What did we learn from PL Saturday, Week 3?

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The third Saturday of the 2018-19 Premier League season produced six intriguing games as we had plenty of red cards, controversy and late drama.

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Manchester City were held, Liverpool marched on and Arsenal is off and running under Unai Emery, while there was late drama at Southampton and Bournemouth. With a sprinkling of red cards to keep things interesting.

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Below is a look at what we learned from the action on Saturday across England.


VAR needed next season
It’s easy to say “these things even themselves out over the course of a season” but if Manchester City end up not winning the Premier League title by a point (as crazy as that seems) then they’ll look back at Willy Boly‘s opener for Wolves on Saturday as being crucial. Boly’s goal clearly came straight off his hand and into the net but the officials on the pitch were unsighted and awarded the goal. The reigning champions dropped their first points of the season at Molineux and they couldn’t really complain as the newly-promoted side put in a mature, energetic display as they picked the right moments to press City and carved out several opportunities to win the game. But the VAR argument is one that will not go away anytime soon as Serie A, the Bundesliga and MLS have adopted video assistant referees and the World Cup proved it could work smoothly and quickly. PL clubs voted last season to test the system more before it is implemented but right now it seems like there’s no way that VAR isn’t introduced for the 2019-20 campaign. It simply has to be to correct clear and obvious mistakes like this one.


Liverpool perfect, and scary


Three wins from three. Top of the league. Zero goals conceded. It wasn’t a vintage display against Brighton but Jurgen Klopp‘s Liverpool have an aura about them building. All great teams have it. Just like the Manchester United teams under Sir Alex Ferguson in the late 1990s, the Arsene Wenger Arsenal teams of the mid 1990s and the Chelsea sides in Jose Mourinho’s first spell, teams now turn up at Anfield trying to keep the score down and expecting to lose. Brighton did just that and were pretty solid for the first half apart from one error as they tried to play a short free kick in front of their own back four and were ruthlessly punished. Yves Bissouma was pounced on and Mohamed Salah stroked home 29th goal in his 29th Anfield appearance for Liverpool. It really is as easy as that for Liverpool right now as they’re looking more assured defensively with Virgil Van Dijk and Alisson standing tall, while the front three allow them to hit teams on the counter whenever they do decide to venture forward out of their defensive shell. Yes, Liverpool have only played West Ham, Crystal Palace and Brighton so far, but those are the kind of teams they slipped up against last season. An aura of invincibility is surrounding the Reds early in the season after a summer of heavy spending which strengthened their weaknesses significantly.


Arsenal remain unbalanced


Don’t let the scoreline deceive you. Arsenal’s 3-1 home win against West Ham was far from straightforward. The Gunners were, once again, their own worst enemies as they were caught on the counter on numerous occasions when they gave the ball away high up the pitch. Full backs Nacho Monreal and Hector Bellerin were given no real cover by the midfielders in front of them and the lack of pace of center back duo Shkodran Mustafi and Sokratis just isn’t conducive to playing the high-line that Unai Emery wants. Arsenal’s new manager got his first win on the board in the Premier League after the defeats to Chelsea and Manchester City to open up his first season in England but admitted they “need the balance” and “in the first half we suffered more than we want.” Emery is sticking to his philosophy of slow build-up play out wide and then being more direct which is all well and good, but when it breaks down Arsenal look so vulnerable. Felipe Anderson, Michail Antonio and Marko Arnautovic had a field day in the first half with the space afforded to them but couldn’t take advantage of it. The win will give Arsenal’s players confidence but there’s no denying that when the Gunners play against better teams, they could concede two or three goals each game. Emery is right to stick to his coaching philosophy but plenty of patient is needed.


Red cards galore as tempers flare


There were four red cards among the four 10 a.m. ET games and all four seemed pretty much spot on. Richarlison has a bit of a temper and Adam Smith suckered him in as they came together, then Everton’s Brazilian star moved his head closer as the red mist descended. Was it soft? Yes. Could he have any complaints? Not really. Smith himself then saw red in the same game and he could have no complaints either as Theo Walcott raced towards goal and he clearly pulled him back.

As for the other red cards, Jonathan Hogg was in a very similar situation as Huddersfield’s midfield came together with Cardiff’s Harry Arter but he was slightly more aggressive and was sent off. While Southampton’s Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg was shown two yellows and he can have no complaints as he surged into the box, then looked for the penalty kick as he went down easily and was shown a second yellow for simulation. Yes, we need VAR for clear and obvious mistakes to be cleaned up, but the referees did their jobs well on Saturday with all four red cards dealt with correctly.


Southampton, West Ham may not be in trouble
It’s still early in the season, so let’s not get too carried away about which teams are hurtling towards relegation. But the signs aren’t good for either West Ham or Southampton on paper. But if you dig a little deeper, both teams should have got more than they did during Week 3. The Hammers threatened on the break at Arsenal but Manuel Pellegrini‘s men look so slack defensively as they’ve conceded nine goals in their first three games, losing all three. That said, they have faced Liverpool and Arsenal in two of their opening encounters. Southampton can’t say the same as Mark Hughes‘ men blew a lead against Leicester and were the masters of their own downfall as Hojbjerg was stupidly sent off and they let in two soft goals to lose at home. Yet Saints went close through Danny Ings and Nathan Redmond looked particularly bright as they failed to make the most of their chances. Southampton have now lost against Everton and Leicester and drawn with Burnley and that shows us where they’re at. A team who will be battling to be out of relegation trouble all season long, just like they did last season as they survived by the skin of their teeth. The Hammers look to at least have the attacking talents to turn things around when their fixtures get a little easier, but both teams lack ruthlessness at both ends of the pitch which is a worrying trend. But it’s early in the season and both will be hungry to turn some promising displays into points. Fast.

LAFC’s Adama Diomande voluntarily enters MLS’s health program

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LOS ANGELES (AP) Los Angeles FC forward Adama Diomande has entered Major League Soccer’s substance abuse and behavioral health program.

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MLS announced Diomande’s voluntary decision Friday.

Diomande won’t play for LAFC at least until the program’s doctors complete their evaluation and he is cleared by program officials.

The 29-year-old Norwegian scorer has eight goals and seven assists in 25 appearances this season, including 15 starts. He has played a valuable complementary offensive role alongside MLS scoring leader Carlos Vela.

[ MORE: Report: Netherlands FA to meet with Sergiño Dest ]

Diomande is in his second MLS season after joining LAFC from Hull City. He also previously played under LAFC coach Bob Bradley in Norway.

LAFC (19-4-7) has clinched the Western Conference title, and it leads the overall MLS table by seven points despite a four-game winless streak.

Premier League Preview: Newcastle v. Brighton

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  • Early-season relegation battlers meet on Saturday
  • 18th-place Newcastle to host 16th-place Brighton
  • Brighton won at Newcastle, drew at home last season

Newcastle United and Brighton & Hove Albion, a pair of Premier League sides with just two wins from the first five weeks of the season between them, will meet at St. James’ Park on Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and NBCSports.com) for what could prove to be a retrospective relegation six-pointer when May rolls around.

Each side replaced its manager — Steve Bruce for Rafa Benitez at Newcastle; Graham Potter for Chris Hughton at Bright — in the summer and neither of the new bosses has had a particularly enjoyable start to the 2019-20 campaign. Brighton won on the opening day of the season, but have taken just two points from the following four games. Newcastle lost their first two games, won their third, and have drawn and lost again since. It’s the kind of form that’ll see both sides stuck in the high-teens of the PL table if they don’t find their footing in the coming weeks.

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Things are particularly worrying for Newcastle, who didn’t they’d be without Benitez until the end of June and didn’t appoint Bruce until mid-July. Key players had already left the club and reinforcements for few and far between. Forward Joelinton joined for $50 million and is one of four players with a single goal scored thus far.

Last week was nearly fruitful for the Seagulls, until the conceded a stoppage-time equalizer and settle for a point at home against Burnley. Summer signing Neal Maupay bagged his second goal for Brighton earlier in the game, giving Potter a potential trump card over a handful of other relegation-threatened sides without a consistent goalscorer.

Injuries/suspensions

Newcastle: OUT – Matt Ritchie (ankle), Florian Lejeune (knee), Dwight Gayle (calf); QUESTIONABLE – DeAndre Yedlin (groin)

Brighton: OUT – Leandro Trossard (groin), Jose Izquierdo (knee), Ezequiel Schelotto (knee)


Projected lineups

Newcastle: Dubravka – Krafth, Schar, Lascelles, Dummett, Willems – Almiron, Hayden, Shelvey, Atsu – Joelinton

Brighton: Ryan – Duffy, Dunk, Webster – March, Stephens, Propper, Burn – Gross, Maupay, Murray


What they’re saying

Joelinton, on Andy Carroll: “It’s always great to have experienced players in the group, and he’s one of them. He can help the club, he can help the young players. Andy Carroll has scored a lot of goals in the Premier League, and it’s great to be playing alongside him. He’s a calm guy. I still haven’t spoken to him a lot because my English isn’t great! But every day he’s trying to help. He’ll help me before the games, he’ll give me positional advice and suggest what I’ve done both good and bad.”

Graham Potter, on the trip to Newcastle: “Newcastle away is a tough game just like all the others. We don’t target particular matches — it’s about what we need to do to get a positive result. They have an experienced manager who I came across last year and he’s someone I have a lot of respect for. They have good quality players and we know it can be a hostile environment, it’s a big club and we know we have to play well to get something.  Steve has a lot of games under his belt – he’s had a lot of success and he’ll understand the challenge that lies ahead.


Prediction

Newcastle haven’t scored multiple goals in a game yet this season, and they’ve conceded twice as many as they’ve scored (four). It’s hard to trust them to be anything resembling consistent from game to game. It wouldn’t be surprising if they battled to a boring 0-0 draw, or conceding three times before halftime. It’ll probably be closer to the former, a 1-1 stalemate.

AC Milan announces internal anti-racism task force

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MILAN (AP) AC Milan has announced it will establish an internal task force to address racism in Italian football.

[ Premier League Previews: Leicester City v. Tottenham | Man City v. Watford ]

The club says the task force will be supported by “an external consultancy” and “develop a program of activities to increase awareness, monitor and address racist behavior on social media and in the stadium, and drive the adoption of global best practices on diversity and inclusion.”

The move comes after reports of racist chants directed at Milan midfielder Franck Kessie, who is black, during a match at Hellas Verona last weekend.

Milan says the anti-racism initiative will be launched during Saturday’s derby against Inter Milan.

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Inter striker Romelu Lukaku was subjected to racist chants in a match at Cagliari this month.

Milan CEO Ivan Gazidis, who is South African, says: “Italian football needs to wake up and take a strong stance against racist behaviors. AC Milan will take a leadership position on this issue. . We believe that we have a moral obligation to do everything we can to address this issue.”

Slow start dooms Southampton again: ‘We lost the game in first half’

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Slow starts are, ironically, quickly becoming the story of Southampton’s Premier League season. It happened again on Friday, resulting in a 3-1 home defeat to Bournemouth in the Premier League‘s budding south coast rivalry

[ Premier League Previews: Leicester City v. Tottenham | Man City v. Watford ]

Through six games, Saints have conceded the first goal four times. In those four games, they have taken just one point. When scoring the game’s first goal, they have two wins and two clean sheets.

It would appear that Ralph Hasenhuttl‘s side is set up to play one way, and one way only. Speaking after Friday’s defeat, Hasenhuttl lamented his side’s slow start, conceding that the game was all but lost when they fell 2-0 behind in the 35 minutes — quotes from the BBC:

“The finish was not important anymore. If you lose 2-1 or 3-1 it does not make too much difference. We lost the game in the first half.

“In the second half, we were sharp. Had about 26 shots to six from Bournemouth but the most important stat is the goals. They scored three, we scored once.

“We weren’t aggressive enough and too easy in the first half. It is not easy to be 1-0 down after 10 minutes. We had a lot of blocked shots and misses near the post. It was a good performance in the second half but without a result.

“For the second goal was had a lot of players in our attacking box so it was not easy to defend.

“We showed a good reaction because we knew we needed to be brave. We changed our shape and were aggressive for the second ball. It gave us 64% possession and we had a lot of shots. Maybe we didn’t deserve to take something because of our first half.”

Southampton’s next chance to start a game quickly will come in an away bout with Tottenham Hotspur next Saturday.