Quick Six: Top stories from the Premier League weekend

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1. Manchester United: Making the wrong kind of history

Everton hadn’t won at Old Trafford in 21 years. Newcastle hadn’t won at the Manchester United since 1972. It’s the first time the Red Devils have lost back-to-back games at home in 11 years, and they’ve already dropped as many games this league season as they did in the entire 2012-13 campaign. People who think David Moyes hasn’t accomplished anything at United are kidding themselves, because the former Everton boss has already collected a list of dubious accomplishments few thought possible.

[MORE: Manchester United 0-1 Newcastle: Red Devils slip up once again (video)]

[REVIEW: Manchester United 0-1 Everton: Moyes defeated by former club (video)]

Newcastle certainly deserve credit, their 1-0 win on Saturday seeing Alan Pardew’s team successfully go toe-to-toe with Red Devils, but the way they went about it only highlights Manchester United’s faults. Moving away from the 4-4-2 that produced four November wins, the Magpies bolstered their midfield to play more of a possession game, assuming they could wrestle away some control despite playing at Old Trafford. With Michael Carrick’s absence becoming more important by the game, Pardew was proven right. Handing Manchester United their second home loss of the week, the Toon resumed their winning ways, five wins in six leaving them seventh in the Premier League.

David Moyes says his team can get back in the title race, but consider the assumption behind that statement. Manchester United, by their manager’s own tacit admission, is not in contention right now. Fifteen games into defending a title they won by 11 points, Moyes’s new club are out of this year’s chase, if perhaps temporarily so.

While that might not be enough to justify showing Moyes the door, it’s certainly enough to doubt whether United made the right choice last May. There are other managers who would have the Red Devils in the title hunt.


2. Arsenal slips, but Everton the real story from Sunday in North London

Sunday’s result may have provided reason to worry in North London, but let’s look at this another way. One season after finishing fourth, it’s too much to expect perfection from the Gunners. It’s also too much to expect them to replicate last year’s Red Devils and run away with the title. They are going to have bad games, and if they are going to occasionally stumble against some of the good-but-not-great sides in the Premier League, today’s minor setback could have been worse.

[MORE: Arsenal 1-1 Everton: Late breakthroughs cancel as Deulofeu denies Arsenal all 3 points (Video)]

[MORE: Arsenal could be own worst enemy as title challenge sees tension rise]

Everton played well, had the better of the game through the first half, yet still gave up the opening goal. Keeping Mathieu Flamini on the bench to open the game, Arsène Wenger probably got it wrong. Yet his team held out until he could make an early second half triple substitution, a move that eventually generated a lead. If Wojciech Szczesny does a better job on Gerard Deulofeu’s 84th minute shot, Arsenal’s “meh” day still ends in victory. Even if they couldn’t protect Mesut Özil’s opener, Arsenal still increased their lead atop the table.

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Roberto Martínez has exceeded early expectations at Everton, his “transition period” seeing the Toffees drop just one of their first 15 league games. (Source: Getty Images.)

The bigger story here is Everton, a team that took four points from a week where they visited Old Trafford and The Emirates. Those are points Roberto Martínez wouldn’t have expected when he initially looked over his new team’s fixtures, and though the Toffees have yet to show they have enough punch to avoid adding to their league-leading seven draws, you can see why they also have a league-low one loss. There’s a resilience to this team that you wouldn’t have expected this early in the Martínez era, something that allowed them to scrounge three points at Old Trafford before coming back for one in North London.

The scariest part about Everton may not be their early success under Martínez. For their Premier League opposition, the Toffees’ future may be even more worrisome. While at Wigan Athletic, Martínez always saw his teams improve as the season went on, their tendency to linger at the bottom of the table before a late charge casting Martínez as a kind of relegation battle master (before Wigan finally went down).

After their undefeated week, the Toffees are only one point out of a Champions League spot, and while clubs like Chelsea, Manchester City, Tottenham and Manchester United are likely to improve, so is Everton. This may be more than a mere strong start.


3. Goals keep coming for Liverpool

Luis Suárez’s name may have only been on the scoresheet once, but he deserves some kind of recognition on Guy Demel and Joey O’Brien’s own goals. Maybe “own goals forced” could be a category? Regardless, his attacking accounted for three of Liverpool’s four goals against West Ham, and while other defenders may have found a way to keep those own goals out, Suárez’s persistence played a part in both.

[MORE: Liverpool 4-1 West Ham: Own Goal stars in Liverpool win (video)]

The performance capped a nine-goal week for Liverpool, now second on goal difference after stumbles from Chelsea and Manchester City. With 17 goals in their last five games, the Reds are also second in the league in scoring, a reassuring rise considering the fears that were summoned by Daniel Sturridge’s injury.

But within that success you can see some of the flat-track bully criticism that’s been linked with Brendan Rodgers’ style. In their last six games, Liverpool is 3-0-1 with a 14 goals and a +9 difference against Fulham, Hull, Norwich, and West Ham. In games against Arsenal and Everton in that same span, the club’s 0-1-1 with three goals and a -2.

It’s no surprise teams play worse against better competition, but Liverpool’s divide is bigger than most, so while our jaws are slacken by a nine-goal week, this may be part of Rodgers’ approach. Where other teams might play out a 2-0 result, Liverpool’s posting 5-1, 4-1 wins.


4. Stoke break through; Chelsea’s “trouble” in perspective

José Mourinho’s right to worry about his Blues. Their annual late-fall swoon is here, a problem set to exasperate a bipolarity they’ve shown throughout the season. While Mourinho unlikely to suffer the same fate as André Villas-Boas or Roberto Di Matteo (as well as Luiz Feliipe Scolari and Mourinho before them), he’s being forced to deal with the same ailments. Despite all the changes it go through each summer, something about this Chelsea team leaves it vulnerable at this time of year, a weakness that was evident in Saturday’s 3-2 loss at Stoke.

[MORE: Stoke City 3-2 Chelsea: Assaidi’s screamer hands Potters massive win (video)]

[MORE: Jose Mourinho: “We’re in trouble” after Chelsea’s defeat to Stoke]

As porous the defending has been (allowing six goals to Stoke and Sunderland this week), Chelsea is still in third place. They’re only five points out of first, and although games like Saturday’s at the Brittania have been too common, the Blues are still capable of performances like last weekend’s versus Southampton (or the match before against West Ham). Chelsea has problems, but they’re not Manchester United problems.

As for Stoke, Saturday’s result was the best of the Mark Hughes era, not only in terms of the result and the opposition but also the goal output. Coming into the day with 12 goals in 14 games, the Potters had only scored multiple goals three times this season. While this weekend’s goals weren’t exactly the prodcut of great buildup or execution, strikes by Stephen Ireland and Oussama Assaidi show there is some talent in the squad. If they can add a productive striker in the winter window, Hughes may be able to ease Stoke away from relegation worries.


5. Have Manchester City’s road woes returned?

It’s already being asked in the wake of City’s 1-1 draw at St. Mary’s on Saturday, but instead of spending all our time worrying about the Citizens, let’s give some love to Southampton. Losers of three straight going into the match, the Saints found a way to keep the league’s best attack to one goal, and while their own score was a kind of shot-in-the-dark from Dani Osvaldo, that’s why you pay the big bucks for a talent like his. Over the course of the second half, Southampton proved they deserved to share points with one of the league’s hottest teams.

[MORE: Southampton 1-1 Manchester City: Osvaldo’s wonder-goal pegs back Citizens (video)]

So why are people harping on City’s road form? It’s natural, given City is now 2-4-2 away from The Etihad, but it also ignores the fact that Saints are a good team (something everybody was more than willing to dwell on a month ago). This is a result that should satisfy any team in the league, so while it’s easy to fall back on City’s home-road narrative, it may be better to note: This week, the Sky Blues took four points from matches at West Brom and Southampton. Which is perfectly fine.

6. New coaches + new results = New relegation outlook

Since Tony Pulis was hired as manager at Crystal Palace, the Eagles have gone from one win to four, the formerly bottom-dwelling club 2-1-0 with their new boss on the sidelines (they won one with him in the stands). While few are going to fear the Eagles’ new talons, goals by Cameron Jerome and Maraoune Chamakh remind us that they have players who can pull them by other struggling sides, should those teams fail to improve. Saturday’s 2-0 win over visiting Cardiff was a perfect example.

[MORE: Crystal Palace 2-0 Cardiff City: Two on the trot for Palace (video)]

Now 19th with only one loss in five, Crystal Palace is just two points from 15th place, a status that highlights the collection of clubs struggling to pull themselves free of relegation doubts. Sunderland has sunk five points back at the bottom, West Ham is under-performing in 17th, while Cardiff and West Brom persist within reach of the drop. Even though Norwich, Hull, and Stoke are four points clear, nobody would be surprised to see them pulled back into a relegation battle, should a team like Crystal Palace suddenly find a way to win.

Fulham is another candidate to climb, now that they’ve replaced Martin Jol. With their 2-0 win Sunday, the Cottagers snared their first win of the Rene Meulensteen era, though we may want to wait another week before proclaiming Fulham a threat. The up-and-down nature of Aston Villa means there’s only much we can conclude from Sunday’s performance.

[MORE: Fulham 2-0 Aston Villa: Berbatov leads Whites to first win in eight (Video)]

The result, however, means Fulham were back in the win column for the first time since Oct. 21. Whether they’ve completely turned around or not, they’re making progress. How many other teams can say the same?

USWNT’s Rapinoe named SI Sportswoman of the Year

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In 2019, Megan Rapinoe won a World Cup title, Golden Ball, Golden Boot, FIFA World Cup MVP, and the Ballon d’Or. Now, she can add her name to another distinguished list.

Sports Illustrated on Monday revealed that Rapinoe had been named SI’s 2019 Sportsperson of the Year. She’s the first individual soccer player from any gender to win the award, and she follows the 1999 U.S. Women’s National Team as the second USWNT-related athlete to garner the award.

[READ: Rapinoe wins 2019 Ballon d’Or]

Other notable winners of this award are Serena Williams, LeBron James, the Golden State Warriors, Michael Jordan, and Muhammad Ali.

“Even in a year with many great candidates, choosing Megan as the Sportsperson of the Year was an easy decision,” Steve Cannella, co-editor-in-chief of Sports Illustrated said in a statement released by the magazine. “She is a force of nature on and off the field, a trailblazing soccer player who also proves every day how large and loud a voice a socially conscious athlete can have in 2019.”

Rapinoe has had about as good of a year as a player can have, and she did it under enormous pressure. She withstood verbal and online taunts from the U.S. president for her noted opposition against his political decisions, as well as dealt with injuries during the tournament. Even if she wasn’t always at her best on the field, she found a way to score key goals at important moments.

Every Women’s World Cup seems to raise the profile of the USWNT and soccer in this country, but beyond her work on the field, Rapinoe’s hair, media savvy and ultimately, her performance won over any critic she could have. What she’s done for soccer in this country is immeasurable, and hopefully there are people that have a desire to keep watching the beautiful game after the World Cup, thanks in some part to Rapinoe.

Rapinoe will grace the cover of Sports Illustrated for the Dec. 16 issue.

Ljungberg on Pepe: He ‘showed his quality’

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Arsene Wenger used to say that players needed around six months once they came to the Premier League to get adjusted to both living in England and getting acclimated to the pace and physicality of the league.

For Nicolas Pepe, it was advice well heeded.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Offensively, Pepe was outstanding as he scored a goal and an assist in Arsenal’s 3-1 win over West Ham. At the same time, Pepe worked hard on the defensive end, making life difficult for West Ham left back Aaron Cresswell and anyone down West Ham’s right flank.

On Monday, Pepe showed that he was worth his $87 million transfer fee, and he only needs a yard of space to create something magical.

“People always ask me about Nico and I try to explain,” Ljungberg after the game. “He comes from the French league, he comes to the Premier League – in my opinion the best league in the world – and it’s a lot faster and a lot harder. He needs to adapt. People put pressure on him but that’s not so easy, and I thought what he did today was he worked really hard offensively and defensively and showed his quality.

“I’m so pleased for him because at the same time he was a big, big buy for the club and then comes pressure with that as well. He will fall asleep with a smile tonight.”

In the 66th minute, Pepe found himself isolated on the wing with just Cresswell to beat. After cutting inside, Pepe curled home a beauty which ended up being the game-winning-goal. It was just his second Premier League goal of the season and his first from open play. Perhaps now after five months of bedding in at Arsenal, Pepe is ready to shine.

There’s no doubt that with Arsenal’s defensive issues, they need their attacking stars to score in bunches from here on out. If Pepe can finish the season with ten goals and ten assists, it will be a wild success, and set him up well for the next season.

Judge rules players not guilty in match-fixing case in Spain

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MADRID — The 36 players on trial in Spain’s most high-profile match-fixing case were cleared of wrongdoing on Monday.

A Spanish judge issued the “not guilty” verdict, saying there was not enough evidence to convict the players and others on trial – including former Mexico coach Javier Aguirre.

More than 40 people were accused of match-fixing involving the Spanish league game between Levante and Zaragoza at the end of the 2010-11 season.

The judge convicted two former Zaragoza officials of fraud – then-president Agapito Iglesias and club director Javier Porquera. They were given a one-year, three-month prison sentence, although they were not likely to face jail time because sentences of less than two years for first-time offenders are often suspended in Spain.

Those accused were facing two years in prison and a six-year soccer ban.

Among the players on trial were Ander Herrera, now with Paris Saint-Germain; former Leicester midfielder Vicente Iborra; former Atletico Madrid captain Gabi Fernandez; River Plate midfielder Leonardo Ponzio; Serbian defender Ivan Obradovic; Lazio forward Felipe Caicedo; Itailan defender Maurizio Lanzaro; and Uruguay striker Cristhian Stuani.

Aguirre was Zaragoza’s coach at the time. He was among those who appeared in court to testify.

The investigation began after Spanish league president Javier Tebas denounced the alleged match-fixing, saying a former player told him a result had been fixed.

Prosecutors said there was evidence 965,000 euros (nearly $1 million) was paid to Zaragoza’s squad and later transferred to Levante’s players to lose the match in the final round of the season. Zaragoza won 2-1 to avoid relegation. Deportivo La Coruna was demoted as a result.

Former Zaragoza officials said the money was paid to motivate players, not fix the result of the game.

Prosecutors said players on both teams were aware of the match-fixing and there was evidence the money was transferred to Levante players after analyzing tax reports and banking transactions at the time.

The judge said in his ruling “there were was no evidence the money was given to Levante players to lose the match.”

A lower court had shelved the case but it was reopened last year after an appeal by prosecutors in Valencia, where Levante is based and where the match was played.

Zaragoza returned to the second division in 2014. Levante is currently in Spain’s top league.

Arsenal overruns West Ham with 3 second half goals

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Who saw that coming?

With three goals in a nine-minute span in the second half, Arsenal overcame a one-goal halftime deficit to comfortably beat West Ham, 3-1, on Monday night at the Olympic Stadium. It was a complete reversal after a second half where Arsenal didn’t attempt a single shot on target in the first half and were second-best in winning duals and second balls.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

But it was the Arsenal stars who helped the club when it was effectively on its knee, facing a tenth-straight match without a win. Goals from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Nicolas Pepe and youngster Gabriel Martinelli secured all three points for Arsenal.

On the other side, West Ham manager Manuel Pellegrini is in a whole host of trouble. West Ham sits just one point above the relegation zone after 16 league matches, and Pellegrini was expected to take the Hammers to the next level.


Three things we learned

1. Arsenal stars finally step up: With Arsenal on the verge of another demoralizing defeat, the club’s expensive strike force helped turn the tide in the second half. Martinelli, Aubameyang, and Pepe all played a huge role, and their goals, arguably against the run of play, were more than enough to inject some excitement into the club.

2. No Luiz, No Problem: Arsenal may have found its new starting centerback combination. After multiple error-prone performances with Sokratis playing alongside David Luiz, Arsenal boss Freddy Ljunberg went with Calum Chambers to partner Sokratis. The end result was a much more organized backline, and fewer mistakes, leading to fewer allowed goals.

3. Pellegrini on the hot seat: Pellegrini will have a nervous few days ahead of him. Despite a rare win over Chelsea last week, West Ham has now dropped successive defeats, first to Wolves and now Arsenal, leaving West Ham on the edge of relegation. Could Pellegrini last until January?

Man of the Match: Arsenal’s defense deserves credit, but goals win games, so Man of the Match has to go to Nicolas Pepe. The Ivory Coast international absolutely earned his massive transfer fee on Monday, scoring a beautiful curler and then setting up Aubameyang with a chip into the box.


In the run up to kickoff, and even halftime, Arsenal had plenty of obstacles to overcome.

Right back Hector Bellerin was forced out of the starting lineup during pregame warmups, and left back Kieran Tierney couldn’t finish the match, having to be substituted midway through the first half.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ] 

Arsenal interim coach Freddie Ljungberg also made some big lineup decisions. Alexandre Lacazette and David Luiz were dropped, with Brazilian teenager Gabriel Martinelli starting up top and Calum Chambers moving inside to centerback. It took 60 minutes, but those moves paid dividends in the end.

However, before then, West Ham controlled the first half, even with less of the ball. The Hammers showed more desire and determination than Arsenal, winning many second balls, and it led to the opening goal. A corner kick in the 38th minute pinballed in and out of the box, with Arsenal twice failing to clear it. Eventually, the ball fell to Pablo Fornals, who chipped a ball into the middle of the box. West Ham centerback Angelo Ogbonna, still up in the box after the corner kick, dashed onto it and though it went off his shoulder, deflected off an Arsenal defender and in for a goal. VAR checked it, as it does with every goal, but the decision stood, and it was well deserved.

West Ham even looked more likely to score a second late in the first half and then early in the second half, as Arsenal couldn’t string many passes together in their own third or the final third.

In the 60th minute, it was like a flip was switched. Suddenly, West Ham provided no pressure on Arsenal’s backline when it had the ball, allowing Arsenal to easily break the lines. After two passes getting through a half-dozen defenders, the ball ended up on the left wing with Aubameyang. Aubameyang crosses into the center and with a first-time finish, suddenly Martinelli put Arsenal level at 1-1.

In the 66th minute, again Arsenal broke through West Ham’s midfield quite easily. Dribbling forward, Mesut Ozil passed into the middle to Aubameyang, who fed Pepe wide. Pepe, who was one-on-one with Aaron Cresswell, cut inside and curled home a beauty to make it 2-1, Arsenal.

Three minutes later, Aubameyang and Pepe teamed up again. Pepe cut inside, but instead of shooting, he slyly chipped a ball into the box. Aubameyang waited for it and as he was inside, scissor kicked the ball in to make it 3-1.

With West Ham shellshocked, Arsenal held on late for a huge win, moving the club back into the top half of the Premier League table.

This story will be updated.