Three things we learned from Arsenal’s win over Manchester City

Leave a comment

MANCHESTER — Arsenal dealt Manchester City’s title hopes a large blow on Sunday, as the Gunners strolled into the Etihad Stadium and left with all three points after a convincing and professional display.

[ TIMELINE: Sanchez vs. Aguero ]

The Gunners strangled City’s offense, as Arsene Wenger’s men pushed in on their pursuit of a top four finish.

[ RELATED: Wenger hails Cazorla ]

We learned a lot about City’s title credentials and Arsenal’s resurgence.

But here’s three things.

CAZORLA IS A MAGICIAN, BACK TO HIS BEST

As Santi Cazorla hobbled off the pitch at the end of the match with the Arsenal fans chanting his name, the Spaniard had a huge grin on his face as he entered the tunnel. He scored the opener and set up the second. So, it’s clear to see he had a huge impact on the game. But apart from those two instances, Cazorla ran the show in midfield. Flicks, feints and guile, Cazorla dictated the tempo of the match. Whenever he grabbed the ball he made something happen and the 30-year-old rolled back the clock as he suffered a stop-start 2013-14 season where he scored just seven goals in 49 matches. Cazorla has seven this season already, as he’s recapturing the form he displayed in his debut season for the Gunners in 2012-13 A late dragged back and back hell around Gael Clichy put an exclamation mark on his audaciousness. A player who was influential during Manuel Pellegrini’s reign at both Villarreal and Malaga, Cazorla came back to taunt his old boss in a splendid display that summed up the difference between the two teams. Cazorla’s style trumped City’s stalling substance.

source: Getty Images
City were sluggish as Kompany had an off day at the back.

TOURE’S ABSENCE CRUCIAL, GUNNERS CONTROL ENGINE ROOM

Aaron Ramsey and Francis Coquelin controlled the engine room for the Gunners, as City’s midfielders did not press high enough the entire game. Fernandinho and Fernando played sideways passes galore but failed to penetrated the Gunners backline as Yaya Toure was missed badly. The Ivorian midfielder is on Africa Cup of Nations duty and you could tell. The link between City’s midfield and attack had been completely severed in his absence. That was in part due to their slow tempo and lack of incision but also down to yet another composed display from young Frenchman Coquelin.

Last week against Stoke he put in an assured display, more on that here, and the former Charlton Athletic loanee was at it again. In the 80th minute came a perfect example of how Arsenal controlled the midfield, as Coquelin broke up the play with a thunderous tackle and cleared on the edge of his own box. The Frenchman had a total of 11 clearances and won eight of his nine aerial duels. His coming of age may give Arsene Wenger a reason to kick his heels in the pursuit of a new holding midfielder in the immediate future. Overall, the Gunners put in a solid defensive display as they looked incredible dangerous on the break.

SLUGGISH CITY

Sergio Aguero and Vincent Kompany both returned to make their first starts for City in over a month. Their rustiness showed. City’s captain and leading scorer were both lackluster, at best, as Kompany gave away the penalty kick, after a needless barge on Nacho Monreal for Arsenal’s first goal, while Aguero barely touched the ball in the first half and only had one decent glimpse at goal in the second. Where they rushed back too soon? Aguero was lacking his usual energy, while Kompany and Martin Demichelis weren’t able to handle Olivier Giroud and looked shaky. When your two best players are off color, most teams in the PL will falter.

That’s exactly what happened to City, as their next Premier League game against Chelsea on Jan. 31 has become critical. Lose that match at Stamford Bridge and the Citizens could be eight points behind the league leaders. That could be unassailable.

Fernandes scores first goal, says Ronaldo backed Manchester United move

Bruno Fernandes Ronaldo
Photo by Martin Rickett/PA Images via Getty Images)
Leave a comment

It’s probably not a surprise that a young Portuguese player would fancy Manchester United given the heroics of Cristiano Ronaldo at Old Trafford early his career.

Bruno Fernandes admits that those images danced through his head well before he signed with the Red Devils in January.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

It’s also not a shock that United would turn to their former player for a take on the playmaker before buying him from Sporting Lisbon.

Fernandes says he’s grateful that CR7 endorsed BF18. From Sky Sports:

“I know some people asked Cristiano what he thought of me and what I was like as a player and a person,” Fernandes said. “I know he spoke highly of me and gave me a good reference, so I sent him a message after to thank him for his kind words.”

Fernandes has 19 caps and two goals for Portugal, while Ronaldo has a few more with 164 and 99.

He now has a goal and an assist in four appearances for United. Ronaldo finished with 118 goals and 69 assists in 292 appearances for the Red Devils.

Here’s the finish:

Eden Hazard suffers fracture ahead of Man City in UCL, El Clasico

Photo by JOSE JORDAN/AFP via Getty Images
Leave a comment

Eden Hazard is set to miss the Real Madrid’s UEFA Champions League first leg against Man City with a broken fibula.

Hazard had only returned to the lineup for two matches following a three-month absence with an ankle injury.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

The 29-year-old has made just 15 appearances for Real since arriving in a big-money move from Chelsea, scoring once with five assists.

He has never appeared in less than 30 league matches over the course of his career, five times missing one or zero matches.

Of course, all of his absences show that Real is very comfortable playing and winning without Hazard. Zinedine Zidane’s men lost Sunday to drop behind Barcelona in La Liga, but that was just its second loss of the league season.

Real will be taxed in depth like its rivals, with Wednesday’s visit from Man City followed by an El Clasico at the Bernabeu on March 1. Barcelona hosts Napoli on Tuesday.

Whether you like the playmaker or despise him, there must be some sense of sympathy for his latest ailments (even if Man City and Barca fans will likely offer a Jerry Seinfeld-esque, “That’s a shame”).

Watch Live: Manchester United, Wolves host bottom three battlers

Manchester United Watford live stream link
Photo by Leila Coker/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Leave a comment

A pair of Premier League basement dwellers face stiff tests in their bids to win another season in the top flight.

Manchester United hosts Watford on NBCSN while Wolves welcome Norwich City on CNBC as both home sides aim to improve the health of their top four hopes in 9 a.m. ET kickoffs.

[ WATCH: Man Utd-Watford | Wolves-Norwich ]

Lineups notes from both matches:

LINEUPS

Manchester United

Watford


Wolves

Norwich City

Three Serie A matches suspended due to virus deaths in Italy

coronavirus
Photo by Nicolò Campo/LightRocket via Getty Images
1 Comment

ROME (AP) Three Serie A soccer matches scheduled for Sunday in the northern regions of Lombardy and Veneto were suspended late Saturday after the deaths of two people infected with the virus from China.

On orders from the Italian government, the games called off were: Inter Milan vs. Sampdoria, Atalanta vs. Sassuolo and Hellas Verona vs. Cagliari.

Three other matches in Genoa, Turin and Rome on Sunday are going ahead as scheduled.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

A dozen towns in northern Italy effectively went into lockdown on Saturday after the deaths of two people infected with the coronavirus from China, and a growing cluster of cases with no direct links to the origin of the outbreak abroad.

“The government is working on urgent measures to decisively confront and contain the cases of coronavirus contagion,” read a letter from Sports Minister Vincenzo Spadafora to Italian Olympic Committee president Giovanni Malago shortly before midnight local time on Saturday. “Those measures also include the sports world in order to prevent risks and to better take care of the health of those involved in the events and competition.

“Following measures taken by the cabinet for protective reasons and maximum precaution, on orders of the government I’m asking you to suspend all sports events of every level and discipline planned for the Lombardy and Veneto regions on Sunday.”

The secondary contagions prompted local authorities in the Lombardy and Veneto regions to close schools, businesses and restaurants and to cancel sporting events and Masses.

The mayor of Milan, Italy’s business capital and the regional capital of Lombardy, shuttered public offices.

A 78-year-old man infected with the virus died in Veneto. A postmortem on a 77-year-old woman in Lombardy came back positive, though it wasn’t clear if illness from the virus caused her death.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Andrew Dampf on Twitter: https://twitter.com/AndrewDampf