AP Photo/Frank Augstein

How Arsenal can launch a Premier League title bid

3 Comments

The title is tricky. Surely some would see words flipped to read, “How can Arsenal launch a Premier League title bid?” but we digress.

It’s seemingly easy to be critical of Arsenal in years past, as Arsene Wenger has a knack for explaining away perceived failures in the transfer market and Top Four laurels have felt the full weight of 13 years worth of rest.

This season, however, there’s reason to be optimistic about Arsenal from Day One. Wenger’s survived a solid 25 weeks of “Will he or won’t he?” that felt about as long as Ross and Rachel or whatever other sitcom love connection you want to reference?

[ MORE: Premier League summer transfers, so far ]

Remember when Chandler flew a plane with the “Ross Out” banner over the coffee shop or whatever? That was the awesome.

Anyway, Wenger went ahead and bought a world-class striker in the form of Alexandre Lacazette and a beast of a back in Sead Kolasinac, both who did their best to appear the real deal in Arsenal’s win over Chelsea in Sunday’s Community Shield battle at Wembley.

Consider that the Gunners’ ill-fated season last season saw injuries, constant turmoil regarding Wenger’s future, and the twin Alexis Sanchez/Mesut Ozil contract conversations that felt about as persistently annoying as their boss’ destiny.

The point is that the drama is almost certainly going to be lower, and the competition a bit easier. But it’s the UEFA Europa League that’s going to be the main obstacle in Arsenal’s hopes of reclaiming a Premier League title. Put plainly: Premier League teams entering at the group stage rarely bow out of the competition early.

Southampton was bounced last year, the first PL side to fail to advance in some time, and still nearly made it out of the group stages of the Europa League last season despite not finding their form in the competition. Manchester United advanced, as did Liverpool and Spurs the previous season, and Spurs and Everton the year before that. Swansea’s done it, Newcastle, too.

[ MORE: Predicted XIs for all 20 PL clubs ]

Point is: Southampton is very much an outlier, and Arsenal will likely be contending with the Europa League well into the winter. With the Round of 32 being played in February — and let’s face it: once you’re six wins from something shiny and an automatic UCL slot, the fight will go on — Arsenal’s depth is going to be tested again this season.

So first and foremost the Gunners are probably — and this is not one for the advanced stats crowd — Arsenal is going to have to be a bit lucky with injuries. It’s best XI looks pretty dynamite, and putting Lacazette up top to feast off the spoils of Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez is going to lead to some wins even if the Gunners’ back line completely spits up on its collective tight red shirt.

The keys for Arsenal’s hopes of a title bid?

— A return to form for Hector Bellerin.

— Less moments of mayhem from Granit Xhaka.

— A quick adjustment to the league for Lacazette (He’ll figure it out, but how fast?).

— Resolution one way or another on Ozil and Sanchez’s future.

— Be near the top by February, when the PL fixtures read: home Everton, at Spurs, home Man City. Then hold serve at home, and ride the energy of one of the league’s best derbies.

It’s a long shot to say Arsenal will contend for the crown, but Wenger is a good manager and I was asked whether it’s possible, not probable. Several scenarios exist that put Arsenal into the conversation. While the class of the league seems to be Chelsea, Man City, and Manchester United, ruling out the Gunners seems foolish when it’s reasonable to think the chips could fall their way.

Liga MX wrap: Xolos beats Chivas as Apertura begins

Photo by Natalia Perales/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Liga MX’s Apertura season is off and running with all 18 clubs partaking in a match this weekend.

[ MORE: Marketing Pulisic with BVB ]

Club Tijuana 2-1 Chivas Guadalajara

Scoreless at the half, the weekend’s marquee match sprang to life in the final 45. Juan Martin Lucero gave TJ a 54th minute lead before Jose Van Rankin knotted it up five minutes later.

Lucero assisted Jose Rivero’s 75th minute winner, which was helped in its status when Michael Perez took a red card in the 80th.

Cruz Azul 3-0 Puebla

Elias Hernandez scored a goal and added an assist, and Milton Caraglio put one of his five shots on goal into the net. Andres Renteria also scored in the win.

Tigres 2-0 Leon

Andre-Pierre Gignac scored, and Lucas Zelarayan marked a goal and an assist in the win.

Elsewhere
Necaxa 2-1 Club America
Toluca 2-0 Morelia
Santos Laguna 2-1 Lobos BUAP
Pachuca 0-1 Monterrey
Veracruz 0-2 Pumas UNAM
Atlas 0-0 Queretaro

Report: Colorado acquires USMNT mid Acosta for Badji

Photo by George Frey/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The West’s first place team is switching it up in a big way.

FC Dallas is sending Homegrown Player and USMNT midfielder Kellyn Acosta to Western foes Colorado Rapids in exchange for striker Dominique Badji, according to a report by The Dallas Morning News.

[ MORE: Pulisic rips up Liverpool ]

Acosta, 22, has 17 caps and a goal for the U.S., and is primarily a defensive midfielder. He’s also played right and left back.

He’s appeared 139 times for Dallas, scoring 13 times with nine assists, but had fallen out with head coach Oscar Pareja. He’s also struggled mightily on the field, according to WhoScored.

Badji, 25, has seven goals and three assists in 16 matches for the Rapids this season, building on an eight-goal, five-assist campaign last season.

FCD has gotten six goals out of forward Maxi Urruti, and there’s been little production from anyone else. Cristian Colman is out with an ankle injury and managed just a pair of goals in 399 minutes.

The risk of trading Acosta is mitigated by the continued speculation that he may test the waters of European soccer. Badji’s a quality player, but Colorado may’ve gotten a bargain in its push to escape the dregs of the West.

Quintero, Loons pick LAFC apart in five-star win (video)

Jeff Wheeler/Star Tribune via AP
Leave a comment

Minnesota United throttled LAFC on Sunday, using a Christian Ramirez brace to batter the hot expansion team 5-1 in Minnesota.

Darwin Quintero had a goal and two assists for the Loons, who took advantage of LAFC’s decision not to start dominant forward Adama Diomande and center back Walker Zimmerman.

[ MORE: Marketing Pulisic with BVB ]

Quintero ripped off seven shots, putting five on goal. He now has 10 goals and five assists since joining the Loons after scoring two and eight in 29 matches for Club America last year.

Miguel Ibarra recorded a goal and an assist, while Rasmus Schuller also scored. LAFC’s goal came courtesy Benny Feilhaber.

Minnesota’s Bobby Shuttleworth and LA’s Tyler Miller each made six saves in their goals.

LAFC fails in a bid to make up points on Western Conference first seed FC Dallas, while the Loons now can eye a playoff spot in the West.

Already-thin Liverpool center back corps loses Matip to quad injury

Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Liverpool’s 3-1 loss to Borussia Dortmund featured an injury to a position with very little depth.

The Reds lost Joel Matip to what Jurgen Klopp said could possibly be a “small tear” in one of his quads.

[ MORE: Marketing Pulisic with BVB ]

If Matip, 26, needs any significant time to heal up, he’ll put a major question mark into Liverpool’s opening day center back pairing.

Virgil Van Dijk, who scored against BVB on Sunday, already won’t have Dejan Lovren as a partner thanks to a post-World Cup vacation.

That leaves Joe Gomez and Ragnar Klavan as options next to Van Dijk.

Matches at Crystal Palace and home to Brighton and Hove Albion follow the Aug. 12 visit from West Ham.