Three things we learned from Arsenal’s Community Shield win vs. Chelsea

1 Comment

LONDON — On a glorious day at Wembley Stadium, London rivals Chelsea and Arsenal clashed in England’s capital for the Community Shield.

[ MORE: Wenger, Mou’s feud continues

Arsenal ran out 1-0 winners thanks to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s stunning strike in the first half, with Chelsea struggling to break down a stubborn Gunners outfit despite having more attempts at goal and more possession.

[ MORE: Full schedule for every PL club

Arsene Wenger secured his first win against Jose Mourinho at the 14 attempt, with the Gunners securing their second-straight Community Shield triumph and fourth-straight trophy in the past 12 months from a Wembley final.

[ VIDEO: Oxlade-Chamberlain’s stunner wins it ]

Here’s what we learned from the traditional curtain-raiser of the domestic season.

WENGER FINALLY OUT-MOURINHO’S, MOURINHO

Hanging out in the Wembley sunshine for the entirety of the game, Mourinho stood on the edge of his technical area with either his hands behind his back or folded as he sized up his team. For the first half, he was not impressed, as Chelsea labored and Arsenal had the cutting edge in the final-third. Eden Hazard was shackled by Hector Bellerin on the flank and then whenever he stepped inside, Francis Coquelin shut him down. After 14 attempts, Wenger finally had his first victory over Mourinho as a manager with the Frenchman going for tactics we saw him develop in the second half of last season.

In many ways, Wenger beat Mourinho at his own game. He deployed Coquelin as a true holding midfielder in the second half of last season to great success, as away from home the Gunners could stop the attacking threats of the opposition but still possessed enough quality to unlock the opposition. Arsenal’s naive nature has dissipated as Wenger can now grind out wins instead of playing “sexy football” for the sake of it. Wenger beat the master of disruption at his own game with late subs seeing the defensive duo of Gibbs and Arteta replace attacking Oxlade-Chamberlain and Mesut Ozil, as he’s finally figured out how to beat a Mourinho side. When you have a goalkeeper like ex-Chelsea stopper Petr Cech — playing against Chelsea for the first time since he left them after an 11-year spell where he won it all at Stamford Bridge — it always makes it easier to defend an early lead. Cech made a fine save from an Oscar free kick in the second half and his calming presence exuded confidence in Arsenal’s backline. He already looks like a superb signing for the Gunners.

CHELSEA’S STRIKER SHORTAGE STILL A WORRY

Starting up front for Chelsea on Sunday, Loic Remy was lost up top. The Frenchman played on the shoulder of Arsenal’s last defender but Chelsea just couldn’t find his lingering runs and he was replaced at half time with Radamel Falcao. With Diego Costa not included in the squad due to his reoccurring hamstring issues, the Blues look devoid up options in attack heading into the first week of the season. Mourinho has taken a chance on Falcao following his dismal loan spell at Manchester United last season, but after coming on at half time he looked considerably sharper than Remy and if Costa is missing for the start of the PL season, you’d expect Falcao to start in his place. With Costa’s fitness issues a concern, will Chelsea dip into the market to sign a new striker between now and the end of the summer transfer window on Sept. 1?

“[We have] three top strikers. If one is injured, we have two. No concerns, no protections,” Mourinho said in the build-up to this game. “It’s a position where we’re very strong. I’m not worried, match after match, and we have a fantastic group of strikers so no problem.”

Jose, are you sure?

CAZORLA WASTED ON THE WING; WALCOTT AN OPTION UP TOP

Eyebrows were raised when Santi Cazorla lined up on the left of midfield for Arsenal, as Coquelin was partnered by Aaron Ramsey in the center. After his heroic second half of last season in a deeper central role, Cazorla has become one of the first names on the teamsheet for Wenger. Playing with a 4-2-3-1 formation Cazorla, Chamberlain and Ozil interchanged in the three attacking midfield positions, but Cazorla wasn’t able to dictate the tempo of the game. Ramsey hasn’t hidden his desire to play in his preferred central role, but is the Welshman a better option than Cazorla alongside Coquelin? Then of course, you have Jack Wilshere too. Wenger has options in the middle but shunting Cazorla out to the left lessened his impact on the match.

Theo Walcott signed a lucrative new four-year deal at Arsenal this week, reportedly for $218,000 per week, and the England international is extremely important for Wenger. Not just because the 26-year-old is now Arsenal’s longest serving player in the current squad, but because he can play either up top or out wide. All the talk this summer has been about Wenger spending outrageous money on a new top-class striker and although Walcott’s strikerate hasn’t been outstanding (76 goals in 300 appearances) if he gets a decent run up top he will deliver. He set up Oxlade-Chamberlain for Arsenal’s goal and was replaced by Olivier Giroud for the final 25 minutes. Walcott’s biggest problem is staying fit but if he can do that, Wenger has three classy strikers in Giroud, Danny Welbeck and Walcott. For now, Arsenal’s biggest problem has been solved.

PL Club Power Rankings: Week 15

Leave a comment

The congested schedule means we’ve had two match days since we last took stock of the Premier League.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

We’ve got a brand new Top Five (well, in terms of the four behind eventual champions Liverpool) and two teams dipping to season lows on our ol’ litmus test.

Green: New season-high ranking
Red: New season-low

[ MORE: PL Club Power Rankings archive ]


20. Watford — As many losses as goals (9), and that figure is one more than the Hornets’ total points. Perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise to see them on the verge of full-time manager No. 3, as full-time manager of Watford is a bit more like seasonal help.
Last week: 18
Season high: 17
Season low: 20
Last match: Lost 3-0 v. Burnley
Up next: 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday at Southampton

19. Everton — A top half team in terms of talent seeks the manager who can organize its way out of the drop zone. Might it be this guy? Better than the alternatives.
Last week: 17
Season high: 5
Season low: 19
Last match: Lost 2-0 v. Norwich City
Up next: 11:30 a.m. ET Sunday at Leicester City

18. Norwich City — The first team to 10 losses is four points shy of 17th.
Last week: 16
Season high: 10
Season low: 20
Last match: Won 2-0 at Everton
Up next: 9 a.m. ET Sunday v. Arsenal

17. West Ham United — A gigantic ball of “blah.” Should thank Everton for existing so people aren’t more focused on this particular collection of currently squandered talent.
Last week: 20
Season high: 5
Season low: 20
Last match: Lost 3-2 v. Spurs
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Chelsea

16. Bournemouth — It’s just not good enough, is it? To have held onto Callum Wilson and get another step up in class from Philip Billing and still be so wildly inconsistent.
Last week: 11
Season high: 6
Season low: 17
Last match: Lost 2-1 v. Wolves
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Spurs

15. Southampton — It really feels like the Danny Ings revival show could rival any story for the best individual one in the league this season. Happy to see Ralph Hasenhuttl get some good performances, as he was being scapegoated in a hurry.
Last week: 19
Season high: 13
Season low: 20
Last match: Drew 2-2 at Arsenal
Up next: 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday v. Watford

14. Aston Villa — Allowing a league-worst 18.8 shots per game, but staying in the mix thanks to Tom Heaton and Tyrone Mings.
Last week: 13
Season high: 8
Season low: 15
Last match: Won 2-0 v. Newcastle United
Up next: 11 a.m. ET Sunday at Manchester United

13. Arsenal — The Gunners back line gets a lot of heat, and rightly so, but maybe a little help from the midfield would be nice considering Sokratis Papastathopoulos and David Luiz have combined for 39 blocks. Sokratis is third in the PL and Luiz fourth.
Last week: 12
Season high: 4
Season low: 12
Last match: Drew 2-2 v. Southampton
Up next: 9 a.m. ET Sunday at Norwich City


12. Brighton and Hove Albion — First win ever away to Arsenal is another feather in the cap of Graham Potter, especially nice considering they had lost four on the bounce.
Last week: 14
Season high: 6
Season low: 18
Last match: Lost 2-0 v. Leicester City
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Liverpool

11. Newcastle United — No one is punching above its weight more than Steve Bruce‘s Magpies, and they’ve been aided in a big way by Martin Dubravka. The Slovakian goalkeeper has a league-best 44 saves from shots inside the 18.

Also, according to Understat’s xG numbers, they should’ve lost to the Blades. In fat, the xG table says they should be dead last. Life’s funny like that. It’s Steve Bruce’s world and we’re living in it.
Last week: 15
Season high: 11
Season low: 20
Last match: Lost 2-0 at Aston Villa
Up next: 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday v. Man City

https://understat.com/match/11786

10. Sheffield United — Just lost for the first time since September. That’s amazing.
Last week: 6
Season high: 5
Season low: 17
Last match: Drew 3-3 v. Manchester United
Up next: 9 a.m. ET Sunday v. Wolves

9. Burnley — Striker Chris Wood has been credited with 12 “big chances missed” by Sofascore, more than any player in the league.
Last week: 7
Season high: 5
Season low: 15
Last match: Won 3-0 at Watford
Up next: 10 a.m. Saturday v. Crystal Palace

8. Spurs — Jose Mourinho learned Wednesday that Moussa Sissoko is nice for the squad, but not to be leaned on.
Last week: 9
Season high: 2
Season low: 16
Last match: Won 3-2 at West Ham United
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. Bournemouth

7. Crystal Palace — Wilfried Zaha‘s 68 dribbles are 13 more than anyone else in the league.
Last week: 10
Season high: 5
Season low: 18
Last match: Lost 2-1 v. Liverpool
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday at Burnley

6. Manchester United — Ole had himself a moment in outfoxing Mourinho without Pogba or Martial.
Last week: 8
Season high: 2
Season low: 16
Last match: Drew 3-3 at Sheffield United
Up next: 11:30 a.m. Sunday v. Aston Villa

5. Chelsea — We told you, Frank. WE TOLD YOU.
Last week: 4
Season high: 2
Season low: 12
Last match: Lost 2-1 at Man City
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. West Ham United

4. Manchester City — Aymeric Laporte is still two months away and that’s two months too long.
Last week: 2
Season high: 1
Season low: 3
Last match: Won 2-1 v. Chelsea
Up next: 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday at Newcastle United

3. Wolves — This is going to sound nuts, but there are days I’d rather see Liverpool on my schedule than Wolves. The Reds are obviously better weaponized, but Wolves come at you in waves, man, and Nuno Espirito Santo is doing it without his best center back.
Last week: 5
Season high: 3
Season low: 17
Last match: Won 2-1 at Bournemouth
Up next: 9 a.m. ET Sunday v. Sheffield United

2. Leicester City — How’s this for an unsustainable stat? Wilfred Ndidi and Ricardo Pereira rank first and second in the league in tackles, with 67 and 62.
Last week: 3
Season high: 2
Season low: 10
Last match: Won 2-0 at Brighton and Hove Albion
Up next: 11:30 a.m. ET Sunday v. Everton
1. Liverpool — Big Virgil Van Dijk is on track to become the first Premier League player to complete 1000 passes this season, currently at 953.
Last week: 1
Season high: 1
Season low: 3
Last match: Won 2-1 at Crystal Palace
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Saturday v. Brighton and Hove Albion

Report: Everton targeting former Porto, Fener boss Pereira

Photo by Visual China Group via Getty Images
Leave a comment

Everton might be looking to the Chinese Super League for its next manager.

Vitor Pereira is the top target for the Merseyside set, report our partners at Sky Sports, as the Toffees begin life after Thursday’s firing of Marco Silva.

Pereira, 51, has been in management since 2002, leading Porto, Olympiacos, Fenerbahce, and current club Shanghai SIPG amongst others.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

He’s won titles in Greece, China, Saudi Arabia, and his native Portugal, but there are suitors beyond the Toffees’ reported interest.

The 51-year-old is currently one of the highest paid coaches in the world and was recently offered the job of managing the Chinese national team.

It is understood he is currently considering a new contract offer from Shanghai, which will guarantee he earns £30m a year.

Duncan Ferguson is the interim boss as Everton hosts Chelsea this weekend.

MLS teams no longer will play every opponent each season

Photo by Jim Bennett/Getty Images
Leave a comment

NEW YORK (AP) Major League Soccer is breaking away from soccer’s tradition of having each team play every opponent in its league.

MLS is expanding to 26 teams in 2020 with the additions of Miami and Nashville but will keep a 34-game regular-season schedule. A team will play each of its 12 conference opponents home and away, and will face only 10 of the 13 teams in the other conference.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Nashville opens Feb. 29 at home against Atlanta and David Beckham’s Inter Miami starts March 1 at Los Angeles, the league said Thursday in announcing all home openers. Defending champion Seattle opens March 1 against Chicago.

Other Feb. 29 openers are Colorado at D.C., New England at Montreal, LA Galaxy at Houston, Toronto at San Jose, Philadelphia at Dallas, Salt Lake at Orlando and Kansas City at Vancouver. Games the following day include New York City at Columbus, Cincinnati at New York Red Bulls and Minnesota at Portland.

Home openers on March 7 are Chicago at New England, Red Bulls at Salt Lake, NYC at Toronto, Cincinnati at Atlanta, Houston at Kansas City, Orlando at Colorado and Vancouver at LA Galaxy. Four more home openers are set for March 14: Dallas at NYC, LA Galaxy at Miami, D.C. at Cincinnati and San Jose at Philadelphia.

The final home openers are Red Bulls at Minnesota on March 15 and Atlanta at Chicago on March 21 as the Fire return downtown to Soldier Field, their home from 1997-2005. The played in suburban Bridgeview from 2006 through last season.

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

Saint-Maximin proud to score first Premier League goal on mom’s birthday

Leave a comment

Newcastle United is reveling in another win, the Magpies claiming a point for the fifth time in six matches with a 2-0 win at Sheffield United.

Allan Saint-Maximin was richly rewarded for his effervescent season with a first Premier League goal, though it came in unexpected fashion.

[ RECAP: Blades 0-2 Newcastle ]

The dribbling wizard rose above his mark to head a Javi Manquillo cross past Dean Henderson for the first goal of the match at Bramall Lane, and he was quite happy to do it on a memorable day for his family.

“It’s special because I score with my head and I never think I can score with my head,” he said, via The Chronicle.  “I’m really proud because today is the birthday of my mother, and I score my first goal for my mother and I’m really happy to do that.”

Saint-Maximin has quickly become a fan favorite, and the Frenchman showed he’s ready with a joke, too, when noting midfield Jonjo Shelvey scored his team-best fourth goal of the season thanks to some decisive refereeing from Stuart Atwell and VAR.

[ MORE: Wilder enraged with VAR ]

“I’m happy for the best striker in Newcastle – four goals.”

Funny stuff from the man his manager Steve Bruce once described by saying, “He’s only 22 and he’s got more outfits than I’ve seen.”