Premier League Preview: Aston Villa vs. Arsenal

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  • Arsenal are unbeaten in their last 15 Premier League visits to Villa Park, winning eight and drawing seven.
  • Villa have made their best start to a season since 1998-99, when they also had 10 points after four games.
  • Villa have more points (10) than shots on target this season (six). They have had fewer shots on target than any other side in the division. (BBC Sport)

On Saturday, around 9:45 am ET, an oddly interesting matchup will occur at the Villa Park when high-flying Aston Villa faces Arsenal, who haven’t enjoyed the best fortune recently. The game will be televised on NBCSN.

Paul Lambert’s side has found itself as one of the surprise teams in the early Premier League season, alongside Swansea City, both squads occupying the second and third place spots in the table.

Villa is coming off an noteworthy 1-0 victory over Liverpool last week, and have notched wins against weaker opponents, Hull City and Stoke City. Austrian forward Andreas Weimann has spearheaded the offensive efforts of his team, leading the team with two goals and also notching an assist. Philippe Senderos has barely shown his deficiencies, as the center back has aided the Lions to measure three clean sheets in their opening four games.

Arsenal, though, didn’t expect the slow beginning to their 2014-15 BPL campaign, having failed to win in their last four league games to stand at seventh place in the table.

The squad’s goal is to make a championship run, and they will look to get back on that track after a 2-0 Champions League defeat to Borussia Dortmund at Signal Iduna Park this past Tuesday. Mesut Ozil, one of the most tactically-gifted footballers in the world, hasn’t played his finest recently, while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Santi Carzola are pushing hard to seize playing time. Luckily, the Gunners big signing of the summer, former FC Barcelona forward Alexis Sanchez, has stepped up and scored three goals this season. He’s created the most scoring chances on the team as well.

Match Absences: Villa captain Ron Vlaar doesn’t seem in position to take the pitch on Saturday, since he’s still battling the calf injury that kept him sidelined v. Liverpool last week. Striker Libor Kozak is recovering from a broken leg, while Christian Benteke, a vital piece to the Villa, has come back to training, eyeing a return in the near future.

Arsenal will likely welcome back Calum Chambers and Mathieu Flamini, with Jack Wilshere the questionable man to play following an ankle knock against Dortmund. Mathieu Debuchy (ankle), Olivier Giroud (foot), Serge Gnabry, Theo Walcott (knees), Nacho Monreal (back) and Yaya Sanogo (hamstring) are all listed as “out” for the Gunners.

What they’re saying:

Villa boss Paul Lambert on Philippe Senderos (Lichfield Mercury):He’s always been a steady centre half and I liked him at Fulham last season. I always thought he was consistent. Philippe is a great professional and a top, top pro who does everything right. He’s got a pedigree behind him and has played at three World Cups, played for Arsenal, Milan and Valencia. Coming here I knew he could handle it. We got [Senderos] on a free and just look at his performances for us.”

Gunners midfielder Miguel Arteta on Dortmund loss (The Guardian): “We encouraged them by giving the ball away so many times in very difficult positions when the team was open. I am very disappointed because we knew their strengths, what we had to avoid and what we did was encourage them to play the way they wanted. They broke on us five or six times in the first 10 minutes when we gave the ball away. It’s not good enough. The accuracy when we were taking the ball and trying to play was missing.”

Prediction: Arsenal is the more talented team in this match, plain and simple. But there’s been something about Aston Villa in these opening weeks of the Premier League, so it’s difficult to assume that Wenger will achieve an easy three points. This one has a strong possibility of the victor winning by a one-goal difference.

Top 25 players in the USMNT pool right now

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Christian Pulisic is the best American soccer player in the world.

Of this, there is little debate.

But there is a debate to who is second, third, and well down the line, and we’ve got our last chance to really assess the full crop with Major League Soccer now out of season for a few months.

[ USMNT: Most to gain/lose from November ]

Let’s set some ground rules:

  • The ranking is meant to illustrate who would be most likely to positively affect a USMNT match, regardless of manager or teammates, right now.
  • Health doesn’t matter to our rankings if a current injury isn’t one which could drastically alter the player’s skill set moving forward.
  • Age/potential/experience doesn’t matter either, at least not much; It’s how likely you are to contribute to the team if put on the field right now. Obviously Chris Richards of Bayern Munich II is a better long-term prospect than 32-year-old Tim Ream, but most would rather have the Fulham man in a big spot right now.

Top 25 USMNT players – November 2019

*not currently a part of USMNT squad due to injury
**not currently a part of USMNT squad due to coach’s decision

  1. Christian Pulisic, Chelsea*
  2. Tyler Adams, RB Leipzig*
  3. John Brooks, Wolfsburg
  4. Weston McKennie, Schalke
  5. Alfredo Morales, Fortuna Dusseldorf
  6. Sergino Dest, Ajax
  7. Jordan Morris, Seattle Sounders
  8. Matt Miazga, Reading (on loan from Chelsea)**
  9. Josh Sargent, Werder Bremen
  10. Zack Steffen, Fortuna Dusseldorf (on loan from Man City)*
  11. DeAndre Yedlin, Newcastle United
  12. Jozy Altidore, Toronto FC*
  13. Tim Ream, Fulham
  14. Timothy Weah, Lille*
  15. Julian Green, Greuther Furth**
  16. Cristian Roldan, Seattle Sounders
  17. Ike Opara, Minnesota United**
  18. Michael Bradley, Toronto FC*
  19. Fabian Johnson, Borussia Monchengladbach**
  20. Cameron Carter-Vickers, Stoke City (on loan from Spurs)**
  21. Tyler Boyd, Besiktas
  22. Sebastian Lletget, LA Galaxy
  23. Miles Robinson, Atlanta United*
  24. Paul Arriola, DC United
  25. Jackson Yueill, San Jose Earthquakes

Next up, established: Antonee Robinson (Wigan Athletic), Walker Zimmerman (LAFC), Eric Lichaj (Hull City), Paxton Pomykal (FC Dallas), Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge), Reggie Cannon (FC Dallas), Duane Holmes (Derby County), Bill Hamid (DC United).

Next up, youth: Konrad de la Fuente (Barcelona U19), Alex Mendez (Ajax U19), Giovanni Reyna (Borussia Dortmund U19), Ulysses Llanez (Wolfsburg U19), Chris Richards (Bayern Munich II), Richie Ledezma (PSV Eindhoven), Donovan Pines (DC United), Sam Vines (Colorado Rapids)

Leaked image shows big fines that face Chelsea rule breakers

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Frank Lampard‘s ready to go into his players’ wallets if they disobey his laws.

A posted list of fines for Chelsea players, signed by the manager, has been confirmed and we would completely understand if the Blues were on time all the time.

[ MORE: Salah out for Egypt ]

A player is fined about $640 per minute he’s late to a meeting, and if he misses a practice, well, wow: The fine is nearly $26,000.

If a phone rings during a meeting, that’s gonna be $1,300.

And if any fine isn’t paid within two weeks, it doubles! Seems like Christian Pulisic and his teammates will have a lot of alarms set on their phones.

From The Telegraph:

Lampard has also banned agents from the training ground, unless on official business, and players must inform the club if they intend to travel abroad, even on scheduled days off.

The average Chelsea salary last season was approximately $6.6 million, meaning players make on average $127,000 per week.

The full list of fines is below.

Kompany: Liverpool’s Premier League title ghosts should ‘be to City’s advantage’

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Vincent Kompany says history could help Manchester City climb back into the Premier League title race even after his former team dropped nine points back of first place Liverpool.

[ MORE: Salah out for Egypt ]

Now at Anderlecht, the center back also said history might’ve played a role in City’s 3-1 setback at Anfield. In a rare bit of explicit honesty, the often interesting Kompany said that players do deal with demons of a club’s past.

“We always struggle at Anfield,” he said, according to Sky Sports. “I said that on Super Sunday, you’re fighting 25 years of not winning at Anfield and that’s difficult, it’s two games in one game: You’re playing a great team and you’re fighting history.”

“Flip it around and the same will happen for Liverpool. They will fight the history of not winning the league for 30 years. That should be to City’s advantage I still think.”

Do you buy that? Most of the buzz around the Premier League is that this Liverpool is a different team than even the dominant one of last season, and City has suffered big injury problems. The Reds players almost went out of their way last year to say they weren’t worried about blowing their table lead last season (which was bigger, later in the season).

Kompany also said that he believes City doesn’t need to add a center back in January, which is bonkers unless he’s coming back, but the Belgian has proven time and again that he’s one of the better minds in the game.

The guy did title  his MBA dissertation, “How professional football clubs in the Premier League can benefit from home game advantage and achieve game-changing levels of improvement” after all. Then again, I’m not sure any of our dissertations on the same topic would’ve been approved had we done that.

Liverpool’s Salah to miss Egypt’s first two AFCON qualifiers

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Good news for Liverpool, not so much for Egypt.

Mohamed Salah will not suit up for the Pharoahs this month as Egypt begins qualifying for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations.

[ MORE: Will Zlatan rejoin LA? ]

Salah has been dealing with ankle problems since a rough tackle from Leicester City’s Hamza Choudhury, and it’s acting up following a tackle from Fernandinho in the Reds’ 3-1 defeat of Man City on Sunday.

Egypt needs Salah, but it’s no surprise he’s erring on the side of caution given the tumultuous relationship between the superstar and his country (and Liverpool’s status as a contender in five (!!) tournaments).

Salah, 27, has 41 goals in 67 caps. The next five leading active Egyptian scorers have a combined 31 goals in their careers over 284 caps. The youngest of those is Aston Villa’s Trezeguet (25), followed by Besiktas’ Mohamed Elneny (27).

Egypt are heavy favorites to finish in one of the top two spots and qualify for AFCON 2020, even with the injury. The 49th ranked Pharoahs (FIFA ranking) are in a group with Kenya (108), Togo (124) and Comoros (142).

Egypt hosts Kenya on Thursday to kick off qualification, and visits Comoros on Monday.