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Three things we learned from Leicester vs. Arsenal

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Leicester City and Arsenal drew 0-0 at the King Power Stadium on Saturday as the top two teams from last season canceled each other out.

The game sprung into life in the final stages with Petr Cech denying Riyad Mahrez with a great stop and Mesut Ozil and Olivier Giroud adding extra impetus to Arsenal’s attack late on but neither team could find a way through as contentious calls stole the show instead.

Here’s what we learned from a tight, cagey encounter at the KP.


CONTENTIOUS CALLS

Referee Mark Clattenburg took center stage on Saturday surrounding multiple missed PK calls, red card controversy and more. It was not an easy afternoon for one of the top refs in the game who officiated the UEFA Champions League and EURO 2016 final this summer.

He did get the big decision in the first half correct as Danny Drinkwater looked to have been fouled in the box by Laurent Koscielny with Cech off his line. However, given the luxury of seeing several replays, Clattenburg got it spot on. You can clearly see from Koscielny’s tackle that he got a toe on the ball and the fact that the direction of the ball moved away from where Drinkwater was running says it all. Great call from Clattenburg.

What wasn’t great was that first he allowed Francis Coquelin to stay on the pitch and then somehow he didn’t award Leicester a penalty in the 90th minute.

When it comes to Coquelin, he had been shown a yellow card in the first half and then at the start of the second half the Frenchman clattered into Mahrez but somehow survived not getting a second yellow. The more contentious and perhaps pivotal call was Clattenburg not awarding a PK to Leicester after substitute Ahmed Musa raced into the box and clearly — I mean, clearly — had his heels clipped by Hector Bellerin.

Clattenburg had a great view of the incident and there’s no way that wasn’t a penalty kick. Those are the kind of decisions which seemed to go Leicester’s way so much on their march to the PL trophy last season. Luck was not with them on Saturday.


KOSCIELNY KEY

Koscielny was a monster at the heart of Arsenal’s defense. The French national team center back returned for the Gunners after his extended break following EURO 2016 and he skippered the team and led by example.

In the first half a point of contention arose surrounding his last-ditch tackle on Drinkwater in the box and on first viewing it looked like Koscielny had got it wrong. However, he didn’t put a foot wrong all game long and on a second and third viewing it was clear he got a toe on the ball just before Drinkwater. Sublime defending.

In the 69th minute Jamie Vardy raced clear and Koscielny cut off the angle expertly and even if he knew he couldn’t get to Vardy he made sure he wasn’t going to get a clear shot on goal. Youngster Rob Holding looked more assured to have Koscielny’s experience alongside him and Arsenal’s entire back line seemed to be back at ease after their horror show against Liverpool last weekend. Koscielny’s stock has risen considerably over the last few weeks and after Saturday’s display it underlines just how important he is to the Gunners.

Two other players returned to action for Arsenal following their EURO 20016 exertions as Mesut Ozil slotted back in seamlessly and Olivier Giroud made good runs but wasn’t found by his teammates. For all the doom and gloom which surrounded Arsenal following their opening weekend defeat against Liverpool, you have to remind yourself that when everyone is fit and available, they have a heck of a squad… even if they need to buy one more center back and a central striker.


SOLID LEICESTER RETURNS

With Robert Huth back at the heart of Leicester’s defense the reigning champs looked more solid defensively than they had been in his absence away at Hull City while he served the remaining game of his three-match ban.

Overall there was a better organization about the Foxes with Nampalys Mendy and Drinkwater providing a solid screen in front of the back four and the only time Leicester really looked like being unlocked was when Mendy hobbled off in the second half and Ozil arrived with his weaving runs.

At the heart of Leicester’s defense, Huth and Wes Morgan just understand each other and they always seemed to be in the right place at the right time. In the first half Alexis Sanchez slotted in Bellerin and as he raced into the box Huth fell down. But, who was there to block Bellerin’s cross and clear the danger? Yep, you guessed it. Morgan.

Claudio Ranieri lamented his Leicester side in their shock defeat at Hull on the opening day for not playing with togetherness. In front of a fired up home crowd, who still seemed to be in a celebratory mood from last season’s incredible title run, Ranieri couldn’t accuse his team of lacking togetherness against Arsenal. This was more like the old Leicester from last season in that on their way to winning the title, even when they didn’t win games they didn’t look like beating themselves either.

If they can stay solid at the back then Mahrez, Jamie Vardy and Co. will still score plenty this season to keep this journey going.

Watch Live: West Ham United v. Liverpool

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After weeks of having a game in hand on Premier League title chasers Manchester City and Leicester City, the full extent of Liverpool’s lead will be revealed when the Reds visit West Ham United on Wednesday (Watch live, 2:45 p.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com).

[ STREAM: Every PL game live here ]

Once the full-time whistle blows at the London Stadium, all 20 PL sides will have played 24 games. Ahead of kickoff, Jurgen Klopp‘s side leads second-place Man City by a whopping 16 points.

[ MORE: Sign up for NBC Sports Gold ] 

West Ham, meanwhile, sit 17th in the table and are only clear of the relegation zone by way of goal differential. That’s something that could very easily change between now and 5 p.m. ET.

LIVE, League Cup semifinal: Man City v. Man United

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It’s time for leg two of the Manchester derby in the semifinals of the EFL Cup (Wednesday, 2:45 p.m. ET) at the Etihad Stadium.

[ LIVE: Man City v. Man United ]

Manchester City lead 3-1 following their first-leg dismantling of Manchester United at Old Trafford. In theory, it’s a mere formality to reach the final at Wembley, where they would take on Aston Villa following their late dramatics on Tuesday.

Click on the link above to follow the action live, while we will have you covered here at Pro Soccer Talk with all of the reaction and analysis.

LINEUPS

Transfer rumor roundup: Richarlison to Barca for $110m? Spurs’ striker search

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Watch our transfer deadline day show from 6-8 p.m. ET on Jan. 31, live on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com.


A roundup of all of the major transfer rumors, most notably those involving Premier League clubs, on Wednesday…

[ MORE: Spurs complete Bergwijn transfer from PSV ]

Barcelona have reportedly had a $110-million bid for Richarlison rejected by Everton. That’s a mind-blowing number for a club like Everton to receive, but the Toffees apparently didn’t have to think long before saying “thanks, but no thanks.” Luis Suarez is expected to miss four months due to a knee injury, leaving the Blaugrana somewhat for a replacement. Everton, however, have no desire to lose a key member of their squad with little to no time to sign a replacement.


After adding winger Steven Bergwijn on Wednesday, Tottenham Hotspur are heavily linked with a number of strikers as options to replace the injured Harry Kane. AC Milan’s Krzysztof Piatek is the most frequently linked (and most expensive) player coming out of the rumor mill, while Chelsea’s Olivier Giroud has come up as an emergency option (he is reportedly open to the idea). However, Jose Mourinho has reportedly been told he has just $13 million to acquire a new forward after spending a combined $108 million on Bergwijn and Gedson Fernandes.


Elsewhere in Tottenham rumors, full back Kyle Walker-Peters is expected to complete a loan move (without an option to buy) to Southampton in the very near future. The 22-year-old has been on the fringe of the first-team squad for what feels like five years now, but has never quite broken through. This could be Spurs putting into the shop window a player who they don’t believe is in their long-term plans in order to drive up his price tag come this summer.


Sheffield United look set to make a big push for a top-six finish, as the Blades are linked with moves for a pair of highly rated young players: Richairo Zivkovic, from Chinese side Changchun Yatai, and Sander Berge, from Genk. Zivkovic was one of the most highly touted youngsters in Europe before moving to China on a big-money deal; Berge has been linked with some of the biggest clubs across Europe in recent years, all the while the 21-year-old has become a fixture for the Belgian side.

Man United confirm agreement for Bruno Fernandes

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Watch our transfer deadline day show from 6-8 p.m. ET on Jan. 31, live on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com.


Bruno Fernandes is on the brink of becoming a Manchester United player after the club announced on Wednesday that an agreement has been reached with Portuguese side Sporting CP.

[ MORE: Spurs complete Bergwijn transfer from PSV ]

From the club’s website, which is currently unreachable at the time of posting:

“Manchester United are delighted to announce it has reached agreement with Sporting Clube de Portugal for the transfer of Bruno Fernandes.

“The deal is subject to a medical and the agreement of personal terms. A further announcement will be made in due course.”

The dollar figure most commonly reported is $61 million (potentially reaching $88 million after add-ons). Fernandes, 25, is reportedly in the process of visiting the Sporting offices to terminate his current contract and record a goodbye video for fans before boarding a flight to Manchester.

Fernandes came close to joining Tottenham Hotspur in the summer, but an agreement could never be reached between the involved parties and they ended up signing Giovani Lo Celso from Real Betis instead.