Three things we learned from Liverpool’s wild win vs. Arsenal

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LONDON — Liverpool beat Arsenal 4-3 at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday as Jurgen Klopp‘s side rode a second half glut of goals to down the Gunners in a classic Premier League encounter.

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Theo Walcott put Arsenal ahead but Liverpool raced into a 4-1 lead with two goals from Philippe Coutinho and a goal each from Adam Lallana and Sadio Mane putting them out of reach. So we thought. A goal from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Calum Chambers brought it back to 4-3 but Arsenal couldn’t find an equalizer.

Here’s what we learned from a gripping, mesmeric game in the opening weekend of the season.


KLOPP’S OFFENSIVE MACHINE PURRING

As Lallana wheeled away in delight after putting Liverpool ahead, Jurgen Klopp hung in the air for probably a millisecond but it felt like a minute. As he sprung out of his technical area in delight, he lost his glasses as he punched the air with a leaping, forward lunge. The sense of satisfaction must have been sublime for the German coach, especially when summer signing Mane cut inside and rifled a beauty into the top corner to make it 4-1. Mane’s piggy-back ride on Klopp’s back underlined their togetherness.

Over the summer Klopp has masterminded a huge overhaul, selling 11 players and bringing in six. There are plans to add more but for now this pacey Liverpool is humming along nicely. Going forward they didn’t miss the injured Daniel Sturridge much with Lallana, Roberto Firmino, Coutinho and Mane ripping Arsenal apart.

At the back Klopp has plenty of work to do but this is the way his Liverpool team will be. Last season we saw it with a 5-4 win at Norwich and countless high-scoring defeats. This rebuild is taking time and who knows how much of a success it will be, but one thing we can guarantee is that Liverpool will be fun to watch this season.


DEFENSIVE CONCERNS CONTINUE IN CLASSIC

Sometimes you can put 4-3 games like this down to it just being “one of those days” where the passion overtakes players and goals pour in.

This wasn’t one of those days. Ahead of the season, when you look at both of these teams you put an asterisk against their name when it came to predicting title winners for one reason and one reason only: is their defense good enough?

On Sunday, they weren’t. Going into this game all the talk was about Arsenal’s two young center backs and if they could cope with Liverpool’s pacey playmakers. They couldn’t.

Rob Holding — making his PL debut at 20 — fared better than Callum Chambers. The latter gave the ball to Arsenal’s midfielders in dangerous positions and proved he isn’t ready to be called upon on a weekly basis. Laurent Koscielny will be rushed back after his extended break this summer and boy do Arsenal need him. With Per Mertesacker and Gabriel out injured, Wenger’s failure to buy a new center back this summer is looking even more glaring than usual. Arsenal have needed a new central defender for quite some time and perhaps this inept defensive display will force the board into action to spend big before the summer transfer window is over.

As for Liverpool, despite his penalty save goalkeeper Simon Mignolet doesn’t inspire confidence and the left back situation remains a huge headache for Klopp.

In the first half Alberto Moreno had a two-minute spell which could finally spell the end of his Liverpool career. The Spanish left back first had a rush of blood to the head as he lunged in and took Walcott down in the penalty box ot give away a PK. Walcott missed it but 69 seconds later Moreno then left a huge gap for Walcott to control the ball and smash home to put Arsenal 1-0 up. In the end his calamitous few minutes didn’t matter as Liverpool surged ahead but if Klopp has aspirations to at least make the top four, he, like Wenger, must strengthen his defense before the end of the transfer window.


WENGER’S FUTURE INCREASINGLY UNCERTAIN

On the first day of his 21st consecutive season in charge of Arsenal, Arsene Wenger has one year left on his contract. He may not last any longer than that. One of the greatest managers of any generation still has the support of most Arsenal fans but with a third home defeat on the opening day in the past four seasons, this campaign is not starting off on the right foot for the Gunners once again.

Alexis Sanchez played as Arsenal’s lone center forward and their forward issues are clear for everyone to see. With Olivier Giroud still not fully fit after an extended break this summer due to his involvement at EURO 2016, plus Danny Welbeck out injured, Wenger’s lack of options centrally were clear for all to see. The fact that he hasn’t be able to sign a new striker — as well as a center back — this summer is worrying.

Why has Arsenal’s board not sanctioned a move for Alexandre Lacazette? He’s a proven penalty box predator who would be perfect in the PL but the Gunners don’t want to pay over $50 million for him. With Mesut Ozil to return, Arsenal will create plenty of chances as they proved once again on Sunday, scoring three times at home in defeat. Of course there are concerns defensively too, but should we read into Wenger not being handed money to spend?

After all, Ivan Gazidis, Arsenal’s chief executive, said this summer that Arsenal would not try to outspend their rivals. On this showing you can see Wenger’s men are falling further behind the pack of clubs clambering to try and win the PL. Even though they finished second last season, it was a disappointment with so many perennial giants in transition. If they fall any further behind this season, it will be the end for Wenger.

Cole returns to Chelsea as youth team coach

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One of Chelsea’s best players in club history is back at his old stomping grounds in a new role.

Chelsea finally confirmed over their social media channels that former left back Ashley Cole is back at the club coaching in the academy, helping the next generation of stars grow and learn the games. Specifically, Cole is coaching the U-15 squad.

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“I’m also doing my badges at the moment and so being here at Chelsea means I have the chance to coach every day, whereas maybe if I wasn’t working at a club it would be hard for me to get the hours in,” Cole told Chelsea’s website. “I’m learning not just how to be a coach and how to speak to people in a different environment but the side of coaching that you don’t see like planning the sessions and setting up the equipment.

“As a player, you just turn up for a session and do it. If it’s a possession drill, you just arrive and try to keep the ball but now I’m getting to understand that there are always ideas behind a particular session or practice. Organization has to be key and those are the little details that it takes to be a great coach.”

While plenty from Cole’s era have moved into the media for lucrative punditry roles, it’s nice to see players like Cole and his former teammate Frank Lampard, now Chelsea coach, go into coaching to help pass on some of the great lessons they’ve learned during their careers. .

Cole said in the interview that he wasn’t sure what was next after playing three seasons for the LA Galaxy and then joining Lampard at Derby County for the second half of last season. He added that he got his first taste of coaching kids while with the Galaxy, helping some of the academy players and taking part in video sessions.

“The Academy are very good at giving ex-players a route back to the club and a chance to learn as coaches,” Cole said. “They’re eager to bring in people who understand what it means to be at Chelsea and what it means to wear the badge. You have to be a top player to play for Chelsea so they want those top ex-players influencing and trying to help the next generation develop and be better players.”

Spanish FA once again opposes La Liga match in U.S.

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For the second consecutive season, La Liga and Relevant Sports have proposed a league match to take place this winter in the U.S.

And once again, the La Liga proposal doesn’t have the support of its national soccer federation.

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Luis Rubiales, president of the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF), told reporters on Thursday that it would oppose the match taking place outside of Spain’s borders, keeping a consistent line in the sand on how far globalization can go in soccer.

“It would disrupt the competition,” Rubiales said, via AS. “To play a game in Miami, La Liga needs permission from five bodies that it doesn’t have.”

The five bodies Rubiales referred to are the RFEF, FIFA, CONCACAF, U.S. Soccer and MLS.

Last time around, Relevant Sports and La Liga announced a long-term, lucrative marketing contract to expand the brand’s footprint in the Americas, and soon after, petitioned to move Girona’s home game against Barcelona to Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium, the home stadium of Relevant Sports owner Stephen Ross and his Miami Dolphins.

Ultimately, La Liga president Javier Tebas and Relevant Sports were unable to get permission from the RFEF or FIFA to hold the event outside Spain and it went off as expected in Girona. At the time, Spain’s player’s union and fans groups opposed the move. Tebas has filed a lawsuit in Spain to try to force the RFEF to approve their request, but it seems unlikely to be awarded and it surely doesn’t provide any good will between the two parties.

There’s been plenty of talk about bringing league games abroad before, but it has just been talk so far. The Premier League considered adding an extra game to the season to be played all over the world, but never went through with creating plans for matches.

Associations – not leagues, to be clear – have brought things like Super Cups abroad. For example, the RFEF moved the 2018 Spanish Super Cup to Tangiers, Morocco, while the France Football Federation has brought its national Super Cup match to both the U.S. and Montreal, Canada in recent years. However, the argument in favor of bringing those games abroad is they’re basically meaningless. Meanwhile, one result in a league season could – in theory – determine whether a team is relegated or not, especially if the margin is three points or less.

We could see another legal fight on our hands, so watch this space, there’s plenty more to come.

Rodgers excuses Maddison’s behavior after England departure

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Leicester City and England midfielder James Maddison made headlines for the wrong reasons after he was pictured last week watching the England match at the Czech Republic from a casino.

Despite the negative attention from Maddison’s decision to watch the game at that venue, he has the backing of his club manager, Brendan Rodgers.

“The kid went away with the international team and took ill while he was away,” Rodgers said, via the Guardian. “He wanted to stay and hopefully be ready for the second game. But the England medical staff – which I can understand, as he had flu and they didn’t want that to spread to his teammates – decided it’s best for him to leave the camp. So he leaves, gets some tablets with our guys at the club, then he feels better.

“He watched the game at home on his own on the Friday and then goes out at half-time – probably he’ll make better decisions in his life but he went to a casino on his own to sit and watch the second half by a poker table. The suggestions are he left England purposelessly and then goes to a casino but that’s totally not the case at all. But his eyes have been opened now to the wider world in terms of what he did. He knows in hindsight he’s made a mistake.”

Considering all that went on during England’s international break, from the poor performance in Prague to the horrible racism endured in Bulgaria, this is a bit of a silly scandal. To be honest, as long as Maddison is taking care of his body and himself, why does it matter if he was at a casino, or a pub, or anywhere?

However, there’s no denying that the optics look bad. Folks didn’t know that he arrived to England camp with the flu, or a flu-like illness at least, and the England medical staff are right to send him away to make sure no one else gets sick. He may have been feeling better by Friday and wanted to get out of the house. I think we’ve all been there after being sick for a few days.

The most important lesson for Maddison is to learn that his actions, out of context, can be misunderstood. In terms of soccer, after Ross Barkley’s performance for England, Maddison will have to prove in his club form that he should still have a place in the England team for the near future. There’s only two more international dates left before the 2020 Euros, so time is running out for Maddison to make an impact to Southgate.

Tierney, Lacazette available for Arsenal

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Arsenal are edging closer to finally having a full-strength squad.

Ahead of Monday’s prime-time matchup with Sheffield United, Arsenal manager Unai Emery confirmed that Kieran Tierney was in line to make his Premier League debut, while Alexandre Lacazette was back in full training and should be in the gameday squad.

“Today is Lacazette’s first training back with us,” Emery said in a press conference on Thursday. “He finished it well and he’s feeling well with his injuries. Tomorrow we will be training again and he will be with us. We will decide.

“The most important thing is that first he is training, then secondly it’s whether he can be with us and it depends how he can feel in the next days training with us, whether his ankle is not giving him any more problems.”

This is a huge boost to Arsenal, which has had to rely on some youngsters and have made some lineup changes to accommodate not having Lacazette on the field. Tierney meanwhile could step into a position where there’s already a decent starter, Sead Kolasinac.

Lacazette’s return also couldn’t have come at a better time. In Premier League action, Arsenal’s high-powered offense has been stymied, scoring just two goals in the last two league games. Meanwhile, against weaker defenses in the UEFA Europa League and the Carabao Cup, Arsenal has bagged a total of 12 goals.

The veteran Frenchman has scored two goals in three appearances so far this season, including a big goal just before halftime in the 2-2 draw with Tottenham. However, he suffered a long-term ankle injury in that match that has kept him on the sidelines for more than a month.

“[Tierney is] ready to play,” Emery later said. Now we have two options in that left-back role with Sead Kolasinac and him. We’re going to play a lot of matches after Monday. We will need every player. It depends how he comes into the first training with us, Sead, after his international matches. We now have two players in that position and we can use one on Monday, it depends how they are, one or the other.”

Tierney, the 22-year-old Scottish left back, has made two appearances for the Arsenal first team since recovering from a double hernia operation over the summer. Signed from Celtic for around $32 million, Tierney adds a skill that Kolasinac has struggled with – expert crosser of the ball into the box, where the likes of Lacazette, Nicolas Pepe, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang can score when given a decent chance.