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Arena’s gameplan sets USMNT up for point in Mexico

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After 90 minutes of hair-on-fire soccer at Estadio Azteca, the U.S. national team has just its third competitive point at Mexico’s national stadium. The lessons from Sunday’s clash in Mexico City are infinite, but for now, let’s look at three key elements of Bruce Arena’s gameplan, and give the USMNT boss some deserved (and vindicating) praise.

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It’s good to have a plan

Arena went on to say they were “positioned to get three points today,” and he couldn’t be more right (Mexican coaches and players should be saying the same thing, but the game was that close). The last time the Yanks visited Azteca in World Cup qualifying, that wasn’t so much the case.

Let’s go ahead and list, in detail, all the ways Arena set his team up for this specific game, against this specific opponent:

1. Three center backs — It was effectively five across the back for much of the night, and it created a numerical balance that rarely allowed the USMNT to be overloaded in its defensive third. Working on something in training, and refining it in a friendly, before calling upon it in a meaningful game is covered on the first day of Management 101. Not everyone attends the first day of class, though, and that’s understandable.

2. Midfield partnership — It’s impossible to say what Arena would have done if Jermaine Jones had been healthy. The temptation certainly would have been there to roster him and call on the “old head who’s been here before” for a game like this. What’s not difficult to say is this: “Plain and simple, Kellyn Acosta makes Michael Bradley better.” Bradley’s only able to aggressively step up and win the ball high in midfield, as he did just before scoring his goal, if he knows Acosta’s behind him and disciplined enough to fill the space vacated if Bradley is unsuccessful. Let’s have a quick look at Acosta’s positioning when Bradley makes his move…

Not to oversimplify everything asked of a central midfielder, especially in a midfield-two, but Acosta, at the age of 21, already shows the kind of discipline that has never been a particular strength of Jones. (Sidenote: that’s totally fine, and in no way a knock on Jones. It’s only ever actually been a problem because he was shoehorned into a horribly ill-fitting role his entire USMNT career.)

3. Personnel to fit the counter-attacking approach — Under the previous coach, the USMNT set out to defend deep and hit teams (especially better sides) on the counter with frustrating regularity (considering the possession-based, attacking soccer that was promised in August 2011). Sometimes they were successful, but mostly it just frustrated (USMNT fans, not opponents).

And, why was it so? Let’s consider the personnel which has gobbled up the majority of starts in the final third over the last half-decade: Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore are each fine players in a system that plays to their strengths, but attacking open space is just about the last thing the two of them do well.

By swapping Altidore for Bobby Wood, and Dempsey for Paul Arriola, Arena put a bit of pace on the field — players who are comfortable (and effective) running at defenders in the field. For the 79 minutes Wood was on the field, Mexican defenders were aware of him running in behind weighed heavily, and kept them honest. Against a forward like Altidore, they’re able to creep further and further forward, shrink the field and recycle possession in the middle third again and again.

Arena even played a pair of central midfielders who thrive at playing long balls to runners in space. In theory, and an environment slightly different than Azteca, Bradley and Acosta feed those quick wingers and let them stretch their legs to devastating effect with a forward who can keep up, make smart runs inside the box and finish his chances.

For the first time in a long time, the building blocks appear to be in place, and genuine progression from one game to the next is clear as day. I’m encouraged and hopeful in a way that I’d long since forgotten.

Liverpool – Arsenal: How to watch, start time, odds, predicted lineup

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Liverpool – Arsenal: Two heavyweights clash at Anfield on Monday (Watch live at 3pm ET online via Peacock) as both team have a perfect record with two wins from two so far.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]  

Reigning champions Liverpool have perhaps been more impressive as they’ve beaten upstarts Leeds United and then Chelsea, while Arsenal eased past Fulham but struggled past West Ham.

[ MORE: ProSoccerTalk unfiltered, Week 2 ]

When it comes to Jurgen Klopp and Mikel Arteta, their playing philosophy as managers could not be more different as Arsenal beat Liverpool on penalties at Wembley to win the Community Shield last month.

Here’s everything you need to know ahead of a massive early-season clash as Arsenal look to put down a marker.


Team news: Liverpool – Arsenal (INJURY REPORT)

Liverpool will be hoping center back Joe Gomez will be fit after he missed the win at Chelsea last weekend, while this game will come too soon for fellow defender Joel Matip. Judging by the early reports, Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson should also be fit to start.

Arsenal could have Kieran Tierney back fit for this game, which would be a big boost. Pablo Mari, Calum Chamberls, Gabriel Martinelli and Shkodran Mustafi all remain out injured.


Predicted lineup

Liverpool (4-3-3): Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Fabinho, Van Dijk, Robertson; Wijnaldum, Thiago, Henderson; Salah, Firmino, Mane

Arsenal (3-4-3): Leno; Holding, Gabriel, Tierney; Bellerin, Ceballos, Xhaka, Maitland-Niles; Willian, Lacazette, Aubameyang


Odds and ends (full odds provided by our partner, PointsBet)

Understandably Liverpool are the heavy favorites (-210) given their long unbeaten home record at Anfield. That said Arsenal (+520) do seem a high price after they beat Liverpool during ‘Project Restart’ and also in the Community Shield final. The draw at +360 is intriguing and the value perhaps lies there.

PointsBet is our Official Sports Betting Partner and we may receive compensation if you place a bet on PointsBet for the first time after clicking our links


Liverpool – Arsenal prediction

Arsenal have a lot more grit under Arteta and they ware capable of bending but not breaking. This is a huge test for them, though, and Gabriel against the fluid front three of Salah, Firmino and Mane will be his biggest test yet. Arsenal have the attackers to make the most of any more slack defending from Liverpool but I expect Klopp’s side to have just too much in midfield and attack. Liverpool 2-1 Arsenal.


How to watch Liverpool – Arsenal stream and start time

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

Fulham – Aston Villa: How to watch, start time, team news, prediction, odds

Fulham - Aston Villa
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Fulham – Aston Villa: How early is too early to call a game “must-win” in the Premier League? Perhaps we will find out on Monday (Watch live at 12:45 pm ET, online via Peacock), when bottom-of-the-table Fulham host Aston Villa at Craven Cottage.

FULHAM – ASTON VILLA STREAM LIVE

Scott Parker’s side has had a torrid start to life back in the PL — not at all dissimilar to the way their last stint ended — and find themselves with zero points and seven goals conceded after their first two games. Losing 3-0 to Arsenal on the opening day of the season wasn’t altogether surprising, but following that defeat with four more goals conceded to Leeds United last weekend will undoubtedly have done a number on the Cottagers’ confidence.

Villa, on the other hand, have played just once and secured a 1-0 victory over Sheffield United earlier this week. A win on Monday would see Dean Smith’s side start the season with back-to-back PL victories for the first time since the 1999-2000 season.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]  

Here is everything you need to know ahead of Fulham – Aston Villa this Monday with team news, odds, stream link and more.


Team news: Fulham – Aston Villa (INJURY REPORT)

Fulham – No injuries or suspensions

Aston Villa – OUT: Bjorn Engels (thigh), Tom Heaton (knee), Wesley (knee), Ahmed Elmohamady (thigh)


What they’re saying: Fulham – Aston Villa

Scott Parker, on a “must-win” game: “I don’t see it as drastic as a must-win. We want to win. I know it’s either high or low in a drastic world, but we need to stay level and take realism of where we are in the campaign and where we are as a team. We will try everything we can to take some points and be up to the challenge. I don’t think we’re the only team at this present moment in time who have let in some goals in the first two games. It’s not ideal, of course not. Villa at home on Monday is a game we’re going to try to get three points.”

Dean Smith, on needing another signing: “We’re always looking in the market, we’re probably one short in the squad at the moment so we’ll keep looking at that. I think there’s seven days left until the window shuts internationally, another seven days domestically. Our sporting director at the moment has got his finger on the pulse, hopefully we might get one more in and maybe a couple more out.”


Odds and ends (full odds provided by our partner, PointsBet)

This one is just about a coin flip with Fulham (+185) ever so slight underdogs to Villa (+150). In a game that could go either way like this one, the draw (+225) might just be the safe middle ground.

PointsBet is our Official Sports Betting Partner and we may receive compensation if you place a bet on PointsBet for the first time after clicking our links


Prediction: Fulham – Aston Villa

There’s not much to separate these two sides right now, and there likely won’t be much ground between them come the season’s final table. There should be a few goals, but that’ll be more down to poor defending than excellent attacking quality from either side. Fulham 2-2 Villa.


How to watch Fulham – Aston Villa stream and start time

Kickoff: 12:45 pm ET Monday
Online: Stream via Peacock

Serie A: Lozano scores twice for Napoli; 10-man Juve drop points to Roma

Cristiano Ronaldo - Juventus
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A roundup of all of Sunday’s action in Serie A, where Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice to save a point for Juventus and Hirving Lozano also scored twice in Napoli’s 6-0 victory…

[ MORE: Suarez plays just 20 minutes, scores two goals in Atleti debut (video) ]

Roma 2-2 Juventus

Juventus overturned a pair of deficits to salvage a point from their trip to Rome, but Andrea Pirlo might just feel his side should have taken more from the game if not for Adrien Rabiot’s red card in the 62nd minute.

Jordan Veretout fired Roma ahead from the penalty spot in the 31st minute, but Cristiano Ronaldo matched him with a spot kick of his own in the 44th. Veretout made it 2-1 less than a minute into the second half, with thanks to an assist from Henrikh Mkhitaryan.

Rabiot got his second yellow card of the game 15 minutes later, but it didn’t stop Ronalado from scoring his second equalizer in the 69th minute.

Regardless of the country, league or club, we’re seeing some of Europe’s greatest powerhouses struggle through uncharacteristically slow starts to the 2020-21 season. The safe assumption is that the cream will inevitably rise to the top after working out the early kinks, but it might just open the door for an unlikely title challenger or two as well.

[ MORE: Saturday in Serie A: Inter win 7-goal thriller in 89th minute ]

Napoli 6-0 Genoa

Napoli went top of the table (after two games) by way of Sunday’s beatdown of Genoa.

Mexican superstar Hirving Lozano opened the scoring in the 10th minute and added his second goal on the game in the 65th. In between his two tallies, Piota Zielinski (46th) and Dries Mertens (57th) also scored.

Eljif Elmas (69th) and Matteo Politano (72nd) each scored not much later to complete the scoring and the rout.

Crotone 0-2 AC Milan

Franck Kessie converted from the penalty spot in first-half stoppage time and Brahim Diaz added an insurance goal five minutes into the second half to give AC Milan their second 2-0 victory in a row to start the season. All appears to be going too well for the Rossoneri right now.

Other Serie A results

Spezia 1-4 Sassuolo
Hellas Verona 1-0 Udinese

Transfer news: Arsenal’s latest Aouar bid; mystery Fati bid for $175 million

Ansu Fati transfer
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Today’s Premier League transfer news includes Arsenal’s latest bid for Houssem Aouar, Barcelona rejected an astronomical bid for 17-year-old Ansu Fati, and Antonio Rudiger moving across London to West Ham for the season…

[ MORE: Transfer news: Rice in, Jorginho out at Chelsea; Skriniar to Spurs ]

Arsenal increase bid for Aouar, but is it enough?

Arsenal are reportedly prepared to increase their bid for Aouar, but only to $57 million, which remains $12 million short of Lyon’s valuation for the 22-year-old midfielder. The Gunners’ latest offer is said to include more than $11 million in add-ons, but Lyon are likely to reject that bid as well as they seek the full amount paid in full.

Barcelona reject mystery $175-million Ansu Fati transfer bid

First things first, let’s start the plainly obvious: $175 million is a lot of money for any player, let alone a 17-year-old who still has so much development left to come. Even Fati, who has been nothing short of a revelation thus far, can still fall short of expectations. With Lionel Messi seemingly headed for the exit door (for free) next summer, how exactly do Barca plan to rebuild their first-team squad? Sure, they’d enjoy themselves a great deal if a La Masia product like Fati is the focal point of their rebirth, but they still desperately need to put a competent team around him. Automatically rejecting a (reported) bid of $175 million seems a bit crazy, but so is everything else at Barcelona these days. According to some reports, Man United are said to be the club which made the mega-bid for Fati.

[ MORE: Suarez plays just 20 minutes, scores two goals in Atleti debut (video) ]

Rudiger to West Ham on loan

Antonio Rudiger might be a first-choice option at center back for Chelsea boss Frank Lampard, and he might not be as well. West Ham are taking the approach that the 27-year-old German won’t be getting the first-team action he requires, thus they wish to work out a loan deal for the 2020-21 season.

Torreira in limbo at Arsenal

Lucas Torreira’s time at Arsenal is (logically speaking) finished, but the Gunners are reportedly having a hard time finding a landing spot for the 24-year-old Uruguayan midfielder. Torino were interested for a time, but they no longer see Torreira as a viable option. Atletico Madrid are interested in a loan deal, but Arsenal don’t want to do that. Perhaps Torreria, plus cash, might tempt the La Liga side to finally part ways with Thomas Partey.