Premier League roundup: Boxing Day sees Man United, Arsenal, Leicester lose

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Boxing Day brilliance, or Boxing Day insanity and incompetence? You be the judge.

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As the Premier League season wears on, we’re supposed to gain more clarity, not a further sense of disarray and a complete lack of sense, over which club(s) are favorites to win the league title. Someone didn’t tell that to Boxing Day 2015, because Saturday’s slate of PL games left us far more unsure than we were when the day began.

For a complete recap and highlights of each game, click the link through to the full recap.

Stoke City 2-0 Manchester UnitedFULL RECAP

Louis, Louis, Louis, you’re gonna cry. Louis Van Gaal‘s time in England might just be up after Man United lost yet again (three straight in the league), this time away to Stoke City. Memphis Depay gifted the Potters their opening goal very early on, and Marko Arnautovic blasted home the second from outside the penalty area. Winless in seven games (all competitions) isn’t the best look for anyone involved, so Van Gaal says he might just walk away on his own accord.

Southampton 4-0 ArsenalFULL RECAP

Southampton were winless in five league games (four losses) and Arsenal were flying high after beating Manchester City on Monday. So, of course Saints hammered the Gunners with four goals and blew the title race even further open. Cuco Martina scored a Goal of the Year candidate, which preceded a single tally from Jose Fonte and a brace from Shane Long. The Gunners miss a chance to go top of the league, while letting Man City right back into the title race.

Liverpool 1-0 Leicester CityFULL RECAP

Has Leicester City’s seemingly-inevitable regression finally begun? Kicking off a run of four league games that will see them face Liverpool, Manchester City, Bournemouth and Tottenham, the Foxes suffered their first league defeat since late September on Saturday. Despite the defeat, Claudio Ranieri‘s side stays top of the league, with many thanks to Arsenal’s capitulation away to Southampton a bit later on Boxing Day.

Manchester City 4-1 SunderlandFULL RECAP

Raheem Sterling, Yaya Toure, Wilfried Bony and Kevin De Bruyne — a quartet of names that would strike fear in any opposing defensive unit anywhere in the world; also, the four goalscorers for Man City as the Blues hammered Sunderland to get their title challenge back on track after losing to Arsenal on Monday. The victory move Man City back to within three points of Leicester for the league lead, and a single point back of Arsenal for second.

Chelsea 2-2 WatfordFULL RECAP

Chelsea had turned a corner after the firing of Jose Mourinho, we thought. Instead, they reverted back to their old ways in Guus Hiddink’s re-debut as the club’s interim manager, in a 2-2 draw with Watford on Saturday. The Blues went up a goal, then fell behind by a goal, by which time a point didn’t seem so bad. Still, it’s a far cry from the levels which last season’s champions routinely hit. Now 13 points out of the top-four, it’s a long, long way into next year’s UEFA Champions League.

Tottenham Hotspur 3-0 Norwich CityFULL RECAP

Tottenham look intent on keeping hold of a top-four place this season. Since coughing up a 1-0 lead against Newcastle United two weeks ago, Spurs have responded with a pair of clean sheets in beating Southampton and Norwich City by a combined score of 5-0. Harry Kane grabbed two more goals on Saturday (his 10th and 11th league goals of the season), thus putting to bed the “one-season wonder” narrative once and for all.

Newcastle United 0-1 EvertonFULL RECAP

Just when Newcastle look like they’ve turned over a new leaf, the old Newcastle pops right back up and reminds us all why they are, and will likely continue to be, threatened by relegation just about every year. On Saturday, it was Tom Cleverley‘s 92nd-minute winner that undid a mostly solid, draw-worthy performance from the Magpies.

Aston Villa 1-1 West Ham UnitedFULL RECAP

West Ham United are clutching for dear life at a place in the top half of the league table after failing to win for their eighth-straight league game. Aaron Cresswell put the Hammers ahead in first-half stoppage time, but Jordan Ayew equalized to rescue a point for 20th-place Villa for a second week in a row.

Swansea City 1-0 West Bromwich AlbionFULL RECAP

Swansea pulled themselves all the way out of the relegation zone with a 1-0 victory over West Brom on Saturday. Ki Sung-Yueng scored the game’s only goal in the 9th minute, and the Swans, under the watchful eye of interim manager Alan Curtis, snapped a seven-game winless streak (five losses), which greatly contributed to the firing of Garry Monk. Now in 16th place, Swansea are two places and a single point ahead of Newcastle, who fall back into the bottom-three.

Bournemouth 0-0 Crystal PalaceFULL RECAP

Bournemouth moved to six games unbeaten in league play with a 0-0 draw against 5th-place Crystal Palace. The resulting point keeps Eddie Howe‘s Cherries a place and a point ahead of Chelsea in the race for 14th, while Palace fall two points back of Spurs for fourth.

In-form striker Duvan Zapata injured on international duty

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This international break has been particularly brutal to clubs who have seen a host of key players go down with injuries, and there’s still a few days of matches remaining.

The latest player to succumb to injury is Atalanta striker Duvan Zapata who returned from Colombia duty with an adductor strain and will miss at least three weeks, according to Sky Sports Italia (via FootballItalia). Zapata went down 23 minutes into Colombia’s 0-0 friendly draw with Chile on Friday and was sent back to Italy for tests at his club.

Those tests have reportedly confirmed the initial fears. The loss of Zapata is a massive one for Atalanta, as the 28-year-old has been steadily building for years and is having a breakout start to this campaign, scoring six Serie A goals in seven matches plus one more in Champions League play, currently on a run of four consecutive games with a goal across all competitions. With Zapata’s help, Atalanta sits third in the Serie A table, having bagged the most goals of any team with 18 through seven games.

Zapata becomes the latest high-profile injury from this international break, joining Colombia teammate Alexis Sanchez who went down late in the same match and is reportedly out until 2020 with a serious ankle injury. Chelsea has been hit the hardest, with Andreas Christensen, Mateo Kovacic, and Reese James all pulling up while N’Golo Kante was injured in France warmups but he is expected to be fit for the weekend. Luka Modric may miss time after going down in a Euro qualifier against Wales, while Gareth Bale also picked up a knock in that match. Neymar went down in Brazil’s match against against Nigeria, which forced manager Tite to explain his reasoning for the selection in a friendly. Sergio Aguero is apparently struggling to train with Argentina thanks to a mystery injury confirmed by Lionel Scaloni. Arsenal’s Dani Ceballos withdrew from Spain training earlier in the week with “hamstring overload.” Atlanta United defender Miles Robinson left USMNT camp with a hamstring problem with the MLS playoffs on the horizon.

Ex-England midfielder Gascoigne on trial for sexual assault

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LONDON (AP) — A prosecutor has alleged that former England midfielder Paul Gascoigne sexually assaulted a woman on a train by “forcibly and sloppily” planting an unwanted kiss on her lips.

Prosecutor William Mousley’s comments Monday came as Gascoigne, who has struggled with alcohol and mental-health problems, went on trial at Teesside Crown Court charged with sexual assault of the female passenger.

Mousley said the former England star “put his hands on her cheeks and kissed her forcibly and sloppily on the lips.”

The 52-year-old Gascoigne denies the charge.

The alleged victim has told the court that she froze when the man, who appeared drunk, kissed her in August 2018. She says she did not realize it was Gascoigne until after the alleged incident.

USMNT looks to build with Nations League visit to Canada

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The United States has faced much criticism since failing to miss out on the World Cup two years ago. If Gregg Berhalter is to silence the naysayers, he must use the Nations League as a building block for sustained success with a view towards 2022 World Cup qualifying.

Step 1 was completed Friday with a 7-0 demolition of lowly Cuba, and Step 2 comes Tuesday evening as the USMNT heads to Toronto to meet Canada at BMO Field, with kickoff set for 7:30 p.m. ET.

[ MORE: An in-depth look at Canada ]

The United States did the job at hand, soundly beating a far inferior opponent, allowing the squad to move forward quickly and emphatically. There is plenty more to prove, but the engine is revved and the gas pedal pressed. Still, Berhalter and company must remember this is a marathon not a sprint, and even the slightest slip in Nations League play will open the floodgates of criticism.

Seeing the bigger picture

The biggest thing for the USMNT to piece together in the Nations League is a sustained run of success that builds not just positive feelings but true momentum born by consistency. It will be fascinating to see the team chosen by Gregg Berhalter as he looks to put together consistent starting lineups that help build not just victories on the scoresheet but also chemistry between players who have a legitimate chance of seeing future lineups in more high leverage matches.

Against Cuba, positive performances can lend themselves to more opportunities down the line, but Berhalter must also be realistic about who has a chance to be contributors not just against the minnows of CONCACAF but also against teams the United States has aspirations of competing with. Against Cuba, Jordan Morris continued his revival as a winger, and he should be given more opportunities to build a relationship with Josh Sargent and Christian Pulisic up front. Jackson Yueill is another player who can earn his way into long-term contention, but it remains true that Michael Bradley is still the team’s best option at holding midfielder and requires minutes with the other consistent starters (although it would be interesting to see if the two can play together coherently). Reggie Cannon played well at right-back but incumbent DeAndre Yedlin deserves the chance to prove he’s still the correct choice after returning from a long injury layoff.

A view towards the future must be in the back of Berhalter’s mind, not just looking to achieve results but also achieve results with the right players. Meshing the correct squad now will unquestionably pay dividends down the road as the United States hopes to turn around recent negative results against teams like Mexico, Venezuela, Uruguay, Italy, and Colombia which fans aspire to be competitive against. With the start of World Cup qualification less than a calendar year away, the time is now to end the wild experimentation and begin dividing up the precious minutes between players who are considered legitimate possibilities for the potential 2022 squad.

18-year-old Alphonso Davies represents a youth movement with the Canadian national team that gives fans hope for the future (Photo by Matthew Ashton – AMA/Getty Images).

Switching gears to Canada

Canada will no doubt present a tougher test than Cuba, but the United States will still be expected to emerge victorious, and anything less will represent yet another two steps back after one step forward.

The northern neighbors have high aspirations, hoping to challenge for World Cup qualification. Head coach John Herdman said in the run-up to Tuesday’s match that the United States may be a rival, but they’re also “standing in the way” of the ultimate goal, confident speech ahead of such a difficult test. LAFC midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye took it a step further, saying his play with the Canadian national team over the next few years “is going to help shape the foundation of how Canada is going to be in the next 10 years.”

Canada has a crop of young talent with Kaye joined by 18-year-old Bayern Munich winger Alphonso Davies and 19-year-old Gent youth product Jonathan David.

Still, they have not defeated the United States in their last 17 tries, dating back to 1985. Their last match was a measly 1-0 victory over the same Cuba squad that was obliterated by the US, forced to play 35 minutes a man down after Vancouver Whitecaps defender Doneil Henry was sent off. Canada still managed to hold a whopping 81% possession in that match, but worked just a single shot on target, which resulted in Davies’ 9th minute opener. They will need to be both more disciplined and more dangerous if they wish to pull off the upset in Toronto.

Projected lineup

— Steffan —

— Yedlin — Long — Ream — Lovitz —

— McKennie — Bradley — Roldan —

— Morris — Sargent — Pulisic —

Brad Guzan started the Cuba match in goal, but Zack Steffan is the true long-term option here and it would be natural to see him return to the lineup against the tougher opponent. Gregg Berhalter loves Aaron Long and his return could also be expected. As stated above, Bradley is a contentious selection among many fans but his presence calms the midfield, and he delivers a long ball forward like nobody else on the roster. The front three played exceptionally well against Cuba and it would be questionable to see anyone but those players start again with Jozy Altidore injured.

Prediction

The United States will no doubt face a tougher challenge, and the young attacking talent will test the in-flux back line. Yedlin at right-back will have the toughest test matching up with Davies defensively which could force him back more than Berhalter wants. It will be imperative for the midfield trio to establish control of the central areas and work forward from there. It can be expected that the United States will control the tempo, and if they stay calm, cool, and collected when Canada counters, they should come away with a nervy 2-1 victory.

Lyon hires Rudi Garcia as new manager

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Olympique Lyonnais has announced they have hired Rudi Garcia as manager, replacing the fired Sylvinho.

Lyon has struggled mightily to start the Ligue 1 season, winning just two of its first nine league games and sitting 14th in the table with nine points. Sylvinho, who was only hired at the end of May, was let go last week.

Garcia has formerly taken charge of Roma, Lille, and St. Etienne, and most recently managed Lyon rivals Marseille for three seasons before departing this summer. He left with Marseille having failed to claim a Champions League place amid the Ligue 1 top three.

“I chose Rudi Garcia because he is a fighter who, like us, has the ambition to win titles and succeed on the European stage,” said Lyon sporting director Juninho. The Brazilian had chosen his countrymate Sylvinho this summer, but made a change just nine matches into the season with the club winning its first two matches of the season and failing to win since. They have lost three of the last four, with all three defeats coming via a 1-0 scoreline. They have scored just five goals in the seven-match winless run, shutout on four different occasions.

The 55-year-old Frenchman will have plenty of proving to do to Lyon fans. Coming straight over from a direct rival, . Fans were outspoken about their cautious feelings, as the introductory tweet was ratio’d by those expressing a distaste for the hire.

“He is an experienced coach who has already won trophies,” added Juninho.“Wherever he has been, he has had above-average performances and has always managed to make the most of what he had at his disposal.”

Garcia’s first match in charge will be a home league match this weekend against Dijon, followed by a Europa League visit to Benfica.