Widespread disappointment proves Arsenal, Spurs edging closer

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LONDON — Even though Arsenal have enjoyed the most success in north London derbies in the past and have a more cluttered trophy cabinet than bitter rivals Tottenham Hotspur, the gap is closing.

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Faster than most believe.

On Sunday the rivals played out a tense, exciting 1-1 draw as Harry Kane‘s opener was canceled out by Keiran Gibbs’ late strike. In truth, a draw was probably a fair result but if Spurs would have held on to win, many Gunners fans wouldn’t have complained despite a deep feeling of melancholy sweeping over them during the two-week international break coming up.

Mauricio Pochettino‘s side bossed the first half, going ahead through Kane’s fifth goal in three games as he made the most of a defensive mix-up between Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker in the heart of Arsenal’s defense. Spurs dominated in midfield in the first half as Mousa Dembele, Eric Dier and Dele Alli swarmed Francis Coquelin and Santi Cazorla, the latter was taken off at half time after complaining of being dizzy. In the second half Spurs continued to attack and Petr Cech kept Arsenal in the game with saves from Christian Eriksen and Toby Alderweireld, while Kane was razor-sharp in and around the box.

After the game, both camps aired their disappointment at not getting all three points after the game but it was perhaps Spurs who felt most aggrieved as they missed a chance to move just two points behind their rivals in the standings.

“My feeling is that it was not fair. I think we deserved more in the way we played first half and second half  with the chances we created,” Pochettino said. “It’s true that we conceded some chances but my feeling is that we deserved to win the game.”

Spurs’ young side took the game to an injury-hit Arsenal who were missing Theo Walcott, Aaron Ramsey, Hector Bellerin and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and after a grueling six-day spell, the Argentine coach was happy with the overall performance, even though he believes his side deserved more.

“I am very proud of my players and the way that we played, the character we showed and the level what we did in the game,” Pochettino told Pro Soccer Talk. “In six days we played three games and it is always difficult when you play Monday, Thursday and Sunday and the opponent plays Saturday, Wednesday and Sunday. They have the advantage. I am very proud and pleased with my players. The effort was brilliant and I think we showed great character in the way that we played. We deserved more but in the end we have to be happy because it was a very busy week and we showed character, maturity. We are a very young squad. I am very pleased.”

Spurs are starting to turn the screw on Arsenal’s dominance in north London as they have drawn 1-1 on both trips to the Emirates under Pochettino since he took charge and beat Wenger’s side at White Hart Lane last season. A League Cup win for Arsenal at Spurs earlier this season annoyed them at the time, and they were frustrated once again on Sunday. Youngster Alli, who looked mature beyond his years in his first north London derby in the PL, revealed that Tottenham’s squad was “disappointed” with the draw and felt they “dominated most of the game” at the home of their bitter rivals. Gibbs, who saved Arsenal to score the equalizer just 181 seconds after coming off the bench, also shared a feeling of discontent.

“Obviously it’s disappointing to drop points, especially when we’re in such a strong position in the league,” Gibbs said.

Wenger, who has guided his side to join-top with Manchester City in the table, didn’t have many arguments with the draw, even if he felt a more clinical streak could have seen his side rally to grab a comeback win late on with Olivier Giroud missing three good chances as his manager revealed the French striker was “very angry” in the dressing room after the game. Given that fact and Arsenal coming off a tough week that included a 5-1 hammering at the hands of Bayern Munich in the UCL, Wenger was happy enough.

“When you are 1-0 down it is a mixture of relief and regret,” Wenger said. “If we were really clinical then we would have won it in the last 15 minutes. Giroud had the chances to score but if I try to be fair, I must say that the point is maybe a fair result.”

As for Pochettino, he was asked about Spurs’ progress in his second season in charge, as they are now 11 games unbeaten and just five points off the top with a third of the season in the books.

“I can speak about today, not about the Tottenham you have seen before, but I am very happy with the way we have developed our philosophy and our way,” Pochettino said. “Today was a very good example to see how we believe and the way we want to play. For us and our supporters they need to feel very proud of our players.”

How far can Spurs go this season as they chase a top four finish?

“I don’t know. This is another question mark because it is too far until the end of the season,” Pochettino continued. “In the way that we played today and the way that we are, it is impossible to set the limit. But we are very ambitious, we are winning people and we always think about the next game and try to win the next game. After that, we will see.”

What we saw at the Emirates on Sunday is two teams who are closer than they’ve been in many years as Pochettino’s young Spurs side pushed Arsenal all the way and, on another day, they could have ruled north London. Progress is being made by Spurs, although overcoming rivals Arsenal and finishing above them in the league for the first time in 21 years will still take a monumental effort and a drop in standards from their rivals. With reigning PL champs Chelsea languishing just above the relegation zone, a place has opened up in the top four for someone to take. This could be Spurs’ season to return to the Champions League as they look solid, energetic and their offensive weapons are back in-form.

On current form, it’s tough to see either Arsenal or Spurs not being in the top four at the end of the season. That would represent a seismic shift in the power struggle in north London, as Spurs seem to be clawing back ground on their rivals at a rapid rate. Last season they finished fifth, 11 points behind third-placed Arsenal. The Gunners possess more experience and a great number of players of a higher caliber, but Spurs’ organization offset that on Sunday. The gap is narrowing.

Leicester impressive again in 4-2 win over Burnley

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Leicester – Burnley saw Leicester City flex a bit of muscle en route to a mostly comfortable, yet somewhat thrilling, 4-2 victory at the King Power Stadium on Sunday.

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Harvey Barnes, Dennis Praet and James Justin scored the goals for Leicester, plus an own goal from Erik Pieters, as Brendan Rodgers’ side made it two wins from two games to start their 2020-21 Premier League campaign.

3 things we learned: Leicester – Burnley

1. Leicester back for another crack at top-four: It’s only two games, admittedly, but Leicester have the look of a side out to prove that their late-season collapse, which saw them fall from third to fifth in the final five games of the 2019-20 season, was very much an aberration. Rodgers’ men hardly ever looked worried as they cruised to a win against last season’s 10th-place finishers.

2. Foxes firepower: Leicester managed to score four goals without a single one of them coming from Jamie Vardy, who bagged 23 last season. James Maddison only made his return from injury on Sunday as well, lending credence to the notion this is far from a one-man team as has, to a degree, been an issue in the past. They might not actually finish inside the top-four this season, but they have the look of a side with plenty of staying power.

3. Burnley crying out for reinforcements: Sean Dyche had some rather critical thoughts about Burnley’s ongoing inability — or, perhaps, refusal — to move in a more timely manner to sign new players and improve the squad. Until such a change occurs, Dyche’s words are probably worth revisiting regularly.

Wood got the scoring started in Leicester – Burnley after just 10 minutes, with equal parts brute force and delicate touch. Charlie Taylor floated a cross to the back post, where Wood was waiting and battling for positioning with a defender. He managed to create a half-yard of space to allow for chest control and a quick, but difficult, finish from the corner of the six-yard box.

Jamie Vardy was instrumental in Leicester’s equalizer 10 minutes later, though hardly the typical manner in which he contributes to goals scored. Vardy latched onto a forward ball in an attempt to split the center backs, but was ultimately forced wide and to hold the ball up. He cut it back to Castagne, who played it on to Barnes for the far-post finish.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Leicester’s second goal was more a product on constant pressure than exquisite, incisive chance creation, but the ball hitting the back of the net counts all the same. Castagne overlapped down the right flank and hit a cross for Vardy as he streaked past the penalty spot. Erik Pieters wasn’t tight enough to Castagne to deny the cross, only to redirect it past the wrong-footed Nick Pope.

The Foxes’ third goal, however, was the result of a free-flowing attack involving a handful of blue shirts along the way. It ended with Ayoze Perez playing the ball across the penalty area and left back James Justin slotting home for his first PL goal in the 61st minute.

It was Justin who was beaten by Jimmy Dunne as he rose highest to bag a goal on his PL debut 12 minutes later, giving Burnley a brief glimmer of hope. 

It didn’t last long, though, as Dennis Praet bagged a stunning fourth goal for Leicester in the 79th minute. Barnes picked up the assist to go with his earlier goal, but it was Praet’s powerful finish that will get all of the headlines, and deservedly so.

Follow @AndyEdMLS

Klopp reaction on Thiago debut, Fabinho; loved ‘perfect’ Liverpool’s hunger

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The Klopp reaction from Chelsea v. Liverpool was full of smiles and laughs as he called the win ‘perfect’ in every way.

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Jurgen Klopp is a happy, happy man. He usually is, but his side took care of a much talked about Chelsea with minimal fuss at Stamford Bridge on Sunday to make it two wins from two this season for the reigning Premier League champions.

Sure, Andreas Christensen’s sending off right on half time shaped the game but so too did the hunger of Sadio Mane to strike twice early in the second half to secure the win.

[ MORE: Player ratings

A penalty save from Alisson and a debut for Thiago Alcantara made Klopp even happier and as long as captain Jordan Henderson didn’t suffer a serious injury, he said the trip to Chelsea could not have gone better.

Thiago debut showcases why he was bought?

Speaking to ProSoccerTalk after the game via a Zoom call, we asked for the Klopp reaction on Thiago Alcantara’s debut display and if it underlined exactly why he was signed from Bayern Munich.

Thiago came on at half time and completed 75 passes in 45 minutes, a new Premier League record, as the Spanish international slotted in superbly and allowed Liverpool to dictate the tempo of the game against an opponent which sat back deep and was only focusing on defending.

“We signed Thiago for different reasons and only one of them is against deep defending sides. We improved in that department a lot, I have to say, with all of the players who were already there before. But, yes, it is something that suits him. It is natural to him. I like that. Of course it is good. It is one reason of a lot,” Klopp said.

Fabinho dazzles as a stand-in center back; Jurgen Klopp reaction

ProSoccerTalk also asked Klopp about Fabinho’s display, as the Brazilian switched from his usual position of holding midfield to center back due to injuries to Joe Gomez and Joel Matip.

“Fabinho, yes! If Sadio wouldn’t have scored two goals then I think Fab would have been a proper contender for Man of the Match!” Klopp smiled. “I loved his performance, he played outstandingly well. He helped us a lot, with the ball and in defending as well. A proper performance.”

With Thiago arriving in midfield, Fabinho at center back could be something we see a lot more of this season, especially as Gomez and Matip have a nasty knack of picking up small injuries consistently.

Liverpool send out a message

Klopp admitted that his team are only focused on the three points each week, but when asked about making a statement early in the season by winning at a Chelsea side who has spent over $250 million on new players, the Liverpool boss raved about the performance of his side.

“I liked the performance a lot. We are not playing for two things, for three points and then showing everybody you ‘better be ready when we arrive’ or something. That’s not us,” Klopp said. “The next game will be incredibly difficult for their own reasons because Arsenal is obviously flying since a few months already, it is going to be really tough.

“For ourselves, and that we feel the way we play, with adaptations and improvements, with development, that made us successful and will make us successful if we really throw it consistently on the pitch. This Chelsea game away will, for the next 500 years, be one of the most difficult games you can ever play and it will become even more difficult now when all things things are settled for Chelsea. That is clear. For today, it was difficult enough but we did it and I’m happy enough.”

Chelsea’s Lampard: Happier with play in Liverpool loss than Brighton win

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Like a lot of neutrals, Chelsea manager Frank Lampard feels deprived of what could’ve been a thrilling second half between his new-look Blues and Liverpool on Sunday.

Scoreless heading into first half stoppage time, Andreas Christensen was sent off for a DOGSO tackle on Sadio Mane, who scored twice early in the second half in Liverpool’s 2-0 win at Stamford Bridge.

[ RECAP: Chelsea 0-2 Liverpool | 3 things ]

“For chances the first half was pretty even,” Lampard said after the game. “The red card changes (the game). Makes me go into a reshuffle and against a team of that quality it’s obviously going to be really difficult. I think it could be given or not, Kepa was coming out. If anything I’m surprised it’s a yellow to start and gets changed.”

While Lampard had questions regarding the red card, he didn’t try to make any excuses for Kepa Arrizabalaga’s second-half mistake that gifted Mane his second goal.

Lampard would not be drawn into discussions on Kepa’s status and the heavily-reported arrival of Eduoard Mendy from France, but he says the goalkeeper error and Jorginho’s late penalty miss take away from what could’ve been a point.

“Big mistake, clear mistake,” Lampard groused. “When you reflect on the half, without that mistake and (if we) make the penalty, it’s 1-1. In lots of ways I’m actually happier than I was after Brighton. Lots of individuals showed me lots of good things.”

Chelsea hosts Barnsley in League Cup action on Tuesday before visiting West Brom on Saturday, two prime chances for Lampard to get his players’ heads right without a top four challenger on the fixture list until Manchester United on Oct. 24.

Player ratings: Chelsea v. Liverpool

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Chelsea – Liverpool player ratings: This game ended up being a very straightforward win for the reigning Premier League champions.

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A red card to Andreas Christensen right on half time swung the game in Liverpool’s favor and two goals early in the second half from Sadio Mane sealed a comfortable win for Jurgen Klopp’s side. With big mistakes and star performance, the Chelsea – Liverpool player ratings are extremely mixed.

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Here’s a look Chelsea – Liverpool player ratings as Frank Lampard will be trying to keep things in perspective, while Liverpool and will be keen to keep building momentum.

Chelsea player ratings

Kepa: 3 – Wandering around early on and generally indecisive. Hesitant on the ball over the top which led to Christensen being sent off which forced the decision. Gave the second goal away with a poor mistake. He knows he will not be Chelsea’s goalkeeper with Edouard Mendy coming in soon.

Reece James: 6 – Wasn’t able to showcase his attacking talents from right back and Mane beat him to head home the first goal.

Andreas Christensen: 4 – He was actually playing pretty well until he was sent off right on half time. One long ball over the top set Mane free and Christensen hauled him down with Kepa dallying.

Kurt Zouma: 6 – Steady and tried his best to hold everything together at the back.

Marcos Alonso: 4 – He knows Chilwell is the first-choice left back, and he worked hard but was caught out on a one-two by Firmino and Salah for the first goal.

N’Golo Kante: 6 – One glorious chance to shoot when found in the box but looked for a pass. Struggled to shut Liverpool down.

Jorginho: 4 – A few loose passes, which is unlike him, and the captain struggled to hold down midfield. Missed a penalty kick too.

Mateo Kovacic: 7 – Plenty of mazy dribbles and was the one Chelsea midfield he looked to support the attack.

Mason Mount: 5 – Spent most of his time defending and wasn’t able to impact the game in a positive way.

Kai Havertz: 5 – Some lovely touches and oozes class on the ball, but not involved enough. Subbed off at half time.

Timo Werner: 7 – Always a threat and went close a couple of times in the first half. Caught offside too often. But that’s his game. Won a penalty kick in the second half and never stopped trying.

Fikayo Tomori (on for Havertz, 45′) 6 – Did his best to try and stop Liverpool’s juggernaut and made some decent blocks.
Ross Barkley (on for Jorginho, 79′) N/A
Tammy Abraham (on for Kovacic, 79′) N/A

Liverpool player ratings

Alisson: 7 – Hardly had anything to do throughout the entire game, then he saved a penalty kick superbly. Involved in the red card incident too with his claim and quick throw to turn defense into attack.

Trent Alexander-Arnold: 7 – Always whipping in dangerous balls and a real outlet on the right. Off target with his set pieces.

Fabinho: 8 – Stood in superbly at center back for the injured duo of Joe Gomez and Joel Matip. Could he play at center back now that Thiago is around?

Virgil van Dijk: 7 – Did his job well enough and no uncharacteristic mistakes this week. Almost scored from a set piece situation.

Andy Robertson: 6 – Didn’t see much of him as an attacking threat but worked hard, as always.

Jordan Henderson: 7 – Led by example and a lovely ball over the top which led to Christensen’s red card. Subbed off at half time with a small issue.

Georginio Wijnaldum: 7 – Typically robust display in central midfield. Is he really going to be allowed to leave for Barcelona?

Naby Keita: 6 – Always wants to get on the ball but didn’t really happen for him with Kante and Jorginho around.

Mohamed Salah: 7 – Worked hard to conjure space for himself and teammates. Didn’t score but involved in the first goal.

Roberto Firmino: 7 – The Brazilian forward took a while to get into the game, but created the first goal with a lovely one-two and cross.

Sadio Mane: 9 – Great run to force Christensen to foul him and get sent off. Then headed home the opener in style and scored a second as he chased down Kepa’s pass. Incredible desire.

Thiago Alcantara (on for Henderson, 45′) 6 – Did okay on the ball but did give away a penalty kick on his Liverpool debut for a slight trip on Werner. Not ideal, but not disastrous. Showed his quality in possession.
James Milner (on for Keita, 64′) 6 – Solid as ever and helped Liverpool see out the win.
Takumi Minamino (on for Firmino, 86′) N/A