Premier League Playback: Why Arsenal’s fans must support Arsene Wenger

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ARSENAL’S FANS WRONG TO TURN ON WENGER

The video below is disturbing, vile and downright wrong. Arsene Wenger — the man who has delivered three Premier League titles, five FA Cups and has helped the Gunners battle with Europe’s elite year-in, year-out for almost two decades — deserves better than this.

Okay, fans of sports teams have the right to voice their opinion and they are openly able to do that in the kind of society we live in. But have some class and show some decorum, Arsenal fans. Waving banners calling for Wenger to leave at West Brom was pushing it and the scenes as the team boarded a train at Stoke to head back to London on Saturday was totally unacceptable.

[ RELATED: Watch full match replays ]

Arsenal have only won once in nine trips to the Britannia Stadium and their style just doesn’t match up well with the Potters. Never has, and probably never will. Especially away from home. Yes, if Wenger is serious about his team at least finishing in the top four, they must beat teams like Stoke. They defended poorly and were caught cold at a fired-up Brit as their young stand-in defenders were found out early as Stoke’s giants bombarded them and led 3-0 at the break. But defeats happen and Arsenal’s fans must learn to take them better.

Wenger signed a new contract at the end of last season after winning the FA Cup and when he calls time on his career at Arsenal, they will build a statue of him outside the Emirates Stadium, such has been his positive influence on the fortunes of the north London club and the PL in general.

It is so easy to say “the past is the past, we want to win now” but take a step back and think where Arsenal could be if Wenger didn’t turn up as boss back in 1996. All is not lost this season. Arsenal is five points outside the top four and are in the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League. Our analysts break it down in the video above, as Arsenal had plenty of problems against Stoke.

But is berating your manager in public really going to change results on the field or yield any positive outcome whatsoever? Nope.

Premier League Schedule – Week 15

Result Recap & Highlights
Aston Villa 2-1 Leicester Recap and watch here
Hull City 0-0 West Brom Recap and watch here
Liverpool 0-0 Sunderland Recap and watch here
Man City 1-0 Everton Recap and watch here
Newcastle 2-1 Chelsea Recap and watch here
QPR 2-0 Burnley Recap and watch here
Saints 1-2 Man Utd Recap and watch here
Stoke 3-2 Arsenal Recap and watch here
Tottenam 0-0 Palace Recap and watch here
West Ham 3-1 Swansea Recap and watch here

THE TITLE RACE BLOWN WIDE-OPEN

And then there were two.

Chelsea is still leading the way in the Premier League but Manchester City have closed the gap to just three points after Week 15.

 [ VIDEO: PL highlights ]

Jose Mourinho blamed ball boys (seriously) and bad luck as his side tasted defeat for the first time this seaosn by losing to Newcastle United on Saturday in the early game. Man City knew a win at home to Everton in the late game on Saturday would put them just three points behind Chelsea with the busy festive season fast approaching.

They edged past the Toffees thanks to Yaya Toure’s PK but a worrying knee injury to the PL’s leading scoring and City’s talisman Sergio Aguero keeps the title race tilting slightly in Chelsea’s favor. For now.

[ RELATED: Latest PL standings ]

With Chelsea beaten for the first time in 15 games this season, we will now see the true character of Mourinho’s men to bounce back in the face of adversity. Manuel Pellegrini and City have been in the position before (see last season) and will not be overawed by the challenge of a three point deficit to go top. The title race is well and truly on.

USMNT UPDATE: CAMERON SHINES IN STOKE’S BIG WIN

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Click to enlarge – Cameron’s heat map vs. Arsenal. Source: Opta
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Click to enlarge – Cameron’s touches vs. Arsenal. Source: Opta.

Overall it was a good week for the Americans Abroad as Brad Guzan bagged a second-straight win with Aston Villa and Jozy Altidore got a start at Anfied as he helped Sunderland grind out a 0-0 draw against Liverpool. Tim Howard’s Everton lost 1-0 to Man City but his side dominated large spells of the second half, as the Toffees remain in the bottom half of the standings in the only blip for the U.S. national teams’ PL contingent.

There was no doubting where the star performance from an American player came.

After a long spell out due to surgery at the start of the season, Stoke City’s Geoff Cameron is coming into his own in his third season in the PL. The USMNT star has played at right back, center back and now in holding midfield twice in his last four games.

[ RELATED: Cameron on Arsenal, versatility and more ]

His versatility makes him invaluable to the Potters and his play in central midfield during Stoke’s shock win against Arsenal followed on from his impressive display in the engine room against Manchester United at Old Trafford. Composed on the ball, strong in the air and providing valuable protection to Stoke’s back four, Cameron is in great form.

source: Getty Images
Can Cameron cement himself at DM for the USA?

If you take a look at the heat map on the left you can see he sat square in front of Stoke’s backline and was able to help them see of a late onslaught to seal a valuable win. On the right is his touch map, which shows that Cameron got involved all over the pitch and was crucial in breaking up Arsenal’s quick counter-attacks. He has stated all along that he’s a holding midfielder or center back and despite excelling at right back over the last two seasons for Stoke, Cameron is staking his claim to be tried out in the engine room for the USA. Against Belgium in the last 16 of the World Cup he locked down Marouane Fellaini and Jurgen Klinsmann should give Cameron a return to midfield in 2015.

With plenty of speculation around the Bostonian during the last transfer window, expect the same to happen in January after his latest string of fine displays as an unsung hero for Stoke.

CAN WEST HAM BREAK INTO THE TOP FOUR?

As bubbles drifted out of the various machines by the side of the pitch at Upton Park on Sunday, West Ham’s fan not only belted out their famous “Forever Blowing Bubbles” theme song after yet another win. If you listened carefully enough chants of “We’re gonna win the league” could be heard.

[ RELATED: Three things we learned ]

Andy Carroll’s double and a goal on his return to fitness for Diafra Sakho meant the Hammers coasted past Swansea City 3-1 after going behind early on. They deserved their win and have now won three-straight and are in the top four of the PL standings. Can they stay there?

[ RELATED: Can West Ham finish in the top four? ]

With the goalscoring exploits of Carroll, Sakho and the ingenuity of Stewart Downing getting plenty of the praise, the Hammers will need a slightly less flashy but extremely important player to keep putting in monumental performances like he did on Sunday, as he broke up Swansea’s usually fluid midfield. After the game I asked West Ham manager Sam Allardyce about Alex Song and his vital role for West Ham since joining on loan from Barcelona.

“He gives us a little bit more in terms of how we can be composed about the way we play. We have earned quite a bit of respect know and we are coming up against teams who sit back behind the ball. Alex Song is a quality player who is able to break that kind of system down with his passing. He is very cool and calm on the ball and waits for the right the opportunity and plays the right pass forward. That gives us a dimension in terms of breaking teams down who sit behind the ball, like Swansea did today. That will happen more and more now because of the position we are in and the respect we’ve gained.”

Sporting his classic Puma King kicks (the ones with the massive tongues, remember those?!), the former Arsenal man has been an absolute bargain. After the game he revealed he’s not sure if his loan move from Barca will be permanent after this season but on this showing the likes of Arsenal, Liverpool and plenty of other top teams in the PL will want to snap up Song. The Cameroon international was certainly happy with the win and his performance. Check out his Instagram post below. Not sure about the shoes, Alex…

http://instagram.com/p/wT8acGl3Kd/

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

Arteta “hurt” by Arsenal’s Europa League exit

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Mikel Arteta wasn’t shy about his feelings towards Arsenal’s Europa League elimination.

“It hurts, big time,” Arteta said after the match. “We had a lot of hope in this competition. It was a great way for us to be able to go to Europe and it is a very beautiful competition to try to win.”

For much of the second leg against Olympiakos, Arsenal was flat. The Gunners conceded a goal shortly after halftime, and with the aggregate score 1-1 through 180 minutes, the game went to extra-time. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang appeared to have struck the winner for Arsenal in the 113th minute, only for Olympiakos to level the score back up in the 119th minute and go ahead on away goals.

[ ROUNDUP: Early Europa League kicks | Late kicks ]

“I think we did a lot of positive things in the game,” Arteta said. “I think we created enough chances to win, but if you concede two set-pieces again in a tie like this you put yourself in big trouble.”

The Gunners, in truth, did not create much, at least not through regulation. It may have been enough to expect victory, but it was not enough for a team with an attacking mentality. Arsenal racked up 2.19 expected goals through the match, but their two best chances came late with Aubameyang’s last-gasp miss and Alexandre Lacazette failing to strike with a 77th minute diving header.

“This is football and sometimes it is very cruel when the emotions are right here [raises hand high],” Arteta said in the press conference, “then in another moment they’re somewhere else [lowers hand]. You have to able to handle that if you want to be in this industry so now it’s up to us, and up to me, to bring this place back in and move forward.”

The Gunners are still in the FA Cup, with a fifth round match against Portsmouth on Monday. They sit ninth in the Premier League table, four points back of Manchester United in fifth.

Giuseppe Rossi signs with Real Salt Lake

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Former Manchester United, Villareal, and Fiorentina forward Guiseppe Rossi has signed with MLS side Real Salt Lake in yet another bid to revive his injury-plagued career.

Rossi, a New Jersey-born striker who infamously chose to represent Italy at the international level, has struggled mightily for game time over the past few years thanks to a string of bad injury luck. He most recently made 9 Serie A appearances for Genoa through the latter half of the 2017/18 season, without a competitive match since May 20, 2018.

“For me, MLS has been growing every year and has produced an exciting product,” Rossi said upon signing. “I’m lucky enough to have RSL be my first contact in the league during this process. The club’s respect and kindness towards me is something I appreciate immensely. I can’t wait to see and meet the fans and immerse myself in the RSL culture. Along with the rest of the team, I can’t wait to begin this season and enjoy the journey together.”

The 33-year-old has suffered five major knee injuries throughout his career, including three ACL tears. According to the soccer database Transfermarkt, Rossi has missed upwards of 1,200 days due to injuries throughout his career.

The signing represents an exciting moment for Rossi, who despite his struggles is thought to be a supremely talented player when healthy. No matter how this tenure goes, Rossi’s chance to play back in the United States marks a significant transition for a player who has had a contentious relationship with USMNT fans due to his national team decision. While it’s not as exciting a signing as it would have been 5-7 years ago, Rossi’s return to his home nation is a move with plenty of upside.

Through his European career, Rossi racked up 170 La Liga appearances, 62 in Serie A, 16 in the Premier League, and 12 in Champions League play. Rossi has 29 caps for the Italian national team, scoring seven goals including two against the United States in a 2009 Confederations Cup match.

Real Salt Lake starts its 2020 season against Orlando City on Saturday.

Solskjaer unsure on Martial return as United injury situation worsens

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Manchester United is already missing Marcus Rashford for potentially the rest of the season, and now another Red Devils forward is facing a longer than expected road back as well.

Just as he was rounding back into form, Anthony Martial will be sidelined for an unknown amount of time thanks to a thigh injury suffered in training on Wednesday. Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer said he’s unsure how long Martial will be out, but muscle injuries don’t just go away in a jiffy.

“I don’t know,” Solskjaer said after Manchester United defeated Club Brugge 5-0 to advance in Europa League play. “He went off during training. He tried to be fit for today, it’s not his hamstring, it’s his thigh and in and around the knee. I don’t know.”

Solskjaer’s mention of the hamstring is notable as Martial missed over a month through September with a hamstring problem.

The Red Devils brought aboard Odion Ighalo in January to cover for Rashford’s injury, and Martial has been a critical figure of the Manchester United attack, starting nearly every game since returning from his hamstring troubles in early October. Since his double on Boxing Day, Martial has scored six Premier League goals plus another in the FA Cup and one in Europa League play coming in the first leg of the Club Brugge matchup.

Manchester United’s upcoming fixtures see them take on Everton at Goodison Park on Sunday, with an FA Cup visit to Derby County next week.

Europa League: Man United through, Arsenal shockingly out

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Wolves advanced in Europa League play earlier Thursday comfortably, and while Manchester United also moved on with ease, Arsenal crashed out in painful fashion.

Bruno Fernandes was a menace as Manchester United rolled over 10-man Club Brugge 5-0 at Old Trafford. He struck the post just minutes in before forcing a bigtime save from Simon Mignolet. Fernandes eventually put Manchester United up from the penalty spot just before the half-hour mark, giving the Red Devils the opener after Simon Deli was sent off for clearly handling the ball in the box.

With the man advantage, Manchester United ran ragged, with Odion Ighalo scoring his debut Red Devils goal and Scott McTominay also finding the back of the net in his full return to the squad from injury. The second half was a breeze, with Manchester United hold Club Brugge without a shot on target, while the Red Devils popped off 18 shots with eight of them on frame. Fred tacked on a pair in the final 10 minutes to complete the scoreline.

[ MORE: Early games see Wolves, Bayer advance among others ]

Arsenal appeared to be stumbling towards penalties at the Emirates as they took on Olympiakos. Then they were rescued by a moment of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang magic. Then they were out.

After the Gunners won 1-0 in Greece, the return leg at the Emirates was a slog, with Arsenal falling in regulation 1-0 on a 58th minute Pape Abou Cisse header. That sent the match to extra time where it seemed penalties were imminent after Olympiakos substitute Georgios Masouras hit the crossbar. With just seven minutes to go, Aubameyang produced a bicycle kick to put the Gunners in front.

But just minutes later, Olympiakos leveled the aggregate scoreline with a Youssef El Arabi header in the 119th minute. Aubameyang had another chance to win it for the Gunners, but he couldn’t finish right on the doorstep at the buzzer and Arsenal crashed out of the competition.

In an empty stadium, Inter started sluggish but came back to advance past Ludogorets Razgrad 4-1 on aggregate thanks to a 2-1 victory at the San Siro. Brazilian winger Cauly opened the scoring for Ludogorets to get Inter close on aggregate, but an own goal brought Inter back level and Romelu Lukaku put the Italians in front before halftime to put them out of reach. Lukaku’s strike was a wild header that he worked while laying prone in front of Ludogorets goalkeeper Plamen Iliev.

Ajax’s disappointment continued as last year’s Champions League semifinalists dumped out of Europe via a 3-1 aggregate defeat to Getafe. After a 2-0 first-leg loss, Jamie Mata piled on the Dutch side’s woes with a fifth-minute opener. Danilo got Ajax on the board to level things up minutes later and Carel Etling doubled Ajax’s total to put them 2-1 up and within one on aggregate, but it wasn’t enough. Ajax had 71% possession but could only manage three shots on target, while the two teams racked up nine yellow cards.

Celtic failed to hold serve at home as it crashed out of European competition on a roller coaster 3-1 loss to FC Copenhagen. The visitors scored the opener on a hilarious defensive fail by Celtic five minutes after halftime.

Celtic seemed to have rescued the match as Odsonne Edouard struck in the 83rd minute, but Copenhagen bounced straight back as Pep Biel and Dame N'Doye stunned the Dublin crowd to send Celtic crashing out of Europe.

Shakhtar Donetsk advanced past Benfica in a wild 3-3 draw that saw the Ukranians move on via a 5-4 aggregate victory. Both teams held leads at various stages, but with Shakhtar trailing 2-1 shortly after halftime, Taras Stepanenko and Alan Patrick found the back of the net to put Shakhtar up for good. Benfica’s elimination seals the fate for all three Portuguese sides in the competition after both Sporting CP and Porto were bounced in the early kicks.

Sevilla labored to a 0-0 draw with Romanian side CFR Cluj, with the Spaniard advancing on away goals after a 1-1 aggregate draw. The two teams ripped off a combined 34 shots but neither found the back of the net. Sevilla racked up 2.17 xG, so elimination was not harsh on the Romanians.

The Round of 16 draw will be held at 7:00 a.m. ET tomorrow morning.

Europa League results (bolded team advances)

Arsenal 2-2 Olympiacos (AET)
Manchester United 5-0 Club Brugge
Inter Milan 2-1 Ludogorets
Benfica 3-3 Shakhtar Donetsk
Ajax 2-1 Getafe
Celtic 0-1 FC Copenhagen
Sevilla 0-0 CFR Cluj