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The stages of Arsene Wenger’s reign at Arsenal

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Initially there was intrigue. Then there was admiration. Next came pity, followed by anger and protest.

It has been a roller-coaster of emotions during the 21-year tenure of Arsene Wenger at Arsenal, which will continue after the Frenchman signed a contract extension for two more years on Wednesday.

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A look at the various stages of Wenger’s reign:

“Arsene Who?” read the headline across a London newspaper when Wenger, a wiry, bespectacled and relatively unknown French coach was hired by Arsenal in September 1996.

Within two years, it was clear the club had pulled off a coup.

That’s all it took for Wenger to turn Arsenal around – its players’ drinking culture, their dietary habits and the team’s style of play – and lead the club to a Premier League-FA Cup double in 1998 at the end of his first full season in charge. He was the first foreign-born manager to achieve the double.

Helped by his knowledge of the French league, Wenger quickly began constructing a formidable side: Patrick Vieira had already joined in the months before Wenger’s arrival; Marc Overmars, Emmanuel Petit and Nicolas Anelka joined ahead of the 1998-99 season; Thierry Henry replaced Anelka in 1999. By 2001, he was building the team that would become known as the “Invincibles” – one that went through the 2003-04 league season unbeaten.

Arsenal recovered from losing the UEFA Cup final to Galatasaray in 2000 and the FA Cup final to Liverpool in 2001 by winning another league-cup double in 2002.

The “Invincibles” season would define his reign, with Arsenal winning 26 games and drawing the other 12 as the likes of Henry, Vieira, Robert Pires, Dennis Bergkamp and Sol Campbell excelled. Wenger’s swashbuckling, slick side was awarded a special gold version of the league trophy in recognition.

[ MORE: Two more years — Wenger signs new contract ]

Arsenal then won the FA Cup in 2005 after a penalty shootout against Manchester United. Few could have imagined that would be the club’s last major trophy for nine years.

Although Arsenal reached the Champions League final the following season, losing to Barcelona after taking an early lead in Paris, a fourth-place finish in the league – the first time Wenger had finished outside the top two in a full season – was a sign of things to come.

Arsenal left its Highbury home of 93 years and relocated to nearby Emirates Stadium in 2006. Suddenly the priority was financing the new 60,000-seat stadium over strengthening the playing squad.

Vieira had already left in 2005, Henry and David Dein – who was both the vice chairman and a trusted ally of Wenger in the boardroom – departed in 2007, and Arsenal veered toward bringing through youth players and cheaper signings.

There was a gradual loss of leadership at the club, on and off the field, and it began to show in results.

Between 2007-13, Arsenal finished either third or fourth in the Premier League and rarely had a shot at the title. The team blew a five-point lead in February in the 2007-08 season and imploded in the last months of the 2010-11 season when in contention for four trophies, including losing to Birmingham in the English League Cup final.

Wenger couldn’t afford to keep hold of his star players. In 2011, Cesc Fabregas was sold to Barcelona, and Samir Nasri and Gael Clichy joined Manchester City. Top scorer Robin Van Persie moved to Manchester United in 2012, leading his new team to the league title the following season.

[ MORE: Huddersfield win promotion, complete 2017-18 PL field ]

Aspirations lowered at the Emirates. By 2012 and with Arsenal struggling to win titles, Wenger was saying that finishing in the top four – and therefore qualifying for the Champions League – was comparable to winning a trophy.

By 2013, Arsenal’s title drought extended to eight years and Wenger would soon be labeled a “specialist in failure” by managerial rival Jose Mourinho. Fueled by cash from their Russian and Abu Dhabi owners, Chelsea and Manchester City had sprinted past Arsenal and changed the financial landscape of the Premier League – much to the chagrin of the more conservative Wenger.

“I accept one basic principle for every company,” Wenger said, “that you can spend the money you make.”

No longer hamstrung by stadium debts, Wenger could finally start spending again. Off came the financial straitjacket and in came two stars of the Spanish league, playmaker Mesut Ozil for a club-record 42.4 million pounds (then $66 million) in 2013 and forward Alexis Sanchez for 35 million pounds (then $60 million) in 2014.

Arsenal continued to secure Champions League qualification each season and the team ended its wait for a trophy by winning the FA Cup in 2014 – but only after a penalty-shootout win over second-tier club Wigan in the semifinals and the need for extra time to beat Hull 3-2 in the final. There were reports that Wenger might have quit if Arsenal had lost the final; instead he signed a new three-year deal.

[ MORE: Slaven Bilic confirms he’ll return to West Ham next season ]

By now, though, there was a small but loud contingent of fans that was growing tired with Wenger. The embarrassing losses started to build up, including in the 2013-14 season a 5-1 loss at Liverpool and 6-0 loss at Chelsea in his 1,000th match in charge of Arsenal.

Arsenal retained the FA Cup in 2015, taking Wenger’s haul of titles in that competition to six, but it couldn’t hide the team’s failure to challenge for the Premier League or Champions League. Arsenal’s limitations in the Champions League were particularly galling, with Wenger unable to lead his side beyond the last 16 from 2011-17.

Wenger acknowledged that he missed a great chance to win a first Premier League title since 2004 when Arsenal finished second behind surprise champion Leicester in the 2015-16 season.

Fan unrest was at its worst the following season as the Gunners slipped from league contention by February and were routed 10-2 on aggregate by Bayern Munich in the Champions League.

Arsenal ended up finishing fifth in the Premier League and missing out on Champions League qualification for the first time in a full season under Wenger, although a strong finish to the campaign saw the team beat Chelsea 2-1 in the FA Cup final. It was a record seventh FA Cup triumph for Wenger, and – following a board meeting three days later – he signed up for two more years.

Arsenal – Liverpool preview: How to watch, team news, start time, stream

Arsenal - Liverpool preview
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Arsenal – Liverpool preview: Arsenal’s European desperation is high as it prepares to welcome history-chasing Liverpool to the Emirates Stadium on Wednesday (Watch live at 3:15pm ET for FREE on Peacock).

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

The Gunners now know that eighth place will not be good enough for the Europa League, making it imperative that Arsenal wins its last three Premier League outings or wins the FA Cup to avoid missing out on European football for the first time since 1996.

Liverpool would love to take its next steps toward the best single-season in Premier League history by denying their rivals a shot at Europe.

ACCESS ARSENAL – LIVERPOOL ON PEACOCK FOR FREE


Team news

Jordan Henderson and Joel Gomez remain out for Liverpool, and James Milner seems likely to miss out as well.

Arsenal will not have suspended Eddie Nketiah or injured Calum Chambers, Bernd Leno, and Gabriel Martinelli.


What they’re saying

Arsenal keeper Emiliano Martinez on post-derby reaction: “Every season we try to finish above them,” said Martinez. “We need to make sure we finish above them. Our target is Europe, that is the reality. We are going to try and give our best against Liverpool and reach the FA Cup Final. We didn’t start like the manager wanted, we were giving the ball away for no reason. As time was going on we started playing well, we controlled the midfield and we outplayed them. I feel sorry for the supporters because we know what it means for them.”

Jurgen Klopp on Liverpool’s draw with Burnley“If you find a way in the game which causes the opponents massive problems, come on, stick to it, do it, and we did it to a specific extent. But then we were not clear enough anymore, so that’s how it is. How I said, we left the door open for them and they used the situation, which is a special skill of that team.”


Odds and ends (Full matchweek odds)

Arsenal’s a home dog against Liverpool to the tune of +285, according to DraftKings, the Premier League champions a minus-114 favorite.

Liverpool’s depth outlasted Arsenal in a League Cup classic earlier this season, and Mohamed Salah led a 3-1 defeat of Arsenal in Premier League play back in August.


Prediction

Goals? Neither side has been as sharp as it would like but the firepower in both squads is immense. Our lead writer Joe Prince-Wright predicts 2-2 and we’ll ride with that because it would make for a delightful Wednesday.


How to watch Arsenal – Liverpool stream, start time

Kickoff: 3:15 pm ET Wednesday
Online: ACCESS PEACOCK FOR FREE

Manchester United – Southampton stream: How to watch, team news, odds

Manchester United - Southampton preview
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The door to third place is wide open for Manchester United when Southampton visits Old Trafford on Saturday (Watch live at pm ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Chelsea’s weekend loss and Leicester City’s place on United’s docket means Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s in-form men control their own destiny when it comes to finishing as high as third on the table.

STREAM MANCHESTER UNITED – SOUTHAMPTON LIVE

Southampton, for its part, can harbor outside hopes of a Europa League place, currently six points back of eighth place before Arsenal and Spurs play Sunday.


Team news

Phil Jones and Axel Tuanzebe remain the only absences for Manchester United.

Moussa Djenepo, Sofiane Boufal and Yan Valery are out for Saints and may not return this season, while Jannik Vestergaard is hoping to come off the bench to score a second goal against the Red Devils.

 


What they’re saying

Paul Pogba about what’s changed at Old Trafford: “We play more as a team than we did before, we enjoy it even more, we defend together, we attack together, and this team is stronger as well. The players who are on the bench or who don’t play every time, when they come on they help the team so the mentality is good and is right. All this together has put us where we are today.”

Ralph Hasenhuttl on improving Saints: “We want to be braver, but that can sometimes cause you problems, like against Arsenal when we make some mistakes. We need this decision making, because then we learn. If you don’t demand this, you cannot improve in this way. …In every regard you must get better. In this moment it looks like we can make this step, and the players are open-minded to go this way. This is important, otherwise you will always stay on the same level.”


Odds and ends (Full matchweek odds)

Saints are tied with Burnley as the biggest underdog of the weekend at +1050, but you see how that turned out for Nick Pope and the Clarets. United is a minus-375 favorite.

Jannik Vestergaard and Daniel James traded goals at St. Mary’s on Aug. 31 when 10-man Saints drew United.


Prediction

Can anyone slow United? Saints have already claimed a big win against a Mancunian power… and this would be a big moment for Hasenhuttl’s project. The teams are on the same amount of rest and all things equal you’d like the hosts to boot. United 2-1.


How to watch Manchester United – Southampton stream, start time

Kickoff: 3:15 pm ET Monday
TV Channel: NBCSN
Online: Stream via NBCSports.com

Transfer news: Chilwell to Man United; Kante to Inter Milan

Ben Chilwell to Manchester United
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In the latest transfer news Ben Chilwell has been linked with a move to Manchester United, while N’Golo Kante could be heading to Inter Milan.

[ MORE: New PL TV schedule ]

Starting in Manchester, it appears that Ben Chilwell is wanted by both Manchester City and now Manchester United, with Chelsea still in the hunt too.

The Leicester City and England left back, 23, is reportedly a target for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer as The Sun says that he is valued at $75 million and that Man United are now in pole position to sign him.

Do Man United really need a new left back? Luke Shaw is finally fit and has been very good this season, while Brandon Williams is an emerging talent at left back. Chilwell is a very, very good left back but Man City and Chelsea have a greater need to upgrade in that area. If Leicester do not make the Champions League, they will probably cash in on Chilwell.

Man United need a new center back and holding midfielder before they sign a left back but Solskjaer must think differently.

Kante to Inter Milan
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Moving down to west London, it appears that N’Golo Kante could be linking up with Antonio Conte once again at Inter Milan.

Kante, 29, has been riddled with injuries this season but when he has played it’s clear to see the stability he brings to the entire Chelsea side.

According to Gazzetto dello Sport in Italy, Chelsea are willing to listen to offers for the French World Cup winner as Frank Lampard continues his expensive overhaul of the Blues.

Kante has a contract with Chelsea until the summer of 2023 but now is probably to cash in on him, if they want to. If they can move on Kante, then bringing in Kai Havertz and several defensive players would be more possible this summer.

This is a tough one. On paper, Kante is one of the few players at Chelsea who should be guaranteed starters. However, there’s no doubting his level has dropped a little this season due to injuries and the style of play under Lampard.

Inter Milan are building something under Conte and Kante would be a huge part of their project.

Premier League odds, Prince-Wright’s picks: Matchweek 36

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EPL betting odds for the Premier League have been released but we know the bookies don’t always get it right.

Here are the latest Prince-Wright’s Premier League score predictions as the Premier League return has the EPL betting odds all over the place.

[ MORE: New PL TV schedule

The Premier League score predictions below encompass the 10 games during midweek for Matchweek 36. Here we go.

If you, like me, love to dissect all the games and predict what the score will be and which team will win, I encourage you to get involved in the comments section below. Let’s have a bit of fun with these Premier League games.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Okay, so I’ve consulted my crystal ball and here’s how we see things panning out. Listen carefully, because this is very specific.

While you can download the NBC Sports Predictor app (below) and play the Premier League Pick ‘Em game yourself to predict the scores and win the prizes.

DOWNLOAD NBC SPORTS PREDICTOR

With the first section labelled “basically, free money” for the picks I think are dead certs. The section labelled “don’t touch this” means if you’re betting I advise you to stay clear, while the “so you’re telling me there’s a chance” section are the long shots. If it is better odds you are after, those are the picks to go for.

Check out our Premier League score predictions below.


PREMIER LEAGUE PREDICTIONS

BASICALLY, FREE MONEY

Man City 4-1 Bournemouth – (Wednesday, 1 p.m. ET, Peacock) – [STREAM

Chelsea 4-2 Norwich – (Tuesday, 3:15 p.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

Burnley 1-3 Wolves – (Wednesday, 1 p.m. ET, Peacock) – [STREAM

Crystal Palace 0-2 Man United – (Thursday, 3:15 p.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]


DON’T TOUCH THIS…

Arsenal 2-2 Liverpool – (Wednesday, 3:15 p.m. ET, Peacock) – [STREAM

Southampton 1-1 Brighton – (Thursday, 3:15 p.m. ET, Gold/Peacock) – [STREAM

Newcastle 1-2 Tottenham – (Wednesday, 1 p.m. ET, Peacock) – [STREAM


“SO YOU’RE TELLING ME THERE’S A CHANCE…”

Leicester 1-1 Sheffield United – (Thursday, 1 p.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM

Everton 1-2 Aston Villa – (Thursday, 1 p.m. ET, Gold/Peacock) – [STREAM]

West Ham 1-2 Watford – (Friday, 3 p.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]


EPL ODDS – Via DraftKings

Tuesday, July 14: (-770) Chelsea v. Norwich (+1900), Tie: +800
Wednesday, July 15: (-715) Man City v. Bournemouth (+1800), Tie: +750
Wednesday, July 15: (+380) Burnley v. Wolves (-115), Tie: +225
Wednesday, July 15: (+380) Newcastle v. Tottenham (-130), Tie: +265
Wednesday, July 15: (+285) Arsenal v. Liverpool (-114), Tie: +290
Thursday, July 16: (+102) Everton v. Aston Villa (+270), Tie: +255
Thursday, July 16: (+100) Leicester v. Sheffield United (+310), Tie: +225
Thursday, July 16: (+900) Crystal Palace v. Man United (-295), Tie: +390
Thursday, July 16: (+117) Southampton v. Brighton (+255), Tie: +230
Friday, July 17: (+143) West Ham v. Watford (+235), Tie: +200