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Three things we learned from Arsenal’s win vs. West Brom

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LONDON — Arsenal beat West Bromwich Albion 2-0 at the Emirates Stadium on Thursday with Arsene Wenger‘s men strengthening their grip on the top four.

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It was a strange night for Wenger and his players as fan unrest was clear but Alexis Sanchez’s double at least moved the Gunners up to third in the Premier League table.

Here’s what we learned from a subdued Emirates Stadium.


ARSENAL UNREST GROWING

About a minute before the game kicked off it was clear that Arsenal’s fans were making their feelings well known about recent results.

Following the 1-1 draw at home against Crystal Palace last Sunday unrest among Arsenal fans has reached almost unprecedented levels during Wenger’s reign. The Arsenal boss knows it and had this to say before the West Brom game.

“I want our fans to be happy and when they are not it affects me. Ideally, yes, you want to play in a positive environment,” Wenger said. “You do not want to play in a negative environment, but if we do we can still perform. ‘We are responsible for the performance of the team and it is true that at the moment it is not a highlight but we have to take a distance with that.”

The “tickets sold” sign said 59,568 but if the crowd at the Emirates was over 55,000 I’d be surprised. Sure, it was a Thursday night, it was West Brom and it was slightly chilly for April, but fans of Arsenal showed their disdain for the way this season has panned out in the best way they knew how. Staying at home.

If this continues to happen in the coming games and maybe into the start of next season then the pressure on Wenger from the board, not just the fans, will grow. Arsenal has become an incredibly successful business over recent years and one of the main reasons is their ability to charge top dollar in a stadium a few stops away from Central London on the tube and each and every week the stadium is sold out. Now that attendances are showing small signs of regression, Wenger and the club will need to address their needs this summer and buy in central defense and in central midfield to strengthen. A top four finish is still not guaranteed but they are four points clear of fifth place with four games to go.

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Make no mistake about it, 20-straight seasons in the top four under Wenger is an incredible record and Arsenal fans calling for him to be fired should be careful what they wish for. However, they are also entitled to ask for more. In each of the last 10 campaigns they’ve ever finished third or fourth. They’ll likely do the same again this season. Usually that’s enough to ward off the critics but with all of the perennial big boys faltering below them and only Leicester City and bitter rivals Tottnham Hotspur above them, the mood at the Emirates on Thursday summed up how Arsenal’s fans are feeling overall.

This season is a huge opportunity missed. That, plus Spurs pushing for the title, has accelerated the unrest among Arsenal’s fans. “Arsene Wenger, we will support you ever more,” said an Arsenal fan, sarcastically, as he walked past the press box at the full time whistle. That about summed it up.

SLICK SANCHEZ STREAKING

Alexis Sanchez has now scored in four consecutive games for Arsenal and the Chilean forward scored twice in the first half to set the Gunners on their way to victory. Arsenal’s fans should feel free to question tactical and personnel decisions from Wenger, but what they can’t question is Sanchez’s commitement to the cause. In his second season in the PL he’s gone through streaks. He started slowly, then scored in six-straight games, then cooled off in the middle as injuries took their toll. After a busy summer with Chile at the Copa America last year he’s faded in the last few months. Now he’s back to his best.

After just five minutes he swiveled past Sandro and smashed home low to put Arsenal 1-0 up and wheeled away with the same verve as if he’d just scored a crucial goal in an early season win. He was everywhere in the first half. Sanchez double-dummied Saido Berhaino on the halfway line, produced a majestic flick to Hector Bellerin who drove forward and smashed just over, then he scored the second with a clever free kick through a gap in the wall.

When Arsenal purr it’s because Sanchez is gently rubbing their belly and soothing them into action. In the second half he tiptoed around two defenders and sent a back heel perfectly into the path of Bellerin. It draw admiration and gasps from the home fans. On a difficult night for Wenger and Arsenal, that man Alexis delivered some cheer to liven up the mainly melancholy crowd.

PERFECT RETURN FOR MOSS

Following his eventful outing at the King Power Stadium last Sunday, this was the perfect game for referee Jon Moss to make his return to the middle.

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The referee is currently public enemy number one in Leicester after sending off Jamie Vardy last Sunday and then mentioning in his match report that Vardy had been abusive towards him when leaving the field of play. That led to an FA charge and will likely cost Leicester its star man for at least the next two games as Vardy accepted the FA’s improper conduct charge on Thursday. On top of his automatic one-match ban for picking up two yellow cards — the second of which came for simulation after Vardy went down in the box — the England international could miss an extra game, or even two, for pointing in the face of Moss and allegedly swearing at the official. Vardy, Leicester’s top goalscorer, has requested to speak to an FA panel early next week to try and reduce any extra ban. His important to Leicester is clear and Moss’ decision will have a huge say in whether or not Leicester win the title.

This outing for Moss was much less eventful. An Arsenal side stumbling for fourth and a West Brom side in midtable promised as much. He gave two penalties last weekend at Leicester, one correctly for a tug on Winston Reid and then another incorrectly in stoppage time after Jeffrey Schlupp went down under contact from Andy Carroll. On Thursday both Alex Iwobi and Mohamed Elneny went down in the box under slight contact but halfhearted appeals were waved away by Moss. He made the correct calls and it was an uneventful game. He’s a good referee, one of the PL’s best, and doesn’t deserve some of the criticism he’s been getting. The only mistake he made was being too human and awarding Leicester a late penalty kick last weekend under intense pressure from the home fans.

On Thursday there was no pressure on him and it was a breeze. I bet he wishes every outing was like that…

Man United release latest financial results

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Man United have released their latest financial results and revenue has fallen by 20 percent year-on-year, while net debt has also risen.

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What is clear from the results is that not being in the UEFA Champions League has hit United hard but they continue to make money with commercial revenue on the up seven percent.

Executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward revealed the latest results as Man United’s financial might is clear for all to see even.

“We have continued to make progress on our squad rebuild … the foundation for delivering the long-term success that we are all working towards is in place as we implement our plan and our footballing vision with Ole,” Woodward told investors. “We are pushing for a strong finish in the Premier League, the Europa League and the FA Cup as we enter the final third of the season.”

Man United are currently in fifth place in the Premier League table ahead of a pivotal run of games which will decide if they will once again dine at Europe’s top table under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. On the pitch they’ve beaten Chelsea and Watford in the last week without conceding and things are coming together nicely with new signings Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Harry Maguire, Daniel James and Bruno Fernandes making a big difference. 

Man United face Everton, Man City, Tottenham and Sheffield United in their next four PL games and that will be crucial in deciding if they’re going to reach the Champions League next season. Given Man City’s European ban and the potential for a UCL spot to move down to fifth-place, Man United are exactly where Solskjaer hoped they would be right now.

Below we have a look at the main takeaways form the financial results, which are always a huge talking point among United fans all over the world.

Main talking points from Man United’s Q2 results:

  • Revenues of $218.3 million, down 20 percent year-on-year
  • Operating profit of $47.3 million
  • Commercial revenue up 7 percent
  • Broadcast revenue down 37 percent due to no UEFA Champions League qualification
  • Matchday revenue down 15 percent due to fewer home games
  • Player wages down 9 percent
  • Net debt is $506.9 million, up $94.6 million, 23 percent

USMNT’s Arriola likely will miss MLS season, six World Cup qualifiers

Paul Arriola
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WASHINGTON (AP) D.C. United midfielder Paul Arriola had major knee surgery Monday and likely will miss the entire Major League Soccer season and the United States’ first six qualifying matches for the 2022 World Cup

The operation was to reconstruct his right anterior cruciate ligament. The team said there was no additional cartilage damage.

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The 25-year-old midfielder injured his knee Feb. 15 during D.C. United’s preseason match against Orlando in Tampa, Florida.

Arriola has been a regular starter for the U.S. national team under coach Gregg Berhalter. Arriola has five goals in 33 international appearances.

After failing to reach the 2018 World Cup, the U.S. starts qualifying for the 2022 tournament this year. The Americans have two matches each in September, October and November, then complete qualifying with two games apiece in March and September 2021.

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

State of play in CONCACAF Champions League

CONCACAF Champions League
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Four of five Major League Soccer clubs alive in the CONCACAF Champions League Round of 16 are in fine shape to reach the quarterfinals after one leg.

The fifth has a tall hill to climb.

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LAFC trails Club Leon by two and did not collect an away goal in Mexico during first leg play last week.

“It’s 2-0, but we’re going to work hard,” said LAFC attacker Latif Blessing. “We’re going to prepare ourselves to win the next game. … We did good, but we want to win. It couldn’t happen that way but we’re going to prepare next game to win this game. We need to win.”

The second leg in L.A. is one of the last two matches of the round, kicking off at 10 p.m. ET Thursday just as Seattle Sounders square off with Olimpia.

The Honduran side managed a controversial comeback in the 2-2 draw with Jordan Morris-fueled Seattle last week, but the Sounders will be happy to have those two away goals and home field.

Montreal Impact has the same situation for Deportivo Saprissa’s visit at 8 p.m. ET Wednesday, while Atlanta United scored an away goal in a draw with Motagua and hosts the visitors from Honduras’ capital at 8 p.m. ET Tuesday.

That leaves us with NYCFC, who got a Heber hat trick amongst five away goals at Costa Rican side San Carlos in a 5-3 win. The second leg begins at 6 p.m. ET Wednesday at Red Bull Arena (yes, you read that correctly).

Elsewhere, Liga MX sides don’t have it much better. Cruz Azul leads Portmore 2-1 heading back to Mexico, while Club America scored an away goal in a draw with Comunicaciones.

Finally, Tigres UANL trails 2-1 after one leg with Alianza in El Salvador.

CCL second leg schedule
all times ET

Atlanta United v. Motagua (1-1) — 8 p.m. Tuesday
Cruz Azul v. Portmore United (2-1) — 10 p.m. Tuesday
NYCFC v. San Carlos (5-3) — 6 p.m. Wednesday
Montreal Impact v. Deportivo Saprissa (2-2) — 8 p.m. Wednesday
Tigres UANL v. Alianza (1-2) — 8 p.m. Wednesday
Club America v. Comunicaciones (1-1) — 10 p.m. Wednesday
Seattle Sounders v. Olimpia (2-2) — 10 p.m. Thursday
LAFC v Leon (0-2) — 10 p.m. Thursday

Eleven to go: Ranking obstacles on Liverpool’s unbeaten path

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Liverpool has won all five of its matches since the last time we evaluated its path to an unbeaten Premier League season.

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Those matches were ranked 14th, 12th, 11th, 10th, and 4th on our first rankings of obstacles to immortality, so very little of the heavy lifting has been conducted.

Let’s get something out of the way: If Liverpool is unable to overturn their first leg deficit against Atletico Madrid in the Champions League, you can probably etch that zero in the league loss column into stone.

That said, many expect the Reds to overcome that 1-0 disadvantage from Madrid, so here’s where we slot the difficulties moving forward.

Unranked — Crystal Palace at home (March 21) and Brighton away (April 18) — Both of these dates are very easy on the eyes, but will be moved if Liverpool is alive in the FA Cup.

9. Newcastle away, time TBD May 17 — We’re now calling this the easiest date left. Klopp’s men aren’t going to lose an unbeaten season at the altar just because Steve Bruce bunkers down. St. James’ Park is a hassle, but

8. Watford away, 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday Klopp probably feels like he’s already playing with house money in the FA Cup, so there’s no reason to think he’ll hand any priority at all to the following FA Cup meeting with Chelsea.

7. Bournemouth home, 7:30 a.m. ET March 7 Situated between Chelsea in the FA Cup and the home UCL second leg versus Atleti, it’s not easy…  but the Cherries have given us less reason to believe they’ll threaten the Reds than any other team besides Newcastle.

6. Aston Villa home, 11:30 a.m. ET April 12Dean Smith‘s desperate Villans will have Villa Park rocking before Liverpool’s possible UCL quarterfinals 2nd leg days later.

5. Burnley home, 7:30 a.m. ET April 25 — Taking place just before a possible UCL quarterfinal first leg, Burnley will try to trouble the Reds in a similar manner to West Ham.

4. Chelsea home, time TBD May 9 — Both the Blues and Reds could be coming off UCL semifinal second legs. Don’t forget that Chelsea took the Reds to the wire in the UEFA Super Cup despite it being very early in Frank Lampard‘s tenure.

3. Arsenal away, time TBD May 2 — Both sides may be days away from needing a result to qualify for the UCL or UEL final.

2. Everton away, 4 p.m. ET March 16 — This may as well be the only match left on the Toffees’ docket that matters more than another, as Carlo Ancelotti and his men know the message they could send regarding the building up of Everton.

Not only that, but Everton has nothing else left to circle, no other competitions, nothing.

1. Man City away, 11:30 a.m. ET April 5 — Taking place 3-4 days before the UEFA Champions League quarterfinals and on the heels of an international break, it’s the lone date on the calendar that Liverpool won’t be heavy favorites to win.