Premier League Playback: How will Arsenal, Tottenham recover from awful start?

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TROUBLE IN NORTH LONDON: ARSENAL, SPURS STUMBLING

In the pouring rain in South Wales on Sunday, Arsenal suffered their second defeat of the season in damaging fashion following Swansea’s late comeback.

Arsene Wenger’s men took the lead through Alexis Sanchez in the 63rd minute, their one bright spark for much of this season, but late goals from Gylfi Sigurdsson and Bafetimbi Gomis gave the Swans a famous win as the Gunners were stunned for the second time in a week after more sloppy defending has cost them dear. After 11 games of the Premier League season the Gunners have now won just four times and the North Londoners are looking shaky at the back and lightweight in midfield. I know what you’re thinking: ‘Tell me something I don’t know.’ Or words to that effect.

[RELATED: Watch full match replays]

The fact that Arsenal are so woefully short of options in defense is not only down to a spate of injuries at the start of this season. Wenger’s inability to add more defenders in the summer transfer window has come back to haunt him and his entire team just aren’t willing to dig in and do the dirty things needed to grind out wins. That mentality issue that the two Robbie’s and Rebecca touched on in the video above is the biggest concern. Not matter what personnel Wenger buys or doesn’t buy, the way the Gunners play has to change if they are going to be serious challengers for the title and at the moment their perennial position in the top four is in jeopardy.

Calum Chambers had a torrid time at right back as Jefferson Montero tore him apart, especially on the game-winner, and left back Nacho Monreal playing center back proves how bad Arsenal’s injury issues are. But why not play Chambers at center back, where he has looked far more comfortable, and put either Monreal or Kieran Gibbs at right back? Just a thought.

“I thought we were mature enough to realize that when we have the lead to take possession and not get caught on the break… and that’s what happened,” Arsenal’s captain and central defender Per Mertesacker said after defeat to Swansea. “We lost the ball on several occasions and that was the problem today. We scored and then we thought ‘we don’t need to keep possession and our patience’ and then we struggled. That was our fault. We did the same on Tuesday [against Anderlecht] and today again. We have to think about it. Quickly.”

As we mentioned, Sanchez was the one bright spark for Arsenal but even his 12th goal of the season (his sixth in his last four games) couldn’t help the Gunners to the victory he promised. Swansea winger Wayne Routledge had some fun with a Tweet Sanchez had sent out before Sunday’s game…

Following Arsenal’s fourth defeat of the season, Wenger was asked if his side could catch London rivals Chelsea (who are now 12 points ahead of the Gunners) and if Jose Mourinho’s men can be stopped.

“If they keep that up nobody will touch them,” Wenger said. “It doesn’t look like anybody is capable of challenging them at the moment. Look at the season and Chelsea are on course for 105 points. Look at the number of points they have today and if they keep that up nobody will touch them, that’s for sure.”

[RELATED: What is going wrong for Tottenham?]

A bleak assessment for Arsenal’s boss and that dark cloud has been cast right across North London as Tottenham’s troubles continue too. On Sunday they lost at home to Stoke City with Mauricio Pochettino’s men suffering their third home defeat in four following a tepid display against the Potters which also had the new Spurs boss questioning the mentality of his players.

“We need to find the solution and I need to change the mentality for the players,” Pochettino said. “They know my feelings like I know their feelings. I have been here for four months, we know the players and the players know me. We feel the same, very disappointed and frustrated, and not happy because our performance was not good enough. It’s clear we need to improve a lot. We need to improve and this is clear to analyse. Always in football you need time, different methods and philosophy but we need to improve quick.

[VIDEO: Premier League highlights]

Spurs have conceded five goals in the first 15 minutes of games this season, that’s the most in the Premier League. Their slow starts, sluggish play offensively and constant defensive errors — particularly from new center back Federico Fazio on Sunday — are a recipe for disaster. Chuck in the fact that this same group of players, who mostly arrived following the sale of Gareth Bale in September 2013, are still under-performing means that someone has to take the blame. Andre Villas-Boas and Tim Sherwood have lost their jobs due to poor performances from these players and now Pochettino is under pressure after just a few months in charge. Chairman Daniel Levy and Technical Director Franco Baldini made a lot of these signings, allegedly, and they must be held accountable for a large chunk of Spurs’ problems.

“We need to work hard, to change. We need to find a solution. This is my job,” Pochettino added. If his team continue to put in displays like this and carry on losing, it won’t be your job for much longer, Mauricio. Over to the guys in the studio to sum up Spurs’ woeful start to the Pochettino era, as they sit in 12th after 11 games of the season, just four points above the relegation zone.

Premier League Schedule – Week 11

Result Recap & Highlights
Burnley 1-0 Hull City Recap and watch here
Liverpool 1-2 Chelsea Recap and watch here
Man United 1-0 Crystal Palace Recap and watch here
QPR 2-2 Man City Recap and watch here
Southampton 2-0 Leicester Recap and watch here
Sunderland 1-1 Everton Recap and watch here
Swansea 2-1 Arsenal Recap and watch here
Tottenham 1-2 Stoke City Recap and watch here
West Brom 0-2 Newcastle Recap and watch here
West Ham 0-0 Aston Villa Recap and watch here

“DIEGO COSTA IS BACK” AS IMPERIOUS CHELSEA ROLL OVER LIVERPOOL

When asked by the press following Chelsea’s 2-1 win over Liverpool at Anfield on Saturday, Jose Mourinho was quick to hail Diego Costa’s performance as the Spaniard bagged the game-winner and was a constant pest.

[RELATED: Imperious Chelsea can go unbeaten]

“He’s back,” Mourinho smiled. “Maybe the injury was good because that stopped him. When he became injured, he has to stop. He had time to recover step-by-step. In this moment he is in good condition. I think Spain made a fantastic decision [to not call up him for upcoming matches], not just for us but also for them, because in this moment he has 15 days to be on the top of his game. When Spain needs him they will have a good Diego. Not a bad Diego. I think they made a great decision.”

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Click to enlarge – Costa’s heatmap vs. Liverpool. Source: Opta

Costa was unstoppable on Saturday after recovering from his persistent hamstring issues which have plagued him since April. His personal duel with Martin Skrtel saw him come out on top as he bullied the entire Liverpool back line and delivered the hammer blow 20 minutes from the end with his 10th PL goal in his first nine games.

[RELATED: Three things we learned from Chelsea’s win at Liverpool]

His ripped shirt demonstrated the grappling match he undertook with every Liverpool player who came in his path, while his hunger, desire and willingness to run the channels was evident as you can see from the heat map on the left which shows him popping up out wide while also frequenting the box with his predatory instincts that ultimately won his team the game.

[RELATED: Latest Premier League standings]

Each time Chelsea lofted a ball towards him in the air, Costa has a knack of not even jumping but still winning the ball. He uses his body to block off opponents and then lays the ball on with his head or chest. Costa does this, and many other things, superbly and having him fully fit was a big reason behind Chelsea’s comeback win. If Costa can stay healthy, there’s no stopping Chelsea. So, just how good are Chelsea and can they go the entire season unbeaten? Nope. Not according to Mourinho, anyway.

“No. I think it is possible to be champion,” Mourinho said bluntly. “We put ourselves in the line immediately before the season started that we are title contenders and that we wanted to play for that. But in modern football and especially in the Premier League. I don’t believe in an unbeaten run.”

BREAK-DANCING HOWARD, AUSTIN’S MAD-MOMENT

Over the weekend we saw two truly bizarre moments take place in the Premier League involving goalkeepers.

The first occurred on Saturday as QPR’s Charlie Austin was flagged for a clear offside after heading home against Manchester City. Okay, fair enough. But from the resulting free kick City’s ‘keeper Joe Hart fluffed his kick, kicking the ball with first his left foot and then his right as the ball broke straight to Austin in the box who slammed home his second goal in a minute. But his ‘fluffy-chicken’ celebration was interrupted once again, and rightly so.

Fifa rule

You see, the rules of the game means that Hart and City got away with a rather embarrassing moment. With the ball technically not in play after the ball did not leave their own penalty area, referee Mike Dean had to bring play back for another free kick by Hart. Here’s a video of the incident below, as Hart also explained the ruling to Austin after the game in this rather hilarious exchange following City escaping Loftus Road with a point as they continue to stumble

While on Sunday, USMNT ‘keeper Tim Howard was involved in a truly unique moment too. With Sunderland striker Steven Fletcher bearing down on Everton’s goal with the score locked at 1-1, Howard came rushing out and was out of his box. Uh oh. The New Jersey native then jumped on the ball, without using his hand, before doing some break-dancing on the size 5 Nike before getting up and clearing the ball to safety.

He didn’t use his hands, so it wasn’t a foul, but did Howard stop a clear goalscoring opportunity by obstruction? Probably. Referee Lee Mason looked just as confused as the 40,000 plus fans inside the Stadium of Light as he waved play on. Howard may have got away with one there, but his quick thinking cleaned things up. Sort of.

Premier League Star Performers – Week 11

Player Reason
1. Diego Costa (Chelsea) 1 goal, the beast is back
2. Sergio Aguero (Man City) 2 goals, saved City again
3. Shane Long (Saints) 2 goals, gamechanger
4. Daryl Janmaat (N’castle) 2 assists, superb RB display
5. Gylfi Sigurdsson (Swans) 1 goal, stunning free kick

BURNLEY WIN, RELEGATION PICTURE TAKING SHAPE

The Clarets have done it! 11 weeks into the season Sean Dyche’s boys have their first win.

It has taken 990 minutes of PL action and 83 days for the Lancashire club to taste success but a hard fought 1-0 win over Hull City on Saturday, courtesy of Ashley Barnes’ second half goal, have the home fans the victory they craved.

[RELATED: Premier League schedule]

With those vital three points, Burnley have now dragged plenty of teams back into the mire as the relegation picture begins to take shape.

They are still bottom on seven points, but other newly-promoted teams QPR and Leicester City occupy the final two spots in the relegation zone and Burnley are a win away from jumping over Crystal Palace and out of the dreaded bottom three.

[RELATED: Premier League stats]

With the Eagles struggling to adapt under Neil Warnock following the sudden departure of Tony Pulis this summer, they are being sucked right into things, while QPR are looking much better but Leicester are heading in the opposite direction after five defeats in six since beating Manchester United in September. Burnley’s win shows they cane compete with the midtable to lower ranked teams in the PL, giving the Turf Moor faithful plenty of hope they can do something they’ve never previously done: survive for more than one campaign in the Premier League.

FIVE OF THE BEST

We weren’t inundated with goals this weekend in the Premier League, just 21 in 10 matches, but we did have some absolute crackers. Here’s five of the best from Week 11 in the video below. Go on then, what was your favorite? I’ll tell you mine if you tell me yours (in the comments section below, obviously).

USMNT UPDATE

We’ve already spoken about Howard’s maverick skills in Everton’s 1-1 draw with Sunderland, but another USMNT ‘keeper put on a fine show of his own. Brad Guzan doesn’t get much help most of the time from Aston Villa’s defense but the American stopper helped his side to a shutout draw at West Ham on Saturday to halt Villa’s six-game losing streak. The Chicago native came up big in stoppage time as he acrobatically tipped away Andy Carroll’s header after somehow shifting his weight from left to right. Well done that man. Elsewhere Geoff Cameron came on as a ninth minute sub for Stoke at right back as they beat Tottenham 2-1 at White Hart Lane to move up to ninth in the standings. Huge win for the Potters. While Jozy Altidore missed out on a reunion with Howard as he warmed his cheeks on Sunderland’s bench for the full 90 minutes, once again.

Altidore is expected to be named in Jurgen Klinsmann’s U.S. squad for their game vs. Colombia on Friday at Fulham’s Craven Cottage. At ProSoccerTalk we will have coverage of the USA’s upcoming friendlies all week. Visit this page for all the latest.

Premier League Playback comes out every Monday as PST’s Editor and Lead Writer takes an alternative look at all the action from the weekend. Read the full archive, here

De Gea signs new Man United contract

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Dave stays.

David De Gea has finally signed a new contract at Manchester United.

After months of talks, the 28-year-old has agreed to a new four year contract, which also includes the option to extend by another year.

Reports suggest that De Gea could earn up to $434,000 per week, making him the best-paid goalkeeper on the planet.

Speaking to the club website about extending his stay at Old Trafford, De Gea was delighted to finally sign the deal and remain in the Premier League after reported interest from both Juventus and Real Madrid.

“It has been a privilege to spend eight years at this great club and the opportunity to continue my career at Manchester United is a genuine honor,” De Gea said. “Since I arrived here, I could never have imagined I would play over 350 games for this club. Now my future is fixed, all I want is to help this team achieve what I believe we can and win trophies again, together.

“As one of the senior players in the squad, I want to support and lead in any way that I can to assist the younger players, so they know what it means to play here. I still feel that I have so much more to achieve at the club and I truly believe that Manchester United can build on the club’s tradition of success and reward our fans for their support. I am committed to continue repaying the fans for all of the care that they’ve shown me during the good times and the bad.”

That last line is key here. De Gea and United have had plenty of wobbles over the past six months, with the Spanish goalkeeper making some big errors at the tail end of last season as they dropped out of the top four race in disappointing fashion.

There is no doubt these lengthy contract negotiations played their part in De Gea’s dip in form, but there’s also no doubting his supreme quality as one of the best goalkeepers on the planet.

Nailing him down to a new long-term deal was a necessity and United and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be relieved that it’s done. To replace a goalkeeper of De Gea’s quality would’ve cost the Red Devils at least $100 million, and this is a massive reward for DDG after his years of exceptional play.

He arrived in 2011 and has become one of the best goalkeepers on the planet, as he won four of the last six club Player of the Season awards.

A fully focused De Gea is wonderful news for United, as their defense is improving with two clean sheets and just four goals conceded so far this season.

Along with Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw, Victor Lindelof and Aaron Wan-Bissaka, all of a sudden this United defense has a very settled look to it.

Mane: Feud with Salah is over

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Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah are friends again.

Sort of.

Following Mane’s angry reaction to not being passed the ball by Salah in their win at Burnley before the international break, there were concerns that the relationship between the two star forwards would impact their play on the pitch.

But speaking to French outlet Canal+ after their 3-1 win against Newcastle United on Saturday, Mane put a lid on the matter.

“With Salah? It’s forgotten,” Mane said. “Sometimes you have to say things face to face. These are things that happen in football, sometimes it happens that I am not given the pass. But we have reconciled and become the good friends we were before.”

That’s that then.

Salah posted the following video ahead of the weekend, which says it all.

Mane scored twice on Saturday to continue his stunning start to the season, so it hasn’t impacted his form. But Salah, the Egyptian King and darling of Anfield, has come out of this worse.

Liverpool fans, generally, were on Mane’s side in this disagreement and the Senegalese attacker has been applauded for his response.

Will this impact Salah’s confidence and the fluidity of Liverpool front three? Probably not.

As Mane said, these things happen in football but it does prove that despite all of the success something has been brewing behind-the-scenes at Liverpool.

Arsenal “too scared” of Watford in collapse

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Arsenal captain Granit Xhaka admitted the Gunners were “too scared” of Watford as they collapsed in the second half.

Leading 2-0 at half time thanks to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Arsenal were totally outplayed in the second half as Watford roared back to draw 2-2 at Vicarage Road on Sunday.

Speaking after the game, Xhaka said the Arsenal players were not confident enough to see out the game.

“No-one wanted the ball. In the end we are happy to take a point,” Xhaka said. “We didn’t show our game in the second half, we were too scared… Every team in the Premier League is strong enough to score but you have to keep calm, to show good character, to be mentally strong. We weren’t today.”

If only this was a rare occurrence for Arsenal.

Under Unai Emery their defensive collapses have been frequent, and this issue even dates back to Arsene Wenger‘s final few seasons in charge.

Arsenal were their own worst enemies on Sunday.

Instead of playing the ball out of dangerous areas they tried to play short goal kicks time and time again and were caught in possession on several occasions. David Luiz gave away a penalty kick, Xhaka and Mateo Guendouzi were overrun in central midfield in the second half and in the end they were lucky to grab a point.

Trying the same things time and time again and expecting different results is just bonkers, and that is what this Arsenal squad is going.

Luiz, Bernd Leno, Sokratis and Xhaka are players Arsenal have built their defensive core around, and the same issues keep cropping up when they are in the team. Adding Luiz to the mix after losing Laurent Koscielny was a risk and it seems like a move which will backfire for the Gunners.

It is true that defenders Rob Holding, Hector Bellerin and Kieran Tierney are all close to returning from injury, so when that happens perhaps we will see a newfound defensive solidity and things will improve.

Then again, it’s likely neutral everywhere will be grabbing their popcorn whenever Arsenal play this season because you’re guaranteed entertainment at both ends of the pitch.

Galaxy hammer Sporting KC; Zlatan: “I’m the best ever in MLS”

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LA Galaxy smashed Sporting Kansas City 7-2 on Sunday, as Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored a hat trick then called himself the best player in MLS history.

Just a casual Sunday for Zlatan, then…

Ibrahimovic, 37, scored a hat trick as LA raced into a 7-1 lead after falling 1-0 behind early on as Felipe Gutierrez scored both of Sporting’s goals.

Speaking to reporters after the game, Ibrahimovic was typically humble after his hat trick which means he now holds the record for the highest scoring season in Galaxy history with 26 goals.

“I think I am the best ever to play in MLS. And that’s without joking,” Ibrahimovic said. “Scoring goals is easy, you just have to be like Zlatan and it’s coming.”

Zlatan is now two goals behind Carlos Vela in the race for the Golden Boot in MLS with four games remaining, and he’s now scored 48 goals in 52 games since arriving in MLS.

Joe Corona, Uriel Antuna and Sebastian Lletget grabbed the Galaxy’s other goals as they won for the first time in five MLS games to boost their chances of making the playoffs in the congested Western Conference.

With the defeat Sporting KC’s hopes of reaching the playoffs is all but over.

Check out the highlights in full below. It will take quite a while to sort through the nine goals, so set down and soak in Zlatan’s brilliance.