Arsenal ooze class in securing back-to-back FA Cups. But how can they challenge for the Premier League next season?

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LONDON — For the second-straight season Arsenal lifted the FA Cup trophy at Wembley Stadium as the Gunners continue to edge their way into the conversation for the Premier League title next season.

[ RELATED: Three things we learned ]

Arsene Wenger’s men battered Aston Villa 4-0 at Wembley – the biggest victory in an FA Cup final since Manchester United’s 4-0 win over Everton in 1994 – and from start to finish they oozed class with Man of the Match Santi Cazorla controlling the tempo and the pacey duo of Alexis Sanchez and Theo Walcott ripping Villa’s shaky defense to pieces.

A record 12th FA Cup win will be lauded, as it should, and it has capped off yet another fine second half to the season for the Gunners. Wenger’s men have lost just two of their final 24 League and FA Cup games of the season on their way to adding a second-straight FA Cup to the trophy cabinet.

Speaking after the match, Wenger was delighted that his side cruised to victory and believes they’ve made progress this season.

“We feel we have made progress since the start of the season. That is for sure,” Wenger said. “The way we play and the way we manage our games. In our togetherness as well. Our certainty about our football. We finish third, we won the cup. Since January I think we have made a huge number of points. It is a good platform to do better next season. But  in England it is not like in any other country, you have six teams who can win the Premier League. I know people don’t accept that but it is the reality.”

Wenger made a big decision to bring in Theo Walcott  to start ahead of Olivier Giroud up top but the Englishman — who was injured from January 2014 to January 2015 after tearing his ACL in an FA Cup third-round match against rivals Tottenham — was pivotal in unlocking Villa’s defense just before half time with a powerful volley to open the scoring.

“I had many big decisions to make before the game day because I had to leave big players out of the squad. Difficult decisions. I just tried to find a good balance in the team,” Wenger said. “Walcott was on a high because he scored a hat trick last week. He just came back into good form. Giroud has given a lot to the team since January. But in recent games I felt he was a bit jaded.”

[ RELATED: Full PL season reviews ]

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Aston Villa v Arsenal – FA Cup Final

Saturday’s success — which was made certain with a thunderbolt from Alexis Sanchez, a header from Per Mertesacker and a late Giroud flick —  was the Frenchman’s six FA Cup crown which puts him at the top of the list alongside George Ramsay as the most successful managers in the competitions long and illustrious history. Wenger’s tactics were spot on at Wembley, as Arsenal’s plan to play pacey attackers against Villa’s pedestrian backline delivered a sublime attacking display with the Villans failing to gain any foothold whatsoever in the game.

“I thought the pace would be a problem for them because they play high,” Wenger said. “We had combined pace of Sanchez and Walcott. It was for us to dominate the midfield to use our strikers. If you manage to dominate the midfield we would be dangerous.”

Wenger’s next aim will be to challenge for the Premier League. The Gunners haven’t won the PL since 2004 and a decade on from their last success they now seem to be mounting a legitimate challenge to Manchester City and Manchester United to try and snatch the crown away from Chelsea next season.

“I think of course we can push on. Why not?” Wenger asked. “We have won the Premier League in the past when we had the potential to do it. That’s what we want to do again.”

How can they do it?

Well, when you look at the strength of Arsenal’s squad on Saturday, it was quite stunning. Danny Welbeck, Mathieu Debuchy and Mikel Arteta was injured. Olivier Giroud, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Gabriel and Jack Wilshere were on the bench. Calum Chambers and Tomas Rosickey weren’t even in the squad. Yeah, the Gunners are stacked. Asked if he plans to strengthen this summer, Wenger was jovial but revealed a lot of thought will go into the next additions.

“I am not in a buying mood tonight. I will buy a drink for my players,” Wenger joked. “We will see what is going on in the transfer market but we have a good base and we have some time now because we don’t play a qualifier in the Champions League. We have a good confidence level. Let’s show that we can be intelligent over the summer.”

Being intelligent for Arsenal means buying a top class goalkeeper, a star center forward and perhaps a powerful box-to-box midfielder in the mold of Paul Pogba. Wenger confirmed he is happy with his midfielders and said he isn’t interested in Juventus hard man Arturo Vidal, but the Gunners are now in a sound financial situation where they can go out and add one or two world class talents each summer to augment their sturdy squad. That’s all they need, two or three intelligent buys to push them onto the next level.

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Aston Villa v Arsenal – FA Cup Final

Giroud, who flicked home his 19th goal of the season in the final minute, agrees with Wenger that the aim must be to win the title next season.

“The Premier League title is the target. Hopefully we will be there,” Giroud said. “Without the injuries and if we keep this squad with one or two more players then we will have a good chance to challenge for the title.”

So does Walcott, who has only got one-year left on his current deal but Wenger is desperate for the 26-year-old England international to stick around.

“The Premier League has to be the next target for us,” Walcott said. “That’s two FA Cup wins now but this is one of the best squads we have had at Arsenal so we should be achieving more. We need to start well in the Premier League next year.”

Now, without the rigmarole of having to play in a UEFA Champions League playoff match in August for just the second time in five seasons, they can approach next season knowing they’re already in the UCL group stages and can offer that to potential signings over the summer. Wenger’s men have notoriously been slow starters but with the strength of their current squad and the togetherness he referred to, the north Londoners are in a very good place.

The big question now is that after a season of progress in terms of their PL league position from fourth to third, can Arsenal gel over the offseason and add key players who can help them go to the next level.

“That’s what we want to show next season. We don’t know how good the other teams will be,” Wenger said. “It is about consistency at the top level and we have shown signs of consistency. In the past as well when we won leagues we showed consistency. We are the only ones who didn’t lose for 49 games. Nobody else has done it. When you have a good confidence level and quality, you can be consistent.”

As for Villa, it was a bad day at the office for Tim Sherwood’s side who failed to register a single shot on target as Arsenal blew past them at Wembley.

“They have outstanding, world class footballers and we couldn’t nullify their threat. We couldn’t impose ourselves on them either… They deserved to win the game. No question about that,” said a dejected Sherwood. “It was quite obvious that they had their own way today and dominated the football match.”

Sherwood kept Villa in the PL, his main aim when taking over the Midlands club in February, but is under no illusions as to the challenge ahead of him this summer as he confirmed a number of players have already been told they can move on and find new clubs.

“The team has scrapped relegation for the last four seasons which is not good enough for a club like Aston Villa. We need to change some of their mentalities because some of the players are used to losing football matches and that is not a good habit to have,” Sherwood added.

For Arsenal, the opposite is true. Can they now bottle up their scorching second half of the season and unleash it from the start of the 2015-16 season?

If Wenger can keep his players fit, keep his massive squad happy and add a few key additions, Arsenal will go very close to winning it all next season. Progress is the key word at Arsenal during the 2014-15 season.

FA Cup fourth round live! Scores, how to watch live, predictions

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The FA Cup always delivers shocks and plenty of Premier League clubs have tricky tasks facing them in the fourth round.

After Aston Villa, Newcastle, Nottingham Forest and Bournemouth were all knocked out by lower league opponents in round three, plus Everton, Chelsea, Crystal Palace, Arsenal and Brentford knocked out by fellow Premier League sides, there are only 10 top-flight teams left in the competition.

[ LIVE: Follow FA Cup scores, updates ]

Arsenal lost narrowly at Manchester City in heavyweight clash, while Brighton against Liverpool has the makings of a classic and Manchester United will be on upset alert against Reading and so too will West Ham as they face a tough trip to third-tier Derby County.

Read on for FA Cup stream info, fixtures, and predictions.


FA Cup live scores, schedule, dates, how to watch

Dates: Fourth round (January 27-30)
Times: Below
Online: Live updates via NBCSports.com
How to watch: ESPN+


FA Cup fourth round schedule

All games 10am ET unless otherwise stated

Friday
Man City 1-0 Arsenal – Recap/video highlights

Saturday
Accrington Stanley 1-3 Leeds United
Walsall 0-1 Leicester City
Fulham vs Sunderland
Bristol City vs West Brom
Sheffield Wednesday vs Fleetwood Town
Blackburn Rovers vs Birmingham City
Luton Town vs Grimsby Town
Ipswich Town vs Burnley
Southampton vs Blackpool
Preston North End vs Tottenham Hotspur – 1pm ET
Manchester United vs Reading – 3pm ET

Sunday
Brighton vs Liverpool – 8:30am ET
Stoke City vs Stevenage – 9am ET
Wrexham vs Sheffield United – 11:30am ET

Monday
Derby County vs West Ham – 2:45pm ET


FA Cup fourth round predictions – By Joe Prince-Wright

Friday
Man City 2-1 Arsenal

Saturday
Accrington Stanley 1-3 Leeds United
Walsall 1-2 Leicester City
Fulham 1-2 Sunderland
Bristol City 1-2 West Brom
Sheffield Wednesday 2-1 Fleetwood Town
Blackburn Rovers 1-1 Birmingham City
Luton Town 3-1 Grimsby Town
Ipswich Town 1-3 Burnley
Southampton 2-0 Blackpool
Preston North End 1-4 Tottenham Hotspur
Manchester United 2-1 Reading

Sunday
Brighton 2-2 Liverpool
Stoke City 2-1 Stevenage
Wrexham 1-2 Sheffield United

Monday
Derby County 1-1 West Ham


FA Cup third round replays

Tuesday 

Swansea City 1-2 (AET) Bristol City
Forest Green Rovers 1-2 Birmingham City (original tie postponed due to waterlogged pitch)
Wigan 1-2 Luton
Wolves 0-1 Liverpool
West Brom 4-0 Chesterfield

Wednesday

Leeds United 5-2 Cardiff City

Tuesday, January 24

Accrington Stanley vs Boreham Wood


FA Cup third round results

Friday

Manchester United 3-1 Everton

Saturday

Preston North End 3-1 Huddersfield Town
Reading 2-0 Watford
Tottenham 1-0 Portsmouth
Gillingham 0-1 Leicester City
Forest Green Rovers vs Birmingham City — PPD
Crystal Palace 1-2 Southampton
Hull City 0-2 Fulham
Middlesbrough 1-5 Brighton
Fleetwood Town 2-1 QPR
Ipswich Town 4-1 Rotherham
Bournemouth 2-4 Burnley
Blackpool 4-1 Nottingham Forest
Chesterfield 3-3 West Brom
Millwall 0-2 Sheffield United
Boreham Wood 1-1 Accrington Stanley
Shrewsbury Town 1-2 Sunderland
Brentford 0-1 West Ham
Coventry City 3-4 Wrexham
Luton Town 1-1 Wigan
Grimsby Town 1-0 Burton Albion
Sheffield Wednesday 2-1 Newcastle
Liverpool 2-2 Wolves

Sunday

Bristol City 1-1 Swansea City
Derby County 3-0 Barnsley
Cardiff City 2-2 Leeds
Stockport 1-2 Walsall
Hartlepool 0-3 Stoke City
Norwich 0-1 Blackpool
Aston Villa 1-2 Stevenage
Man City 4-0 Chelsea

Monday

Oxford United 0-3 Arsenal


Weston McKennie set to join Leeds: Is this a good move for the USMNT star?

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USMNT star Weston McKennie is set to sign for Leeds United from Juventus.

“Leeds United States of America” continues to grow with McKennie to join fellow Americans Tyler Adams and Brenden Aaronson playing for Jesse Marsch and newly-appointed assistant Chris Armas.

Who will be next to turn up at Elland Road, Christian Pulisic?

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA

Per Fabrizio Romano, McKennie will sign for Leeds on loan for a $1.4 million fee and Leeds have the option to buy him for just under $36 million in the summer.

Juventus boss Max Allegri confirmed that Juventus and Leeds have completed the deal and that the USMNT midfielder will not be available to play for the Italian giants against Monza on Sunday.

“There’s an agreement ready between clubs to sell McKennie. He won’t be available tomorrow,” Allegri said.


Would a move to Leeds be a good fit for Weston McKennie?

Stylistically the Premier League is a great fit for Weston McKennie and Leeds are probably one of the best teams he could move to.

He loves to fly into tackles and drive forward from midfield and playing just in front of Tyler Adams and Marc Roca or to the right of them would be a perfect spot for him at Leeds.

It would give Leeds more control of games and the Yorkshire club also play to his strengths. it’s a really good fit.

McKennie has struggled to have a big impact at Juve this season as injuries have taken their toll on him over the last few years. That would perhaps be the one concern about his move to the Premier League, as McKennie seems to pick up quite a few knocks.

However, looking at his stats below from this season at Juventus, the chances he creates per game and the shots per game will improve and his accurate passing will help Leeds become less susceptible on the counter.

McKennie is a player who rattles into tackles, feeds off the energy of his fans and his mentality is perfect for the aggressive side Jesse Marsch has created at Leeds.

The Texas born midfielder has always wanted to play in the Premier League and he’s got his wish at a club where he will play week in, week out and one which suits his style of play perfectly.

Weston McKennie
Graphic via FotMob.com

USMNT vs Colombia live: How to watch, stream link, start time

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Anthony Hudson takes the reins for his second friendly in charge of the USMNT, two days after the U.S. Soccer Federation confirmed that he’ll be the interim coach through a hiring process that could take through the end of the summer.

Hudson’s first game was a 2-1 loss to Serbia on Wednesday, as Julian Gressel cued up a Brandon Vazquez goal but a mistake at the back and a brilliant free kick helped the Serbians to victory.

[ MORE: Follow FA Cup scores, updates ]

San Jose star Cade Cowell impressed with his electric pace and engine, while Chelsea goalkeeper Gabriel Slonina was put in some tricky spots over his time. Walker Zimmerman and Aaron Long split time at center back, next to LA Galaxy youngster Jalen neal.

Colombia’s first game of 2023 is just its fifth since the conclusion of World Cup qualifying in 2022.

Los Cafeteros, like the USMNT, will not have a ton of usual suspects, but Frank Fabra will be joined by Cucho Hernandez, now with Columbus Crew, as well as five other MLS players.


How to watch USMNT vs Colombia live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 7:30pm ET, Saturday (January 28)
Stadium: Dignity Health Sports Park, Carson, Calif.
TV channels in English: TNT
TV channels en Español: Universo
Streaming en Español: Peacock


USMNT vs Colombia Preview

The Yanks fell 2-1 to Serbia in a match about as scattered as you’d expect for a largely out-of-season, MLS-based side and a Serbia team with droves of uncapped players.

Saturday’s opponents will be of similar ilk, as no player besides veteran Frank Fabra of Boca Juniors boasts more than three caps.

[ MORE: Grades for USMNT players at 2022 World Cup ]

With recent USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter currently under investigation by the U.S. Soccer Federation after he admitted kicking his now wife in 1991 when they were in college together, assistant coach Anthony Hudson will lead the USMNT. Hudson has been leading practice during the January camp and will take charge until the USMNT tabs a new coach by the end of summer.

Five players who went to the 2022 World Cup with the USMNT are on this roster (Aaron Long, Walker Zimmerman, Kellyn Acosta, Sean Johnson and Jesus Ferreira).


USMNT quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 13
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 11
Coach: Anthony Hudson (temporary)

Colombia quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 17
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 6
Coach: Nestor Lorenzo


USMNT vs Serbia video highlights, Brandon Vazquez goal video

Manchester United vs Reading: How to watch live, stream link, team news

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Manchester United looks to stay in the mix for a pair of domestic cups when it hosts old pal Paul Ince and Reading in the fourth round of the 2022 FA Cup on Saturday.

United scored a solid win at midweek to move within 90 minutes of the League Cup Final and of course also harbors hopes of winning the Europa League and, perhaps less so, the Premier League.

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA ] 

Reading sits 14th in the Championship, five points off the playoff places and fairly clear of the relegation mess.


Manchester United vs Reading, FA Cup fourth round: How to watch live, stream link

Kick off: 3pm ET, Saturday
TV Channel: ESPN+
Online: Updates via NBCSports.com


Key storylines & in-form players to watch 

Tom Ince, Paul’s son, is leading the club both in goals and assists, and sits among the leaders in pretty much everything else from tackles to completed dribbles.  Yakou Meite has also been a busy piece of what Reading has done well.

United’s stars are well-known, as Marcus Rashford continues to thrive at forward. Wout Weghorst picked up his first Man Utd goal at midweek and could be in line for more playing time while Anthony Martial recovers from injury.


Manchester United team news, injuries, lineup options

Manchester United won’t have Anthony Martial, Axel Tuanzebe, Diogo Dalot, Donny van de Beek, and Jadon Sancho, while Luke Shaw is a question mark with an illness.

Reading team news, injuries, lineup options

Paul Ince’s bid to upset United will not include Naby Sarr, Sam Hutchinson, and old foe Andy Carroll.