Three things we learned from Arsenal vs. Chelsea

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LONDON — On Sunday at the Emirates Stadium Chelsea predictably ground out a 0-0 draw at Arsenal to inch closer towards clinching the Premier League title.

[ VIDEO: Oscar taken to hospital ]

In a game which had no goals and numerous talking points — most of them penalty decisions not awarded by the referee — we learned plenty about how resolute Chelsea is and how far the Gunners are from overtaking their London rivals as they aim to make a title surge next season.

[ RELATED: Mourinho wins tactical battle ]

Here are three things we learned from a rambunctious London derby.

ITS HARD TO GET A PK FROM MICHAEL OLIVER

In the first half three, if not four, penalty shouts were waved away by referee Michael Oliver. The first one in the seventh minute, Oscar seemed to embellish the contact with Hector Bellerin slightly as he fell to the ground. The second incident, which resulted in Oscar leaving the Emirates at half time and heading to hospital amid suspected concussion, was the most blatant penalty kick you will see in a long time. Cesc Fabregs (roundly booed on his return to Arsenal by the home fans) dinked in a lovely ball over the top which set Oscar free and as he lobbed the ball over David Ospina, the Colombian goalkeeper cleaned him out in a clattering collision. Bellerin got back to clear the ball off the line, but Oscar was visibly shaken. A third penalty appeal for Chelsea was waved away in the 23rd minute and Fabregas, much to the amusement of the home fans, was booked for simulation. There was definitely contact between Fabregas and Santi Cazorla right on the edge of the box and Fabregas could feel hard done by.

Just as Mourinho was growing more and more incensed on the touchline, Arsenal’s fans were then up in arms as Cazorla’s shot appeared to strike Cahill on the arm as he threw himself in to block the effort. Did Cahill intentionally raise his arm? No. But he did dive in and when you don’t have control of your body, you don’t have control of the situation. Look, referees have a tough job in the PL but Oliver got at least three key decisions wrong on Sunday as at least one penalty kick should’ve been awarded for the horrific of challenge on Oscar.

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How did Oscar not win a penalty?

LACK OF PACE IN FINAL THIRD THWARTS GUNNERS

Sure, Chelsea is a very good defensive side but Arsenal’s Mesut Ozil, Olivier Giroud and Aaron Ramsey made it easy for Mourinho’s team with their slow rate of play as everything was far too congested in central areas. The pace of Danny Welbeck and Theo Walcott would have helped and Wenger didn’t introduce those players until the final 15 minutes when Arsenal finally got the ball out wide and got in behind the blue wall which had parked itself on their edge of their own penalty box. By then, it was way too late as the Gunners played into Chelsea’s hands and were reduced to just one shot on target in the entire match. Three of Chelsea’s back four were voted in the PFA’s Premier Legaue Team of the Season on Sunday and John Terry, Gary Cahill and Branislav Ivanovic proved exactly why they are some of the best in European and World soccer.

[ RELATED: Who was snubbed for team of the season? ]

Terry was sublime. His reading of the game totally nullified the threat of Giroud and he won every ball which was clipped into Arsenal’s French forward. Chants of “Boring, Boring Chelsea!” rang out from the home fans towards the end of the game, but that will have been music to the ears of Mourinho and his players as they secured another point and put on another defensive masterclass to inch closer to winning the Premier League title.

“FALSE NINE” A REAL OPTION FOR CHELSEA

The “false nine” experiment only lasted for 45 minutes for Chelsea on Sunday (due to Oscar’s early removal due to a concussion) and although it isn’t ideal, the formation remains a real option for the Blues. With Diego Costa still nursing his hamstring injury, Loic Remy out and Didier Drogba only fit enough for the bench, Mourinho decided to start with Oscar up front and a fluid three of Ramires on the right, Willian in the middle and Eden Hazard on the left underneath him. Their movement, coupled with third-man running from Fabregas or Ramires, worked well and with Chelsea eager to spring counter attacks as Arsenal ran out of ideas in attack, this experiment proved it can be carried out again if Costa or Remy are both missing for a few games next season. Some would argue that Chelsea need to buy another forward this summer but away from home the “false nine” formation works perfectly and helped Chelsea get the draw they needed but also kept an attacking threat.

Red-hot Martinez extends record as Atlanta edge Orlando (video)

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The game in 200 words (or less):  Josef Martinez remains unstoppable, scoring in a record 12 consecutive games. Throughout that span, the Venezuelan has recorded 17 goals, with one of those giving Atlanta United the 1-0 victory against rival Orlando City on Friday night. The talk of the league remain Carlos Vela – deservingly so – but Martinez continues to put together another superlative season. The Five Stripes, who have won five straight league games, continue on a positive trend, too. Worried after a slow start to the season under Frank De Boer, the defending MLS Cup champions regain the top position in the Eastern Conference. Meanwhile, Orlando – winless in their last two – will look to bounce back quickly as they remain tied with seventh place Montreal.

Three moments that mattered

10′ — Tesho misses a clear one-on-one early on  — Tesho had everything going for him, but then he failed to finish.

60′ — Martinez continues to score  — Aside from Vela, no one has been more reliable than the Venezuelan when it comes to scoring goals.

88′ — Villalba nearly makes it two for Atlanta — The Five Stripes were this close of ending things early against their rivals.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Miles Robinson

Goalscorers: Martinez (60′)

Everton’s Silva: ‘It is concerning about the goals we didn’t score’

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Like in the two games leading into Friday night, Everton have done their part in creating clear-cut chances.

They haven’t done their part in finishing, however. A major point of concern for manager Marco Silva following his side’s 2-0 loss against Aston Villa. From the BBC:

“It is really difficult to see how we can lose this game when we create so many chances to score. It is a tough place to play football.”

The Toffees have now outshot all three opponents they’ve faced this season (34-21), but have only a goal to speak for their attacking dominance. Against Villa, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Theo Walcott squandered ideal chances in the first and second halves, respectively. In the minutes following his Everton debut, Alex Iwobi was the closest to converting for the visitors, hitting the post in the closing minutes of the match.

Silva, as critical as ever before, acknowledges that despite his team succeeding when it comes to creating chances, they desperately need to move the ball past the white line.

“The most difficult thing is to create and when you do you have to put the ball in the net,” the 42-year-old added. “It is concerning about the goals we didn’t score and of course we should score more. Against Palace we created lots of chances to score and didn’t and again today.”

With a challenging bout against Wolves at Goodison Park next on the schedule, the Portuguese will certainly look to tinker his attack to improve the team’s poor conversion rate. Despite falling to score 10 yards in, Iwobi contributed positively for Everton at Villa Park. Moise Kean, still adjusting to the rigors of the league, can be another prudent option to consider.

Luckily, Everton have time – and a match against Lincoln City midweek – to weigh their options. Silva, as he clearly explained at Villa Park, would want the goals to come in sooner rather than later.

Villa’s Wesley hopes to ‘continue like this’ after scoring first goal

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Anwar El Ghazi was the x-factor Friday night, giving every Aston Villa supporter in attendance at Villa Park the excuse to roar at the top of their lungs following his composed finish in the dying seconds of stoppage time.

But about an hour earlier, Villa’s $28-million striker, Wesley, gave the same supporters a reason to believe that they had a chance against Everton, and, most importantly, that Villa made the right decision in securing his signature just months ago.

[ MORE: Recap | Highlights ]

With a timely run and a well-paced strike, the Brazilian opened his Premier League and Aston Villa account. Something manager Dean Smith knew was bound to happen. From the BBC:

“Wesley is not rewarding me but this performance was very good tonight. I believe in him, I have watched him for a while at Club Bruges, playing in the Champions League so I know the calibre of player we were bringing in. You can’t judge someone after two games.”

Prior to Friday, Wesley was less effective than expected in the claret and blue, recording only two shots on target in his first 164 minutes in the league. Smith was swarmed with questions about the striker’s ineffectiveness as the pressure continued to pile on.

Against Everton, however, with the Villa struggling to keep possession and most playing through frenetic counter attacks, the 22-year-old made the most out of the small number of chances he saw. 21 minutes in, he scored. A couple of minutes later – if it wasn’t for a superb last-second tackle from Everton’s Yerry Mina – the Brazilian would have had a brace.

When he wasn’t aiming for goal, the striker was effectively displacing Everton’s back four with his clever runs and brawny hold-up play. One could tell that the Brazilian was playing the game to his strengths, in peace.

“I am very happy tonight, what a performance from the team,” Wesley said after the match. “We worked hard, played very well and we hope to continue like this week by week then we will see what happens.

“The manager knows me, he sees me everyday working hard and the supporters know me too. I keep calm, I know my qualities and today you saw that I can do.

“I hope to continue like this, the last two games were very difficult but now I have to help my team with goals.”

Time will tell if Wesley will continue on the same path, but after a slow start, its quite crystal clear that everyone at Aston Villa is behind the Brazilian striker.

Late El Ghazi goal seals Aston Villa victory over Everton

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With three points under their belt and Villa Park rocking like never before, it now feels like Aston Villa are finally back in the Premier League.

Pinned back the majority of the second half, trying to conserve a 1-0 lead, Anwar El Ghazi‘s last-gasp goal sealed the deal for Villa, edging Everton 2-0 on Friday.

Wesley‘s cathartic welcome to the Premier League 21 minutes in gave Dean Smith‘s side the room to breathe, despite being behind the ball the majority of the match.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]


Four things we learned

1. Certainly not the case last time they featured in the Premier League, Villa now have the luxury of boasting game-changing choices off the bench like El Ghazi, who can come in and finish things off.

2. Three matches in, and the Toffees’ glaring void is a clinical finisher up top. They’ll need to find a solution, sooner rather than later.

3.  In the 30-minute cameo, Alex Iwobi displayed that he can turn out to be a difference-maker for Everton this season, if utilized properly.

4. On a good night, there aren’t many stadiums that roar louder than Villa Park.

Man of the Match


Jota, positive for 77 minutes on the right side of the midfield, combined time and time again with Villa right back Frederic Guilbert for the greater good of creating energetic counters. The Spaniard’s first assist of the season came in similar fashion, when Wesley finished off his precise through ball.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Everton, like in the first half, imposed themselves on the home side, dominating control of the ball. A lack of fishing and creativity in the final third, however, complicated things for Marco Silva‘s side. As the clocked ticked, the ingenuity was nowhere to be found.

Shortly after coming on, Iwobi put forward the clearest chance Everton had experienced all night. The substitute’s shot, though, struck post, denying any chances of a brilliant debut by the former Arsenal man.

Villa continued to sit back with its four-man backline and Douglas Luiz right above as the No. 6, while remaining attentive on when to spring forward and take advantage of an unbalanced Everton.

El Ghazi surprised many, riffling a shot from 25 yards out. Pickford, vigilant as ever before, calmly blocked it out of danger.

Right before stoppage time, the Toffees were a couple of feet from walking away from Villa Park with a vital point. Theo Wolcott, however, failed to keep his strike leveled, skying the ball well over the bar.

Just minutes later, substitute El-Ghazi showed those watching how to finish, leading Villa to their first Premier League win since 2016.