Season Preview: Arsenal to return to top-4?

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Arsenal at a Glance:

Premier League (and old First Division) titles: 13 – last in 2003/2004 season.

FA Cups: 13 times, last in 2016/2017.

League Cups: 2

FA Community Shield: 15 (last in 2017).

Top Four Finishes: 20-in-a-row between 1997 and 2017.

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It’s a new era at Arsenal.

After 20 years at the club, Arsene Wenger stepped down at the end of last season, in which Arsenal failed to break into the top four for a second consecutive season, allowing for a fresh set of eyes to come in and manage the side. In comes veteran Spaniard Unai Emery, who perhaps couldn’t live up to expectations in France but certainly beat the odds over and over again with Sevilla and Valencia in Spain.

Emery’s attention to detail and defensive focus could pair well with Arsenal’s wonderful abundance of creative, playmaking midfielders. But based on Arsenal’s preseason performances, there’s still plenty of work to be done at both ends of the pitch.


Arsenal will finish top four because….the new signings gel and add strength in depth to what is an already very strong squad. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang hits the ground running in his first full-season at the club with 20 or more goals, partnering at times with Alexandre Lacazette or trading spots with him between the heavy workload of matches. More importantly, the summer signings of Sokratis, Lucas Torreira, Matteo Guendouzi and Stephan Lichtsteiner help shore up Arsenal’s leaky defense after a few months of struggles to start the season. Torreira, affectionately called “pac-man” for his ability to eat up attackers all over the field, morphs into the best defensive midfielder Arsenal has seen since the days of Patrick Vieira.

Arsenal will miss out on the UEFA Champions League because….defensive problems remain. While the team is beautiful in its attack, Emery is left pulling all the hairs out of his head wondering why Shkodran Mustafi and Sokratis can’t figure out how to play together and defend as a unit. With Laurent Koscielny set to miss a large chunk of the season coming back from his torn Achilles injury, Arsenal miss his defensive leadership. In addition, both Lacazette and Aubameyang struggle to score in the big games, making Arsenal fans continue to suffer as the team fails to live up to expectations.

Best possible XI: List the team’s strongest lineup for this season when everyone is fit

———————Leno———————-

—-Bellerin—-Mustafi—Sokratis——Kolasinac

—————Torreira——-Xhaka——————

——-Mkhitaryan——Ramsey———-Ozil——

———————Aubameyang———————

Transfers In: Stephan Lichtsteiner (Juventus), Matteo Guendouzi (Lorient, $9.1 million), Lucas Torreira (Sampdoria, $34.4 million), Bernd Leno (Bayer Leverkusen, $25 million), Sokratis (Borussia Dortmund, $23 million)

Transfers Out: Per Mertesacker (retired), Santi Cazorla (Villarreal, free), Jack Wilshere (West Ham, free), Jeff Reine-Adelaide (Angers, undisclosed)

Ranking their offseason: A-

Arsenal found itself outside the Champions League for the second straight season, and with a new manager entering, the club could have been in for a rough summer. Instead, it’s been very good so far by all accounts. Arsenal spent strategically and already, Guendouzi looks like a strong signing, having performed well as a holding midfielder in multiple preseason matches. Leno looks like the future goalkeeper the Gunners have been wanting with Torreira and Sokratis shore up a creaky defense. In addition, the Gunners were able to hold on to Aubameyang, Lacazette, and though his future is still up in the air, Aaron Ramsey so far. Through preseason, it’s clear that Arsenal needs to work more defensively, but in terms of the attacking side they’re looking good enough to start the season.


Getty Images

Star player: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang: The French-born Gabon International was a star both domestically and in Europe for Borussia Dortmund. If he can produce at his old level, Arsenal will be just fine.


Coaches’ Corner: Unai Emery: The 48-year-old manager comes from Paris Saint-Germain, where he gained valuable experience coaching some of the biggest names in world football. But the majority of his coaching success has come in Spain. With Valencia and Sevilla, Emery constantly beat expectations and helped his side play better than the sum of its parts. If he can pull that off for Arsenal, he will quickly win over fans. 

PST predicts: After a strong offseason, Arsenal look set to return to the club’s old glory as a regular top-four team. The spine of the squad was improved, which should give players like Mesut Ozil, Henrik Mkhitaryan and Alex Iwobi the freedom to attack down the wings and through the heart of the opponent’s defense. The new manager should refresh the player’s attitudes and deliver a fitter, more defensively-sound squad, which will help in terms of getting back in the Champions League. Arsenal may still be a bit away from challenging for a league title, but they’re not that far off.

Premier League Preview: Huddersfield Town vs. Liverpool

Photo by Gareth Copley/Getty Images
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  • Huddersfield last beat Liverpool in 1959
  • Reds won both 3-0 last season
  • Liverpool winless in four across all comps
  • Reds also unbeaten on PL season

There are few endeavors in which the following sentence can accurately describe time: It’s been both a bit more than 675 minutes and also 56 years since Huddersfield Town last scored a goal against Liverpool.

The Terriers will try to change that, of course, when injury-hit Liverpool visits the John Smith’s Stadium on Saturday (Watch live at 12:30 p.m. ET and online via NBCSports.com).

[ MORE: JPW’s Premier League picks ]

The exhaustive web site LFChistory.net tells us that Huddersfield Town carried a 1-0 lead into halftime at Anfield on April 7, 1962, only to see Bill Shankly’s home side equalize and earn a draw.

Since then, the Terriers and Reds have squared off just seven times, and Liverpool has kept its sheets clean (aside from the dust of age). The scores over the ensuing half century-plus? 4-0, 0-0, 2-0, 0-1, 0-2, 3-0, and 3-0.

The good news for the Terriers is there have only been two of those matches in the 21st century, though they were both last season.

The other good news is that the international break was especially menacing to Liverpool, as Virgil Van Dijk, Naby Keita, Mohamed Salah, and Sadio Mane were all injured and only Salah and Van Dijk trained on Thursday.

The bad news is seemingly everything else. The Terriers have not looked much like the side that impressed in last season’s return to the Premier League.

David Wagner‘s men are winless through eight matches and have managed a joint-worst four goals while allowing the second-most goals in the Premier League (17).

What they’re saying

Huddersfield Town’s Erik Durm on Jurgen Klopp’s role in his development: “Jürgen had a big influence on me; he was the first one who told me to start in a defending position because I was a striker before. He came into training and told me ‘I want you to be a defender, left or right-back’, so he had a big influence on my career. I’m very happy that he made this solution and that he saw that I could play in this position.”

Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp on rarely used, $57 million Fabinho“Everyone asks you constantly, why doesn’t he play? There’s one reason, no other. Another player fits better in the slot. As long as there’s a player ahead who is fresh then it’s about the new player to close the gap. It always took time. When you do close the gap, go and make us better. That’s the plan.”

Prediction

This one is way trickier than you’d think. On a normal “Welcome back from international break,” I’d advocate expecting Huddersfield Town to keep it close and maybe even squeeze a point out of it. But Liverpool has been itching to get back on the field, and a bunch of players will see this as an opportunity to make a statement. Reds 3-0 (again).

Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks

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Week 9 of the Premier League season is here and the international break is finally over. Hurrah!

[ STREAM: Every PL game live ]

If you, like me, love to dissect all the games and predict what the score will be and which team will win, I encourage you to get involved in the comments section below. Let’s have a bit of fun.

Okay, so I’ve consulted my crystal ball and here’s how we see things panning out. Listen carefully, because this is very specific.

[ STREAM: Premier League “Goal Rush” ]

With the first section labelled “basically, free money” for the picks I think are dead certs. The section labelled “don’t touch this” means if you’re betting I advise you to stay clear, while the “so you’re telling me there’s a chance” section are the long shots. If it is better odds you are after, those are the picks to go for.


BASICALLY, FREE MONEY

Arsenal 3-1 Leicester City – (Monday, 3 p.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM

Manchester City 3-0 Burnley – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM ]

Huddersfield 1-3 Liverpool – (Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET, NBC) – [STREAM]

Everton 3-1 Crystal Palace – (Sunday, 11 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]


DON’T TOUCH THIS…

Chelsea 2-1 Man United – (Saturday, 7:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM]

Bournemouth 2-2 Southampton – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM]

Wolves 1-1 Watford – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM

West Ham 2-3 Tottenham – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – [STREAM


“SO YOU’RE TELLING ME THERE’S A CHANCE…”

 

Cardiff City 2-1 Fulham – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM]

Newcastle United 2-1 Brighton – (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Gold) – [STREAM]

Premier League TV, streaming schedule

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The Premier League is back after the international break, and Week 9 of the 2018-19 season kicks off with a cracker at Stamford Bridge between Chelsea and Manchester United. Let’s do this.

MORE: Sign up for NBC Sports Gold ] 

The full TV schedule for the games this weekend are below, plus you can watch every single second of every single game live online via NBC Sports.com,the NBC Sports App and by purchasing the new “Premier League Pass” via NBC Sports Gold.

Gold also includes an extensive selection of shoulder programming such as Premier League News, Premier League Today and NBC Sports originals such as Premier League Download and much more.

[ STREAM: Premier League live here ] 

You can also watch Premier League “Goal Rush” at for all the goals as they go in around the grounds. Goal Rush is available via NBC Sports.com and the NBC Sports App.

[ MORE: Premier League “Goal Rush” ] 

If you’re looking for full-event replays of Premier League games, you can find them here for the games streamed on NBCSports.com and here for the games on NBC Sports Gold.

Here’s your full TV schedule for the coming days.


FULL TV SCHEDULE

Saturday
7:30 a.m. ET: Chelsea vs. Manchester United – NBCSN [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: West Ham United vs. Tottenham Hotspur – NBCSN [STREAM
10 a.m. ET: Bournemouth vs. Southampton – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM
10 a.m. ET: Cardiff City vs. Fulham – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Manchester City vs. Burnley – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Newcastle United vs. Brighton & Hove Albion – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Wolverhampton Wanderers vs. Watford – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM
12:30 p.m. ET: Huddersfield Town vs. Liverpool – NBC [STREAM

Sunday
11 a.m. ET: Everton vs. Crystal Palace – NBCSN [STREAM]

Monday
3 p.m. ET: Arsenal vs. Leicester City – NBCSN [STREAM]

How will Chelsea, Man United line up?

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Chelsea host Manchester United at Stamford Bridge on Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) with Maurizio Sarri and Jose Mourinho in very different situations with their respective clubs.

[ MORE: 3 key battles ]

Sarri has yet to taste defeat as Chelsea boss since arriving from Napoli in the summer, with the Italian coach steering Chelsea to joint-top of the Premier League table playing an exciting, mezmerising brand of soccer with Eden Hazard leading the charge.

As for Jose Mourinho, his future at Man United has been questioned on multiple occasions already as they’ve accrued just 13 points from their opening eight games of the season amid plenty of haphazard defensive displays.

[ MORE: Sarri – “Man United have best squad in PL” ]

Below is a look at the potential starting lineups for both teams on Saturday in west London, with a few injury concerns for each coach to contend with.


Chelsea’s projected starting XI

—– Kepa —–

—- Azpilicueta —- Rudiger —- Luiz —- Alonso —-

—- Kante —- Jorginho —- Kovacic —-

—- Pedro —- Giroud —- Hazard —-


Man United’s projected starting XI

—– De Gea —–

—- Young —- Smalling —- Bailly —- Shaw —-

—- Fred —- Matic —-

—- Martial — Pogba —- Rashford —-

—– Lukaku —– 


Evaluation

Chelsea’s main problem is whether or not Mateo Kovacic will be fit enough to start in midfield, as Ross Barkley has picked up a small knock which is a blow after his fine recent displays for club and country. Cesc Fabregas could come into Chelsea’s midfield if neither are fit, while the only real selection dilemma is whether Willian or Pedro will start out wide in support of Eden Hazard and Olivier Giroud. Sarri’s back four picks itself after a strong start to the season, while Olivier Giroud gets the best out of Hazard and he will get the nod ahead of Alvaro Morata.

For Man United, they have plenty of injury issues to contend with and that is mostly in midfield. Nemanja Matic, Marouane Fellaini and Scott McTominay are all struggling with knocks, with Ander Herrera has been rushed back to be a part of the squad for Saturday. You would think that Mourinho would be a little more defensive when it comes to his lineup given United’s defensive issues this season, so having Fred and Matic (one of whom may do a man-marking job on Hazard) in central midfield makes sense. Alexis Sanchez may not start after his late arrival back from the international break, with Anthony Martial set to start again out wide as Jesse Lingard has been out through injury.