Klopp, Wenger dismiss defensive flaws

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LONDON — On Friday night under the lights in north London with the world watching on, two of the Premier League’s great entertainers lived up to their reputations to deliver an early Christmas present.

It was beautiful. It was ugly. It was exactly what we’ve come to expect from both Arsenal and Liverpool.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned ]

The 3-3 draw showcased the good and bad of both teams and underlined why neither will seriously challenge for the Premier League title unless something changes drastically in their soccer DNA.

Speaking to reporters after the game, both Arsene Wenger and Jurgen Klopp saluted their teams attacking instincts but stopped short of slamming their defensive displays even though both clubs have conceded the most goals among the current top seven in the PL table.

“We defended well but you know with their quality going forward they can always score a goal,” Wenger said when asked if he should have ‘parked the bus’ after going 3-2 up. “I hoped that we could score one as well. I think in the second half we were not much in trouble. They  have quality everywhere going forward and it is difficult to say that you can guarantee you don’t concede a goal.”

Saluting the spirit of his team for their comeback, Wenger conceded that the game could have been over at half time and it should have been.

Liverpool’s counter-attacking unit was rampant with Philippe Coutinho pulling the strings and popping up to head home the opener. Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane should have both scored and Arsenal were hanging on for dear life as their fans ripped into Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez and took aim at Wenger.

“It is true that I am frustrated after 3-2 that we couldn’t keep the result but overall what can you say,” Wenger said. “It was a fantastic game with quality going forward on both sides. Us more on quick combination. Them more on fantastic counterattacking pace. That’s why it was always an interesting game.”

For neutrals, sure. But fans of both Arsenal and Liverpool have seen this kind of game far too often for their liking.

Both managers saluted the attacking play of the other and therein lies the problem. The defensive frailties of both Arsenal and Liverpool remained unchecked. Their defensive players aren’t up to scratch and unlike Chelsea last season and Manchester City this season, they’re unwilling to adopt their philosophy and change personnel defensively to solve the issue.

Klopp believes his team need to learn from their five minutes of madness which saw them concede three times just one minute after they went 2-0 up. But how many more times does a collapse of this nature need to happen for the message to sink in?

“On the whole we had more chances. It is not too cool but we had five minutes where we had obvious problems. That’s how it is. We had individual problems. In this case it is not about team defending,” Klopp said. “First goal, that’s why we shouldn’t invite crosses because when the ball is in the box it is at least 50/50, a misjudgment, obviously. Misjudgment the second goal. Third goal, a misjudgment and too deep and offside blah, blah, blah and let them go in the box and make it too easy.

“After these five minutes we reacted much better and deserved, in the end, the point. That is the minimum that we deserved tonight. The result is not what we wanted. The performance for 89 minutes is what we wanted because we played for 94. The five minutes were decisive tonight. Difficult to explain but good to learn from because we need to react differently as individual players in situations like this. We need to be much more angry than sad or disappointed. We gave them and we opened the door for them in those five minutes and they, all respect, they took the chance.”

Liverpool fought back to at least grab a point after their defensive collapse but it is a scene becoming all too familiar this season.

Klopp reacted angrily even when Roberto Firmino made it 3-3, slamming his water bottle into the ground and then apologizing to Arsenal’s fans around him who had been hurling abuse his way. The German coach called it an “aggressive celebration” and you can understand why he’d be incandescent with rage.

During this encounter, Liverpool’s collapse to draw at Sevilla after being 3-0 up in the UEFA Champions League earlier this season sprung to mind, so to did the hammerings at Tottenham and Manchester City this season. So far in 2017-18 they have conceded 12 goals in their three visits to fellow top six contenders.

Still, Klopp believes that Liverpool do not have a problem controlling games from a defensive standpoint and insists that individual mistakes are costing his team dear. Asked about James Milner‘s comments after the game that Liverpool need to learn how to be ‘boring’ in certain situations, Klopp only half agreed.

“He’s 100 percent right. Controlling the game, that’s what he means. But that was not the situation. It was not that we gave the game away,” Klopp said. “It was just that pretty much everybody was in and around the box, the cross comes in the box and we know that, we are professional football players. Everybody saw it. Joe Gomez makes a step in the right direction, shoots the ball to Tottenham and they can play with it. That was not a situation. It was a non situation but because we didn’t react well they had a goal. It was nothing about controlling the game. You can’t avoid all crosses in 95-96 minutes. Second goal, Xhaka shoots a few more times in his life like this and Simon Mignolet saves the balls in 99.99 percent of all situations. Not tonight. So, we have to take that. It is what it is.

“It is not about controlling. Yes, we need to control games but I thought we did control the game but then we opened the door for them. We should have scored. We all know that. We don’t have to talk too much about defense because it was not defense, it was individual. That is possible. Usually not all in one night. We should have scored another four and that is a big compliment for the team. Coming here and playing this kind of football and creating these kind of chances, that is not easy as well. We did it. And that is why everyone in this room thinks that if there would have been a winner tonight, it should have been Liverpool but now we have a point. Okay. That’s it.”

It should have been Liverpool. It could have been Arsenal. It was neither. Given their defensive mistakes, neither side deserved to win.

MLS 3 Things: Resurgent Zardes, Toronto up, New England down

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A busy Saturday in Major League Soccer sees three interesting results bolstering the story lines of the final few months of the season.

[ MORE: Unstoppable Josef | Zlatan, too ]

1) Imagine a world with the reigning champs as your reward for finishing first.

With 14 matches to play, Toronto FC has Jozy Altidore back in the fold and has pulled to within eight points of the Eastern Conference’s final playoff spot after a 2-1 win over the Chicago Fire on Saturday.

Sebastian Giovinco looks like Sebastian Giovinco in scoring another outstanding goal, just his fifth of the season, while Jonathan Osorio also scored in the win.

Before you watch Seba’s goal, picture you’ve won the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Now picture TFC as your semifinal reward.

2) New England is well and truly slumping

Brad Friedel‘s Revs are slipping after losing a third-straight league match, and New England has gained a solitary point since the calendar turned to July following a 2-0 loss at Red Bull Arena.

Fourth through ninth in the East are separated by nine points, and New England is very much in that mix now. Friedel is certainly at the most trying time of his tenure.

Second half goals from Bradley Wright-Phillips and Daniel Royer did the trick for RBNY, who have claimed 15 of the last 18 points available to them (The lone blemish is the Hudson River Derby).

The Red Bulls are now 8-1-1 at home this season, while New England is 1-4-4 away from Foxboro.

3) Gyasi Zardes’ return to form is surprising and wonderful

Columbus has its second win since May 19, and will be feeling much better about itself following a 3-2 comeback win over Orlando City which included a pair of equalizers.

One of those came in the 88th minute, as Gyasi Zardes completed his brace by converting a penalty won by new arrival Patrick Mullins.

The Crew won late via a rare Wil Trapp goal — the USMNT midfielder has just two in 161 matches — but let’s focus on Zardes.

Zardes’ 13th goal of the season continues an amazing turnaround under striker whisperer Gregg Berhalter. It’s Zardes’ second double-digit season, and his first since 2014. He is firmly in frame for another USMNT look, this time as a center forward, but first there’s plenty to like about the big man.

Surging Galaxy ride Ibrahimovic magic to 3-1 win (video)

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic is a man on fire, and the LA Galaxy are rounding into form.

The Galaxy overcame an early deficit in Chester to clobber the Philadelphia Union 3-1 on Saturday behind a goal and an assist from their world-class striker.

[ MORE: Neymar on diving ]

Romain Alessandrini had two assists, while Michael Ciani and Ola Kamara also scored for LA. CJ Sapong scored for Philly, assisted by Borek Dockal.

Unbeaten-in-seven LA moves into fourth in the West with the win, while Philadelphia remains three points back of sixth in the East.

Ibrahimovic has now scored in six of his last seven matches, and has 12 goals an two assists in 21 matches overall.

Let’s start with the assist, which we must’ve seen two dozen times when the big Swede was with Paris Saint-Germain.

Ibrahimovic takes a difficult pass out of the air with absurd touch, then waits for the right time to send an impeccable through ball into the path of Kamara.

As for the goal, you almost feel for Mark McKenzie.

The Union’s Homegrown defender has to choose between Alessandrini darting into his box and allowing Ibrahimovic a lick of space.

He gives it, understandably, then rushes to close down Ibrahimovic.

It wasn’t fast enough. Boom.

Americans on both sides, Weah scores as PSG fall to Bayern (video)

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Two hopes of the USMNT’s future — one more immediate than the other — squared off in the International Champions Cup on Saturday.

Paris Saint-Germain teenager Timothy Weah, 18, went 90 minutes and scored his side’s only goal in the 3-1 loss in Austria.

[ MORE: Neymar on diving ]

On the other side of the field was 62nd minute substitute Chris Richards, far less known to the American supporter.

Richards is on loan from FC Dallas, where he’s a Homegrown Player. The 18-year-old center back is going to play for Bayern’s U-19 side following a successful trial in April.

Both Bayern and PSG were without key pieces, as Weah went up against a decent Bayern back line of Juan Bernat, Javi Martinez, Josip Stanisic, and Rafinha.

Arjen Robben, Sandro Wagner, and Franck Ribery were the biggest names in Bayern’s XI, while David Alaba, Kingsley Coman, and Serge Gnabry came off the bench.

For PSG, Gianluigi Buffon started as did Adrien Rabiot.

Weah’s goal is below, and here’s what he had to say about it:

“It’s an amazing feeling and getting a well-done job. Me scoring goals, I was really happy to get my first goal for PSG and first goal in this competition. We’re going to Singapore with our head on our shoulders. We’re going to be really humble and keep playing.”

Klopp talks Pulisic, Liverpool’s spending

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Jurgen Klopp admits he’d love to work with Christian Pulisic again, but isn’t going to butt his nose into Borussia Dortmund’s business.

Speaking ahead of Liverpool’s International Champions Cup match against BVB, Klopp was asked about his interest in the American teenager.

[ MORE: Josef Martinez bags 3 more ]

Klopp was quick to point out that Pulisic is under contract to Dortmund and not for sale, as much as he’s aware.

From The Liverpool Echo:

“He had not his best season last year but he was still a decisive player but it’s important in that age group that there’s no rush. He still has 14 or 15 years to play in his career and that’s good and he wants to be the best Pulisic he can be. For this, there is still space for development.

“If – at one point – he will join us, I don’t know. I like him, it’s not that that could be the problem, but we respect contracts still and there’s no market I know about at the moment. We did our business and Dortmund are doing theirs. All good.”

Also all good? Klopp’s evolution on spending after blasting other Premier League clubs for big money buys in the past.

Klopp said he would quit football if transfer fees like Paul Pogba‘s became the norm. Well, they have, and no club has spent as much money as the Reds this summer.

“That’s the problem these days, hey? Whatever b.s. you say, nobody will forget it. On the other side, it’s still kind of true. I couldn’t have imagined since then that the world would change like it has. Two years ago £100million was a crazy number. Since then the world has changed completely.”

He said he’s going to do whatever it takes to make Liverpool successful, and Klopp now has the world’s most expensive goalkeeper and most expensive defender in his squad.