Chelsea, Arsenal offer both hope and despair

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LONDON — Encounters like this are why we love this game. Joy. Agony. Hope. Despair. This had all of that wrapped into a neat 90-minute bundle in west London.

There was so much for both Chelsea and Arsenal to be happy about after their five-goal thriller in a London derby on Saturday.

There were also plenty of red flags for both Maurizio Sarri and Unai Emery in their embryonic careers as Premier League managers.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned ]

New eras have been ushered in at both clubs, with new playing styles and ideals for their players to both embrace and perfect. That produced Jekyll and Hyde moments from both teams at Stamford Bridge in a game which thrilled the neutral but had both sets of fans ecstatic one moment, then despairing the next.

Sarri’s side were the 3-2 winners and they have two wins from two to start the season and they are top of the league. But Sarri wasn’t in a celebratory mood after the game.

“I think we have done very well for 75 minutes. 15 minutes before half time was horrible,” Sarris said. “We lost distances. We were not able to recover the lost ball immediately. We were not able press in the other half as a team. Only one player or two players at the others too far. I think the players were very good in the second half. It was not easy to answer the final part of the first half from a mental point of view.”

The Italian boss wasn’t happy with the defensive display of his team, with his hallmark of pressing high up the pitch not working as well as they coughed up a 2-0 lead in the first half and could have conceded four goals. Arsenal’s direct play out way picked Chelsea’s defense apart and that will be concerning for the former Napoli boss.

After the game Sarri was asked if Chelsea are Premier League title contenders this season.

“No, not in this moment. We did very well in the last 25 minutes today. But we have to work and improve in the defensive phase. I am not talking about only the defenders. The defensive phase of all the team, all the players,” Sarri said. “If we press very high we are able to do well but in other moments when we are not able to press in the other half we are in trouble. We have to work and we need to improve.”

“We did a lot in 75 minutes but we need to continue to press, press and press the other half. Otherwise we are in trouble in the defensive phase. We need to improve and I hope we will be able to play 90 minutes like the first 25. We must.”

As for Arsenal, their boss was happy enough with their attacking play but he is also concerned with the defensive balance as they were twice opened up by long balls over the top in the first half as center backs Shkodran Mustafi and Sokratis were woefully exposed.

“We spoke before the match about the need to improve. To be competitive. To learn in the match. I think today it was a very good reaction after 2-0,” Emery said. “In the first half we created more chances in the first half to score. We created more chances to score. The second half, we conceded to Chelsea more moments to score the third goal. For that we needed the balance and our result is like that. Our process is continuing, to improve things and to do more with the balance with the attacking and defensive moments. Today we finished the match with 22 years old Lucas and 19 years old Mateo. The process is clear for us. We have a big responsibility to win the match.” 

Arsenal’s manager saw his side squander several glorious chances in the first half as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was guilty of two huge misses and Henrikh Mkhitaryan had another, but they did cause Chelsea plenty of problems with their more direct style.

But old problems, especially defensive ones, remain the greatest problem for the Gunners.

“I have calm when I see my team creating chances. I want to do the balance with the attacking and defensive moments. I think we conceded a lot today for Chelsea,” Emery said. “In the second half we need to keep and hold the control in the match with the ball, with the positioning. In the second half we lost a little the positioning on the pitch and we were a little deep.”

Overall, Emery is pleased with the progress being made and is unperturbed by two defeats from two (albeit it against Man City and Chelsea) to begin his Premier League reign.

“I’m calm. I think we need to give the players calm and keep on working. I know we need to improve things. I know we need to push the players to work,” Emery said. “For me, there are many positive things in the first match against Manchester City. It is clear we are difference to them. Today the team competed well. Had chances in the match. For the young player it is a process, they are playing each match, growing up with us and the quality I am demanding.”

The new process for Chelsea and Arsenal will bring plenty of joy, and heartache, this season.

Dortmund release update on Pulisic’s future. Should he leave?

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Christian Pulisic’s future at Borussia Dortmund has been under constant speculation in recent weeks.

This should keep that chatter going…

[ MORE: Pulisic hits out after USA’s defeat ]

Dortmund’s sporting director, Michael Zorc, has said that the USMNT star will be with the Bundesliga giants “at least until the end of the season” as his contract nears its end.

Pulisic, 20, is under contract with Dortmund until the end of the 2019-20 campaign, but reports have surfaced in recent days linking him with a move to both Chelsea and Liverpool in the Premier League. A transfer fee of around $90 million has been mentioned if Pulisic was to move in January, with any potential transfer fee dwindling if he moves into next summer without signing a new deal at Dortmund.

Zorc has said Pulisic will remain at the club until the end of the current campaign, as the German side are top of the Bundesliga and flying under Lucien Favre.

“We have known these rumors for many years. We plan at least until the end of the season with him,” Zorc told Kicker.

Pulisic lost his place in the Dortmund team for the 3-2 Der Klassiker win over Bayern Munich, as the emergence of English teenager Jadon Sancho and a few injuries has seen the Pennsylvania native endure an up and down start to the season.

Pro Soccer Talk spoke to Pulisic in London ahead of the USMNT’s game against England and asked him if staying at Dortmund was still his preference over a move to the Premier League.

“The Bundesliga has been a great platform for me especially and you can see other young guys as well it has been a great league. They trust in their young players. Dortmund has been an unbelievable start to my career. 100 percent,” Pulisic said. “It still is a great spot and that is why I am able to be a big part of this team and continue to grow. I think a lot of young players see that and they’re also moving to the Bundesliga and doing well there. Right now I’m finishing out, I’m still under contract with Dortmund, I am still enjoying every moment of it. Obviously we are having a great year, so I am enjoying it as much as I can. And when the time comes that is when I have my talks with Dortmund and see what I want to do moving forward.”

With Chelsea, Liverpool, Tottenham and others circling, Dortmund could well look to cash in on Pulisic in January. But as they’ve shown in the past, they’d rather keep on to star players until the very last moment and forfeit extra funds from a transfer fee: see Lewandowski, Hummels and Gotze to Bayern.

Is now the right time for Pulisic to arrive in the Premier League? It appears a January move could be the right situation for everyone.

Dortmund would get a huge transfer fee, Pulisic would leave the German giants close to winning the title (they sit four points clear right now) and one of the Premier League giants not only has a hugely talented player but also a hugely profitable one when it comes to a commercial standpoint.

It appears that Pulisic’s mind is definitely made up that he will one day play in the Premier League. He isn’t shy in saying that but many believed he would remain in the Bundesliga for a few more seasons.

This situation is a fast moving one and Pulisic’s next move will likely be the biggest of his career. If he remains at Dortmund and battles for a starting spot he could risk losing playing time, but the same could be said if he moves to Chelsea or Liverpool given their potent attacking lineups.

Tottenham would probably seem like the best fit for him right now, but Chelsea seem to be more serious suitors.

Pulisic could also play regularly right now at Stamford Bridge, with Willian and Pedro hardly spring chickens and there is also the potential for Eden Hazard to depart in the next few years. Plus, Maurizio Sarri‘s attacking, possession-based philosophy would suit Pulisic’s skill set a little better than the raw pace and power of Jurgen Klopp‘s Liverpool. And trying to get in front of Firmino, Mane and Salah would surely prove extremely difficult for Pulisic right now.

It seems like he has two options: stay at Dortmund and sign a new deal. Head to Chelsea and start a fresh challenge after four years in Germany.

There should be no rush for him to make this decision but if he doesn’t sign a new deal at Dortmund by January, the chances of him moving to the Premier League will increase exponentially.

How will USMNT line up v Italy?

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The U.S. men’s national team play Italy in Genk, Belgium on Tuesday to end their 2018 campaign.

[ MORE: VAR to be used for Italy-USA ]

Over his 13-month spell in charge interim head coach Dave Sarachan has introduced more debutants than any other USMNT head coach in history in their first 11 games at the helm, and he is expected to give a few more youngsters a chance to shine for the Stars and Stripes.

Weston McKennie, Kenny Saief and Luca De La Torre are all out of the squad due to injury, so Sarachan has 23 players to choose from.

Italy boss Roberto Mancini has hinted at a much-changed lineup for the Azzurri, so we could see the U.S. experiment a little in what is expected to be Sarachan’s final game in charge before a new permanent head coach is put in charge.

Below we take a look at a few options for Sarachan at Luminus Arena on Tuesday.


Option 1: Possible USMNT lineup (4-3-3)

—– Horvath —–

— Moore — Carter-Vickers — Long — Villafana —

—- Acosta —- Adams —- Gall —- 

—- Weah —- Sargent —- Pulisic —-


Option 2: Possible USMNT lineup (3-4-2-1) 

—- Horvath —-

—- Carter-Vickers —- Long —- Brooks —-

—- Moore —- Adams —- Delgado —- Acosta —-

—- Pulisic —- Lletget —-

—– Sargent —–


Evaluation

Sarachan talked up Evan Horvath last week and it would be cool to see the youngster who plays in Belgium for Club Brugge get another shot to play for his national team in Belgium. We know what Brad Guzan can do, so why not give Horvath some minutes? In defense, the lack of another left back leaves Sarachan with a problem. Does he play Jorga Villafana for the second time in a few days ahead of his monster trip back to the West Coast to play for Portland in the MLS Cup conference final? Probably not. Yedlin could slot over to left back, or maybe Sarachan switches to a 3-5-2 or 3-4-3 formation and has someone like Acosta or Adams who can get up and down the flank. Ahead of their Eastern Conference final showdown, giving Guzan, Aaron Long and Tyler Adams a rest may also be beneficial too.

In midfield Tyler Adams, Lletget and Delgado should all get a run out after not starting against England, while up top Josh Sargent is no longer an injury doubt so Christian Pulisic could support him and Tim Weah in attack with Bobby Wood given a rest. I’d go with Option 2 from above and play as many players who didn’t start or feature against England at Wembley as possible. At this point, get as many players international experience and hand over the reins to the next man (ahem, Gregg Berhalter).

VIDEO: Watch Romelu Lukaku rap

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Romelu Lukaku has been spitting some rhymes.

The Manchester United and Belgium striker, 25, tried his hand at rapping, in partnership with Puma and BR Football.

Before you chime in with comments about Lukaku ‘missing a beat’ or ‘not finishing his verse’ have a listen and see if he has what it takes to make this a side gig.

Most intriguing part of this for me: his Belgian accent disappears and is replaced with an American twang.

Below is a look at Lukaku in full flow, on the mic.


West Ham to expand their London Stadium home

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West Ham United will finally get to use the full capacity of their London Stadium home.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

After moving into the venue used for the 2012 Olympics in London for the 2016-17 season, the Hammers have seen their capacity capped to a maximum of 57,000 for home games.

Amid plenty of unrest about the stadium move from home fans, the light at the end of the tunnel was that the Hammers could compete better financial with the perennial giants of the Premier League as they would almost double their attendances at Upton Park.

The east London club released a statement on Monday confirming they can now expand their capacity to a maximum 66,000 seats and will be able to start selling 60,000 tickets for games straight away.

“West Ham United and its landlord E20 have today agreed a plan which allows the Club to sell additional seats for their matches thereby ending the litigation surrounding the capacity at the London Stadium. Both parties are delighted to have taken the first step towards the Stadium reaching its potential of up to 66,000 capacity, to their mutual benefit, and would see it become the largest in London and the second largest in the Premier League.

“The arrangement means that, subject to regulatory permissions, the Club will be able to sell up to 60,000 tickets for their games as soon as possible and leaves scope to expand up to 66,000 seats for future matches.”

This is pretty huge news for West Ham, who will able to add almost 10,000 extra seats on a matchday.

If the stadium does reach the 66,000 capacity level in the coming months, it means that only Old Trafford will have a larger capacity among club teams in the UK. West Ham will jump ahead of Arsenal and Tottenham in London in terms of stadium size and will have the biggest home venue of any London team.

Bragging rights for this type of thing is a big deal and West Ham have been hoping to expand ever since they moved in.

With a waiting list for season tickets after 50,000 were sold following their move from Upton Park in 2016, more of the Hammers faithful can now watch their team week in, week out.

Whatever their feelings on the move to the London Stadium, if West Ham’s fans are 100 percent behind their team then this venue has the possibility to be extremely intimidating.