Premier League preview: Arsenal vs. Chelsea

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  • Arsenal (10 points): 4th in PL, 5 points off the lead
  • Chelsea (10 points): 5th in PL following first defeat
  • Blues won home and away vs. Arsenal last season

The opposing manager keeps changing, but he just stays the same — for better, or for worse. On Saturday, when Arsenal take on Chelsea at the Emirates Stadium (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET, on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com), Arsene Wenger will come up against first-year Blues boss Antonio Conte, the 12th opposing manager in the Arsenal versus Chelsea London derby.

Following an opening day defeat to Liverpool and a scoreless draw with Leicester City the second weekend of the 2016-17 season, Wenger’s side has quickly turned things around and hit a patch of form matched only by the Premier League’s no. 1 and no. 2 sides ahead of the weekend, Manchester City (five wins in five games) and Everton (four straight wins). Last weekend’s win over Hull City was the most emphatic of the bunch, with Alexis Sanchez scoring twice as the center forward with Olivier Giroud unavailable through injury. Giroud (toe) is expected to be unavailable a further week and miss the clash with Chelsea.

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For Chelsea, Saturday is all about bouncing back from last week’s home defeat to Liverpool. It was Conte’s first defeat as Chelsea manager, and the second straight game in which his side dropped points. Just like that, they find themselves five points back of runaway leaders Manchester City.

Diego Costa sits atop the PL’s goalscoring charts (alongside West Ham United’s Michail Antonio) with five goals from the first five games, just as he does for should-have-been red cards, predictably. Always toeing the thin line of immorality, twice already this season Costa should have been shown a second yellow card and sent to an early shower, only to remain on the field and score the game’s decisive goal. Conversely, it was Costa who goaded Per Mertesacker into a red card offense the last time these sides met before going on to score the game’s only goal five minutes later. The beauty, and the beast, of Costa.

INJURIES: Arsenal — OUT: Aaron Ramsey (hamstring), Per Mertesacker (knee surgery), Danny Welbeck (knee surgery), Carl Jenkinson (knee surgery); QUESTIONABLE: Olivier Giroud (toe) | Chelsea — OUT: Kurt Zouma (knee surgery), John Terry (ankle)

What they’re saying

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, on the derby’s emotions: “It’d be nice to keep 11 men on the pitch against Chelsea this time round. I know it sounds funny but generally speaking in the last few games against them, it’s always a big clash with a lot of emotions and maybe some mind games. First and foremost, it’s a massive game and we just need to keep our discipline and stay in the game.”

Conte, on bouncing back from last week’s defeat: “I saw a great reaction from my players and my team [against Leicester in the EFL Cup]. This is very important because they showed a great heart and a will to win and go in the next round. It wasn’t easy at 2-0 and after a defeat in the last game. We know that we can improve, I repeat this. The only way I know to continue is to work hard and to improve on different aspects.”

Prediction

Arsenal will struggle without strong center forward around which the attack can revolve. Wenger will likely load up on pace on the outside, hoping to hit Chelsea on the counter. The Blues’ full backs won’t be caught out, though. David Luiz, on the other hand, must improve upon his PL re-debut, otherwise the Gunners will be afforded chances they otherwise shouldn’t be. A point apiece sounds fair, 1-1.

Delph completes transfer to Everton

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Everton has added an England international in a move to bolster its midfield.

The club announced that it had signed Fabian Delph to a three-year contract, after an undisclosed permanent transfer from Manchester City. Delph comes to the blue half of Liverpool after spending the last four seasons at Manchester City, where he began as a central midfielder but was quickly pushed out wide as a left back, and only featured 20 times in all competitions for the Sky Blues last season.

“Every time I have played against Everton, whether it was home or away, straight away the first thing that comes to mind when you see the fans is passion,” Delph said on Everton’s website. “The Everton fans seem to know football, seem to understand it, it seems to be in their blood and they really back the team. You are always going to hear Evertonians and I’m excited to play at home and hear them when I am playing. I’m really happy to be here, I’m going to give absolutely everything – nothing less than 100 per cent.

Although it feels like he’s been around forever, Delph is actually still only 29-years-old, and should still have a few years left in the tank to help propel Everton to the next level. At the least, Delph adds steel and technical ability in the middle of the park, where he could likely partner with Andre Gomes, who made his move to Everton permanent this summer from Barcelona.

Delph also adds versatility, and that should help him stay in the Everton lineup, should it need him out wide or to play in the center of the park.

However, the most important aspect Delph brings is the winning mentality. Even though he didn’t play a massive role, Delph has had the opportunity to train and play alongside the likes of Vincent Kompany, David Silva and Sergio Aguero, all winners in their careers who do whatever it takes to get three points and win a title.

Bringing that attitude and mentality to Everton is huge for the club, which needs a lift after the departure of Wayne Rooney and other big names who have departed since the end of the David Moyes era.

Report: Ajax in negotiations to sign El Tri’s Alvarez

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One of the Mexico National Team’s brightest stars appears to be heading to Ajax, where he could potentially be the replacement for one Matthijs de Ligt.

According to a report in Voetbol International, a publication in the Netherlands, Ajax technical director Marc Overmars confirmed the club’s interest in signing Club America and El Tri defender Edson Alvarez. Club America are reportedly demanding nothing less than nearly $17 million for Alvarez, who has in just two years become a regular for El Tri.

[READ: USMNT’s Boyd signs with Besiktas]

The report states that Wolverhampton Wanderers – which has Alvarez’s El Tri teammate Raul Jimenez – and PSV Eindhoven were also interesting in signing Alvarez.

The 21-year-old made his debut for Club America as a right back under long-time Liga MX manager Ricardo La Volpe in 2016, and just a few months after his club debut, he was already playing for the national team. He was included and featured at the 2017 Gold Cup, becoming Mexico’s youngest scorer in the competition (at age 19) and he then started all four of Mexico’s games at the 2018 World Cup, including against Neymar and Brazil in the Round of 16.

Alvarez has continued his strong play over the past year and has moved into more of a centerback and holding midfielder role at times. He played as a No. 6 for Mexico in its 1-0 win over the U.S. Men’s National Team at the 2019 Gold Cup final, at times dropping into the back line to defend while providing support in the attack.

As Alvarez is still young but continues to grow, it’s a perfect time for him to join Ajax. There, he’ll face even better attackers than in Liga MX, and he’ll have a lot of responsibility on his shoulders to play for a prestigious club like Ajax. The pressure to perform will only make him better, like it’s helped countryman Hirving “Chucky” Lozano across the Netherlands at PSV Eindhoven.

Interestingly, Alvarez would be the second summer signing for Ajax with a North American connection. Defender Kik Pierie was actually born in Boston, while his father was studying at Harvard Medical School, though he’s been raised almost entirely in the Netherlands and has featured for the Oranje internationally.

USMNT’s Boyd signs with Besiktas

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Add another American to the list of players who will be playing in UEFA competitions this fall.

Turkish giant Besiktas announced on Monday that it had signed winger Tyler Boyd to a four-year contract in a transfer from Portuguese side Vitoria Guimaraes. Boyd has had a pretty impressive last six months, from scoring six goals in 14 games with Ankaragücü in the Turkish Superlig on loan, to scoring goals and making the Gold Cup roster for the U.S. Men’s National Team.

[READ: Transfer Rumor Roundup]

The New Zealand-born pacey winger completed a one-time switch to play for the USMNT in May, and he went on to score a brace in the USMNT’s Gold Cup opener against Guyana. While Boyd made five appearances for the U.S. this summer, he was left on the bench as the U.S. bowed out to Mexico, suddenly appearing out of Berhalter’s plans as quickly as he entered them.

Regardless, this is a great move for Boyd, assuming he can get some first team minutes. It’s a big step up from Ankaragücü to play for Besiktas, which not only includes the heated Istanbul derbies against Fenerbahce and Galatasaray, but next season will also include at least six matches in the UEFA Europa League. By finishing third in the Turkish league, Besiktas earned a place direct in the Europa League group stage.

Of course, like we saw this summer with the USMNT, Boyd has to break into a more talented group of players and earn minutes, both for league and European matches. If he’s not playing much, it’s possible we won’t see much of him with the national team, as Jordan Morris gets regular playing time as well as others in that position like Timothy Weah, Corey Baird and possibly Kenny Saief, now that he’s back with Anderlecht.

Boyd is undoubtedly a talented player. Hopefully, this move up in stature and pressure can help the 24-year-old take his game to a new level.

Report: Manchester United “miles” apart on Maguire deal

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Yesterday, the English tabloids exploded with reports that Manchester United was nearing a deal with Leicester City to make Harry Maguire the most expensive defender in the world with a $100 million deal nearly completed. Some even went so far as to suggest a medical would take place on Monday – today.

Now, there seems to be an about-face as ESPN senior writer Mark Ogden reports that the two sides are “miles away” on a potential deal, as his source describes it.

According to the report, Manchester United’s last bid of $50 million is much closer to their valuation of the player, and while Leicester City is holding out for a world record bid, the two sides have not made much movement towards an agreement. They are willing to go up to $75 million with another bid, but that is still well off the Leicester City price tag.

Ogden writes that Manchester United’s first choice was Dutch defender Matthijs de Ligt, but he is nearing completion on a move to Juventus, and if the reports over the last few weeks are to be believed, Manchester United was never really in play. De Ligt was handed significant wages at Juventus, something Manchester United may not have been willing to do.

They turned their sights towards Maguire, but with three weeks left in the transfer window, there apparently needs to be significant work done on a deal to move it across the finish line. Ogden writes that there is “confidence” within Manchester United that Maguire wants the move, but that’s nothing if the two clubs can’t come to an agreement.