Three things we learned from Chelsea’s win vs. Spurs

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LONDON — Chelsea beat Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 on Sunday in the first-ever Premier League game at Wembley Stadium.

The reigning champs put all of their early season worries to one side to sneak out of Tottenham’s temporary home with a narrow win as Spurs squandered chances and Marcos Alonso scored twice, including a late winner.

Here’s what we learned from Wembley.


3-5-2 FOR NEW-LOOK CHELSEA?

When Chelsea’s teamsheet was passed around in the Wembley Stadium press box, there was much debate as to exactly how Antonio Conte would line his side up.

Given suspensions to Gary Cahill and Cesc Fabregas, Eden Hazard out injured and Diego Costa exiled in Brazil, Conte was forced into a reshuffle with David Luiz in midfield and youngster Andreas Christensen starting in a three-man defense alongside Cesar Azpilicueta and new signing Antonio Rudiger.

The 3-5-2 system worked to start with as Alvaro Morata squandered a glorious chance by heading wide, then Marcos Alonso curled home a superb free kick to give Chelsea the lead.

However Tottenham soon found space out wide with Victor Moses and Marcos Alonso asked to do more attacking than in the 3-4-3 formation and this system seemed to be more out of necessity to protect youngster Christensen and help ease in Tiemoue Bakayoko, than something which will stick around for the rest of the season. Bakayoko and Kante shut down Wanyama and Die from getting on the ball and Luiz shut down the space for Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli to work in.

Chelsea’s new signings settled in relatively well with Morata guilty of missing a gilt-edge chance early on and somewhat weak in the challenge, while Bakayoko roughed up Victor Wanyama and Mousa Dembele in midfield and Rudiger was solid. With Cahill, Fabregas and Hazard to return, it seems like many wrote off this Chelsea side too quickly this season following the shock defeat to Burnley on the opening weekend.

Yes, Conte will want reinforcements in the final weeks of the window, but things aren’t as bad as they seemed last week for the reigning champs.


WEMBLEY HOODOO CONTINUES FOR SPURS

Perhaps it was the confetti still on the floor from Arsenal’s Community Shield win over Chelsea two weeks ago. Perhaps it was the bigger pitch. Perhaps it was the increased expectation from a crowd of over 75,000. Perhaps it was Chelsea’s fine record against Spurs as they’ve now lost just twice in their last 18 encounters against Tottenham.

Whatever you put this defeat down to, this was the last thing Tottenham wanted to happen in their first-ever league game at Wembley Stadium.

The Wembley hoodoo remains as Harry Kane hit the post, Thibaut Courtois came up with a string of fine saves and there were some horror misses for Spurs. To top it all just when Spurs thought they had nicked a point for all of their endeavors, Alonso scored in the 88th minute after a horrible giveaway by Victor Wanyama.

Much has been made of the size of the pitch and how unfamiliar surroundings could cost Tottenham dear in 2017-18 during their one-year move as their new 61,000 capacity home at White Hart Lane is finished.

Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge home is closer to Wembley than Spurs’ White Hart Lane and the Blues looked more comfortable there from the start with Alonso’s late strike the difference.

Spurs have now won just two of their 11 games at the new Wembley, failing to win in nine of their last 10 trips to Wembley, and for five of those games they were “at home.”

Does it really make that much difference?

When it comes to the pitch size there isn’t much difference between White Hart Lane and Wembley. The pitch size at Wembley is listed as 105 x 75 yards. That makes it five yards longer and two yards wider than the pitch Spurs dominated teams on last season with Mauricio Pochetino’s high-pressing style seeing Tottenham unbeaten at home all season.

Before the season started Pochettino and Spurs defender Jan Vertonghen discussed how high Spurs push up the pitch and how the defense use Harry Kane as a reference point for the rest of their team. If Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld realize they’re too far away from Kane, they’ll push the entire team up. With an extra five yards to cover, time and time again, it makes a difference at the top. We saw that on Sunday with over half the pitch often separating Spurs’ defense with Kane, presumably because Pochettino was worried about Chelsea launching counters and his team being exposed.

With Spurs still getting used to new surroundings, their fans settling into their new matchday routine and a much different atmosphere generated compared to the cramped, hostile White Hart Lane, this will take time.

The main reason Spurs finished second last season was due to their home form. They will have to adapt to their new home quickly, amid an increased wave of negativity following this defeat, to try and remain not only as title contenders but top four challengers.

Tottenham dominated vast swathes of this game but the Wembley hoodoo remains.


DRY AUGUST FOR KANE

Harry Kane has now gone 12 Premier League games without scoring a goal in August.

Considering he is the top scorer in each of the PL’s past two seasons, that’s quite an achievement.

Kane, 24, hit the post, had shots saved and blocked on Sunday as he did everything but score. The curse of August continues for Kane.

But what can you attribute it to?

Kane is one of those strikers who has to feel the game, to feel the moment and then play on his instincts.

He has all of the raw ingredients — pace, power, aerial ability, vision — to dominate but he needs time to settle down on the pitch and get in the groove.

It is not easy to do that after getting 45 minutes here and 60 minutes there in preseason. Kane seemed a little hesitant when the ball dropped around the box to him on Sunday, waiting an extra split second or taking an extra touch.

In the 77th minute Mousa Dembele played him through after a mazy run but Kane slipped at the vital moment. Even if their stadium has changed, some things never do.

September to January is peak Kane time.

West Ham signs Sebastian Haller on club record deal

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West Ham made a highly anticipated signing official on Wednesday morning as they secured Sebastian Haller from Eintracht Frankfurt for a club-record transfer fee.

Prior to their Premier League Asia Trophy loss to Manchester City, the club announced the signing on Wednesday on a reported $56 million deal. He signed a five-year deal with an option for a sixth.

“I feel really great,” Haller told the club’s official website. “I think it’s a really good opportunity for me to be here. It means a lot (to be the record signing). It proves that the club [has] really wanted me for a long time. I felt this desire to sign me and I’m really happy to sign, also. it is an ambitious club, a nice club, a nice city and nice fans too

“For me I can guarantee that I will give 100% for the club because the club has given me this confidence and I will try to give it back every day in every game.”

The 25-year-old was prolific during his time in the Bundesliga, arriving at Eintracht Frankfurt two years ago. He made 77 appearances for the club during his two-year tenure, scoring 33 goals, including 24 goals in 60 Bundesliga matches. Prior to joining Eintracht Frankfurt, Haller spent time at Dutch side FC Utrecht and Ligue 2 side AJ Auxerre whose youth system he graduated from.

“Sebastien is a player we have been watching closely for some time,” Director of Football Mario Husillos said in the official club release. “He has always been a key target and someone who myself, Manuel Pellegrini and David Sullivan were very keen to bring to the football club. He is a player with excellent pedigree and experience in three of Europe’s top leagues. His record at Eintracht Frankfurt in recent seasons has been up there with the top strikers in the Bundesliga, and we believe that his physical and technical qualities will be well suited to the Premier League. ”

According to a report by The Guardian, there was a late attempt to hijack the bid by an unnamed Champions League club, but the effort was unsuccessful.

Man City skates by West Ham in Premier League Asia Trophy

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Manchester City’s youth squad did the first-half job, which meant the heavy artillery coming off the bench was that much scarier. Man City came from behind to lead at halftime, and Raheem Sterling scored twice in the second half and the defending Premier League champions were no match for West Ham in a 4-1 victory in the semifinals of the Premier League Asia Trophy in Nanjing.

Pep Guardiola started a mostly second-choice lineup from the opening whistle, with David Silva and Aymeric Laporte the only true first-teamers in the squad. Claudio Bravo manned the net to begin, with new arrival Rodri also among the starters. West Ham’s lineup, meanwhile, was a strong one with Felipe Anderson, Mark Noble, Angelo Ogbonna, Jack Wilshere, Michail Antonio, and Manuel Lanzini all among a first-choice starting lineup.

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West Ham took the lead 25 minutes in through Noble who delivered from the penalty spot, but not without help from Felipe who was the star of the first half for the Hammers and won the penalty after sending Manchester City defender Angelino to the ground.

The lead didn’t last long as David Silva leveled things up in the 33rd minute, a wonderful start to his final season at Manchester City. He received a fabulous delivery from 18-year-old Spanish youth international Adrian Bernabe who rifled one to the far post where Silva was waiting, and the 33-year-old chested it down before unpacking a low finish from a tight angle.

City would go in front three minutes later as 20-year-old Man City youth product Lukas Nmecha won a soft penalty on a foul by Ogbonna, and the youngster took it himself and buried the spot-kick for the lead.

Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling, Bernardo Silva and Leroy Sane all came on at halftime for the defending Premier League champions, while West Ham brought on the likes of Robert Snodgrass, Javier Hernandez, and Andriy Yarmolenko.

The changes for Manchester City overwhelmed West Ham, with Sane picking up a loose ball near the halfway line and feeding a beautiful pass through the back line to Sterling clean on goal who put City 3-1 up on the hour mark. That saw John Stones, Kyle Walker, Ilkay Gundogan and Oleksandr Zinchenko all come in off the bench for Pep Guardiola and into the fray.

The big three did it again in the 72nd minute as de Bruyne picked Carlos Sanchez’s pocket in the attacking third and fed Sane on the left. He sent it back to de Bruyne who layed it off for Sterling’s second goal of the match.

In squad notes, a pair of England youth internationals went the distance for Man City as Ian Poveda-Ocampo and Taylor Harwood-Bellis were the only two to complete the full 90 minutes. Notable for West Ham, Winston Reid came off the bench for the final 19 minutes, his first game action in over 16 months.

Rashford, James, Pogba star as Manchester United hammers Leeds in Perth

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Manchester United topped Leeds 4-0 in a comprehensive victory in Perth that saw Marcus Rashford and new signing Daniel James run rampant down the flanks.

Rashford scored in the 27th minute with a beautiful move down the left that threw two Leeds defenders into each other, while James struck the post just before halftime on an overlap down the right in his Red Devils debut.

Also on the scoresheet was 17-year-old Mason Greenwood who received a hard, low cross from fellow debutant Aaron Wan-Bissaka and beat two Leeds defenders in a footrace to the ball on the doorstep for a sliding finish. The move was started by Paul Pogba who found the new Manchester United defender down the right with a wonderful through-ball, leading to the delivery into the box. Greenwood has had quite the last 12 months, scoring for the Manchester United U-17, U-18, U-23, and now senior side all in that span.

After the break, Phil Jones found the back of the net by powering home a corner with his head, while Anthony Martial finished off the scoreline with a penalty after Tahith Chong was fouled in the area by Liam Cooper. Chong impressed throughout the second half, linking well with fellow Manchester United youth product Angel Gomes.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer found playing time for just about every first-teamer, completely changing the side at halftime. Nemanja Matic was one of the halftime introductions, but was curiously withdrawn with 12 minutes to go, unclear if due to injury. The only Red Devil in the squad to not see the field was 21-year-old Axel Tuanzebe.

Wolves rocks Newcastle in Premier League Asia Trophy

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A rough summer continued for Newcastle as the Magpies were hammered in Nanjing by a first-choice Wolves lineup 4-0 in Premier League Asia Trophy action.

Diogo Jota scored a pair, and England youth international Morgan Gibbs-White added a third as Wolves took a commanding 3-0 lead into the break. As both sides rung changes in the second half, an Allan Thomas own-goal with five minutes remaining finished the scoreline and doomed Newcastle to yet another summer misstep.

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For Wolves, it was a promising start to preseason play as the lineup featured a host of regulars, with only Mexican international Raul Jimenez, still resting after a successful Gold Cup campaign, missing from the starting eleven. Jota was particularly spectacular, with a brilliant touch in the buildup to his first goal rewarded with the finish, plus his second – Wolves third – where he snatched the ball straight off the feet of Newcastle defender Isaac Hayden in the penalty area.

Gibbs-White also scored off a Newcastle turnover in its own defensive third, with Jonny picking the pocket of Jamie Sterry on the left flank and finding the 19-year-old alone in the middle for a powerful finish from outside the top of the box.

Newcastle has had a rough summer, with the club losing manager Rafa Benitez, selling leading scorer Ayoze Perez, and failing to secure second-leading scorer Salomon Rondon on a permanent basis. The club has yet to sign a single player and was forced to overpay for Steve Bruce, who was in charge for the match against Wolves.