West Bromwich Albion 1-1 Chelsea: Blues slip as Anichebe equalizes late (video)

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West Bromwich Albion’s only shot on target has opened a door for Arsenal and Manchester City, with Victor Anichebe’s 87th minute header earning the Baggies a 1-1 result at The Hawthorns against league-leading Chelsea. Temporarily moving Albion out of the drop, the draw also means the Blues will relinquish first place in the Premier League with Wednesday wins by either the Gunners or Citizens.

Chelsea went up moments before half time when Branislav Ivanovic converted an injury time corner. The score rewarded the Blues for a controlling first half, with their dominance of the ball persisting into the second period.

In the game’s closing moments, as Chelsea sought to protect their lead, Anichebe beat David Luiz to a cross from Saido Berahino, redirecting the ball inside Petr Cech’s left post to steal a point from the Blues.

The result leaves Chelsea on 57 points, two points ahead of Arsenal and threein front of Manchester City. The Gunners host Manchester United on Wednesday while City welcomes Sunderland to the Etihad.

The Baggies, still winless under Pepe Mel, move into 17th with 24 points, their goal difference giving them the tiebreaker’s edge on the Black Cats.

A West Brom defense that had conceded nine goals in their previous four outings proved surprisingly stalwart in the first half, preventing Chelsea from putting a shot on Ben Foster despite the Blues maintaining 67 percent of the ball. While the strike partnership of Barahino and Thievy Bifouma flashed a vague potential to trouble Gary Cahill, the first half was defined by Chelsea’s control in the face of Albion’s newfound resilience.

That resilience wilted just before halftime, when a corner conceded two minutes into stoppage time was converted by Ivanovic, giving the visitors a 1-0 lead. On a restart flicked toward Ben Foster’s far post, the Chelsea right back lost his man for an easy tap-in, giving the visitor a late payoff after dictating the game’s first 45 minutes.

West Brom’s inability to win the ball remained problematic at the beginning of the second half, with Chelsea able to carry the play just inside their attacking third before meeting resistance. Deep and compact, the Baggies begged Chelsea to take their chances from just beyond the penalty area, a tactic that nearly saw Willian score just before the hour mark.

But Albion’s problem wasn’t Willian’s potential or its defense’s willingness to recede into its own area. Finishing the match with 40 percent possession, West Brom proved unable to take the ball off Chelsea higher up the field, where they could have made better use of Berahino and Bifouma. Instead, when the Baggies were able to gain possession, they were left trying to connect with their strikers from deep in their own end, an approach that failed to force a save from Petr Cech.

As full-time approached, Chelsea’s advances stopped, with a 70th minute counter attack that ended with a Willian shot at Foster’s chest one of the chances the Blues had to double their lead. West Brom started seeing more of the ball. Permitted to carry play out of their own end, Albion began looking capable of an equalizer.

In the 87th minute, with their first shot of on target, the Baggies had their goal. Off a cross from Berahino, substitute Victor Anichebe beat Cech with a header flicked into the bottom right corner, leaving Chelsea to pay for their inability to find a second goal.

The point temporarily moves West Brom out of the drop, their goal difference enough to pass Sunderland. The result’s more drastic effect will likely been seen at the top of the table. Wins by either Arsenal or Manchester City on Wednesday will see the Blues relinquish the Premier League’s top spot.

LINEUPS

West Bromwich Albion: Foster; Reid, McAuley, Dawson, Ridgewell; Amalfitano (Anichebe 73′), Yacob (Mulumbu 63′), Morrison, Brunt; Bifouma (Vydra 78′), Berahino

Goals: Anichebe (87′)

Chelsea: Cech; Ivanovic, Cahill, Luiz, Azpilicueta; Ramires (Salah 89′), Matic; Willian, Oscar (Mikel 79′), Hazard; Eto’o (Torres 69′)

Goals: Ivanovic (45+2′)

Arsenal posts loss as Champions League absence felt

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Arsenal announced Friday a loss of £27.1 million ($34.6 million) for the most recent fiscal year, citing the combination of high player wages and a lengthy absence from the UEFA Champions League competition as the main contributing factor for the poor financial performance.

The loss is the club’s first since 2002, according to Chairman Sir Chips Keswick.

Arsenal Holdings plc released the after tax total for the fiscal year ending May 31 2019, down from a $72.1 million profit the previous year. Commercial revenues were up significantly, increasing profits from $495.6 million to $504 million. Still, operating profits rocketed to $295.8 million thanks to what the club called “continued investments in player wages.”

“Our player trading profit for this financial year was limited and this combined with a second consecutive season of Europa League football has meant the club recorded its first overall loss since 2002,” Keswick said in a club statement. “For 2019-20 we will see increased commercial revenues from Adidas and our renewed deal with Emirates, but another season outside the Champions League will continue to apply pressure to our financial results.”

The Gunners were shockingly eliminated from the Europa League on Thursday at the hands of Olympiakos in extra-time, meaning the only way they end the Champions League drought will be to charge into the Premier League top four. Currently Arsenal sits ninth in the table, six points off fourth-placed Chelsea.

Back in July, Arsenal director Josh Kroenke – son of owner Stan Kroenke – warned that the club “had a Champions League wage bill on a Europa League budget.”

3 things to know about Inter Miami and Nashville S.C.

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The Major League Soccer gets under way this weekend, and for those fans who would like to get a better feel for the league as a whole, a good place to start is the two new clubs.

[ MORE: MLS Week 1 preview ]

Inter Miami and Nashville S.C. will both get a difficult welcome to the U.S. top flight this weekend, with Nashville hosting Atlanta United on Saturday while Miami travels to LAFC on Sunday. Neither clubs are expected to be immediate playoff contenders, but as both their debut opponents will tell them, there doesn’t always have to be a learning curve for new introductions.

[ MORE: 2020 MLS season predictions ]

So, with that in mind, let’s learn more about the two expansion clubs that take the MLS total to 26.

INTER MIAMI

Seven years after David Beckham retired from Major League Soccer franchise and began pursuit of club ownership, his team finally takes the field. It has been a brutally long journey for the South Florida side, but the beginning is finally here. The roster looks solid and the coaching staff is well built, so don’t be surprised if they put up a fight in the playoff race.

1. The team is stocked with MLS veterans

Inter Miami had a clear strategy while building its initial squad – hoard experience. The team acquired USMNT midfielders Lee Nguyen and Wil Trapp, former champions AJ DeLaGarza and Alvas Powell, longtime NYRB goalkeeper Luis Robles, journeyman Juan Agudelo, and former NYCFC defender Ben Sweat. The players may or may not click together, but if one thing is for certain with Inter Miami, the club doesn’t feel as brand new when looking at the roster.

2. Matias Pellegrini will lead the way

While the squad is loaded with domestic experience, the club looked abroad for its first two Designated Players. 26-year-old Mexican international Rodolfo Pizarro joined from Monterrey for a hefty fee, and he will be critically important moving forward in midfield. Young striker Julian Carranza is injured for the first month but will be a major factor up front as well. However, 19-year-old Matias Pellegrini will likely be the club’s most important player. The Argentine is an electric player, and how he integrates with a squad full of veterans will make Inter Miami an intriguing watch early in the campaign; if he doesn’t hit the ground running, the Inter Miami attack will sputter.

3. Depth is a strength

This team may need time to gel, but it is a well-constructed roster that is built to weather a storm. The only position that looks thin is center-back where Powell and Nicolas Figal are backed up by just inexperienced Grant Lillard, 19-year-old Christian Makoun, and 20-year-old Andres Reyes. Everywhere else is covered by experience. DeLaGarza provides excellent cover for Sweat and recent college graduate Dylan Nealis. Nguyen may not be an everyday starter any more but he is as good as bench options come. Robbie Robinson will likely begin the season up front but eventually take a back seat to Carranza and be a solid option off the bench, while Jerome Kiesewetter brings European experience as well.

NASHVILLE S.C.

Making less of a splash than Inter Miami is new Western Conference members Nashville S.C. Unlike Inter Miami, Nashville isn’t starting completely from scratch, having two years in USL under their belt. Still, there are plenty of questions to be asked about how Nashville can compete on a consistent basis this season.

1. This team is strong defensively, and not so much up front

This squad is clearly built for one thing – defensive strength. Nashville brought in USMNT veteran Walker Zimmerman from LAFC who will be partnered with 26-year-old former LA Galaxy defender Dave Romney. Dax McCarty provides good cover in midfield, and while Daniel Lovitz can get forward, the full-back group doesn’t exactly scream “attack attack attack.”

On that sense, going forward may be an issue. Nashville scored nine goals in preseason, but playing against other sides’ backups for much of the time it’s hard not to take that with a grain of salt. Dominique Badji’s MLS numbers with Colorado and FC Dallas are mediocre at best and Hany Mukhtar’s production abroad doesn’t jump off the page either. David Accam can create for himself but only has 17 assists in 124 career MLS appearances, so while goalscoring can be there, the creativity is lacking greatly. Abu Danladi hasn’t quite lived up to his expectations thus far and will be hoping a change of scenery can unlock a new level, but it’s hard to see the season-long consistency there.

2. The roster is full of scrappy players

A number of guys on the fringe of the Nashville S.C. roster may actually end up contributing more than expected. Randall Leal is an exciting player who could find himself a fan favorite with his swashbuckling style of play. With the expected inconsistency up front, Daniel Rios could get a look if he can translate his USL goalscoring numbers (40 goals in 62 games) to the MLS level – obviously a major question, but also one deserving the time of day. McCarty is a well-liked player who puts in a shift in midfield, and his partner Anibal Godoy plays the crunching style expected of a Central American defensive midfielder. This team will be a grind to break down.

3. Nashville probably needs to look for a few more pieces

With only Mukhtar signed on as a Designated Player, Nashville is probably a few more key contributors away from a playoff spot. Should they hold down a respectable start to the campaign, a summer signing could push this team into contention, but as it stands the cohesion brought on by two years in USL likely won’t be enough to see them keep pace with the stronger teams in the West. With an opening trio of games against Atlanta United, Portland, and Toronto FC, it will be difficult for the new boys to hit the ground running this season, and at times it could feel like a slog.

Daniel Farke basks in Norwich City’s win over Leicester City

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Daniel Farke may be in charge of the Premier League’s basement dweller, but you couldn’t tell by his demeanor following Norwich City’s 1-0 win over Leicester City on Friday.

The German manager did a long lap around Carrow Road after the final whistle, taking time to applaud fans all around the ground. After eventually making his way to the media room, he was in awe of where the world has taken him.

“To be here against Leicester playing in the best league in the world against one of the best teams in this league with a well-deserved win and a clean sheet, it’s quite good,” Farke said in the post-match press conference. “I have many compliments for my team.”

Jamal Lewis scored the game’s only goal in the 71st minute, giving Norwich City a massive boost in the relegation battle. They now sit just three points back of the other two teams in the relegation zone and four adrift of safety.

“We know that we are in a good shape. All the last five games before Wolverhampton, we were on a top-class level,” Farke said. “Even against Wolverhampton, we were good in periods but not physical enough in the duels and not switched on enough in the soft skills. We spoke about this a lot in the recent days and the lads delivered a perfect performance in these terms today.”

Norwich was dangerous throughout the match, attacking in bunches against a toothless Leicester City side clearly missing an injured Jamie Vardy. The numbers aren’t exactly kind, with the Canaries racking up just 0.6 xG on 11 total shots, but they held long spells of dangerous possession and made Kasper Schmeichel by far the busier of the two goalkeepers.

Farke pointed to the hard work up and down the pitch from his players in the trenches. His players completed 14 of 21 one-on-one take-ons, and even more impressively they completed 23 of 30 tackles.

“The most important stat was to win the duel rate today and we won this,” Farke said. “This was the key topic in order to get this three points. We had several chances, especially in the second-half and even before the first goal. We showed a committed approach and were tactically disciplined and concentrated.”

How would Timo Werner fit on Liverpool?

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It sure feels like Liverpool and Timo Werner are on a collision course.

According to The Athletic on Wednesday, Liverpool’s optimal time for submitting a bid will likely be mid-March, a sweet spot when they have previously done deals for the likes of Alisson and Fabinho. The Reds have until an unspecified day in April when Werner’s contract states his $63.4 million release clause expires in order to give RB Leipzig time to garner a replacement before the next season.

The report states that despite contact from Barcelona and Manchester United, Werner is waiting to hear from Liverpool before making a decision. While the report does not state why Werner is waiting for the Reds, the move is seemingly indicative of a preference, great news for Reds fans.

[ MORE: Latest PL injury news ]

The biggest question mark about the whole deal is where Werner fits in to Liverpool’s squad. The Reds have asphyxiated the Premier League this season in large part thanks to their attacking trio of Sadio Mane, Mohamed Salah, and Roberto Firmino. Brazilian striker Firmino is the biggest threat to Werner’s game time, and the 28-year-old is a critical and established piece of the Jurgen Klopp machine, less of a goalscorer and more of a facilitator. An NFL scout might call Firmino a game manager.

But those at Liverpool might also say that Werner is a threat to Firmino’s game time. While Liverpool has romped through the English top flight in record fashion, the Reds have not always dominated opponents, rather collecting vast quantities of points with timely goals. Liverpool has won a whopping 13 one-goal games this league season; compare that to Manchester City’s dominating league performance last year where they had just nine one-goal victories all year, including three of them coming in the final four matches of the year. Could they use a more consistent attacking threat?

Werner is just that. With 21 goals through 23 Bundesliga matches this season and another six in 10 matches across all other competitions, Werner is a dangerous presence and a ruthless finisher. Judging by his 18.12 xG – already second in the Bundesliga – Werner is actually finishing at a better rate than Robert Lewandowski who is having a historic campaign. Werner’s +2.88 actual goals to expected goals is second in the Bundesliga only to Jadon Sancho‘s absurd +5.75. Not only does Werner get a lot of chances, he’s finishing them in bunches.

But how would that type of striker change the dynamic of Liverpool? At the moment they play through the flanks with dynamic full-backs and dangerous wingers; Firmino does far more work off the ball than he does on it. How would the Reds change with a goal hawk up front demanding service?

If you ever needed a visualization on how different the two players are, take a look at their heat maps below. Firmino’s touches from the 3-1 victory over Manchester City are first, contrasted with Werner’s performance against Tottenham in the Champions League where he scored the game’s only goal.

Timo Werner is an outright striker, with the ability to drift out wide and create almost as much as he scores. Firmino is a workhorse, putting in a defensive shift and cropping up everywhere as Liverpool presses opponents to death. It’s almost impossible to tell from Firmino’s heat map which direction Liverpool is attacking – it’s actually left-to-right.

Still, as The Athletic report points out, Firmino is 28 years old and coupled with the 27-year-old Salah and Mane, Werner’s production at 24 is nearly impossible to pass up. His versatile nature too could prove useful, and while he often plays with a striker ahead of him in Patrik Schick, it seems Werner could translate relatively well into a ball-playing striker who could overlap with the world class wingers and full-backs at Anfield.

And yet this move would not be about the future. With Werner scoring in bunches, it would be hard to keep him off the field. In fact, he may want assurances of his involvement at Liverpool prior to any agreement of a move. Still, he might get a significant amount of playing time even if not first choice. Klopp has run the current front three ragged the last two years and likely would be more than happy to see them rested more often. All three have been forced to play through injuries at some point in the last two seasons.

Tactically, putting both Firmino and Werner on the field together would involve a relatively complicated formational shift that Klopp would need to perfect and would not be something the team could just rotate in and out of week to week. In the same vein, Klopp would also be a fool to look for a Firmino replacement in the same mold as the Brazilian given the rarity of his skill-set, but would changing the mold cause a ripple effect in the tactical setup?

Liverpool spent heavily two summers ago, but with the lack of major purchases this season plus the recent successes both domestic and abroad, it’s likely the Reds will have the money. And fit or not, Werner might be too delicious for Jurgen Klopp to pass up.