. Everton received very little love from the Premier League schedule makers, and now face Spurs after a draw versus Man City and a loss to Chelsea leave it level with the visitors on four points.

Chelsea’s ex-Foxes return to the King Power Stadium
Leicester City – Chelsea (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) STREAM ] 

Danny Drinkwater and N'Golo Kante will get an interesting reception at the building where they completed one of the biggest surprises in football history, as the Blues’ engine room duo hits Leicester City. Chelsea has two wins from three matches, and would like to keep its title defense aspirations pointed in the right direction.

Breathing room, new additions welcome in Wales
Swansea City vs. Newcastle United (Sunday, 11 a.m. ET, NBCSN) STREAM ] 

The similar vibes between these two clubs begins and ends with acquiring desperately needed wins before the international break. That’s because Swans had big success toward the end of the transfer window in landing a loan of Bayern Munich’s Renato Sanches in addition to buying Wilfried Bony and Sam Clucas. Newcastle’s big 3-0 home win versus West Ham was burnished with… zero additions on Deadline Day. Rafa Benitez has his work cut out for him.

UEFA Qualifying Wrap: France held by Luxembourg as Group A gets interesting

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Croatia 1-0 Kosovo

After the match on Saturday was called off just 22 minutes in thanks to an unplayable pitch following torrential rain, the game was resumed on Sunday. Real Madrid star Luka Modric fed a free-kick into the box in the 74th minute, and Dynamo Kiev defender Domagoj Vida was there to head it home and give Croatia a narrow victory under dubious circumstances.

Netherlands 3-1 Bulgaria

The Netherlands bounced back from their brutal defeat to France as Davy Propper poached a pair of goals against Bulgaria, with Arjen Robben adding one more. Propper touched home Daley Blind‘s low rifled cross just seven minutes in, and while that was it for a while, Blind fed Robben in the 67th minute from almost exactly the same spot at the left edge of the box. Bulgaria responded just two minutes later through Georgi Kostadinov, but Propper bagged his second to put the game away with 10 minutes to go, heading to the far post off a cross by Spartak Moscow winger Quincy Promes.

The three points is critical for the Netherlands, especially considering the other results around Group A that keep them alive. Robben’s goal was his 34th for country, moving him ahead of Johan Cruyff on the Netherlands scoring charts.

France 0-0 Luxembourg

Easily the most stunning result of the day, a full-strength France squad was held at home by Group A basement-dwellers Luxembourg in a result that not only keeps the Netherlands alive, but also releases France’s chokehold on Group A, leaving them just one point in front of Sweden and four ahead of the Netherlands.

France held 74% possession and mustered 34 shots, nine of them on target, but they couldn’t find a way through goalkeeper Jonathan Joubert. Olivier Giroud, Kylian Mbappe, and Antoine Griezmann all started the game for France, and Alexandre Lacazette played a half-hour off the bench, but none of them had any answers.

Greece 1-2 Belgium

Romelu Lukaku celebrates with Belgium teammate Thorgan Hazard (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images).

A wild finish at Karaiskaki Stadium in Athens saw three total goals pour in across a four-minute span, the decider scored by Manchester United striker Romelu Lukaku as Belgium became the first European country to confirm qualification to the 2018 World Cup. Tottenham defender Jan Vertonghen scored a fabulous strike from distance in the 70th minute, but the Spurs man lost Portuguese-born midfielder Zeca who flicked home a cross just two minutes after the opener, just the third goal Belgium has conceded all qualifying. With it all kicking off, Lukaku took a cross from Thomas Meunier and deposited a glancing header inside the far post.

Belarus 0-4 Sweden

Sweden took care of business as they went on the road and torched Belarus 4-0. Emil Forsberg scored the opener in the 18th minute and assisted the second, to Christoffer Nyman. Marcus Berg added a third just before halftime and Andreas Granqvist finished off the scoresheet with a late penalty.

Gibraltar 0-4 Bosnia and Herzegovina

With Belgium clinching Group H, that leaves four other countries to fight for the playoff spot, and Bosnia & Herzegovina took control with a comprehensive victory over point-less Gibraltar. Edin Dzeko scored a pair while Kenan Kodro and Senad Lulic each added one of their own. Bosnia & Herzegovina jumped Greece with the win into the playoff spot, with 14 points to Greece’s 13 and Cyprus’s 10. Estonia remains mathematically alive with eight points.

 

Hungary 0-1 Portugal

Andre Silva celebrates with Cristiano Ronaldo and other Portugal teammates (Tamas Kovacs//MTI via AP).

A red card to Hungary’s Tamas Priskin for elbowing Pepe in the face a half-hour in saw Portugal grab a man advantage, and Andre Silva provided the breakthrough heading in Cristiano Ronaldo’s cross minutes after the halftime break. The win allows Portugal to keep pace with perfect Switzerland, just three points back with the two teams set to meet in the final match of the group stage.

Latvia 0-3 Switzerland

Switzerland remained perfect in the group stage, picking up their eighth win in as many tries with a comprehensive victory over Latvia. An own-goal put Switzerland ahead nine minutes in, and while Blerim Dzemaili missed a penalty past the half-hour mark, he made amends just after halftime for a 2-0 lead, and Ricardo Rodriguez wrapped things up from the spot before an hour had gone by.

 

Faroe Islands 1-0 Andorra

These two sides have already been eliminated, but the Faroe Islands picked up their second win of qualification thanks to a goal by Norwegian top-flight winger Gilli Sorensen in the 31st minute.

Estonia 1-0 Cyprus

Estonia kept its hopes barely alive and dented those of Cyprus in dramatic fashion, with a stoppage-time half-volley from Fulham youth product Mattias Kait two minutes past the 90.

Mesut Ozil implores Gooners, former players to get on board

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Like it or not, all of Arsenal is in this together.

That’s the message from star midfielder Mesut Ozil, who took time away from Germany national team camp to type a missive to Arsenal supporters and former players.

Ozil lauded Arsenal for what he feels are overlooked FA Cup titles and Community Shield wins during his time at Arsenal, and mentions how he knows people are critical of different parts of his on-field behavior (including body language).

[ MORE: Qualifying scenarios for USMNT ]

But knowing that Alexis Sanchez, Olivier Giroud, and the rest of the Gunners aren’t heading anywhere until at least January, Ozil asks Arsenal nation to buck up and help build the best season possible at the Emirates Stadium.

From Ozil’s Facebook page:

Even though I personally do not know how my career will continue after this year, I look forward to my fifth season with Arsenal. This is because Arsenal is a great club with great people and great traditions. I am glad to be able to wear your shirt, Gooners. I’ve had so many great moments in the last four years and I really appreciate what this club means to the people of London, the UK and all over the world.

The post would resonate a bit more had it come last week, not a few days after the transfer deadline and from a player who knows he’s not going anywhere, but still shows a lot more heart that we’ve seen from Arsenal shy of its Opening Day battle back versus Leicester City.

And mentioned that match matters, because it shows that the club is not a gigantic ball of quit. Lest we forget slow starts are nothing new under the sometimes too-calm Wenger, and a long winning streak may not be too far away. Given the upcoming fixtures, save one, Ozil’s leadership could play a big role.

After all, his teammates probably follow his Facebook page, too, and may’ve gotten some choice group chats, too.

Summer transfer window grades: How did each club do?

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Now that the summer transfer window is closed in the Premier League, it is time to let the dust settle and figure out, amid all the madness, who actually did the best business.

[ MORE: Latest transfer news ] 

How did each Premier League club do? Was a record summer of spending enough to strengthen teams? Or did some fail to address glaring weaknesses?

[ MORE: Top 10 buys of the summer ]

Below we give all 20 PL teams a grade and sum up their summer window.


Manchester United – A
Their business was done early and properly with Romelu Lukaku and Nemanja Matic starting off superbly and Victor Lindelof will settle in. Smart business by Jose Mourinho with his squad now looking like a much stronger unit overall. Didn’t need a new wide player in the end because his team started the season so well.


Manchester City – A-
Pep Guardiola did plenty of business early in the window and he addressed his needs superbly with Kyle Walker, Danilo, Benjamin Mendy and Ederson improving their defense. Bernardo Silva is a luxury signing and Alexis Sanchez would have been something similar but City couldn’t get it over the line. Very solid window but one more center back would have given them an A.


Everton – B+
Like Man United and Man United the Toffees did their business early. Ronald Koeman strengthened his defense with Michael Keane and Jordan Pickford and spent the Romelu Lukaku cash wisely with Gylfi Sigurdsson, Davy Klaassen and Wayne Rooney likely to score and create plenty of goals. However, failing to sign a recognized targetman could come back to haunt Koeman. Olivier Giroud or Diego Costa would have been perfect for this system.


Tottenham Hotspur – B+
Spurs had a really strong finish to the window, adding Davinson Sanchez, Serge Aurier and Fernando Llorente. That gives them more cover in defense and an extra option off the bench with Llorente happy to back up Harry Kane. Selling on Kyle Walker for over $65 million made sense and Mauricio Pochettino will be happy with his summer window after keeping hold of Dele Alli, Eric Dier, Kane and Danny Rose.


West Brom – B+
The Baggies had a really decent window and pulled off a big shock with silky midfielder Grzegorz Krychowiak arriving on loan from Paris Saint-Germain. Jay Rodriguez, Kieran Gibbs and Gareth Barry are all solid additions who will start and Tony Pulis managed to keep hold of his skipper Jonny Evans despite interest from Man City and Arsenal.


Leicester City – B+
Decent window for the Foxes as they managed to keep hold of Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy and although it seems likely they lost Danny Drinkwater to Chelsea, they added some deadline day deals in Aleksandar Dragovic and potentially Adrien Silva. Early additions of Harry Maguire, Kelchi Iheanacho and Vicente Iborra seem to have strengthened the overall squad too.


Liverpool – B
Mohamed Salah and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are both key additions in the window and sealing the deal for Naby Keita was a big one for next summer. However, not adding a top-class center back (the Virgil Van Dijk pursuit was doomed from the start) was a big letdown and there is still an issue with the goalkeeping department. Some issues not addressed but Philippe Coutinho seems all but certain to stick around, so that’s a positive.


Huddersfield Town – B
David Wagner added more new players than any other team and Huddersfield have looked the part early on. Steve Mounie is a powerful forward with an eye for goal, grabbing Aaron Mooy on a permanent deal was superb business and goalkeeper Jonas Lossl has settled in well. Unlike the other promoted teams Huddersfield did their business early and were rewarded.


Swansea City – B
They held out and got a huge sum of $57.6 million for Gylfi Sigurdsson which they then spent wisely on re-signing Wilfried Bony and adding Renato Sanches on loan in a stunning deal from Bayern Munich. They did lose Fernando Llorente too, but Tammy Abraham seems like a steal on loan and the Swans will be hopeful their young squad can surprise opponents. Decent window all things considered.


Burnley – B
They lost Michael Keane and Andre Gray but did recoup over $60 million for the duo and spent it wisely with Chris Wood, Jack Cork and Jonathan Walters coming in. Plenty of experience added by Sean Dyche and the Clarets will once again be tough to break down. Solid window.


Watford – B
Marco Silva added some decent signings from Udinese around deadline day and brought in Andre Gray and Richarlison to strengthen their attack. Nathaniel Chalobah and Will Hughes will add energy in midfield and overall an inventive window, once again, from the Hornets.


Stoke City – B
The Potters did some really good business late in the window which saved them. Jese and Choupo-Moting look lively up top and Kurt Zouma, Kevin Wimmer and Bruno Martins Indi will improve them defensively. Darren Flecther is another solid buy but another striker would have been ideal for Mark Hughes.


Southampton – B-
They kept hold of Virgil van Dijk which was the main aim and added Mario Lemina in midfield and center backs Jan Bednarek and Wesley Hoedt. Saints really could have done with freshening up their attack but it didn’t seem like they were close to key forward additions.


Chelsea – B-
A really weird window for Chelsea who kept seeing players turn them down. From Romleu Lukaku to Oxlade-Chamberlain and Llorente to Ross Barkley, Antonio Conte couldn’t get deals over the line and Chelsea’s squad isn’t looking as strong as it did at the end of last season. Selling Nemanja Matic to Manchester United was a bad decision and the situation surrounding Diego Costa’s future was handed poorly. Alvaro Morata will be a star and both Bakayoko and Rudiger are also good additions, but not a great window at all for the Blues.


Bournemouth – C+
Adding experience was the main aim and Bournemouth did that early with Asmir Begovic and Jermain Defoe coming in. Nathan Ake should be a solid buy too but Eddie Howe‘s attack is looking a little lackluster after the opening weeks of the season.


West Ham United – D
It looked like decent business on paper but three of their four buys in the window look like they could be ill-advised. Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez will score goals for fun but Pablo Zabaleta and Joe Hart look low on confidence and Marko Arnautovic already has a red card and some poor displays against his name. Not a great window for the Hammers.


Crystal Palace – D-
Yes, they may well add Mamadou Sakho, but apart from that it has been a disastrous start to life in the Premier League for Frank De Boer. With three defeats he needed to add another two defenders and another striker to help ease the load on Christian Benteke. Palace have some big squad issues with a new playing style not suiting many of their players.


Brighton – F
Numbers have arrived but real quality hasn’t for the Seagulls. It is early days but you have to think more firepower was necessary for them to have any chance of staving off relegation. Davy Propper could be a good buy and so too could Jose Izquierdo but apart from that an underwhelming window. If they manage to add Vincent Janssen it would improve their grade, but not by much.


Arsenal – F
My goodness. What happened? From still having Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil around, to losing out on Thomas Lemar on the final day and selling Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Arsene Wenger has a nightmare. They added Alexandre Lacazette but did they really need another striker? Yet another window has come and gone without Wenger addressing the glaring problems in central midfield and defense. They way this situation has been handled from the top of the club is shambolic.


Newcastle United – F
Rafael Benitez and his owner Mike Ashley have been airing their dirty laundry in the media and Benitez has not got the deals he wanted. Joselu could score some goals but overall it was a really poor window for Newcastle, a team who should be challenging for a top four finish considering their stadium and fanbase. This window suggests they will be battling relegation.

Liverpool 4-0 Arsenal: Reds trample Gunners underfoot

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  • Firmino, Salah goal, assist each
  • Mane scores beauty
  • Lacazette doesn’t start
  • Cech stars in loss

Liverpool is second in the Premier League table heading into the international break after embarrassing rivals Arsenal 4-0 at Anfield on Sunday.

Roberto Firmino, Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah, and Daniel Sturridge scored for the Reds, with Firmino and Salah also registering assists.

Arsenal started Alexis Sanchez but it made little difference as the Gunners lost their second in three to fall into 16th.

[ MORE: Wenger reacts ]

Mohamed Salah showed some early wizardry that failed to find a receiver, and moments later Emre Can headed wide of the far post in a bright start for the hosts.

Petr Cech made a back post recovery to thwart Salah’s assumed goal. A better shot should’ve been proffered, but that hardly makes the save less outstanding.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Sadio Mane’s electric left wing play earned a penalty shout one minute and a corner kick the next, the latter played short and handled by Arsenal.

That’s when Firmino made it 1-0, using his head to pound a cross off the ground and past a diving Cech.

Jordan Henderson couldn’t convert from an extremely tight angle with a chance to make it 2-0 in the 19th minute.

Salah forced Cech into another save in the 25th minute.

Mane then punished Rob Holding for given him time and space with a simply marvelous curling finish around Cech in the 40th minute.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Arsenal’s first moments of the second half were promising, and Liverpool was more of a countering side when Salah was stopped by Cech before Henderson blazed over the bar.

Salah didn’t miss with his next chance, a 80-plus yard breakaway began by a cleared Arsenal corner. Hector Bellerin made an absolute mess of the ball, and Cech couldn’t low fast enough to swat away the ex-Roma man’s strike.

Wenger inserted Alexandre Lacazette and Olivier Giroud with about a half hour to play.

Sturridge added the fourth in the 78th on another counter attack, an unreal cross from Salah that the English striker barely had to stoop to meet.