PL roundup: Man City, Spurs capitalize on dropped points-a-plenty

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What Saturday’s feature fixture left viewers desperately wanting, the rest of the Premier League’s big boys provided in spades… for better and for worse.

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Manchester City scored seven all by themselves, Chelsea and Arsenal each fell away from home in London derbies, and then you have a somewhat forgotten Tottenham Hotspur side which finally got its first home win of the season and climbed into the top-three.


Manchester City 7-2 Stoke CityRECAP

It’s time for the rest of the PL to face a very sobering fact: there might not be any stopping this edition of Man City. Pep Guardiola‘s side might score 125 goals this season (currently on pace for 123). Only three sides have cracked the century mark since the turn of the millennium — Man City (103) and Liverpool (102) in 2013-14, and Chelsea (103) in 2009-10. The goals come from everywhere (six different scorers on Saturday), just as the assists do (five different assisters).

Tottenham Hotspur 1-0 BournemouthRECAP

They needed four tries to do it, but Tottenham have won their first PL game at Wembley Stadium this season. Considering Mauricio Pochettino‘s side’s struggles at their temporary home, it’s shocking to see them already four points clear of Chelsea, the defending champions (and the only side to beat Spurs through eight games), and Arsenal in the table. Spurs’ 100-percent away record won’t last forever, making points at home all the more important going forward, even if they’re won by grinding out 1-0 victories over relegation-threatened sides like Bournemouth.

Crystal Palace 2-1 ChelseaRECAP

First goal of the season: check. First point: check. First win: check. Saturday was a big day for Roy Hodgson’s Palace, who shocked the world by knocking off Chelsea at Selhurst Park, courtesy of goals scored by Cesar Azpilicueta (own goal) and Wilfried Zaha (deployed as a striker, alongside fellow winger Andros Townsend). Just like that, the Eagles are within four points of safety, though at some point they’ll need to do some serious work on that -16 goal differential.

Watford 2-1 ArsenalRECAP

Arsenal took a 1-0 lead into the final 20 minutes of Saturday’s clash at Vicarage Road, and walked away without a single point to show for their efforts. Troy Deeney equalized from the penalty spot in the 71st minute and Tom Cleverley slammed home a rebound in the 91st to push the Hornets into fourth place in the league table. You could say Marco Silva‘s first season at the club is going quite well.

Liverpool 0-0 Man UnitedRECAP

Jose Mourinho showed he’s still go it, assuming “it” means the ability to play for a 0-0 draw and fail to entertain anyone in his side’s biggest game of the season thus far. While the Red Devils looked most every bit City’s equals through seven games, this might have been the day it all became clear: City simply have another gear (or two, who knows) that not even their neighbors can call upon.

Swansea City 2-0 HuddersfieldRECAP

The start to life in the PL was brilliant for Huddersfield (two wins from their first two games), but the season-long reality has quickly set in for David Wagner‘s side, as they’ve gone winless in their last six games, including a 2-0 humbling at the Liberty Stadium. Chelsea’s on-loan striker Tammy Abraham scored both Swans goals (his third and fourth this season) to push Paul Clement‘s side all the way up to 13th.

Burnley 1-1 West Ham UnitedRECAP

With West Ham leading 1-0 after 19 minutes, Andy Carroll took it upon himself to bring Burnley right back into the game, by way of two nearly identical yellow cards in the span of two minutes (25th and 27th). The Hammers held on for quite some time, but Chris Wood, the Clarets’ late-game hero, struck again in the 85th minute. Burnley currently sit seventh, ahead of Liverpool on goal differential. West Ham are 14th.

Burnley 1-1 West Ham: 10-man Hammers held

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  • Antonio scores opener
  • Carroll gets two yellows in 99 seconds
  • Chris Wood equalizes late on

Burnley scored a late equalizer after 10-man West Ham United looked like they’d grab all three points at Turf Moor.

Michail Antonio gave the Hammers an early lead but soon after Andy Carroll was sent off and Burnley eventually made their numerical advantage count as Chris Wood headed home to make it 1-1 with five minutes to go.

With the point Burnley extend their record unbeaten run to six Premier League games and they stay in sixth place in the table, while West Ham are three points off the bottom three.

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Early on Burnley’s Wood met a Stephen Ward cross with a powerful header but it was easy for Joe Hart to save and West Ham were soon ahead.

Hart’s long clearance forward caught out Ben Mee and James Tarkowskwi and Antonio latched onto the loose ball before rounding Nick Pope and slotting home. The easiest goal you will see all season. 1-0 to the Hammers.

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The away side were then dealt a huge blow with less than half an hour on the clock as Carroll was sent off for two quickfire yellow cards, both for aerial challenges where he used his elbow and caught Tarkowskwi and then Mee. Utter madness from the English striker.

Burnley could have had a penalty kick soon after as Hart came rushing out and Wood got to the ball first and Hart collided with Wood as well as getting some of the ball. A lucky escape for the Hammers.

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At the start of the second half West Ham almost grabbed a second as Javier Hernandez’s cross just missed by Antonio at the back post as he slid in.

The Hammers continued to impress on the break with Pope denying Antonio with a fine save after a flowing West Ham move. At the other end Steven Defour‘s clipped ball found Matt Lowton at the back post but he failed to convert.

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Johann Berg Gudmundsson had a shot from outside the box which hit the post and then hit Hart on the back but it rebounded straight to the West Ham goalkeeper as it looked like West Ham would hold on.

But Gudmundsson then whipped in a great cross for Wood to nod home the equalizer five minutes from time as the Clarets grabbed a point and denied West Ham a hard-fought victory.

PL AT HALF: Palace scores (then concedes); Man City rolling (yes, again)

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We’ve got goals!

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Liverpool’s poor finishing conspired with Manchester United’s defensive style to keep us from witnessing some markers in the opening match of the Premier League weekend, but that’s not continued with most of the 10 a.m. ET kickoffs.


Crystal Palace 2-1 Chelsea

All Palace needed to get its first match of the season was the Premier League champions on the other side. Yohan Cabaye saw David Luiz‘s clearance go off his knee and in to give the Eagles their first goal in 731 minutes, though Tiemoue Bakayoko scored within minutes to level the score line. Mamadou Sakho then cued up electric returnee Wilfried Zaha for a terrific finish just before halftime.

Tottenham Hotspur 0-0 Bournemouth

Hugo Lloris has a nice save and Davinson Sanchez a timely block at Wembley Stadium.

Manchester City 3-1 Stoke City

If this were hockey, likely PL star of the season Kevin De Bruyne would have two assists. First he gave Kyle Walker the ball to cue up a Gabriel Jesus goal, then the Belgian slipped in Leroy Sane for a cross finished by Raheem Sterling.

The last name set David Silva up for City’s third goal, though Mame Biram Diouf pulled one back for the Potters just before the break.

Burnley 0-1 West Ham United

Michail Antonio‘s long-desired goal has the Irons on top in a claret battle inside Turf Moor, but a pair of yellow cards to Andy Carroll have opened the door for the hosts.

Swansea City 1-0 Huddersfield Town

A woeful decision from Town goalkeeper Jonas Lossl allowed Tammy Abraham to put Swans ahead at the Liberty Stadium.

Top Premier League storylines – Week 8

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The international break is over, and while some hearts are broken and others are lifted with euphoria, all players must get back to work regardless of if they will be headed to Russia next summer.

From a club perspective, international breaks bring a chance for players to improve their form with a slight change of scenery, or the possible occurrence of a slight drop in momentum. But most of all, they just want their players to stay healthy.

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With the players back to their training grounds, here are the four biggest storylines for the return of Premier League action…

Liverpool tests itself against the Premier League’s best

Last season, Liverpool was terrible against the lesser teams and up for it in games against the best. This time around, Jurgen Klopp will hope for more of the same – at least, the positive part – as he hosts heated rival Manchester United at 7:30 a.m. ET on Saturday (Watch live, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com). The Red Devils may not be atop the Premier League table, but that’s only because Manchester City has matched them the entire way, only slightly ahead by just a single goal on differential.

Unfortunately the Reds could not complete their international break objective – Sadio Mane returns injured and will miss six weeks, a massive blow to Liverpool’s top four hopes. Nevertheless, they still have Klopp, who has matched up extremely well against Jose Mourinho, with just one loss in seven matches against this weekend’s opposing boss. Can Liverpool manage to stave off the high-flying Red Devils?


Can West Ham break down Burnley?

The Hammers have put their poor start behind them and are beginning a climb up the table. A win this weekend against Burnley at Turf Moor at 10:00 a.m. ET (Watch live on NBCSports.com) would be a signature moment in their recovery, three points against a team that has been a pleasant surprise this season. The Clarets have been ridiculously hard to break down ever since their return to the top flight, but this season they’ve also discovered a newfound cutting edge up front.

Slaven Bilic has deployed Javier Hernandez out wide in an attempt to fit both he and Andy Carroll into the lineup, and with the Hammers healthy after the break, they should have a full disposal of players to look to break down the hosts. However, with Burnley now able to possess the ball in greater spells, the weak West Ham defense could be at risk.


Can Alexis Sanchez put World Cup heartbreak behind him?

Like the United States, Chile missed out on the World Cup in heartbreaking fashion. The two-time defending Copa America champions were poor throughout qualification, and ultimately ended up just short of the finish line. Arsenal star Alexis Sanchez must put this disappointment behind him, lest it bleed into his club career.

Arsenal travels to Watford at 12:30 p.m. ET on Saturday (Watch live, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com), and like Burnley, the Hornets have improved mightily from last season to this. Most importantly, they’ve capitalized on playing teams down on their luck such as Bournemouth, Southampton, and Swansea, and could do the same if Sanchez and Arsenal do not bring their best mentality to Vicarage Road.


Will Ronald Koeman stave off the sharks?

Everton is 16th in the table, and if this season is truly setting up to be a relegation battle, their match this weekend could be a vital one. The Toffees travel to Falmer Stadium to take on Brighton & Hove Albion on Sunday at 8:30 a.m. ET (Watch live, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com) with the Seagulls sitting just two spots above them in the table, with both sides sitting on seven points.

If Ronald Koeman is to keep Everton floating above the relegation sharks, he must win this match. Any dropped points on the road at a newly promoted team would only serve to leak even more water into an already listing ship.

A way-too-early look at what’s next for the USMNT

AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell
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“What we’ve got here is failure to communicate. Some men you just can’t reach. So you get what we had here last week, which is the way he wants it. Well, he gets it. I don’t like it any more than you men,”

Captain, “Cool Hand Luke”

(It made us sick typing that headline, too).

So, about qualifying for that 2022 World Cup in Qatar…

It’s difficult to turn our attention beyond the short-term devastation and long-term problems that come from failing to qualify for a World Cup, especially in the forgiving world of CONCACAF qualifying.

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For one thing, it’s challenging not to wallow in the disappointment of what is likely a humiliating exclamation point placed on the glittering USMNT careers of Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard, Michael Bradley, and Geoff Cameron.

The last two will play a bit longer and have some chance of playing a bit part in the next round of World Cup qualifying, but Dempsey and Howard are almost certainly on the verge of their testimonials.

Then there’s the batch of players who won’t get their first taste of the World Cup. Christian Pulisic won’t be able to showcase himself at the age of 19, building up some experience for his prime. Weston McKennie, DeAndre Yedlin (a second for him), Ethan Horvath, and Matt Miazga can’t garner time, either.

Which brings us to the what’s next. Bruce Arena has to be gone. He shouldn’t get another minute on the job. Yes, he’s a legend who managed the team to its longest World Cup run. He also essentially admitted there were better players he’d call in for the World Cup should he got there.

Even ignoring that he also coached one of its most embarrassing tournaments (World Cup 2006) in addition to this fiasco, he has to leave the gig. If you want to debate this for some reason, let’s not waste everyone else’s time. Email nicholas.mendola@nbcuni.com.

I hate that this picture of classy CB Matt Besler exists (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

Here’s one thing to remember: A lot of desperate people are going to try to tell you everything is okay. It brings us to the lines so famously uttered by Strother Martin and sampled by Axl Rose in “Civil War.” It’s not good when power reaches a point where it dismisses failure as happenstance or bad luck when it so clearly is, well, failure and the product of design.

U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati is a powerbroker and has had some terrific success guiding the American ship, but the worst thing American soccer can do right now is assume “it could be worse.”

Hardly! And, in fact, perhaps some of us should’ve said that when Arena was hired to replace Jurgen Klinsmann. We rely on the familiar far too often when it comes to American soccer.

I mean LISTEN to this guy, as if the side hasn’t been below its own standards and expectations for the majority of play since the end of the Copa America Centenario:

And we — myself included — are so antsy to celebrate Major League Soccer that we make huge excuses for it. Sure, MLS is improving other players in CONCACAF, but the league is also largely American. And it’s not about those Costa Rican, Jamaican, T&T, or even U.S. kids getting better, it’s more about accepting America’s best talents coming home to play in MLS rather than challenging themselves in much better leagues.

You can love MLS, love the USMNT, and accept that they both need each other to improve but also need to eschew the easy option. Maybe Michael Bradley and Alejandro Bedoya just naturally got a little worse when they came home because of natural career decline, or maybe it was about not playing against better competition. Matt Besler choosing to stay home at Sporting KC instead of trying his hand at Fulham or Sunderland was great for us as MLS fans, but did he reach his potential? Right now, it’s a bit too easy to say no (or yes).

If someone lives to the ripe age of 75, they maybe get 16-17 chances to be cognizant of their nation’s play in a World Cup. We’re set to miss one. RIP.

So, uh, back to the path forward.

They deserved better. Turned out to be lousy vacation usage(AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

Let Arena resign, hire a new coach… And let’s stop with the also-rans. If you need to be an America-first guy, go for Peter Vermes (Sporting KC) or Greg Vanney (Toronto FC). Talk to Tata Martino about leaving Atlanta United, and have a guy who understands MLS but also will work to get his players in great spots. Or find an alum to keep driving the technical bus. What’s Steve Cherundolo doing? Tab Ramos? Claudio Reyna? Yes, you may find a coach who does some things that bother you tactically, but at least you won’t be looking clueless in a must-win match at Trinidad and Tobago.

Build up to Brazil… While the United States is playing friendlies for the next two years, it needs to let its new coach and a bevy of new faces go through their international growing pains ahead of the 2019 Copa America in Brazil.

That team shouldn’t be about a bunch of wily vets trying to manufacture a positive result. It should be about seeing what Miazga, McKennie, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Cristian Roldan, Kenny Saief, and Sebastian Lletget can do against top international competition. With loads of love and respect to Besler, I don’t need to see him mark Neymar.

Get over yourself… The road to a World Cup should be a relative cakewalk for the United States given its talent, which regularly qualifies for major tournaments at the youth level. (And for goodness’ sake, can we please stop with the “CONCACAF is hard” lip service and walk around like a team that knows it’s going to work hard enough to maximize its talent and prevail?).

Well, that means recognizing that the U.S. Soccer Academy system has to be nurtured, and the right top-to-bottom focus should be implemented so the concept of an American team missing out on an Olympics or World Cup at any age level is a thing of the past.

Perhaps this is an argument for bringing in an outsider, someone who is going to say, “I’ve seen it all, and you’re not as good as you think you are.” Kid, try your hand on a bigger club. Veteran, here’s a role you might not like. Not on board? Cool, we’ll find someone else.

November 2019… Ugh. That’s a long way away, but shortly after the Copa America, the U.S. will begin World Cup qualifying again with a fourth round against a decent team, a below average team, and an poor team.

How many surefire guys do we know at this point? Here’s a preliminary look, with ages at that time in parentheses.

(Goalkeeper)

Yedlin (26) — Brooks (26) — (CB2) — (LB)

 Arriola (24) — McKennie (21) — (CM2) — Pulisic (21)

Wood (27) — Altidore (29)

That’s really not bad.

You’d say Miazga (24) is the front-runner at CB, Carter-Vickers (21) is in the mix too, and Cameron could still be in the fold for that spot or CM2. Bradley isn’t an improbable option there either, nor is Kellyn Acosta. Jordan Morris will hopefully have a claim toward Altidore’s spot, and Haji Wright is one to watch in Europe. Horvath and Bill Hamid are among the goalkeepers who could get looks.

Left back in America is a death spiral. Just assume teams will be ruining Hex matches and World Cup thoughts from that spot (you’ll notice the two goals versus T&T originated from room on that side).

By then the team should be teething several of Tyler Adams (CM), Josh Sargent (FW), Tim Weah (FW), Jonathan Lewis (FW), Matthew Olosunde (DF), and Jonathan Gonzalez (MF).

It doesn’t feel good right now, and it won’t for some time. The interconfederation playoffs are gonna sting, the World Cup draw is gonna be a throat punch, and the tournament itself will carry emotional paper cuts every time you see Alberth freaking Elis dribbling at a world class defense.

But stinging is good if it’s antiseptic. And U.S. Soccer better have some important people ready to flip the script.