Three things we learned from Tottenham vs. Arsenal

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LONDON — Tottenham and Arsenal battled out in a thrilling 2-2 draw on Saturday in the North London Derby.

[ POCH: “One team was best. Spurs” ] 

Arsenal led, then Spurs rallied back to go ahead but the Gunners equalized late on to keep their own faint title hopes alive and put a dent in those of their nearest rivals.

Here’s what we learned from a wild encounter at White Hart Lane.

WENGER’S TACTICS SPOT ON

When the teamsheets were handed out around the press lounge at White Hart Lane, there was some surprise. Mohamed Elneny was selected in central midfield alongside Francis Coquelin and Danny Welbeck was the lone forward. Turns out that surprise turned to admiration. Wenger, 66, is an old hand. He’s been at Arsenal for 20 years and has finished above Spurs for every one of those seasons. He used all of his nous to set the Gunners up when it looked like they would snatch all three points up until Coquelin’s red card.

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On Saturday, in a game his team simply had to win they started slowly and struggled to soak up the pressure from Spurs, however, the decision to play Welbeck up top on his own was an inspired one. The England international — who has been out injured for nine months up until his return in late February — was sharp, powerful and gave Tottenham’s defense a torrid time. He teed up Hector Bellerin beautifully in the build up to Arsenal’s opener and using him as the lone man seems to be the best way to go going forward. The decision to start with Elneny and Coquelin in midfield also worked well… until Coquelin was sent off and then things changed.

[ MORE: Wenger unsure on title hopes ]

The Gunners showed spirit, they showed grit and they battled back late on through Alexis Sanchez to deny their bitter north London rivals a win which would have seen them fall six points behind them. A point wasn’t good enough for either team but for Arsenal, they’ll be extremely happy to come away with something after going down with 10-men. Had all of their players remained on the pitch, I find it hard to see how they would’ve slipped up and not won this game. Wenger got his tactics spot on.

KANE DOES IT AGAIN

Harry Kane he’s one of our own” was belted out as Spurs’ fans caught their breath following his sensational strike which came just two minutes after Toby Alderweireld‘s equalizer. Spurs smelt blood in the water following Coquelin’s red card and Kane looked to have marked a pivotal few moments in the title race with a stunner.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

The local lad — he loves playing against the other London PL clubs with 14 goals in 18 games — scored the winner in this game last season and looked to have done it again this season. His strike to put Tottenham 2-1 up was sensational. He picked the ball up on the far left side of the box and with nothing on he curled it on off the far post. Sublime. It was one of those moments where time seemed to stand still and it felt like the lad from North London was destined to be the hero.

Kane, 22, had another chance but dragged it wide and the glory was grabbed from him by Sanchez’s late equalizer. The hero headlines were taken away from Kane but we will never be able to take away that moment from him.

[ MORE: Watch full match replays ]  

Look at the video above to see it all play out.

MAGNITUDE OF THE MOMENT NOT SEIZED BY SPURS

As Sanchez wheeled away in delight after making it 2-2, Spurs boss Pochettino threw his water bottle to the ground violently as the rain poured down at White Hart Lane.

It was a huge opportunity missed for Spurs.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

They knew it. The atmosphere and noise levels at the Lane were incredible in and around Coquelin’s red card and their two goals. The fans and players smelt blood in the water. They sensed that this was it, this was the moment they could jump six points ahead of Arsenal with nine games to go and all but end their title hopes in one fell swoop. They could, too, finish above Arsenal for the first time in 20 years. Then Sanchez struck with 15 minutes left and a familiar sinking feeling started to creep over the home fans and it was actually the 10-men Gunners who finished the stronger. If Leicester slip up later on Saturday against Watford, Spurs will be just two points off the top with nine games to go. They’re in a great position to win their first-ever PL title but they missed a huge chance to all but end Arsenal’s title hopes as they Gunners sit four points off Leicester.

The magnitude of the moment seemed to get to Spurs as they let their guard down when they were going for the knockout blow. They got caught up in the emotion and instead of managing the game against 10-men, they went for the jugular and were undone. The youthful exuberance of their young team hurt them, but experiences like this will hold them in good stead in the future. If they learn from this.

Burning Question: Who is the best player in North America right now?

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It’s a question many have tried to answer recently, and now it’s ProSoccerTalk’s chance to give a verdict of their own: Who is the best player in North America right now.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

Knowing the loyalty of the devout Liga MX fan, the following statement may make a few onlookers cringe, or become enraged: Carlos Vela is currently the best player in North America. Period.

Truthfully, it shouldn’t take more than 15 seconds to generate such an answer. The question should instead be: What player comes at a touching distance from 31-year-old Vela?

Carlos Vela has been on a legendary streak since arriving in Los Angeles from San Sebastian, scoring for fun. Literally, scoring for fun – when he wants, how he wants: long or short range chips, stunning volleys, headers, from the spot, 30-yard runs leading to gentle tap-ins, free kicks, you name it. In numbers, it reads more like a humble 57 goals in 71 appearances.

That’s a healthy goal-per-game-ratio.

And to be clear, goalscorers aren’t the only type of players that qualify for the sweepstakes – supreme talent doesn’t discriminate. But in this case it just happens to be that an inverted winger, with a penchant for goal, happens to outdo not only every player in MLS, but in every other North American top-flight contest, including Liga MX.

And perhaps scoring goals isn’t his ultimate quality – Vela’s dynamism, agility and tenacity are at the core of his magic. There’s a reason why he’s considered the most talented Mexican player of his generation.

Still tough to accept? Ask yourself this: Who was the last player in North America that Josep Maria Bartomeu and Barcelona went after?

You guessed right – Vela. The Spanish giants know a thing or two about scouting elite talent, don’t they?

Transfer news: Kane to Real Madrid, Alexis Sanchez to West Ham

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The latest transfer news continues across the Premier League and here’s a look at some of the juiciest rumors.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

According to Sport, Real Madrid president Florentino Perez has his sights set on signing Tottenham striker Harry Kane this summer.

With Luka Jovic failing to impress at the Santiago Bernabeu, Los Blancos are set to make some moves to consolidate the presence up top. Kane, 26, and Wolves striker Raul Jimenez are some of the few names to have been mentioned thus far.

Kane, who has a running contract with Spurs until 2024, recently mentioned that he wouldn’t rule out a move out of north London, if Tottenham were unable to capitalize on winning silverware.

“I’m an ambitious player, I want to improve, I want to get better, I want to become one of the top, top players,” Kane said earlier this month. “It all depends on what happens as a team and how we progress as a team. So it’s not a definite I’m going to stay there forever – but it’s not a no either.”

As far as transfers go, nothing gets bigger and more “ambitious” than a summer blockbuster move to Real Madrid. Kane has a promising project spearheaded by Jose Mourinho himself at his boyhood club, but the opportunity to represent Real Madrid – at such a prime age, with an astronomical amount of hype – may only come around once.


Alexis Sanchez’s time at Inter Milan is coming to a close, and his next destination may be a Premier League team not named Manchester United, according to FC Inter News.

The 31-year-old Chilean’s agent, Fernando Felicevich, has reportedly been inquired by West Ham, who are considering placing a bid to lure the winger out of Old Trafford.

Sanchez arrived at Inter last summer on loan but has failed to impress when healthy, recording a mere goal and three assist in 15 appearances this season. With the possibilities of Sanchez remaining at Manchester United past the summer getting slimmer by the day, the Hammers are hoping to land the South American at a reduced price.

Sanchez, one of United’s highest earners, is reportedly also gathering interest from other unnamed Premier League and Bundesliga sides.

Belarusian Premier League roundup: FC Energetik-BGU edge FC Minsk, moves to top of league

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The Belarusian Premier League – the only active European top-flight league at the moment – continued on Sunday despite the coronavirus pandemic.

FC Energetik-BGU 2-0 FC Minsk 

FC Energetik-BGU are the new leaders of the Belarusian Premier League, following a 2-0 victory over FC Minsk, who were atop of the table prior to Sunday’s bout.

Aleksey Nosko broke the deadlock in the 21st minute, while winger Jasurbek Yakhshiboev sealed the victory for the hosts in stoppage time.

With the victory, Energetik-BGU are the only unbeaten team in the league after three matchweeks, winning all three matches. The positive spell began with a 3-1 against Belarus giants BATE Boristov. Since, Energetik-BGU have scored three goals, while managing to concede none.

Slutsk, who also featured on Sunday, moved up to second on the table following a hard-earned 3-2 victory over Isloch, which saw them play the final minutes of the match with 10 players.

Elsewhere in Belarusian Premier League 

Smolevichi-STI 0-0 Vitebsk

Isloch 2-3 Slutsk

Spanish players criticize league’s call for furloughs

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MADRID (AP) Soccer players in Spain on Sunday criticized the Spanish league’s decision to ask clubs to put the footballers on government furloughs during the coronavirus crisis.

The league on Friday said the furloughs were needed because there was no agreement on the size of the salary cuts players must take to reduce the financial impact of the pandemic.

“It is strange that the Liga supports (the furloughs),” Spain’s players’ association said in a statement.

It said the league should have created a financial cushion for this period considering it always boasted about its “economic control measures” and the “well-balanced economy” of the Spanish clubs. The association said it also should be taken into account that the league has been temporarily suspended and not yet canceled.

The league and the players’ association have been in talks to try to find ways to mitigate losses that could reach nearly 1 billion euros ($1.08 billion) if the season cannot be restarted because of the pandemic.

The players said they agree with a salary reduction to help the clubs during the crisis, but not to the extent the league wants, which could amount to nearly half of the total losses if the competition is not resumed.

Players said they want to keep negotiating directly with the clubs instead of being forced into furloughs.

“The clubs and the players have been reaching agreements regarding the salaries,” the players’ association said. “What footballers are not going to do is relinquish labor rights.”

Barcelona and Atlético Madrid are among the Spanish clubs requesting furloughs, but both directly negotiated the amount of the salary reduction with players — 70% in both cases. Both clubs and their players are contributing to guarantee the wages of non-playing employees being furloughed.

The government furloughs help reduce the clubs’ labor costs while also guaranteeing players their jobs once the crisis is over.

Spain has more than 130,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with nearly 12,500 deaths. The nation is expected to remain in a lockdown until April 26.

There is no timetable for the return of the Spanish league.

Players maintained their position to only resume competing when health authorities deem it safe for everyone’s heath, a view also shared by the Spanish league.

The league has suggested it will recommend teams start mini-camp while the lockdown is still in place, if it’s possible to do so within the restrictions imposed by authorities.

More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

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