What did we learn from PL Saturday?

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24 goals were scored across the seven Premier League games on Saturday, with plenty of drama and memorable moments dished out.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Wins for Liverpool and Chelsea meant their 100 percent record remained intact, while Manchester City, Manchester United and Arsenal impressed as the top six all played.

[ MORE: 3 things learned, Spurs v Liverpool ]

Here’s a look at what we learned from a wild Saturday across the Premier League’s seven games.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]


Eden Hazard is otherworldly

We weren’t sure if Eden Hazard would be a Chelsea player by the time the 2018-19 season kicked off. Chelsea fans are sure glad he is.

The Belgian wizard scored a hat trick in their comeback 4-1 win against Cardiff on Saturday, with Hazard showing off his vast array of skills throughout as he dazzled defenders at will. He has been simply dazzling this season and unlike plenty of other stars who went deep in the World Cup, Hazard is showing no signs, so far, of any fatigue.

His new manager, Maurizio Sarri, rested him after he returned from the World Cup, with Hazard not starting either of their opening two games of the season. But five goals in his three starts means he now leads the Premier League in goals and Hazard looks at his very best and that rest seems to have paid off.

Speaking about Sarri’s new style of play, which has amassed five wins on the spin to open up the season, Hazard is enjoying life under the Italian coach.

“[Maurizio Sarri] just wants us to play and to find space between the lines so then Jorginho, Matteo Kovacic, Cesc Fabregas can find us. We have a lot of freedom on the pitch, and at the moment when we try and do something it’s coming off,” Hazard said. “I’m always happy when I’m playing football I just want to do my best for this club who have done a lot for me. I’m always trying to do more – create more chances, score more goals, and today a hat-trick so I will try to do this more.”

More of the same please, Eden. If he can deliver, like he did in 2014-15 and 2016-17, then Chelsea will be serious title contenders this season.


United take care of business, answer critics

Jose Mourinho hasn’t been impressed with his recent critics but he can only do so much talking.

His team did the talking for him on Saturday as they beat red-hot Watford and made it back-to-back wins in the Premier League after back-to-back defeats. Okay, they’ve beaten Burnley and Watford away from home (tough places to go, in fairness) but there’s a chance for positivity to build at United in the coming months with an easier schedule of games coming up at home and abroad.

This United team will not wow you. They will not get you off your seat that often apart from David De Gea making a wonder-save or perhaps a crazy flick from Paul Pogba or volley from Alexis Sanchez.

But they are almost mechanical in the way they create chances and relentlessly grind down their opponents. United may not be serious title contenders this season (their defensive displays suggest that) but they proved they can hang in the top four battle and then try to win a trophy. We all know Mourinho is good at the latter and if he wins enough of those in the next few years, we will hear no more complaining from him. Well, at least for a few weeks.


Bournemouth can make top six challenge

The way Bournemouth set the tone and ruthlessly punished Leicester in the first half of their 4-2 win on Saturday proved that Eddie Howe‘s young side are growing up. Fast. Bournemouth raced into a 3-0 lead and their attacking trio of Ryan Fraser (two goals), Josh King (1 goal) and Callum Wilson (1 assist) tore apart Leicester’s cumbersome defensive line. At times over the past four years since they were promoted to the Premier League, you could argue that Howe’s side are lovely to watch but aren’t clinical enough. Yes, defensively they still leave a little to be desired (Leicester scoring twice late on proved that) but overall this Bournemouth team has the potential to do what Burnley did last season and challenge for a spot in Europe. Seriously.

They have a settled, balanced squad and every single player knows exactly what they’re supposed to be doing. Do not underestimate how important that is. It sounds simple, but it isn’t. Howe has assembled a young, hungry group and one which players want to be part of instead of moving on at the first opportunity. With three wins and 10 points on the board, Bournemouth’s fans will be thinking they are a quarter of the way to the magic 40-point marker already. That is true. But they should also be aiming a lot higher than that this season.


Sluggish Spurs suffering

Mauricio Pochettino predicted this would happen and he had a look on his face which basically said ‘I told you so’ when speaking to the media after Tottenham’s defeat to Liverpool.

[ MORE: Klopp hails Liverpool’s progress ]

The 2-1 scoreline didn’t tell the whole story. Tottenham were sloppy early on and Roberto Firmino could’ve scored twice inside three minutes. That trend continued at the end of the first half after a brief improvement, with Georginio Wijnaldum scoring the opener and Spurs didn’t really have an answer. Yes, Lucas Moura hit the post after a mazy run, but that was about it. Any result other than a defeat would’ve been way to kind on Tottenham despite their late flourish.

The main problem area was in midfield. Mousa Dembele, Harry Winks and Eric Dier couldn’t get out of the space in front of their own defense and kept having the ball nicked off them by Naby Keita, James Milner and Wijnaldum. On the rare occasion they did escape midfield with the ball, not having Dele Alli fit and available for this game was a huge blow. Alli’s ability to drift behind Kane and in-between the lines was badly missed as Christian Eriksen in a slightly deeper role just didn’t work out and Spurs’ entire pressing system faltered.

Spurs have now lost back-to-back games for the first time since May 2016, which is quite remarkable in itself. Pochettino must rally his troops ahead of the return of Dele and goalkeeper Hugo Lloris from injury, but also rejuvenate a sluggish side which looks tired (Harry Kane and their two center backs, Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld in particular) after the vast majority of their starting lineup played at the World Cup for over a month.

Add in no new signings this summer and the constant issue with the stadium at White Hart Lane being delayed, and prophetic Poch has some big issues to sort out. He knew that anyway but he still hasn’t been able to address them. That is the most worrying thing for a team, and manager, who have always provided the correct answer when faced with adversity over the past three seasons. It is time for Spurs to do that again.


Zaha best player outside a top six club

It is the debate which has rumbled on for some time and it is why Crystal Palace keep giving Wilfried Zaha new deals as the big boys circle. But it is quite clear that in the PL he’s the best player not playing for a ‘top six’ team. That shouldn’t be an argument any more. It’s quite simple. Look at Exhibit A, above, as Zaha’s magnificent run and spanked finish led Palace to victory at Huddersfield on Saturday. Of the last 12 Premier League games that Zaha hasn’t been available for Palace, they’ve lost every single one of them. Case in point.

With Zaha’s brilliance comes greater scrutiny and he is targeted by defenders in the same vein as Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Eden Hazard. The best players are the best because they find a way to get around the reducers and studs. Zaha’s complaints about his treatment are valid but as long as he keeps producing displays of the quality he has this season, he will be the number one target for opponents when they play Palace. The big boys will come calling again but isn’t in nice to see a player of his quality as the talisman for a club outside of the big boys? There’s something Alan Shearer or Matt Le Tissier-esque about Wilf.

Sargent describes how it felt to score first Bundesliga goal

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Less than 12 months after signing his first professional contract, Joshua Sargent accomplished his dream of playing in the Bundesliga. Seconds later, he was on the scoreboard.

Just 88 seconds after coming on, Sargent provided a header to put the ball across the goal line and score his first Bundesliga goal in a Werder Bremen 3-1 win over Fortuna Dusseldorf. Sargent found the back of the net again two weeks later, against strong opposition in RB Leipzig.

[READ: “Pity” Martinez pictured in New York]

Following a short trip back to his hometown of St. Louis, Missouri, Sargent joined up with his teammates in South Africa for some warm-weather training during the Bundesliga winter break.

Sargent is looking for another taste of first team action as Werder Bremen resumes the Bundesliga season at Hannover on Saturday. Should Sargent continue to get regular minutes for either or both the Werder Bremen first or second teams, expect him to get another call-up to the U.S. Men’s National Team for its European-based friendly matches in March.

‘Pity’ Martinez arrives in U.S., even with no official ATL UTD announcement

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Atlanta United hasn’t officially announced the signing of Gonzalo “Pity” Martinez, but the talented Argentine attacker is in the U.S. now anyway.

Martinez posted a selfie of himself at Times Square in New York City, likely getting his first taste of anonymity after a star-studded run with River Plate in Buenos Aires.

[READ: Bielsa admits to spying all his “rivals”]

Following the rescheduled second leg of the Copa Libertadores final, Martinez and River Plate both confirmed to media post game that he was departing River Plate for Atlanta United, but despite this, the MLS club still hasn’t made the new official on their end. It’s unclear what the hold up is, whether it is transfer fee, agents fee, or Designated Player related. For the record, the LA Galaxy announced in December that it was re-signing Zlatan Ibrahimovic to a Designated Player contract, knowing all along that they couldn’t start the next MLS season with more than three DPs.

Previous reports out of Argentina have stated that Martinez’s transfer to Atlanta United could cost the club as much as $14 million including the base transfer fee to River Plate, agents fees, and potential add-ons.

A year ago, Atlanta United announced its club record signing, Ezequiel Barco, then-19, during the MLS Superdraft, but there was no Designated Player announcement at the league’s annual weekend symposium this year. Atlanta United has a challenge on its hands if Miguel Almiron isn’t sold to Europe this offseason. Under current MLS rules, it can’t have more than three players signed to Designated Player contracts.

Perhaps it could loan Barco, who struggled at times last season, or loan Martinez elsewhere, because Josef Martinez seems a lock to be in Atlanta for the foreseeable future.

Either way, Pity Martinez’s arrival in the U.S. could be a sign that an announcement could come soon from Atlanta United.

Reports: Chelsea edging closer to signing Higuain

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The transfer window appears to be heating up as we head towards the close in the next two weeks, with the first of many dominoes about to fall.

According to The Telegraph and reports out of Italy, Chelsea have now made an official offer to Juventus for Gonzalo Higuain, who is currently on-loan with AC Milan. If confirmed, the report states that Chelsea will effectively take over Higuain’s loan for six months, and then the Premier League side will have the option to keep Higuain on loan for another 12 months or buy him outright.

[READ: Derby County stuns Southampton in FA Cup]

Higuain and Chelsea coach Maurizio Sarri have history, as Higuain had arguably his best club season under the Italian manager at Napoli. Higuain scored 36 goals in Serie A, by far the top scorer in the league in 2016, which led to a $102.6 million move north to Juventus. However, it’s been an up and down time in the North of Italy for the Argentine. He scored 24 goals with Juve in his first year with the club but finished with just 16 last year before the Italian giants signed Cristiano Ronaldo, which effectively meant Higuain had to look for a new home.

News that a deal is close to completion is a big turnaround from a few weeks back, when even as Higuain struggled at Milan, the two sides didn’t seem close to breaking apart, and Juventus reportedly was insistent on recouping some of their transfer fee. However, following the Italian Super Cup on Wednesday, it appears both sides are ready to move on.

Higuain coming to Chelsea may be the first domino to fall. With Sarri getting his preferred striker, that frees up Alvaro Morata to return to his native Spain, although he’s reportedly set to join Atletico Madrid, instead of his former side Real Madrid. In addition, Chelsea has been shopping Michy Batshuayi, the top target for AS Monaco, where he would reunite with Thierry Henry, his former assistant coach with the Belgian National Team. The Telegraph reported that Chelsea wanted to recoup some of the $51.5 million it spent on Batshuayi but at this point, it’s looking more likely that he’ll move to Monaco on-loan or for a cut-rate fee, with his current loan to Valencia likely to be terminated shortly.

In Italy, the next domino to fall is Genoa’s Krzysztof Piątek, who is set to take Higuain’s place at AC Milan. Piatek has been the revelation of Serie A this season, with the Polish international scoring 13 Serie A goals in 19 games, just one goal behind Ronaldo. It’s unclear what the transfer fee will be for Genoa – Piatek joined the club last summer – but it’s likely to be a big one considering the premium on goals these days.

Once Higuain moves and the dominoes fall, we’ll see how it affects the rest of the Premier League, with other players becoming available as the transfer window enters its final weeks.

Henry’s Monaco draws 1-1 with Vieira’s Nice in French league

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PARIS (AP) Old friends Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira had to split the points as Monaco drew 1-1 with French Riviera rival Nice on Wednesday in a scrappy match featuring three video reviews.

Winger Allan Saint-Maximin put Nice ahead in the 30th minute and 17-year-old defender Benoit Badiashile equalized shortly after halftime, becoming the youngest scorer in the French top flight this season. Badiashile’s header from a corner was deemed to have crossed the line by the use of goal-line technology.

[MORE: Ligue 1 scores, schedule]

Henry and Vieira are in their first seasons coaching in France, but they go way back and hugged warmly before kickoff.

Living next to each other in London, they blossomed with Arsenal and were part of the famed “Invincibles” side which went a whole season unbeaten in the Premier League. The Frenchmen also won the 1998 World Cup and the European Championship in 2000, as well as playing together in the 2006 World Cup final.

Having started their illustrious careers as teenagers on the French Riviera – Henry with Monaco and Vieira with Cannes – they have come full circle as coaches.

Monaco had chances through Aleksandr Golovin and Rony Lopes, only for Nice to strike against the run of play following a sloppy mistake from Youssef Ait Bennasser. After he gave the ball away in midfield, Saint-Maximin took it off him easily and shrugged off defender Jemerson before shooting confidently past goalkeeper Diego Benaglio.

The goal was awarded before being checked and confirmed by referee Benoit Bastien using VAR. Moments before the interval, he consulted VAR again to send off Nice striker Ihsan Sacko for a late challenge on defender Benjamin Heinrichs.

“There’s a lot of frustration and questions about the decisions. The red card is very harsh,” Vieira said. “It wasn’t a dangerous action and it had a negative impact on us.”

Bastien used VAR for the third time to award a penalty in the 75th, ruling that Badiashile impeded right back Youcef Atal when images suggested Atal initiated contact with Badiashile before tumbling down.

Benaglio guessed correctly to keep out Saint-Maximim’s spot kick. Monaco almost won it near the end when Radamel Falcao hit the post with a curling effort.

“A point isn’t enough for us, but we could have been sat here talking about a defeat,” Henry said. “I have no opinion about the VAR, those are their decisions. Diego saved the penalty – so much the better for us.”

Monaco has not won at home this season and is 19th – only one point ahead of last-place Guingamp, which beat Rennes 2-1 at home.

OTHER MATCHES

VAR also played a key role elsewhere as Saint-Etienne equalized with a penalty in a 2-1 home win against Marseille.

Referee Antony Gautier awarded the penalty in the 56th after goalkeeper Steve Mandanda upended forward Wahbi Khazri.

Gautier then changed his mind after the linesman signaled Khazri was offside when receiving the pass, but further confusion ensued as he then consulted VAR and re-awarded the penalty, which was confidently tucked away by Khazri.

There was no debating Khazri’s late winner, struck ferociously from 20 meters past Mandanda. It was his 12th league goal of the season and leapfrogged Saint-Etienne over Lyon into third place ahead of their local derby on Sunday.

Netherlands midfielder Kevin Strootman headed Marseille ahead early on from Florian Thauvin‘s excellent cross. The defeat increases the pressure on ninth-place Marseille and its coach Rudi Garcia after a string of poor performances have left fans disgruntled and angry.

In other matches, forwards Moussa Dembele and Nabil Fekir netted late on as Lyon rallied to draw 2-2 at Toulouse.

Nimes moved into 11th spot after winning 1-0 at home to Nantes.