Three things we learned from Man City’s win v. Spurs

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MANCHESTER — The juggernaut that is Manchester City shows no signs of slowing down as they beat Tottenham Hotspur 4-1 to extend their record-breaking run of victories.

As the freezing fog rolled in and hung over the Etihad Stadium on Saturday, there was nothing misty about Man City’s play. Clarity remained as Pep Guardiola‘s men secured their 16th consecutive win in the Premier League with minimal fuss thanks to a goals from Ilkay Gundogan and Kevin De Bruyne and a late double from Raheem Sterling.

The Premier League leaders missed a penalty kick and both Harry Kane and Dele Alli could have been sent off as City stretched their lead atop the Premier League table to 14 points.

Here’s what we learned from the Etihad.


THE OLD SWITCHEROO

Man City played like Tottenham and Tottenham tried to play like Man City on Saturday.

City perfected the high-press in the first half, putting the usually unflappable Hugo Lloris under pressure with several skewed clearances to show for it. They continued that ruthless pressing in the second, even though Tottenham predictably had a spell where they dominated possession at the start of the second half but couldn’t break through.

Raheem Sterling, Sergio Aguero and Leroy Sane squeezed Spurs’ back four high and the rest of the team followed. Spurs looked dangerous on a few breakaways when they did manage to manipulate the ball away from their own box but City were relentless and they taught Tottenham, so often the masters of the high-press, a lesson in how to strangle your opponents from the first whistle.

City’s incredible winning run owes plenty to their incredible individual ability on the ball, but their relentless work rate without the ball is often overlooked.

Their 16-game winning streak shows no signs of stopping and they’re not only beating their title rivals. They’re humbling them.

They are the first team since the 1953-54 season to beat each of Liverpool, Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea and Tottenham in a top-flight season before the New Year. There is simply no stopping City.


DE BRUYNE DELIVERS AS CITY ROAR ON

With David Silva missing this clash due to “personal reasons” it was up to Kevin de Bruyne to run the show in central midfield without his partner in crime and the man who he sits alongside as the PL’s leading assist man.

He did it admirably, as we all knew the runaway leader for the Premier League Player of the Year award could.

Dominating proceedings in the game with his sublime range of passing, the Belgian ace clipped killer balls behind Spurs’ defense on multiple occasions in the first half with incredible ease.

With City leading 1-0, he was then clattered by Dele Alli with a studs up challenge worthy of a red card but Dele was only booked. You do not want to make de Bruyne angry. How did he respond?

De Bruyne picked himself up and on the next attack drove into the box and smashed a left-footed effort past Lloris. He then showed his class by holding up his fingers to signal “21” to salute Silva. Moments later he won a penalty kick (which Gabriel Jesus missed) and he helped City ease to victory with flicks and tricks galore.

KDB is on another planet.


DELE ALLI THE ENIGMA

Dele Alli hasn’t scored in his last seven Premier League games but aside from his reduced offensive output, you can tell something isn’t quite right with the reigning PFA Young Player of the Year.

This was supposed to be Dele’s year. He’s shown his class in spurts this season with a double against Real Madrid in the Champions League and a fine display against Liverpool in the PL, but it’s hasn’t happened often enough.

He is just 21 years old. We should remember that. His form over the past two seasons at Tottenham have rightly seen him labeled as one of the most promising midfield prospects in Europe. With that have come extra distractions off the pitch as “super agent” Jorge Mendes looks to sign him up and other commercial deals roll in. He seems distracted and off the pace, unable to influence games and connect with Kane as often as he did.

His lunging tackle on Kevin de Bruyne said it all. Aside from his nasty streak surfacing once again, he looks frustrated and low in confidence and was upset at being hauled off in recent games as his drought continues. Dele was also subbed late in this thrashing for Spurs with jeers coming from all around the Etihad.

Dele Alli can get out of this rut, but there’s no denying he’s hit the toughest patch of his career so far.

Arteta praises Saka, Willock, speaks on transfers, Mustafi injury

Mikel Arteta
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Arsenal’s day got a little dicey in stoppage time of a 2-1 win over Bournemouth in the FA Cup’s fourth round, but it was mostly very comfortable at the Vitality Stadium.

A lot of that comes down to Bukayo Saka‘s exceptional day on the left flank. The 18-year-old had a goal and an assist, and is proving a big part of Mikel Arteta‘s plans to return Arsenal to glory.

“Mikel is trying to bring back the philosophy of the Arsenal way,” Saka said after the win, via the BBC. “We did that well in the first half, not so much in the second half.”

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ] 

Saka took a lay-off from fellow teen Gabriel Martinelli to make it 1-0 in the fifth minute, then crossed for Eddie Nketiah‘s 26th-minute insurance goal.

A Sam Surridge stoppage-time marker for Bournemouth made an otherwise easy day feel a bit tricky at the end.

Arteta had praise for his youngsters, especially Saka and midfielder Joe Willock.

“They were terrific,” he said, via Football.London. “Their courage to play and make big decisions. I think Joe can be an outstanding player in that position.”

Saka came through the system as a left winger, but Arteta has asked him to help fill in at left back.

“What I like is that he put his head down and he is very willing to learn the defensive principles.”

Arteta also admitted that a Cup run would be great for the team, adding that Shkrodan Mustafi’s injury is a big cause for concern. He said the club has a clear plan for the rest of the transfer window, and that he wants Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to stay in London.

“We will have to assess him but normally it is not good,” he said of Mustafi. “We had a clear intention of what we want to do in the market and if we can do it, fine.”

Arsenal moves past Bournemouth to reach FA Cup fifth round

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Bukayo Saka had a goal and an assist as Arsenal beat Bournemouth 2-1 in FA Cup fourth round action on Monday.

The result seals another trip to the South Coast, as the Gunners will visit Portsmouth in the fifth round.

Saka and Eddie Nketiah were the goal scorers as Arsenal did the job without Alexandre Lacazette, Mesut Ozil, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and David Luiz in the Starting XI.

Sam Surrridge scored for Bournemouth in the fourth minute of second half stoppage time. That gave a tension to the other four minutes of stoppage which did not exist in the rest of the match.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule

Saka drifted into the 18 to wallop a Gabriel Martinelli layoff into the upper reaches of the goal, the ball zipping from post-to-post with fury.

The 18-year-old Saka picked up an assist on Arsenal’s second goal, his cross seeing its way to Nketiah for a straight-forward finish in the heart of the 18.

Saka now has three goals and six assists in 23 appearances for Arsenal this season.

It wasn’t strictly positives for the Gunners, as Shkrodan Mustafi was stretchered off with an injury in the 62nd minute.

Bournemouth got one back when Simon Francis‘ cross was dummied by Dan Gosling, Surridge using a clever touch to set up his shot past Emiliano Martinez.

It’s Surridge’s first senior goal for Bournemouth, though the 21-year-old has managed 29 goals between Yeovil Town, Swansea City, and Oldham Athletic.

Ten possible transfers to monitor this week

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It’s been an active-enough transfer window from a wide perspective. Manchester United, Chelsea, and fans of other contenders may still be waiting for their breakthrough, but there’s been a lot to see world wide.

[ MORE: Deadline Day needs ]

Erling Haaland has a new home, and his housewarming party has been spectacular. Javier Hernandez headed from Sevilla to Major League Soccer.

Takumi Minamino joined Liverpool from Salzburg, and Gedson Fernandes found a home at Tottenham.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule

So what’s still (possibly) to come before the transfer window slams shut at 6 p.m. ET Friday?

Aaron Long from New York Red Bulls to West HamA loan-to-buy bid’s been rejected, but could David Moyes skip the trial period. USMNT center back Long wants to go the Premier League, and RBNY are not in the CONCACAF Champions League so there’s time to replace him.

Antonee Robinson from Wigan Athletic to AC Milan — Speaking of USMNT-related transfers, could-be left back of the future has become a fixture at the DW Stadium but reports of his replacing Ricardo Rodriguez at Milan are many.

Paco Alcacer from Borussia Dortmund to Newcastle — The Magpies need another striker with Joelinton struggling to find form, and the BVB man is open to leaving on account of Haaland’s arrival.

Bruno Fernandes from Sporting Lisbon to Manchester United — A difference of $12 million seems likely to be made up by Friday.

Moussa Dembele from Lyon to Chelsea — He’s thrived at Fulham in the Championship, Celtic in the Scottish Premiership, and Lyon in Ligue 1, so the Premier League may finally get to see a mature Dembele. He made two appearances for Fulham in 2013/14.

Mykola Matviyenko from Shakhtar Donetsk to Arsenal — Twenty-two years old with 26 caps for Ukraine, reports of a try-it-before-you-buy-it with the Gunners seem very friendly to Arsenal.

Boubakary Soumare from Lille to Chelsea or Manchester United — Sixty-six senior appearances for a Ligue 1 side at age 20 is an eye-popper, and Soumare’s ceiling as a defensive midfielder is high.

Edinson Cavani from Paris Saint-Gerrmain to Atletico Madrid or Chelsea — The reports have all said Atleti is the front-runner, but the longer is takes the more you wonder…

Kalidou Koulibaly from Napoli to Manchester United — Not in January with Napoli a month away from Barcelona in the UCL, right? Right?

Gareth Bale,  Krzysztof Piatek, Willian Jose, Mario Gotze, Steven Bergwijn, Alcacer, pretty much forward to Spurs — Self-explanatory. Spurs are transfer rumor bait as much as anyone not called Manchester United thanks to the injury to Harry Kane and the clear need for refreshment.

Watch our transfer deadline day show from 6-8 p.m. ET on Jan. 31, live on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com.

FA Cup fifth round draw

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The draw for the FA Cup fifth round has been made and a potential clash between Chelsea and Liverpool has been set up.

[ LIVE: Follow all the FA Cup scores here ]

If Liverpool’s youngsters (sans Jurgen Klopp and their first team) get past third-tier Shrewsbury Town in their fourth round replay they will travel to Chelsea, while holders Man City will travel to second tier Sheffield Wednesday.

Man United will travel to either Northampton Town or Derby County as they could face former United legend Wayne Rooney, while Portsmouth (the lowest ranked team left in the competition) will host either Bournemouth or Arsenal.

Southampton or Tottenham will host Norwich City in the only guaranteed all-Premier League last 16 clash.

To help ease fixture congestion for Premier League clubs and due to their week off for a mid-season player break (even if if didn’t work out like that for Liverpool, Tottenham, Southampton and Newcastle United due to fourth round replays) the fifth round will be played across three midweek evenings on Mar. 3-5.

There will also be no replays from the fifth round onwards in the FA Cup, as the games will go to extra time and penalty kicks, if needed, if the scores are level.

Below is the draw in full for the fifth round.


Sheffield Wednesday v. Manchester City
Reading or Cardiff City v. Sheffield United
Chelsea v. Shrewsbury Town or Liverpool
West Bromwich Albion v. Newcastle United or Oxford United
Leicester City v. Coventry City or Birmingham City
Northampton Town or Derby County v. Manchester United
Southampton or Tottenham Hotspur v. Norwich City
Portsmouth v. Bournemouth or Arsenal