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

Champions League wrap: Ajax, RB Leipzig, Salzburg win; Barca held

AP Photo/Martin Meissner
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While Liverpool and Chelsea lost in shutout fashion, only three other teams saw zeroes next to their names after 90 minutes of UEFA Champions League play on Tuesday.

[ UCL: Scores, full lineups, stats, box scores ]

You may be surprised to see that Barcelona and Borussia Dortmund kept each other off the board, while Lille was cooked by Ajax.

Red Bull Salzburg 6-2 Genk

Jesse Marsch is now officially the first American man to manage a team to a win in a UEFA Champions League game. The Red Bull Salzburg boss got a hat trick from red-hot 19-year-old striker Erling Braut Haland, who has 17 goals in nine matches this season and is also the son of former Leeds, Man City, and Nottingham Forest manager Alf-Inge Haland.

Ajax 3-0 Lille

Mexico’s Edson Alvarez now has two goals in two career UEFA Champions League games, as he joined Quincy Promes on the score sheet in a 2-0 win. American-Dutch right back Sergino Dest played 90 minutes in the win, and Nicolás Tagliafico recorded two assists. USMNT forward Timothy Weah was again absent with a hamstring tear.

Borussia Dortmund 0-0 Barcelona

Lionel Messi spent most of the match on the bench, and Marco Reus missed a Jadon Sancho-won penalty thanks to a Marc-Andre ter Stegen save.

And what a save it was!

Elsewhere

Chelsea 0-1 Valencia — RECAP
Napoli 2-0 Liverpool — RECAP
Inter Milan 1-1 Slavia Prague — RECAP
Lyon 1-1 Zenit Saint-Petersburg
Benfica 1-2 RB Leipzig

Barkley sails late penalty as Chelsea falls at home

AP Photo/Frank Augstein
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Ross Barkley missed a late penalty as Chelsea lost its UEFA Champions League opener 1-0 to Valencia on Tuesday at Stamford Bridge.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Rodrigo scored the lone goal, and Valencia will be thrilled to collect all three points in London.

Christian Pulisic was an unused sub for Chelsea, who out-attempted Valencia 22-8 on the day.


Three things we learned

1. Pulisic down the pecking order: The American star didn’t start, and wasn’t the first name called when Mason Mount was injured. Granted Pedro played a little deeper, but not a good week for the Hershey-born Pulisic

2. Wide men the danger men: Willian was the likely Man of the Match for Chelsea despite the lack of goals, and full backs Marcos Alonso and Cesar Azpilicueta were also key to the resutl.

3. Penalty drama: VAR gave Chelsea a chance to level from the spot, but Ross Barkley stepped ahead of Willian and missed the chance. The Brazilian looked aggrieved before and after the miss, and Barkley looked mighty confident right until the moment he missed his shot. Sort yourself out!

Man of the Match: Willian — No wonder he was angry to see Barkley demand the penalty, as a Willian goal would’ve been a fitting result for his clever and industrious day at the office.


Valencia keeper Jasper Cillesen made two stops early, denying Tammy Abraham to concede a corner before collecting a Marcos Alonso header on the ensuing set piece.

Would it be Christian Pulisic time when Mason Mount left the match with injury following a challenge from former Arsenal man Francis Coquelin? Nope. Pedro was called upon to fill the void.

It was a sleepy second half, with Pedro conceding a free kick to Valencia that didn’t amount to anything exciting.

Those who stuck around were rewarded with late drama, as Valencia took the lead through a Rodrigo flick off a free kick.

However, Valencia then had to watch through its fingers as Chelsea was gifted a chance at the spot through VAR when Fikayo Tomori headed a ball off the arm of Daniel Wass.

Willian was upset to see Ross Barkley take the penalty, and the English midfielder probably wishes he let someone else take it after missing over the bar.

Napoli scores on late penalty, rare Van Dijk error in 2-0 win

ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP/Getty Images)
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The good news is that Liverpool lost to Napoli last season in the UEFA Champions League, then went on to win the whole darn thing.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Jose Callejon won a late penalty that Dries Mertens converted, and Fernando Llorente took advantage of a Virgil Van Dijk error to pad the lead as Napoli held serve at home with a 2-0 win over Liverpool on Tuesday.


Three things we learned

1. Goalkeepers immense: No, he’s not Alisson Becker, but Adrian is probably the biggest reason Liverpool didn’t open its UCL defense with a loss. He made a pair of early stops on Dries Mertens before a show-stopping effort in the second half. Napoli got two fine saves from Alex Meret, including a terrific denial of Mohamed Salah in the 65th.

2. Salah, Mane can’t deliver in key moments: Take away Salah’s penalty in the UCL Final, and Liverpool’s two top threats have not accounted for a goal in four matches inside the competition. Mane was mostly good on the day, but misled Salah on an early second half pass which would have almost certainly been a goal. Salah simply had an off day

3. Callejon sells the drama: Liverpool’s Andy Robertson lost a 50/50 with Jose Callejon, who ran into the fulback and hit the deck to win a penalty. That was the difference here, as Mertens beat Adrian.

Man of the Match: Meret was especially good, the 22-year-old Italian goalkeeper big in several key moments to edge Mertens for the honor.


Napoli thought it had gone ahead through El Tri star Hirving Lozano, who nodded over the line following two Alisson Becker saves on Dries Mertens, but the Mexican was offside.

Sadio Mane had a 20th minute chance at the other end, but pumped a point blank low shot to Napoli keeper Alex Meret which led to a corner kick.

Fabinho intervened in the 53rd minute as Napoli emerged from the locker room with energy, but the best chance of the early second half was flubbed in uncharacteristic fashion: Sadio Mane was through 2v1 with Mohamed Salah but made a miserable pass to his teammate.

The first goal arrived when Callejon tapped the ball past Robertson and leapt into the defender to earn a penalty from referee Felix Brych.

It was 2-0 in stoppage time when Fernando Llorente ran onto a Virgil van Dijk error and passed beyond Adrian.

UCL AT HALF: Marsch’s Salzburg rolling; Champions holding firm; Chelsea’s Mount hurt

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We’ve got news after 45 minutes of six more UCL matches, including a big injury at Stamford Bridge and a monumental start for an American in Austria.

[ UCL: Scores, lineups, stats, box scores ]

Chelsea 0-0 Valencia

No goals to report here, but early season hero Mason Mount has left the match with an injury for the Blues. He was not replaced by Christian Pulisic, rather Pedro.

Liverpool 0-0 Napoli

It’s been a pretty even affair, though Liverpool can thank Adrian for a pair of great saves on Dries Mertens before Hirving “Chucky” Lozano’s goal was ruled offside.

Red Bull Salzburg 5-1 Genk

Jesse Marsch is now officially the first American man to manage a team in a UEFA Champions League game.

The Red Bull Salzburg boss is also the first to hold a second minute lead, as red hot striker Erling Braut Haland scored his 15th, 16th, and 17th goals in nine matches under Marsch.

Haland also five assists on the season, having entered Tuesday’s match with 658 minutes across all competitions.

Haland is the son of former Leeds, Man City, and Nottingham Forest manager Alf-Inge Haland.

Hwang-Hee Chan has Salzburg’s other goal, and two assists.

Elsewhere

Inter Milan 1-1 Slavia Prague — RECAP
Lyon 1-1 Zenit Saint-Petersburg
Borussia Dortmund 0-0 Barcelona
Ajax 1-0 Lille
Benfica 0-0 RB Leipzig