Manchester United's Kagawa celebrates his goal against Fulham during their English Premier League soccer match in Manchester

Offshore Drilling, England: Manchester United 3, Fulham 2

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Man of the Match: Leaving the match after 68 minutes gave this teammates a chance to catch up to Shinji Kagawa. It didn’t happen. After Kagawa left, United lost their nous in the final third, having sacrificed the man who’d been their main creative force. Kagawa was even rewarded for his work in the 35th minute when a spilt Tom Cleverley shot left the former Borussia Dortmund star with a tap in for his first United goal. The Red Devils’ best player for the second match in a row, Kagawa may be forcing a subtle but important shift in how United’s organized, a shift emphasized by their assumed leading man starting on the bench.

NBC Sports: Man United beats Fulham 3-2 in Premier League

Packaged for takeaway:

  • That’s right: Wayne Rooney was out at the start of this one, though he did come on in the 68th minute (for Kagawa). Coming off a terrible performance Monday night, Rooney’s benching has already been interpreted as him losing favor with United. That’s far too hasty. At worst, this as a message – a warning shot, of sorts. There’s no reason to believe Ferguson’s doing more than instituting a policy that will keep his stars fresh.
  • Robin van Persie also came into the team, a move that paid off early. After poor set piece defending had allowed Damien Duff to give Fulham a 1-0 lead, van Persie half-volleyed a Patrice Evra cross into the right side of Mark Schwarzer’s goal from 14 yards out. The play was defended decently by Brede Hangeland, who was only a half-step away from running onto the cross himself, but an athletic play by van Persie got the shot away with his first touch, leaving Fulham little chance to prevent the equalizer.
  • The goal started a United onslaught, the type of attacking pressure most expect to see all season from the Red Devils. Constant runs behind the line kept turning a Fulham defense that lacked the speed to come pressure United (and expose space at the back). The packed in defense was a partial factor in Kagawa and Rafael da Silva’s goals (35′ and 41′).
  • Fulham got a fortunate own goal from Nemanja Vidic in the second, one that made the final score closer than the actual play. The goal will spark more unfair criticism of David de Gea, though. Vidic bumped Mladen Petric into de Gea in the 65th minute, with Matthew Briggs‘ cross left to deflect off the defender’s heel and into goal. The immediate reaction from the commentators recycled last year’s trope: David de Gea is a problem. On this play, though, the problem was a collision to which any goalkeeper is susceptible.
  • The end result was a good United performance against an underrated Fulham team, even if that team played more conservatively than they probably should. Martin Jol’s XI played with two holding midfielders in a 4-4-2, leaving tons of space for Kagawa, Tom Cleverley, and Anderson to control the game. For much of it, United had near 70 percent (Opta) possession, thanks in part to Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia cutting in, augmenting the midfield advantage while da Silva and Evra kept Fulham’s wingers wide.
  • Cleverley, playing without Paul Scholes, was much better than Monday. The theory then was Scholes and Cleverley were redundant. Without his teammates deferring to Scholes’ experience, Cleverley was able to have an impact in proportion to his talents.
  • The bright spot for Fulham was Moussa Dembele, playing along side Mohamadou Diarra in midfield. After a quiet first half where he was marginalized by United’s possession, Dembele was the second half’s best player.
  • Did Fulham miss Clint Dempsey? They still scored twice, but they weren’t exactly manufactured goals. The first came from a set piece where Diarra probably should have been called for a foul (throwing an NBA-style pick on Young), while the second was manifest randomness. Though Petric played well, he’s not the type of player you roll a ball to and say “make something happen.” Neither is Bryan Ruiz, though Demebele seems relatively close, provided some targets. Dempsey was that player for Fulham, the type of player you typically call on when chasing a goal late.
  • Late in the match, Rooney had to be stretched off after Hugo Rodallega, following through on a shot from 26 yards, stepped on Rooney’s right thigh. A gash opened up, creating a scene reminiscent of Nani’s sliced open shin at the boot of Jamie Carragher two years ago. Rooney was wrapped on the field, carried off, and will probably be out for while stitched seal the wound. (More from NBC Sports: Rooney could be out 4 weeks)
  • Ultimately, this was exactly the match we expected. United rebounds with a performance that flashes their attacking potential, while Fulham leaves empty handed from a match where they expected nothing.

Arteta rues missed chances in Arsenal loss to Liverpool

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Mikel Arteta knows his Arsenal team has a long way to go to be as fearsome as reigning Premier League champions Liverpool.

He also knows the Gunners could’ve easily taken a point off the Reds in place of the 3-1 loss on the scoreboard after Monday’s match at Anfield.

[ MORE: JPW’s 3 things | Player ratings ]

“Really tough place to come for anybody in the world,” Arteta said. “They set incredible standards. They dominate every aspect of the game. … They’ve been together five years. We are at a different moment of our journey.”

Alexandre Lacazette gave Arsenal an early lead in the game and was stymied by Alisson Becker in a second-half bid to make it 2-2.

But the Reds had so many chances before substitute Diogo Jota salted away the points, out-attempting Arsenal 21-4 and holding 66 percent possession.

[ MORE: Klopp’s animated post-match reaction ]

“Taking the lead put us in a really strong position to believe we could get something out of the game but we conceded too early,” Arteta said. “We had some problems with the ball and we had the best chances in the game and when it comes to Anfield you’re not going to get 10 chances. When you get through 1-against-1 against the keeper you have to score if you want to get something out of the game.”

Lacazette won’t love reading that, but Arteta is right. And Alisson also stopped a Lacazette chip on a breakaway goal bid that wouldn’t have counted because the Frenchman was offside.

Arsenal lost its first Premier League match of the season after winning its first two. The two sides meet again at the same venue in League Cup fourth round action on Thursday.

Arsenal’s next PL match is home to Sheffield United on Sunday.

Animated Klopp rejects Keane’s ‘sloppy’ adjective, rips handball rule

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Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp heard an adjective he did not like from analyst Roy Keane after the Reds’ 3-1 win over Arsenal on Monday.

The word was ‘sloppy’ as Keane mentioned some mistakes from the Reds, which certainly happened.

Klopp was not amused.

[ MORE: Match recap | JPW’s 3 things ]

“Did Mr. Keane say we had a sloppy performance tonight? Maybe he was watching another game? Cannot be this game,” Klopp said. “Sorry. It was absolutely exceptional, from the first second dominant against a team in-form and (we were) careful as hell that we did not get caught on the counter-attack.”

A mishit Andy Robertson clearance allowed Arsenal to take a 1-0 lead but the Premier League champions had it level within a couple of minutes, led at halftime, and shutdown Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang en route to a 3-1 win.

[ MORE: Player ratings from Liverpool-Arsenal ]

“Alisson had to make one save, they had two chances in behind but apart from that the football we played was exceptional tonight,” Klopp said. “This game tonight there is nothing bad to say, it was the opposite of sloppy. … We had so many big moments. We played a super game but were 1-nil down. Completely deserved. Could we have scored more goals? Yes. Could they have scored more? Yes.”

Klopp was also asked about the handball rule which has brought ire from around the football world including teams that have lost and won points off its implementation.

“Eric Dier could do absolutely nothing wrong and it is a penalty. You cannot control your body in that way, you have to move somehow. The only other thing you can do is cut arms off. I’m also really not happy with how long we have to wait (for offsides). … Obviously some rule changes or other things we changed didn’t help but in the moment we have to accept it.”

We’ll all be keeping our arms, as will the players. Never change, Jurgen, although perhaps a few deep breaths might give you a bit longer run on earth!

Player ratings: Liverpool v. Arsenal

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Liverpool – Arsenal player ratings: This was a real story of defense against attack as the Gunners sat back and Liverpool’s attacking stars had plenty of the ball.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned ]

Alexandre Lacazette’s opener saw Liverpool behind briefly, but quickfire goals from Sadio Mane and Andy Robertson put them ahead and Diogo Jota scored a late clincher in the 3-1 win.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]    

Here’s a look at Liverpool – Arsenal player ratings, as we give the players a mark out of 10.


Liverpool player ratings

Alisson: 7 – Made a good save to deny Lacazette in the second half and had little else to do. Kicking a little shaky on occasions.

Trent Alexander-Arnold: 8 – Superb cross for Mane early on and had a vicious shot deflected onto the bar.

Joe Gomez: 6 – Didn’t have much to do but a few gaps appeared between him and Van Dijk in the second half.

Virgil van Dijk: 7 – Shot well-saved by Leno and a cool customer, as always, throughout.

Andrew Robertson: 8 – A menace down the left and gave Bellerin a torrid time.

Fabinho: 7 – Sat in and soaked up the play in midfield, and won the ball back time and time again.

Georginio Wijnaldum: 6 – Solid, steady and reliable. Does he ever have a bad game!?

Naby Keita: 6 – Wasn’t able to make his runs forward from midfield. Tidy enough.

Mohamed Salah: 7 – Lovely run and shot to set up the first goal and bullied Tierney. Greedy in the second half and took a chance of Jota.

Roberto Firmino: 7 – Good movement and occupied Luiz and Holding to allow Mane and Salah to cut inside.

Sadio Mane: 8 – Could have been sent off early on for an elbow on Tierney and hit a shot straight at Leno. Took his goal well. A constant threat.

Substitutions
James Milner (80′ on for Keita): 6 – Helped Liverpool see out the game by clogging up midfield.
Diogo Jota (80′ on for Mane): 7 – A debut PL goal for Liverpool and had some good runs, a cross and two other shots were both off target. Very lively on his Anfield debut.
Takumi Minamino (90′ on for Firmino): N/A


Arsenal player ratings

Bernd Leno: 6 – A decent stop from Mane but his distribution was sloppy.

Rob Holding: 6 – Did okay defensively but never looks that comfortable in possession.

David Luiz: 6 – Sloppy on the ball at times, and struggled to cope with Liverpool’s pressing. Hung in there.

Kieran Tierney: 5 – Caught out on Liverpool’s first goal but caught by Mane’s elbow early on. Didn’t receive much help.

Hector Bellerin: 5 – Caught napping on both of Liverpool’s firs half goals. Didn’t add anything from an attacking perspective.

Mohamed Elneny: 6 – Worked hard, as always, and tried to string a few passes together.

Granit Xhaka: 5 – Overrun in midfield and couldn’t get on the ball. Subbed off.

Ainsley Maitland-Niles: 5 – Should have done better to control a ball over the top and pinned back.

Willian: 4 – Switched off to allow Robertson to finish for Liverpool’s second. Offered little in attack.

Alexandre Lacazette: 6 – Scored his goal as he was in the right place at the right time. Worked hard but missed a great chance for a second.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang: 5 – Hardly involved and when he was he failed to run at Liverpool or provide quality.

Substitutes
Dani Ceballos (60′ on for Granit Xhaka): 6 – Made a real difference when he came on as he got on the ball.
Nicolas Pepe (68′ on for Willian): 5 – Barely involved.
Eddie Nketiah (74′ on for Lacazette): N/A

3 things we learned: Liverpool v. Arsenal

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Liverpool – Arsenal was an interesting tactical battle, as Liverpool pressed high and Arsenal stuck to their defensive shape but the extra quality of Liverpool’s attack shone through in a 3-1 win.

[ MORE: Player ratings out of 10 ]

Alexandre Lacazette’s opener saw Liverpool behind briefly, but quickfire goals from Sadio Mane and Andy Robertson put them ahead and Diogo Jota scored a late clincher.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]    

Here’s a look at what we learned from Liverpool – Arsenal at Anfield.


Jota the perfect understudy to Mane

Sadio Mane wasn’t happy to be subbed off but Jurgen Klopp was perhaps keeping him away from a red card he probably should have got early on. Mane was lucky to stay on the pitch after an early elbow on Kieran Tierney. Was it intentional? No. Was it reckless? Yes. Mane chased down Tierney but raised his elbow and caught Tierney in the face. VAR didn’t determine he should have been sent off as Mane was only booked and stayed on the pitch to duly score the equalizer and was a constant thorn in Arsenal’s side. Liverpool’s star winger wasn’t happy about being replaced by Jota with 10 minutes to go as Klopp had a quiet word.

In that 10 minutes the Portuguese winger scored his first Liverpool goal, hit the side-netting, set up a chance and should have had another but Salah nicked the ball off his foot. Life after Mane, Firmino and Salah is not something Liverpool fans will have to (or want to) think about for a while but Jota, still just 23 years old, is a fine signing from Wolves and will be the perfect understudy to Mane as his pace, finishing and movement is very similar. It’s almost like Liverpool and Klopp have a plan…


Resilient Arsenal showed a little too much respect

Arsenal had two touches in opposition box in first half. Two. It was their lowest total in a single 45 minutes since Opta started recording the stat and it showed how much respect they gave Liverpool. Like they have done against the top teams since Arteta arrived, Arsenal sat back deep and tried to keep the ball at the back to draw Liverpool up the pitch. It didn’t work but they stayed in the game. Arsenal couldn’t string enough passes together to launch dangerous counters but Lacazette did have a big chance to make it 2-2 but he hit his shot straight at Alisson. Arsenal were more resilient than they have been against Liverpool in the past and Arteta’s project has just started. They have taken strides forward, we shouldn’t forget that. Arteta has made them gritty but they still have a long, long way to go.


Sloppy Liverpool caused own problems

They gave Arsenal the opening goal after Andy Robertson couldn’t control the ball in the box, then were cut open in the second half on the break but Lacazette couldn’t make the most of it. It wasn’t a case of Arsenal creating lots of chances, but instead Liverpool giving them the few they did have.

If Liverpool are going to win the Premier League, and other trophies, this season then they must tighten up at the back. They conceded three against Leeds on the opening weekend and have now given Chelsea and Arsenal plenty of chances to score. Klopp worked so hard to eradicate the silly defensive mistakes which riddled his first few years as Liverpool boss but now they’re creeping back in.