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The new fan’s 2016-17 guide to finding a favorite Premier League club

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Must read preface: For several years on my own site and then on a Western New York soccer blog, I’ve given prospective fans of the Premier League a guide to choose a team. In no way do I claim to give anything other than an opinionated overview that I believe to be a fair representation of clubs whose history far outlives even my fandom of the beautiful game. And as time goes on, this is less and less a necessity. We are talking about the biggest league in the world, after all.

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But the fact remains that people need to know what they are getting into, as I know personally of a fan or two now attached to insufferable clubs. ‘They’ had no idea that their love for a brown ale or clever nickname would lead to a lifetime of supporter misery. And now ‘they’ have got to twice watch their beloved club, massive as it is, flub its way to the second tier. Again, just what I’ve heard from ‘them’.

I almost always advocate choosing a club that isn’t already a giant because that’s my background as a proud Buffalonian, but do what feels right. Maybe you’re a Yankees or Cowboys fan who enjoys feeding off the hate of others. By all means, continue onward!

So without further ado, I submit to you my 2016-17 beginners guide to selecting a Premier League team. For each team, we’ll let you know which Americans are on their team — if any — who their fans tend to hate, and give a very loose comparison to American professional teams.

1. Arsenal
Last championship: 2003-04
Years in Premier League: 25/25
Nickname: Gunners
Location: London
American players: Gedion Zelalem
Biggest rivals: Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea, Manchester United
Comparison: New York Giants, Los Angeles Dodgers

The good news, if you choose Arsenal, is that you’ll have so much company. Arsenal is the most-supported team in these here United States of America, and their passionate fan base is almost impossible to miss.

They have a massive celebrity supporter base, too, from Idris Elba to Prince Harry, Steve Earle to Jay-Z, there’s a bountiful group of shiny fans. There’s some magic to the club, for sure. French manager Arsene Wenger fashions players who play the game with flair and the club has begun to spend again after paying off a great deal of debt. Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez are incredible talents, and Santi Cazorla could be among the more unheralded out-and-out superstars of all-time.

For a big club, they provide their fans a fair bit of misery. They’ve won two of the last three FA Cups, but haven’t seen a Premier League title since 2004. Their club is massive, has gobs of money, and their manager still talks like he’s running a not-for-profit.

2. Bournemouth
Last championship: Never
Years in Premier League: 2/25 (Return: 2015-16)
Nickname: Cherries
Location: Bournemouth, Dorset
American players: Emerson Hyndman
Biggest rivals: Southampton
Comparisons: Arizona Cardinals, Tampa Bay Lightning

What young, promising manager Eddie Howe has done with this club to get them to the Premier League and keep them there is amazing. Chairman Jeff Mostyn kept the team from administration with his own money, and engineered one of the biggest rises in English soccer history. Now they’re investing in the club, and have a promising squad.

Their crest is a man heading the ball incorrectly, unless of course the Cherries player is clearing the ball from danger. We’ll be rooting for the upstarts this season.

3. Burnley
Last championship: Never
Years in Premier League: 3/25 (Return: 2016-17)
Nickname: Clarets
Location: Burnley, Lancashire
American players: None
Biggest rivals: Blackburn Rovers, Preston North End
Comparisons: Pittsburgh Pirates, Calgary Flames

Manager Sean Dyche looks like he eats wood for breakfast, thinks condiments are for lesser weaklings, and gets in bar fights as a hobby. He expects his small market club to play in a similar fashion, and likes to use the same lineup as often as possible. SportsWorld’s Joe Posnanski wrote a story on Burnley the last time they were promoted. It was called “David and Goliath and Burnley”. Read it.

4. Chelsea
Last championship: 2014/15
Years in Premier League: 25/25
Nickname: Blues
Location: London
American players: Matt Miazga
Biggest rivals: Arsenal, Tottenham, West Ham, Fulham, Millwall
Comparison: Los Angeles Lakers, Washington Redskins

A simply massive club with loads of accolades and glory — not to mention a deep-pocketed owner in a big, big city — Chelsea took a step back last season when their players seemingly quit on their abrasive but brilliant coach Jose Mourinho (now with the Manchester United). Given the huge support for Arsenal in America, it seems lots of folks hate Chelsea. New manager Antonio Conte won’t have a problem with that, nor will current forward Diego Costa and center back John Terry, two of the more detested but respected players in the world.

5. Crystal Palace
Last championship: Never
Years in Premier League: 9/25
Nickname: Eagles, Glaziers
Location: London
American players: None
Biggest rivals: Brighton & Hove Albion, Charlton Athletic, Millwall, Wimbledon
Comparisons: Memphis Grizzlies, Kansas City Royals

Palace is a truly intriguing option due to incredible fans and their manager, Alan Pardew, who is at best a goofball and at worst a lunatic. Palace is a real working-class London club, and the Eagles have flair and work rate in their club. I love their modern crest, though they aren’t new jacks. Yohan Cabaye and Andros Townsend are very good, exciting players, and both Joe Ledley and Mile Jedinak bring the steel.

6. Everton
Last championship: 1986-87
Years in Premier League: 25/25
Nickname: Toffees, The School of Science
Location: Liverpool
American players: None
Biggest rivals: Liverpool
Comparison: Boston Bruins, Denver Broncos

Everton gives you the ability to back a team with proud history, and a team involved in one of the best rivalries in sports (The Merseyside Derby with Liverpool). The club has had two of America’s biggest players in Landon Donovan and Tim Howard, and has a classy color scheme and simple crest/kit. With new investment coming and a good manager in Ronald Koeman, Everton is one of my top prospects for new Premier League fans.

7. Hull City
Last championship: Never
Years in Premier League: 5/25 (Return: 2016-17)
Nickname: Tigers
Location: Hull, Yorkshire
American players: None
Biggest rivals: Sheffield United, Leeds United
Comparisons: Sacramento Kings, Cincinnati Bengals

Hull City is back in the Premier League, but respected manager Steve Bruce quit before the season because — many believe — he was frustrated at the lack of investment in the club (which is for sale). Great nickname, colors, and “bounce-back-ability” here, and no one will accuse you of jumping on a bandwagon. You can never count out Hull, but in a sense you’d also be silly to count on them. Here’s hoping the Tigers surprise us this year.

8. Leicester City
Last championship: Last season!!!
Years in Premier League: 11/25
Nickname: Foxes
Location: Leicester
American players: None
Biggest rivals: Nottingham Forest, Derby County, Coventry City
Comparison: Seattle Seahawks, New Jersey Devils

You could hate sports, and you’d have heard of Leicester City’s last season. The most unlikely championship story in history, with castaway players and a forgotten manager rising up to claim the Premier League crown from the richest of the rich. I can’t tell you not to root for the Foxes, though I also wouldn’t bet on them repeating the glory. That said, they’ve proven me horribly wrong before!

Foxes is a great nickname, blue is a solid color, and who doesn’t love the silky skill set of Riyad Mahrez?

9. Liverpool
Last championship: 1989-90
Years in Premier League: 25/25
Nickname: Reds
Location: Liverpool
American players: None
Biggest rivals: Everton, Manchester United
Comparison: Boston Red Sox, Philadelphia Flyers

Superstar players? Check. Intense, fascinating manager? Check. Title-winning history you can brag (and brag and brag) about? Check. Still plenty of misery to feel like you’re somehow an underdog? Check.

No wonder American fans have seemingly flocked to the Anfield set.

10. Manchester City
Last championship: 2013/14
Years in Premier League: 20/25
Nickname: Citizens
Location: Manchester
American players: None
Biggest rivals: Manchester United
Comparison: Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Angels

Some folks will tell you that you can’t support Man City because they’re a club that’s done all their recent winning on the backs of incredible investment from deep-pocketed owners, but as time goes on we’re learning they were an early-adopter. Still, City has spent crazy money, most recently to bring one of the most brilliant managers in the world in Pep Guardiola. Plus, you’ll love the same team as Noel and Liam Gallagher, and their banter game is, generally speaking, top notch.

11. Manchester United
Last championship: 2012-13
Years in Premier League: 25/25
Nickname: Red Devils
Location: Manchester
American players: None
Biggest rivals: Liverpool, Leeds United, Manchester City
Comparison: New York Yankees, Montreal Canadiens, New England Patriots

A little shine came off United when it struggled to keep up legendary manager Alex Ferguson’s lofty standards once the Scottish coach left the team. But United has spent almost as much money as any club on Earth and should never, ever be considered anything but a favorite with the biggest financial influence in the game. Now with vilified but brilliant manager Jose Mourinho and the fanciest attack this side of Real Madrid and Barcelona, Manchester United can get back to seriously contending for any trophy in the world. And you can sort of feel like you aren’t jumping on any sort of bandwagon.

12. Middlesbrough
Last championship: Never
Years in Premier League: 15/25 (Return: 2016-17)
Nickname: The Boro, Smoggies
Location: Middlesbrough, North Yorkshire
American players: Brad Guzan
Biggest rivals: Sunderland, Newcastle United
Comparisons: Buffalo Bills, New Jersey Devils

There is no American club that would be considered the third-biggest club in its market, is there? Here’s the good news, it may not be that way for long. With Newcastle laboring in the Championship for at least a season and Sunderland a consistent struggler, The Boro is taking advantage of its return to the top flight by bringing players aboard who can help keep it in the Premier League. Boro also made an unlikely run to the League Cup in 2004, and thrived in the Europa League (going all the way to the final before losing). They embraced a nickname, Smoggies, which was once foisted on the club by dissenting opposition fans. I respect the heck out of that.

13. Southampton
Last championship: N/A
Years in Premier League: 18/25
Nickname: Saints
Location: Southampton
American players: None
Biggest rivals: Portsmouth, Brighton & Hove Albion, Bournemouth
Comparison: St. Louis Blues, Oakland Athletics, Minnesota Vikings

Saints have a whole lot of “Moneyball” to their program, and chairman Ralph Krueger literally wrote books on leadership. The ex-NHL coach is an incredibly impressive man, and the way Southampton has replaced assets with cheaper assets is admirable. With one of the best young programs in the world, pound-for-pound, and a certain bit of magic around St Mary’s (their home ground) you could do worse than Southampton.

14. Stoke City
Last championship: N/A
Years in Premier League: 9/25 (Return 2008-09)
Nickname: Potters
Location: Stoke-on-Trent
American players: Geoff Cameron
Biggest rivals: Port Vale
Comparison: Green Bay Packers (without the titles), Portland Trailblazers

There’s a bit of “How are they doing this?” to Stoke City’s continued improvement, and manager Mark Hughes has brought a real strong mentality to the squad. Stoke has one of the most unheralded American stars in history when it comes to Geoff Cameron, and the Potters are a true underdog that has found a way to bring and keep tremendous talent to a smaller market.

15. Sunderland
Last championship: 1935-36
Years in Premier League: 16/25
Nickname: Mackems, Black Cats
Location: Sunderland, Tyne-upon-Wear
American players: Lynden Gooch
Biggest rivals: Newcastle United, Middlesbrough
Comparison: Sacramento Kings, Toronto Maple Leafs

There’s decent tradition in Sunderland to go with new manager David Moyes, who many think has gotten a bum rap from his last few managerial stops, but the club has seen a series of seasons that include hanging out near the bottom of the league before surviving by the skin of its teeth. It’s incredible that they even survived their moribund last three seasons to remain in the top flight. Sunderland is owned by an American and has a relationship with DC United of Major League Soccer. Another fun fact: their nickname isn’t an actual word (Mackem is short for Make Them, abbreviated).

16. Swansea City
Last championship: Never
Years in Premier League: 6/25
Nickname: The Swans, The Jacks
Location: Wales
American players: None
Biggest rivals: Cardiff City
Comparison: Ottawa Senators, Phoenix Suns

A big time rugby area, Swansea is also a travelers dream: friends have told me it’s a gorgeous place to visit. They flirted with relegation last season and have watched a lot of assets go, but there’s no debating that Swans are a group that grind for their fans and city. The Welsh side has made some head-turning signings in Mike Van der Hoorn and Borja Baston, but also let mainstay Ashley Williams and star striker Andre Ayew leave town.

17. Tottenham Hotspur
Last championship: 1960-61
Years in Premier League: 25/25
Nickname: Spurs
Location: London
American players: DeAndre Yedlin, Cameron Carter-Vickers
Biggest rivals: Arsenal, Chelsea, West Ham
Comparison: Washington Capitals, Oklahoma City Thunder, Dallas Cowboys

Spurs are a good team to pick. They have an awesome name, an inventive manager and a cool-albeit-goofy logo. They also play in London, so visiting them is an A-plus idea. Tottenham hates Arsenal, so it’s a good bet for vitriol as well.

Spurs also have a ton of extremely likable and/or exciting players, and have surged into the UEFA Champions League. The players are strong and deep, with superstar striker Harry Kane, young flash Dele Alli, and midfield general Moussa Dembele. There’s also terrific French goalkeeper Hugo Lloris. There’s really a terrific tradition at the North London club and perhaps they’ve moved from being “so close” to being truly elite again.

18. Watford
Last championship: Never
Years in Premier League: 4/25 (Return: 2015-16)
Nickname: Hornets
Location: Hertfordshire
American players: None
Biggest rivals: Luton Town
Comparisons: Arizona Coyotes

The Hornets finally made it to the Premier League without being instantly relegated. The club questionably cut ties with manager Quique Flores, and will be counting on star forwards Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo to do a lot of heavy lifting this year. Sir Elton John’s favorite club, this is a side that once gave USMNT star Jay DeMerit a shot… and he ended up their captain.

19. West Bromwich Albion
Last championship: N/A
Years in Premier League: 11/25
Nickname: Baggies, West Brom
Location: West Midlands
American players: None
Biggest rivals: Aston Villa, Wolverhampton
Comparison: Milwaukee Brewers, Indiana Pacers

I’ll let Wikipedia show you why I have respect for the fans of this club:

“Albion have always enjoyed loyal and passionate support… Supporters of the team celebrate goals by bouncing up and down and chanting “Boing Boing”. This dates back to the 1992–93 season, when the team was promoted from the new Second Division. In recent years fans of the team have celebrated the end of each season by adopting a fancy dress theme for the final away match, including dressing as vikings in 2004 in honour of Player of the Season Thomas Gaardsøe. In 2002–03 Albion’s fans were voted the best in the Premier League by their peers, while in the BBC’s 2002 “national intelligence test” Test the Nation, they were found to be ‘more likely to be smarter than any other football supporters, registering an average score of 138′.”

That said, until they cut ties with manager Tony Pulis, they will not be playing a style of football I’d enjoy watching on a week-to-week basis. Their fans pride themselves on enjoying beautiful football, and Pulis has not been bringing that.

20. West Ham United
Last championship: N/A
Years in Premier League: 21/25
Nickname: Hammers, the Irons
Location: London
American players: None
Biggest rivals: Millwall, Leyton Orient
Comparison: Brooklyn Nets, Oakland Raiders

West Ham United has a lot of money, a new stadium, and an incredibly deep team given its relative lack of big stage success in recent years. There is every reason to believe West Ham is primed to surge into annual contention for UEFA Champions League places and, given their city and backing, you could be getting on board with a next level club while they’re still an underdog story (of sorts).

The focus of some hard-nosed supporter stories — the film “Green Street Hooligans” was penned about fictional West Ham fans — the Hammers have plenty of grit on the pitch as well.

Mexicans Abroad: Weekend Roundup

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It looked as if Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez had scored his first goal for his new club Sevilla, at the expense for a former one, Real Madrid. Until it was taken away.

Chicharito came off the bench for Sevilla for a second-straight game and did his best to make an impact, but his offside goal aside, Sevilla slumped to a 1-0 defeat. Elsewhere, Edson Alvarez played in his first Eredivisie derby as Ajax took a 1-1 draw away from a trip to PSV Eindhoven.

Here is a list of several other Mexico national team affiliates making a name for themselves (or not) outside of Mexico this weekend.


Serie A

Hirving “Chucky” Lozano, Napoli — Lozano came off the bench on Sunday for Napoli in the 73rd minute of it’s 4-1 win over Lecce.

Premier League

Raul Jimenez, Wolverhampton Wanderers — Jimenez started but was subbed off in the 76th minute of Wolves 1-1 draw with Crystal Palace. Jimenez now hasn’t scored in three-straight games in all competitions since the international break.

La Liga

Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, Sevilla — Chicharito came off the bench in the 69th minute against his former club, and even appeared to score the game-tying goal. Alas, it was ruled out for him being offside.

Hector Herrera, Atletico Madrid — Herrera finally made his first start for Los Colchoneros on Saturday in a scoreless draw with Celta Vigo. Herrera went 60 minutes before being substituted.

Andres Guardado, Real Betis —  The veteran midfielder returned to the starting lineup on Friday in a scoreless draw with Osasuna. Guardado played 78 minutes and picked up a yellow card.

Diego Lainez, Real Betis — The 19-year-old make the 18, but didn’t take the field against Osasuna.

Nestor Araujo, Celta Vigo — Araujo started and went the full 90 against his international teammate Herrera and Atletico Madrid in a scoreless draw. Araujo shut down an offense that includes Joao Felix, Diego Costa, Angel Correa and Alvaro Morata.

Eredivisie

Erick Gutierrez, PSV Eindhoven — Gutierrez made his return to the PSV gameday squad on Sunday for De Topper against Ajax. However, he didn’t make it off the bench.

Edson Alvarez, Ajax — Alvarez started and played the full 90 minutes in the 1-1 draw at PSV.

Primeira Liga

Jesus “Tecatito” Corona, FC Porto — Starting at right back again, Tecatito went 76 minutes and picked up a yellow card in Porto’s 2-0 win over Santa Clara.

Jupiler Pro League

Omar Govea, Zulte Waregem — Govea made the gameday squad but didn’t appear in Zulte’s 2-2 draw with Genk.

Elsewhere around the globe:

Hector Moreno, Al Gharafa   On Thursday, Moreno started and played 81 minutes in Al Gharafa’s 3-1 win over Al Ahli.

Juan Gerardo Ramirez Alosno, Roda JC — The 21-year-old fullback was left on the bench in Roda’s 3-1 defeat to Utrecht II on Friday.

Carlos Fierro, San Jose Earthquakes – Dressed but didn’t play in the Quakes’ 3-1 loss to Atlanta United.

Carlos Vela, LAFC – Vela scored a penalty kick goal to help save a point for LAFC against Toronto FC in a 1-1 draw.

Jonathan Dos Santos, LA Galaxy – Dos Santos started and went the full 90 minutes, picking up a yellow card, as the Galaxy beat the Montreal Impact, 2-1.

Uriel Antuna, LA Galaxy – Antuna started and scored the game-winning goal for the Galaxy off an assist from Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the Galaxy’s 2-1 win over the Montreal Impact.

Americans Abroad: Weekend Roundup

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One of the youngest Americans playing abroad had arguably the biggest weekend of any of his USMNT-eligible teammates.

Playing in his first derby for Ajax against PSV in league play, Dest started and set up teammate Dusan Tadic for a goal. Interestingly, with the Netherlands FA working to get Dest to commit to the Oranje moving forward, Dest had the chance to match up against Denzel Dumfries, the current first choice right back for the Netherlands.

The other big story? Christian Pulisic didn’t play again. More on that below.

Here is a list of several other USMNT affiliates making a name for themselves (or not) abroad this weekend.

Premier League

Christian Pulisic, Chelsea — Pulisic made the bench but didn’t appear for a third-straight match. Lampard explained to our own JPW why Pulisic has been on the sidelines.

DeAndre Yedlin, Newcastle — The fullback returned to training following a serious groin injury. There’s no timeline on his return yet, however.

EFL Championship

Antonee Robinson, Wigan Athletic — Robinson is a fixture at Wigan. The young left back started and played the full 90 minutes as Wigan picked up a win over a top-ten opponent, Charlton Athletic

Matt Miazga, Reading (loan from Chelsea) — The 24-year-old is out with a hamstring injury. There’s no timeline on his return.

Eric Lichaj, Hull City — The Tigers captain started and played the full 90 minutes in Hull City’s 3-0 win over Luton Town.

Geoff Cameron, QPR — The 34-year-old defender started at centerback and went the full 90, picking up a yellow card in QPR’s 2-1 win over Millwall.

Tim Ream, Fulham — Ream started and played 90 minutes in Fulham’s 1-1 draw at Sheffield Wednesday.

Cameron Carter-Vickers, Stoke City (loan Tottenham Hotspur) — Carter-Vickers started and went the full 90 minutes as Stoke City picked up just its second point of the season in a scoreless draw with Brentford.

Duane Holmes, Derby County — Holmes made his second-straight start after coming back from injury, and his first 90 minutes on the pitch as Derby County secured a last-gasp 1-1 draw with league-leading Leeds United.

EFL League One

Lynden Gooch, Sunderland – Gooch started and played the full 90 minutes, though Sunderland needed a last-minute goal from Aiden McGeady to draw at Bolton. .

Bundesliga

Weston McKennie, Schalke —  McKennie started, picked up a yellow card in the second half and then was substituted in the 76th minute, before Schalke scored a late winner in a 2-1 victory over Mainz.

Zack Steffen and Alfredo Morales, Fortuna Dusseldorf — Steffen started and played all 90 minutes in Fortuna Dusseldorf’s 2-1 defeat to rivals Borussia Monchengladbach. Steffen recorded a handful of incredible, point-blank saves to keep Fortuna in the game. Morales did not dress again.

Josh Sargent, Werder Bremen  With an injury crisis, Sargent got the start and played 80 minutes. Unfortunately for Sargent and Werder, they were routed by Leipzig – even without Tyler Adams.

Tyler Adams, RB Leipzig — Adams remains inactive with a groin injury. There’s no timeline on his return.

Fabian Johnson, Borussia Mönchengladbach Johnson didn’t make Borussia Monchengladbach’s 18 for their match against Fortuna Dusseldorf.

Timmy Chandler, Eintracht Frankfurt — The veteran defender entered off the bench in the 83rd minute as Eintracht secured a massive 2-2 draw with Borussia Dortmund.

Julian Green, Greuther Furth – The 24-year-old midfielder started and played the full 90 minutes for Greuther Furth. Unfortunately, they lost 2-0 to league-leading Stuttgart in the 2. Bundesliga.

Eredivisie

Sergino Dest, Ajax — Dest started at right back in his first edition of “De Topper,” starring as Ajax drew 1-1 at PSV Eindhoven. Dest played the full 90 minutes and had an assist on Dusan Tadic’s goal.

Haji Wright, VVV-Venlo — The 21-year-old striker came off the bench in the 71st minute of VVV’s 1-0 loss to Willen II.

Desevio Payne, FC Emmen — The U-23 MNT fullback was left out of FC Emmen’s 18 once again. 

Ligue 1

Timothy Weah, Lille — Weah remains sidelined with a muscular injury. There’s no timeline on his return.

Theoson Jordan-Siebatcheu, Rennes — Siebatcheu made the 18 but did not feature in Rennes 1-1 draw with Lille.

Honorable Mentions:

Chris Richards, Bayern Munich II – The young Alabama native started and played the full 90 minutes as FC Bayern II defeated FC Ingolstadt, which was in the 2. Bundesliga just last season.

Andrija Novakovich, Frosinone – The 23-year-old striker, now in Serie B after five seasons on the books with Reading, made his first start for Frosinone, going 55 minutes in a 1-1 draw with Venezia.

Giovanni Reyna, Borussia Dortmund U-19 – Reyna started, scored, and played 77 minutes in Dortmund U-19s 6-1 win over Leverkusen. The 16-year-old attacker also scored earlier in the week in a 2-1 win over Barcelona U-19s in the UEFA Youth League.

Luca De La Torre, Fulham Reserves – Luca de la Torre is still stuck at Spurs without getting first team minutes, but he had a night to remember in the PL2. The 21-year-old midfielder scored the first, and game-winning-goal in a 90-minute performance as Fulham beat Reading U-23s, 5-4.

Serie A Roundup: Roma, Napoli, Lazio all win

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Edin Dzeko‘s last-gasp winner for AS Roma headlines a busy day in Serie A action on Sunday.

[ MORE: Serie A scores, schedule ]

Bologna 1-2 Roma

Roma kept its unbeaten start to the 2019-2020 Serie A season thanks to a 94th-minute Edin Dzeko winner. The American-owned club first took the lead in the 49th minute through another former Premier League player, Aleksandar Kolarov. The Serbian delightfully placed a free kick at the top of the box over the wall and into the top corner.

However, Bologna quickly capitalized after Kolarov bundled over Roberto Soriano in the box, leading to a penalty kick call that VAR confirmed. Nicola Sansone waited for Roma goalkeeper Pau Lopez to move and then slotted the ball into the right corner to tie the match.

Roma went down to ten men in the 85th minute when new signing Gianluca Mancini, a centerback, picked up his second yellow card for a foul on Felipe Santander as he was about to run into the box. And yet, even though Roma was on the ropes, Dzeko popped up in a pocket of space at the top of the six-yard box and powered home a header just before the final whistle to win the game. With the win, Roma jumps into the top four with eight points from four games.

Lecce 1-4 Napoli

Don’t tell Fernando Llorente that his best days are behind him.

Having left Tottenham in search of more first team minutes, Llorente just scored for the second-game straight as he bagged a brace in Napoli’s rout on the road over Lecce. At 34-years old, the crafty veteran may be the perfect age for star striker in Italy, with Cristiano Ronaldo and Fabio Quagliarella (26 goals last year at age 36) all at a similar age.

Llorente took advantage of his experience in the 28th minute, latching onto a blocked shot from Arkadiusz Milik that dribbled into the middle of the box, leaving Llorente for an easy finish past Lecce goalkeeper Gabriel.

VAR gave Napoli a controversial penalty kick in the 35th minute off a handball from Panagiotis Tachtsidis in the box. Lorenzo Insigne stepped up to take the penalty kick and his spot kick was saved expertly by Gabriel. However, the referee awarded a do-over after seeing Gabriel was a step off his line before the ball was kicked. Insigne didn’t miss on the second attempt, putting Napoli up 2-0.

Fabian Ruiz in the second half curled home an absolute beauty to put Napoli up 3-0. Lecce cut the decide by one with a penalty kick goal, but Llorente gave Napoli their three-goal lead again with another one-on-one finish from close.

Elsewhere in Serie A

Sassuolo 3-0 SPAL

Sampdoria 1-0 Torino

Atalanta 2-2 Fiorentina

Lazio 2-0 Parma

What should Emery do with Xhaka?

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Arsenal fans have directed their ire at many different people, but aside from manager Unai Emery, many fans have been criticizing the recent play of midfielder Granit Xhaka.

Named Arsenal captain this summer after Laurent Koscielny‘s insubordination and eventual departure, Xhaka looked set to take Arsenal to the next level this summer, with three stars up top and a veteran defense behind him. However, in Premier League matches where Arsenal has struggled, it seems that Xhaka has been right in the middle of it. Sometimes, that’s just because of his holding midfield position. Other times, it’s because he didn’t make the play that was necessary.

[READ: 10-man Arsenal beats Aston Villa in a thriller]

Take Saturday’s eventual 3-2 win by Arsenal over Aston Villa at the Emirates Stadium. Despite having a decent game by all accounts, Xhaka allowed Ahmed El Mohamady to run right past him on a mazy run through the middle of the field, eventually centering to Wesley which gave Aston Villa a 2-1 lead. It gave the visitors the advantage yet again right after Arsenal equalized.

Xhaka had every chance to try and make a tackle, or at the least bring El Mohamady down farther from goal if there was no choice but to foul and give up a free kick. Instead, Xhaka just followed El Mohamady before passing him off to a teammate in the box, who was equally as poor.

Not long after, Xhaka was substituted, with some Arsenal fans raining boos down on their captain. And whether it had to do with him or not, Arsenal went from a goal down to a goal up once Xhaka left the field.

According to manager Unai Emery, Xhaka was taken off in the 72nd minute not due to his performance, but to bring on fresh legs. It was a double substitution, with Dani Ceballos also coming off in place of Lucas Torreira and Joe Willock.

“My opinion is we need our supporters and we need our supporters helping each player but our responsibility is to transmit our capacity, our spirit, our commitment and behavior,” Emery said after the game. “And Xhaka is doing that. He played very well on Thursday and also last week in Watford he played with a good individual performance. Today I changed him because on Thursday he played 90 minutes and prefer to use fresh players for today a chance for him but for me Xhaka is very good player for us. He has a very big commitment here. He is improving and I am not asking the people to support him but I am sure that he is going to achieve the best thing individually and collectively for the supporters to help him.”

Just one week earlier, Xhaka claimed that his Arsenal teammates – and presumably himself as well – were “scared” in the second half as Watford stormed back for a 2-2 draw. Man City’s 8-0 pummeling of Watford makes that draw look even worse in retrospect.

If Arsenal is “scared,” and they’re giving up two goals in two straight matches each to two of the worst defensive teams in the league, then perhaps the club captain isn’t doing enough. It seems that although Xhaka has experience, he’s going through a rough patch of form in the Premier League – he looked good in Europa League action – and might do well with a match off.

Luckily for Arsenal, if Emery does agree to give Xhaka a rest, he has a talented player in Lucas Torreira who will run himself into the ground for the team. In addition, he’d likely have stopped that run from El Mohamady instead of letting him glide into the box with hardly a challenge.

It appears Unai Emery is publicly sticking with Xhaka. Arsenal needs Xhaka at his best to make it back into the top four. But right now, he’s clearly not there, and he needs to figure things out on the training pitch so he can shine once again.