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.

Messi, Griezmann, Suarez turn on style with stunning goals in Barcelona win

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Barcelona are still in the La Liga title race. Just.

Lionel Messi, Antoine Griezmann and Luis Suarez combined to score stunning goals in a 4-1 win for Barcelona at high-flying Villarreal on Sunday.

Barcelona’s win means they are now four points behind Real Madrid in the La Liga title race with five games to go, as Real beat Athletic Bilbao 1-0 earlier on Sunday.

[ MORE: La Liga scores, schedule

Barcelona took the lead as Messi crossed for Griezmann and he didn’t convert his clever flick but Pau Torres put the ball into this own net.

Villarreal then equalized as Samuel Chukwueze launched a counter which Gerardo Moreno finished off after Santo Cazorla’s shot was saved.

Then Barcelona kicked on.

Suarez made it 2-1 with a stunner as Messi set him up and then Griezmann turned on the magic as Messi grabbed another assist.

Another Barcelona attack saw Suarez find Messi on the edge of the box and the Barcelona legend set up Griezmann with a delicious back heel flick.

The French striker, who was criticized by his manager Quique Setien in recent weeks, then clipped home a majestic chip to put Barcelona 3-1 up at El Madrigal.

Ansu Fati scored late on to seal the win as Messi hit the crossbar and scored another which was chalked off via VAR, as Barcelona kept the pressure on Real Madrid ahead of the final weeks of the La Liga season.

Barca aren’t giving up their La Liga title without a fight and they looked in superb form ahead of the Champions League resumption in August.

Tottenham – Everton preview: How to watch, odds, team news, prediction

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Tottenham – Everton is an intriguing clash on Monday (start time, 3pm ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) between teams who are separated by just one point and one place in the table but have been heading in very different directions since new managers arrived midseason.

TOTTENHAM – EVERTON STREAM LIVE

Spurs lost last time out at Sheffield United in very controversial fashion as Jose Mourinho now has a very tough task to guide them back to the Premier League ahead of the final six games of the season.

Carlo Ancelotti has Everton surging as they have lost just three of his 14 Premier League games in charge and those defeats came at Man City, Arsenal and Chelsea.

Tottenham – Everton is a game both teams will go all out to win in their pursuit of European action and this should be a beauty.


Team news

Tottenham may have Dele Alli available, as he suffered a slight hamstring injury after coming on as a sub in their defeat at Sheffield United. Aside from that Japhet Tanganga will return to training next week.

Everton should have Richarlison back fit as the Brazilian suffered a knock in their win against Leicester City.

What they’re saying

Jose Mourinho on Carlo Ancelotti: “I think everyone in football admires Carlo as a coach and as a person. If you don’t know him as a person, at least you know him as a coach. It’s not because I like him so much as a person that I’m going to say the obvious, which is: he’s one of the top managers in the world of the last two decades and of course now. I think it’s a privilege for the Premier League to have Carlo back, it’s a privilege for Everton to have Carlo as manager, or head coach, whatever way you want to call him.”

Carlo Ancelotti on teenager attacker Anthony Gordon: “He is doing really well and is ready to play for Everton, no doubt. He improved in the past six months and how he is playing [in training and games] gives me a lot of confidence and trust in him. He is a player with personality. You can find a lot of players with quality, but you have to show strong personality. In football, you need players with personality and character. Players who are not afraid to make decisions. Anthony is one of these. He is ready to be with us and part of what we are doing.”

Odds and ends (full matchweek odds)

Tottenham (+107) are the slight favorites but this should be a very tight game as Everton (+265) have been in really good form and look solid defensively. The value here is in a win for Everton or a tie (+250) in north London.

Prediction

Tottenham basically have to win all of their remaining games to have a chance of finishing fifth and a potential Champions League spot. Mourinho’s side won’t really want to be in the Europa League next season so if they don’t win here, what do they do? Everton would be delighted to be in the Europa League and I could see the Toffees edging this, especially if Richarlison is fit. I’m going for Tottenham 1-2 Everton.

Heroic Southampton stun Man City

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Southampton beat Manchester City 1-0 thanks to a heroic defensive display and a Che Adams wondergoal at St Mary’s Stadium on Sunday.

[ MORE: New PL TV schedule ]

Adams lobbed home from over 40 yards out in the first half to score his first Premier League and Southampton goal in style and Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side dug deep and held off wave after wave of Man City attack, as Pep Guardiola’s side followed up their 4-0 demolition of Liverpool by losing in disappointing fashion.

With the win Southampton move up to 13th in the table and have 43 points as they are three points off ninth, while Man City stay in second on 66 points and they are now 23 points behind Premier League champions Liverpool.


Three things we learned

1. Saints can defend: They had a few slices of luck but Saints’ defensive unit stood tall and they deserved this marquee win. Center backs Jan Bednarek and Jack Stephens were particularly brilliant, throwing themselves in the way of everything and leading by example. Full backs Kyle Walker-Peters and Ryan Bertrand covered so much ground, Alex McCarthy made a string of fine saves and Oriol Romeu in front of them shielded the back four superbly. What a result for Hasenhuttl as his project at Saints is kicking on very nicely since the restart. It take a lot to come back from the start they had this season (ahem, 9-0 defeat to Leicester) but the spirit is good and the spine of this team is solid. With Ings, Redmond and others in attack, Saints could be a top 10 team next season.

2. Man City leggy: You can forgive City for this win. They were bright and went close on several occasions but let’s not forget, they tore Liverpool apart on Thursday and had just over 48 hours rest before this game. Southampton had a week of rest and a week to prepare. It showed. Man City had an off day and just kind of ran out of ideas. That dominate the game but they lost and that has happened to them a few times this season (Norwich away, Chelsea away) and that is why they are so far behind Liverpool.

3. Priority is FA Cup, Champions League: Pep Guardiola clearly wants to focus on winning the FA Cup and the Champions League and that is fine. People will point to Guardiola losing three consecutive league games away from home for the first time in his career as a sign that Man City are in decline, but they lost at Man United and Chelsea and luck wasn’t on their side at Southampton. Let’s get some perspective here. Man City proved their point by hammering Liverpool 4-0 on Thursday and they will be back better next season. The changes Pep made for this game underlines that Man City’s head is elsewhere. They are going to finish second in the Premier League so why not focus on winning more trophies.

Man of the Match

Jan Bednarek – Basically every Saints player deserved this but I’m going for Bednarek, closely followed by Stephens, McCarthy and Ings. The spine of this Saints team worked so hard to preserve their early lead and they actually looked dangerous on their rare forays forward. What a win and win a defender Bednarek has become, as the ‘Polish Maldini’ continues to improve from a positional point of view.


The first real chance of the game arrived for Southampton and they took it in some style.

Oleksandr Zinchenko gave the ball away and Adams lobbed Ederson from 40 yards out to score his first Premier League goal in style as his teammates mobbed him.

Gabriel Jesus then almost finished at the back post as Man City kicked on after falling behind.

Raheem Sterling then sent in a wonderful cross to the center of the goal which almost found Jesus but Ings cleared away from danger. Sterling was then denied by Alex McCarthy, then Fernandinho hit the post and McCarthy denied David Silva as Man City came roaring back.

McCarthy then denied Mahrez at the near post as Man City continued to press for an equalizer, while Nathan Redmond had a shot which Ederson saved. Before the break Southampton settled themselves and Ings volleyed over after a great ball from Kyle Walker-Peters.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

At the start of the second half Jesus flicked a header from a corner just wide as Man City continued to create chances.

McCarthy then denied Jesus’ header and Stephens hacked away as Southampton were under severe pressure with McCarthy then denying David Silva.

Kevin de Bruyne and Phil Foden came on for the final 30 minutes as Man City cranked through the gears with James Ward-Prowse blocking a goalbound Bernardo Silva shot. Jesus had another header saved by McCarthy as Saints had a brief break which saw Adams close down Ederson who cleared.

Substitute Shane Long ran in on goal and that led to Stuart Armstrong having a shot on goal which Ederson saved brilliantly down low.

Late on Man City chucked everything at Southampton but some heroic defending sealed a huge win for Hasenhuttl’s side.

NBC Sports Premier League schedule

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The new NBC Sports Premier League schedule for the 2019-20 season has been released, with time and dates for the upcoming matchweeks confirmed and here’s how you can watch it all live on TV in the USA.

[ WATCH: Premier League video ] 

With games spread out across multiple days and many in separate time slots, there are lots of changes to your regular schedule as the league returns on June 17 after being suspended on March 13 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Games will be played in empty stadiums and at home venues for the most part, with the venues for a handful of games TBC due to UK government and police concerns.

The full TV schedule for the games this month are below, plus you can watch every single second of every single game live online via NBC Sports.com, the NBC Sports App and by purchasing the “Premier League Pass” via NBC Sports Gold and the new Peacock streaming service from NBC.

Below is the new schedule for the Premier League on NBC Sports from June 17 to July 22, as we will release the dates and times for the final matchweek of the 2019-20 season when they become available.


Premier League: How to watch, schedule in USA (all times EST)

Matchday 29

Wednesday, June 17: Aston Villa 0-0 Sheffield United
Wednesday, June 17: Man City 3-0 Arsenal

Matchday 30

Friday, June 19: Norwich 0-3 Southampton
Friday, June 19: Tottenham 1-1 Man United
Saturday, June 20: Watford 1-1 Leicester
Saturday, June 20: Brighton 2-1 Arsenal
Saturday, June 20: West Ham 0-2 Wolves
Saturday, June 20: Bournemouth 0-2 Crystal Palace
Sunday, June 21: Newcastle 3-0 Sheffield United
Sunday, June 21: Aston Villa 1-2 Chelsea
Sunday, June 21: Everton 0-0 Liverpool
Monday, June 22: Man City 5-0 Burnley

Matchday 31

Tuesday, June 23: Leicester 0-0 Brighton
Tuesday, June 23: Tottenham 2-0 West Ham
Wednesday, June 24: Man United 3-0 Sheffield United
Wednesday, June 24: Newcastle 1-1 Aston Villa
Wednesday, June 24: Norwich 0-1 Everton
Wednesday, June 24: Wolves 1-0 Bournemouth
Wednesday, June 24: Liverpool 4-0 Palace
Thursday, June 25: Southampton 0-2 Arsenal
Thursday, June 25: Burnley 1-0 Watford
Thursday, June 25: Chelsea 2-1 Man City

Matchday 32

Saturday, June 27: Aston Villa 0-1 Wolves
Sunday, June 28: Watford 1-3 Southampton
Monday, June 29: Crystal Palace 0-1 Burnley
Tuesday, June 30: Brighton 0-3 Man United
Wednesday, July 1: Everton 2-1 Leicester
Wednesday, July 1: Bournemouth 1-4 Newcastle
Wednesday, July 1: Arsenal 4-0 Norwich
Wednesday, July 1: West Ham 3-2 Chelsea
Thursday, July 2: Sheffield United 3-1 Tottenham
Thursday, July 2: Man City 4-0 Liverpool

Matchday 33

Saturday, July 4: Norwich City 0-1 Brighton
Saturday, July 4: Leicester 3-0 Crystal Palace
Saturday, July 4: Man United 5-2 Bournemouth
Saturday, July 4: Wolves 0-2 Arsenal
Saturday, July 4: Chelsea 3-0 Watford
Sunday, July 5: Burnley 1-1 Sheffield United
Sunday, July 5: Newcastle United 2-2 West Ham
Sunday, July 5: Liverpool 2-0 Aston Villa
Sunday, July 5: Southampton 1-0 Man City
Monday, July 6: Tottenham v. Everton

Matchday 34

Tuesday, July 7: Crystal Palace v. Chelsea, 1 p.m. ET
Tuesday, July 7: Watford v. Norwich City, 1 p.m. ET
Tuesday, July 7: Arsenal v. Leicester City, 3:15 p.m. ET
Wednesday, July 8: Man City v. Newcastle United, 1 p.m. ET
Wednesday, July 8: Sheffield United v. Wolves, 1 p.m. ET
Wednesday, July 8: West Ham v. Burnley, 1 p.m. ET
Wednesday, July 8: Brighton v. Liverpool, 3:15 p.m. ET
Thursday, July 9: Bournemouth v. Tottenham, 1 p.m. ET
Thursday, July 9: Everton v. Southampton, 1 p.m. ET
Thursday, July 9: Aston Villa v. Manchester United, 3:15 p.m. ET

Matchday 35

Saturday, July 11: Norwich City v. West Ham, 7:30 a.m. ET
Saturday, July 11: Watford v. Newcastle United, 7:30 a.m. ET
Saturday, July 11: Liverpool v. Burnley, 10 a.m. ET
Saturday, July 11: Sheffield United v. Chelsea, 12:30 p.m. ET
Saturday, July 11: Brighton v. Manchester City, 3 p.m. ET
Sunday, July 12: Wolves v. Everton, 7 a.m. ET
Sunday, July 12: Aston Villa v. Crystal Palace, 9 a.m. ET
Sunday, July 12: Tottenham v. Arsenal, 11:30 a.m. ET
Sunday, July 12: Bournemouth v. Leicester City, 2 p.m. ET
Monday, July 13: Man United v. Southampton, 3 p.m. ET

Matchday 36

Tuesday, July 14: Chelsea v. Norwich, 3:15 p.m. ET
Wednesday, July 15: Burnley v. Wolves, 1 p.m. ET
Wednesday, July 15: Man City v. Bournemouth, 1 p.m. ET
Wednesday, July 15: Newcastle v. Tottenham, 1 p.m. ET
Wednesday, July 15: Arsenal v. Liverpool, 3:15 p.m. ET
Thursday, July 16: Everton v. Aston Villa, 1 p.m. ET
Thursday, July 16: Leicester v Sheffield United, 1 p.m. ET
Thursday, July 16: Crystal Palace v. Man United, 3:15 p.m. ET
Thursday, July 16: Southampton v. Brighton, 3:15 p.m. ET
Friday, July 17: West Ham v. Watford, 3 p.m. ET

Matchday 37

Saturday, July 18: Norwich City v. Burnley, 12:30 p.m. ET
Sunday, July 19: Bournemouth v. Southampton, 9 a.m. ET
Sunday, July 19: Tottenham v. Leicester, 11 a.m. ET
Monday, July 20: Brighton v. Newcastle, 1 p.m. ET
Monday, July 20: Sheffield United v. Everton, 1 p.m. ET
Monday, July 20: Wolves v. Crystal Palace, 3:15 p.m. ET
Tuesday, July 21: Watford v. Man City, 1 p.m. ET
Tuesday, July 21: Aston Villa v. Arsenal, 3:15 p.m. ET
Wednesday, July 22: Man United v. West Ham, 1 p.m. ET
Wednesday, July 22: Liverpool v. Chelsea, 3:15 p.m. ET