That result blew the title race wide-open at the halfway point of the season as Chelsea now have just a five-point lead over Liverpool and are seven points ahead of Tottenham and Manchester City with Arsenal eight points back and Manchester United 10 points behind the current leaders. It’s tight.
Speaking after their defeat at White Hart Lane, Conte revealed who he believes can win the title.
“I think the situation is very clear. There are six teams that can fight for the title or for a place in the Champions League,” Conte said. “I am sure one of these six teams will be champions.”
Before the festive period it appeared that just Liverpool or Man City would seriously challenge Chelsea for the title this season but with their winning run coming to an end, plus a few hiccups for Man City and Liverpool coupled with winning runs for Tottenham and Man United, the entire top six may now believe they can win the title.
With 18 games to go, Chelsea are in the driving seat.
Conte knows it is congested behind them and a few slip ups will be capitalized on.
Focusing on Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal, who had plenty of momentum before the suspension due to the coronavirus pandemic, they now have plenty of players back fit and ready for a late season surge.
Let’s take a closer look at all things Arsenal when it comes to the season restart.
Outlook: Arteta has lost just one of his 10 Premier League games in charge of Arsenal and somehow he has managed to solidify their defensive unit and the Gunners could be set for a late top four push. They do have a game in hand on their rivals but that is away at Man City. However you look at it, Arteta has Arsenal grinding defensively and we all know they have the attacking weapons to score goals galore. They are in the FA Cup last eight too and there is plenty of optimism around the Emirates Stadium as Arteta has placed his faith in young homegrown talents.
Tactical analysis: What has been the biggest change since Unai Emery was fired? Arsenal have kept things tight at the back with a solid back four which has seen David Luiz and Shkodran Mustafi strike up an unlikely partnership. With Granit Xhaka and Dani Ceballos ahead of them there is a mixture of grit and flair too. Stats wise, Arsenal have faced the sixth-most shots in the Premier League this season (415) and among the ‘big six’ clubs, only bitter rivals Tottenham have faced more (418). Arsenal have to stay solid and stop giving up so many shooting opportunities. If they can do that, you always fancy to knock in a few at the other end.
Possible XI (4-2-3-1)
—– Leno —–
— Bellerin — Luiz — Mustafi — Saka —
—- Xhaka —- Ceballos —-
—- Pepe —- Ozil —- Aubameyang —-
—– Nketiah —–
Notice that there is no Alexandre Lacazette, Kieran Tierney or Matteo Guendouzi. Lacazette and Guendouzi do not appear to be favorites of Arteta, while Tierney has been unlucky with injuries and the emergence of Bukayo Saka playing out of position at left back. Do not be surprised to see Saka pushed up to be a winger and Tierney come in, while January loan signings Pablo Mari and Cedric Soares may also be given the chance to establish themselves. The lineup above perhaps isn’t their strongest on paper but it is the on which was working best for Arteta before the suspension arrived.
Home: Norwich, Leicester, Liverpool, Watford
Away: Man City, Brighton, Southampton, Wolves, Tottenham, Aston Villa
Predicted finish: With Arsenal currently in ninth place in the table, it seems unlikely they can make a late surge into the top four but they are just eight points off fourth-place Chelsea and have a game in-hand. Arteta would surely be happy with a top six finish and run to at least the FA Cup final. Given everything that has happened at Arsenal this season with Emery leaving, Arteta arriving and
USMNT and Schalke midfielder Weston McKennie has said he will stand firm and accept any punishment for wearing an armband in support of George Floyd.
During Schalke’s 1-0 defeat at home to Werder Bremen on Saturday, McKennie wore an armband saying ‘Justice for George’ and along with several other Bundesliga players, he will now be investigated by the German Football Association as there are rules against players wearing political messages on shirts or other garments. FIFA have called for “common sense” to take place when it comes to each association ruling on regulations against players revealing political, religious or personal slogans during a game.
Speaking to Forbes in an interview, McKennie said that as an American international player he simply had to speak out.
“I was like, ‘I’m not taking it off’. There’s a rule in the league that you can’t make political statements. But I mean, if you really, really look at this as a political statement, then I don’t know what to tell you,” McKennie said. “The league and everyone (in soccer) always preaches ‘say no to racism’. So I didn’t think that there would be a problem. If I have to take the consequences to express my opinion, to express my feelings, to stand up for what I believe in, then that’s something that I have to do.”
“I felt like it was my responsibility and my duty, especially being American, and with the situation going on in America,” McKennie added. “And I felt like it was the best and biggest platform that I could use to spread awareness. Of course, maybe some people don’t agree with it, but that’s their opinion and for me, I felt like it was my duty and my responsibility to go out to show justice for George Floyd. This is a problem that’s been going on way too long. We’re the only (soccer) league that’s playing right now, all eyes are on the Bundesliga. So I felt like there’s no better way and no better time than now.”
McKennie then went on to detail some of the racist abuse his family have received in the USA and said he wasn’t surprised at all about what happened to George Floyd, but urged people around the world to join the Black Lives Matter movement and the battle to stop police brutality.
“It doesn’t matter the color of your skin. If you believe that this is wrong, if you want to see change, it’s something that you can join. Every voice matters, no matter how big or how small,” McKennie said. “Obviously it’s a global problem and it’s going to take the world to fix it.”
Hasenhuttl, 52, joined Saints in December 2018 and his high-pressing style of play has impressed fans and neutrals, although there have been a few bumps in the road along the way.
The low-point was the 9-0 home defeat to Leicester City in October but since then Hasenhuttl went back to basics with his tactics and the slate was wiped clean for most of his players. Saints went on a run of seven wins from 11 games from late November to January to drag themselves away from the relegation battle.
“This, for me, was a simple decision. Simple because of the relationship that I have built with the club, the players and the fans, and also because of the relationship they have built with me too,” Hasenhuttl said. “I said when I arrived at the club that we were at the beginning of a long journey, and also a journey that would bring emotion and hopefully enjoyment. We have already had some moments where we could celebrate together, and some that have been emotional and also challenging.
“The way we have handled this together as a group of people has been incredible for me, and I believe we now have strong foundations here that can allow us to take the next steps in our progress as a team… We value the same philosophies, and this is a big part of why I want to stay here, and I hope we can share in some very successful moments moving forward.”
This works out well for everyone. Saints need Hasenhuttl and vice versa, as the club stood by him when his side were battered by Leicester and were all over the place defensively earlier in the season. Since then there’s been a massive turnaround as Hasenhuttl’s high-pressing style has returned to Saints and they’ve won away at the likes of Chelsea and Leicester City.
Southampton currently sit seven points above the relegation zone with nine games of the 2019-20 season to go and Hasenhuttl’s young, hungry side have a string of games against teams battling against relegation to come.
This contract will give the playing squad certainty as Hasenhuttl only had one year left on his previous deal. Shane Long is expected to sign a contract extension soon too, while captan Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg has one year on his contract but may be swayed to stay at Saints given Hasenhuttl will be sticking around.
The financial situation at Saints is a little unclear given that their majority owner Gao Jisheng has stated he will not bankroll signings and wants the club to be sustainable, so Hasenhuttl will likely have to rely on polishing plenty of gems from Saints’ famed academy to bring into the first team.
Providing Saints don’t collapse in the final games of the season, they will be in the Premier League next season and they will have stability with Hasenhuttl around as they can plan ahead. During the suspension of play, Hasenhuttl has been working on a virtual book for the entire academy system at Saints to follow and his style of play will now be present from their youth sides all the way up to the first team.
The ‘Klopp of the Alps’ has found his home on England’s south coast.
The win also gave plenty of misery to Schalke, who looks absolutely rudderless. David Wagner’s men are winless in 11 league outings with five draws and a total of three goals scored. Three of those losses have come to teams currently ranked 13th and lower on the table.
Schalke has produced nine shots on target in its four matches back from the break, with Weston McKennie’s diving header its only goal in 430 minutes. Next on the docket is a trip to Union Berlin before finishing with Bayer, Eintracht Frankfurt, Wolfsburg, and Freiburg.
Bremen, on the other hand, can move level on points with 15th place Mainz by beating Eintracht on Wednesday.
There are still tough matches on the docket including Wolfsburg and Bayern — the latter of whom may have already won the league by that June 16 home match — but Eintracht, Paderborn, Mainz, and Koln… there are points to be had there.
Also encouraging: American forward Josh Sargent has started all three matches of Bremen’s unbeaten run. He’s getting valuable experience and mettle for a 20-year-old, even if the direction has been, “Run around like a maniac and make lives miserable.”
Sargent is covering the entire field from his striker position, and he’s being noticed by defenders. He drew five fouls in 70 minutes, won 10-of-17 duels, and posted two tackles, an interception, and a clearance (Sofascore).
Player of the Week: There’s little question here. Jadon Sancho’s return to the Starting XI was an unqualified success as the English winger collected his first hat trick in a 6-1 win over Paderborn.
It was 0-0 before Thorgan Hazard opened the scoring, but Sancho had shown signs of life even while kicking off first half rust.
Sancho went 90 minutes in getting his three goals (57′, 74′, 90’+1), completing three of his four take-ons while passing at an absurd 92 percent given he plays much of his match in the final third.
He’s one of four players in Europe’s top five leagues to have double digit goals and assists (Alassane Plea, Serge Gnabry, and Lionel Messi). His price tag, rightfully, is going to be absolutely nuts, pandemic or not.
Week 24 reschedule
Werder Bremen v. Eintracht Frankfurt — 2:30 p.m. ET Wednesday
Week 30 Freiburg v. Borussia Monchengladbach — 2:30 p.m. ET Friday
Bayer Leverkusen v. Bayern Munich — 9:30 a.m. ET Saturday
RB Leipzig v. Paderborn — 9:30 a.m. ET Saturday
Eintracht Frankfurt v. Mainz — 9:30 a.m. ET Saturday
Fortuna Dusseldorf v. Hoffenheim — 9:30 a.m. ET Saturday
Borussia Dortmund v. Hertha Berlin — 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday
Werder Bremen v. Wolfsburg — 7:30 a.m. ET Sunday
Union Berlin v. Schalke — 9:30 a.m. ET Sunday
Augsburg v. Koln — Noon ET Sunday