Arsenal 2-0 Hull: Handballs galore in controversial win

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  • Sanchez’s handball, PK seals win
  • Arsenal up to third in PL table
  • Hull go close through Niasse

Arsenal labored to a 2-0 victory against Hull City on Saturday at the Emirates Stadium as Arsene Wenger‘s men got back to winning ways following two-straight defeats.

The only goal of the game came in controversial fashion as Alexis Sanchez knocked the ball over the line with his hand from close range.

Hull huffed and puffed against a nervous looking Arsenal side but the Gunners held on and then grabbed a penalty kick in stoppage time which Sanchez scored after Sam Clucas was sent off for handling on the line.

Watching on from the stands, Wenger saw his side seal their first PL victory in three games to stay in the top four hunt and restore some confidence. With the win Arsenal momentarily move up to third in the PL table and have 50 points, while Hull remain in 18th place and in the final relegation spot with 20 points.

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Arsenal dictated play early on as Sanchez was set free but hit his shot straight at Eldin Jakupovic. At the other end Hull spurned a glorious chance early on as Lazar Markovic raced free down the right and crossed for Oumar Niasse but the on-loan striker from Everton got his run wrong at the pivotal moment.

Hull continued to look dangerous on the break and a wonderful cross from Kamil Grosicki on the left found Niasse but his header was tipped over by Petr Cech.

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Arsenal finally started to wake up as Hector Bellerin drove a shot just wide of the near post on the right side of the box, then Sanchez pulled an effort just wide of the far post.

Theo Walcott had a shot blocked by Clucas before half time as Arsenal pinned Hull back and eventually broke through in the 34th minute. Kieran Gibbs‘ shot was blocked on the line by Andrew Robertson and Sanchez bundled the ball home after Jakpuovic tried to clear.

On closer inspection the ball appeared to accidentally strike Sanchez on the hand and go in, but the goal stood and Arsenal went in 1-0 up at the break.

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In the second half things got lovely as Francis Coquelin was clattered into and then Walcott got fired up when he thought he was fouled, earning himself a yellow card. Hull had a decent chance as Markovic found Niasse but Cech saved his effort.

Markovic was also taken out by Gibbs who was booked but Hull felt that referee Mark Clattenburg could have sent Gibbs off as he was the last man. The Tigers had a point.

Alex Iwobi curled an effort just over the bar as Arsenal started to find gaps on the break but there was nervous tension around the Emirates as the Gunners entered the final stages with just a one goal advantage.

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Niasse headed into the side-netting late on as Hull pushed for an equalizer, with substitute Adama Diomande heading over from a corner.

With the final major action of the match Sanchez raced clear and Jakupovic came off his line to try and close the Chilean down. The Arsenal forward sent in a perfect cross for Lucas Perez to head into an empty net but his header was blocked by Clucas’ arm on the line and he was sent off and the Gunners had a penalty kick.

Sanchez dispatched the spot kick for his and Arsenal’s second in a timely yet somewhat unconvincing win.

Leicester City’s Rodgers: ‘Good news’ on Vardy injury

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Brendan Rodgers says there’s good news when it comes to the injury suffered by Jamie Vardy in Leicester City’s 4-1 blowout of West Ham United on Wednesday.

Vardy hurt his glute in the win, temporarily returning to the match after treatment from the trainer but ultimately subbing off before halftime.

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“It wasn’t his hamstring, so that’s good news for us,” Rodgers said, via The Leicester Mercury.

“He just felt a twinge in his glute, so we just have to wait and see on that in the next day or so. Thankfully his hamstring is okay and he just felt some pain in his glute, so we will have to assess that over the next few days.”

Vardy has a Premier League-best 17 goals, one more than Man City’s Sergio Aguero.

He was replaced by Kelechi Iheanacho, who assisted one of Ayoze Perez’s two goals on the day. Perez’s seven goals are second on Leicester, while James Maddison‘s six are third.

Iheanacho has six goals and three assists in 485 minutes and there’s reason to believe he can feast off Leicester’s playmaking if Vardy needs a match or two to heal.

Whether he can fill Vardy’s shoes in the long-term is a big question, especially as Leicester aims to return for the Champions League.

Transfer rumor roundup: Willian Jose to Spurs, Bournemouth after Croatian CB

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London could get itself another Willian.

Willian Jose, 28, was left out of Real Sociedad’s squad at his request on Wednesday, with the club Tweeting that he’d prefer not to play until his situation is resolved.

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Jose Mourinho said he would not comment on another team’s players, but Willian Jose could help Spurs bridge the gap to Harry Kane‘s return.

Willian Jose has been a double-digit scorer for Real Sociedad in La Liga for the previous three seasons, and is well on his way to another 10-goal campaign. He’s got eight goals in 20 matches this season.

Bournemouth needs defensive help, and is reportedly rivaling Newcastle United and Blackburn Rovers for Portuguese giant Toni Borevkovic.

The 22-year-old Croatian has one goal in just over 3000 minutes with the side since arriving from domestic side NK Rudes.

He’s averaging 1.3 interceptions, .9 tackles, and 3.3 clearances per game in league play.

Rio Ave sits seventh in Portugal’s top flight and is managed by former Premier League boss Carlos Carvalhal.

Dropped points in Top Four race point to wild February

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Regardless of whether Wolves end Liverpool’s unbeaten Premier League season on Thursday, there will be five teams within seven points of fourth place heading into Matchweek 25.

Chelsea has 40, a comfortable-enough six-point lead on Manchester United, Spurs, and Wolves (who meet Liverpool at 3 p.m. ET Thursday on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com). Sheffield United has 33 points.

February, specifically the next three matchweeks, will see the teams inside that group learn a lot more about their fates, and give Chelsea and Sheffield United big opportunities to cement their places in the Top Four and Seven, respectively.

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In the case of the latter, it’s because the Blades are the only team in the bunch who don’t face a Top Four six-pointer; Chris Wilder‘s men will meet Crystal Palace, Bournemouth, and Brighton, while the others will be beating up each other.

Chelsea’s path is fraught, but a big opportunity. The Blues travel to Leicester City before hosting both Manchester United and Spurs. Nine points there would effectively Top Four-proof Frank Lampard‘s side.

By the way, how’s this for a hot take? If any of Chelsea, Man Utd, or Spurs find their center forward or playmaker help in the window, they’ll have a leg up on their Top Four rivals. And, really, is that extra few million pounds worth the spoils of the Champions League? Yup.

Bruno Fernandes is not (yet) with United, and the Red Devils face Wolves and Chelsea in their next two matches. Spurs have City and Chelsea. Tumult is probable!

A draw with Newcastle and loss at Watford dampened Wolves’ hopes of riding into fourth. Beginning with Thursday’s visit from Liverpool, however, Nuno Espirito Santo‘s men face three of the Top Seven and then a visit from Norwich City. It’s not over.

And don’t entirely rule out Leicester City from dropping into the fray; The Foxes host Chelsea and Man City, and visit Wolves.

One more nod, however improbable: Arsenal sits 10 points back of fourth but meets Burnley, Newcastle, and Everton over those three match weeks. A perfect run could have the Gunners thinking big (Man City is after that, alas).

Matchday 25
Leicester City v. Chelsea
Crystal Palace v. Sheffield United
Manchester United v. Wolves
Spurs v. Man City

Matchday 25
Sheffield United v. Bournemouth
Wolves v. Leicester City
Chelsea v. Manchester United
Aston Villa v. Tottenham Hotspur

Matchday 27
Chelsea v. Tottenham Hotspur
Leicester City v. Man City
Wolves v. Norwich City
Sheffield United v. Brighton
Manchester United v. Watford

Spurs play Wolves the next week, too!

Mourinho: Spurs don’t have attacking depth, but do have ‘family’

Mourinho on Spurs win
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In this “whole new Jose Mourinho” world, the key word is family.

Mourinho said it six times in his post-match presser after Tottenham Hotspur scrapped to a 2-1 defeat of Norwich City on Wednesday in London.

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Spurs had an early lead disappear when Ryan Sessegnon gave away a penalty to Max Aarons, and Teemu Pukki converted it for a 70th-minute deadlock.

Heung-Min Son scored nine minutes later. It was a win that is good for the whole family.

From Football.London:

“It was fantastic what happened after the 1-1, which happens in a difficult moment for us where I look to the bench and I don’t have attacking players to change the game the team is a little bit fatigued, especially Lucas, Son and of course Lamela. I took him off because he was in trouble and he is a player who is coming from very important and long injury, so very difficult.

“How can we change the game? With the family spirit, the family character and desire.”

Mourinho also praised Giovani Lo Celso‘s work on the wing for attack-short Spurs as “a good experience for the family,” and Paulo Gazzaniga‘s support for returned goalkeeper Hugo Lloris as “a good member of the family and he is such a special friend of Hugo.”

I mean, I’m getting the warm and fuzzies.

Clearly, Mourinho is stressing unity and there’s a bit of bunker mentality involved, as the manager mentioned some dicey calls not going their way against Watford, Liverpool, and now Norwich.