What did we learn from the Premier League?

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What did we learn from the six Premier League games on Saturday?

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays

Liverpool went top of the PL table, while big wins for Watford, Brighton and Bournemouth continued their fine form early in the season.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Below is a look at the key takeaways from a day littered with fine goals and displays.


Liverpool’s offense is clicking through the gears

Here we go. Here they come. After a run of five games where they scored just three goals, Liverpool’s offense is back to its best as they beat Cardiff City 4-1 on Saturday with Mohamed Salah grabbing a goal and two assists, plus Sadio Mane and Xherdan Shaqiri were on the scoresheet. Scoring eight goals in their two games over the past four days, any talk about Liverpool’s defense being their main strength this season will surely dissipate, for now. Yes, they’ve improved drastically in defense since Virgil Van Dijk arrived in January. In fact, the goal they conceded against Cardiff was the first they’ve let in during a home league game since February. But the main concern in the early months of this season was about the attacking prowess of Mane, Salah and Roberto Firmino and if they could repeat their gaudy numbers from 2017-18.

Everything points to them being able to do just that, or at least get very close, with Salah in particular looking back to his best after a slow start to the season. With Shaqiri in the mix and Daniel Sturridge now fit, Liverpool’s attack has a fresh look to it and there will be more options for rotation as the season continues. With 26 points from a possible 30 so far, things have started very well for Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp. The Reds are looking good in the UEFA Champions League once again and seem set to push Manchester City all the way. If they’re going to win one of those big competitions this season, they need Mane, Salah and Firmino on form more than they need a vastly improved defense.


Southampton drifting into another relegation scrap

Mark Hughes and Southampton are in a bad place right now. Saints have won just one of their opening 10 games this season despite not having a particularly tough schedule, and the 0-0 draw with Newcastle at home on Saturday marked the fifth-straight game where they have failed to score. With just one win at home in their last 16 PL games, the warning signs have been there for a while and the regression has been steady and true ever since Ronald Koeman left in the summer of 2016. Saints seem to be sleepwalking into a perilous situation for the second season on the trot.

With reports linking former AS Monaco boss Leonardo Jardim with Saints, it appears Hughes may already be running out of time and the good faith (and long-term contract) he received for keeping them in the PL at the end of last season has already evaporated. The fact Southampton stuck with Mauricio Pellegrino for 30 games last season before bringing in Hughes may also work against the current manager, as it is unlikely Les Reed and Ralph Krueger will wait that long this season to try and address a worrying trend. Southampton were for so long the model club as managers and players only left when they were sought after by huge clubs paying big cash. Now, Saints are stuck with a squad of players who are woefully underperforming and a manager who has resorted to making them hard to beat without solving their attacking issues.

Saints play Man City, Man United, Watford, Fulham and Tottenham in their next five games and anything other than six points from that haul will see them dragged into a severe relegation battle for the second-straight season. With the players they have, that just isn’t good enough. Negativity is rife at St Mary’s and the fact Saints have won just once at home in the last 12 months tells the whole story. Confidence is low and the goals aren’t flowing and there is only so much a manager can do in that situation. Saints are symptomatic of a team who have drifted due to managerial changes and new players not adding the quality they need.


Fulham’s defensive frailties too severe for Slavisa to sort out

Every time Fulham walk out onto the pitch it seems like they’re going to concede at least three goals. In truth, the stats say it’s just a little under that. 2.8. My apologies… Despite conceding 28 goals in their opening 10 games of the season, Slavisa Jokanovic is sticking with his philosophy and is asking his players to push up the pitch and try to pass around their opponents. Bournemouth did that much better than Fulham on Saturday, as the Cherries won 3-0 at Craven Cottage and ruthlessly exposed the Cottagers’ deficiencies.

Will Jokanovic be given the chance to turn things around in west London? He seems unlikely to change his tactics and despite Fulham’s American owner Shahid Khan giving his Serbian coach the dreaded vote of confidence earlier this week, time is not on Jokanovic’s side. Unless he changes his entire coaching philosophy, Fulham aren’t going to stay in the PL this season. They create chances galore but they’re so wasteful in attack and describing their defending as haphazard is incredibly kind.

“We made good work and tried to stop conceding so many, we weren’t very successful today but the players are fighting well. We have enough quality to score but we can’t find a way to find a clean sheet. The Premier League is tough not just for us but for many clubs. We are making expensive mistakes,” Jokanovic told the BBC. “I am not thinking about my future. I will be ready for the next challenge. I am living my present and that is today a very hard defeat. I must be brave and keep going and encourage my team.”

So, he will not change his style of play. And that style is a mishmash of being too cautious and throwing caution to the wind, while also changing goalkeepers and defenders on a weekly basis.

Bedding in so many new players was always going to be tough (Fulham brought in 12 players and spent over $130 million after gaining promotion) and quite simply this squad isn’t built to defend in a 4-5-1 formation and scrap for 1-0 wins. And therein lies the problem. Do you stick with Jokanovic at least until January when you can bring in some new players? Or do you cut him loose now and bring in a more solid, stable coach to try and give the team some much needed balance? Fulham haven’t been terrible in most of their games this season but they haven’t been ruthless enough in either box and that is what will end up costing Jokanovic his job.


Watford, Bournemouth will battle for Europe due to attacking talents

Each racking up 3-0 wins on Saturday, Watford and Bournemouth have a clinical edge to thank for their fine starts to the campaign. Promoted together in 2014, these two teams are similar in many ways and have had clear plans for progression in place. The main difference is that the Hornets have had four managers in four years but had a clear recruitment policy in place, while Bournemouth stuck with Eddie Howe throughout and he has added quality youngsters in key positions. The different ways they’ve built these teams is to be admired and both have reliable defensive units but going forward is where they’ve made the biggest improvements. Watford’s attack is about power and pace. Bournemouth is about passing and pressing. The difference for both of these teams this season after they meandered around in midtable in 2017-18 is one thing: finishing.

They both conceded big chances on Saturday as they’re always adventurous in attack, but both were clinical when they got chances themselves and punished their opponents. Roberto Pereyra, Issac Success and Gerard Deulofeu scored for Watford and Bournemouth’s goals came from Callum Wilson (two) and David Brooks with Ryan Fraser playing a pivotal role. With Troy Deeney and Josh King not available, they also have options in reserve and the pace, trickery and sheer hunger their forwards are showing are the reason they’re snapping at the heels of the top four. They have squads to sustain their top eight push and like Burnley did last season, these two teams seem focused on battling for seventh place along with Everton and Wolves. European qualification for either Watford or Bournemouth would be a huge reward for having a clear plan in place.

Ex-England midfielder Gascoigne on trial for sexual assault

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LONDON (AP) — A prosecutor has alleged that former England midfielder Paul Gascoigne sexually assaulted a woman on a train by “forcibly and sloppily” planting an unwanted kiss on her lips.

Prosecutor William Mousley’s comments Monday came as Gascoigne, who has struggled with alcohol and mental-health problems, went on trial at Teesside Crown Court charged with sexual assault of the female passenger.

Mousley said the former England star “put his hands on her cheeks and kissed her forcibly and sloppily on the lips.”

The 52-year-old Gascoigne denies the charge.

The alleged victim has told the court that she froze when the man, who appeared drunk, kissed her in August 2018. She says she did not realize it was Gascoigne until after the alleged incident.

USMNT looks to build with Nations League visit to Canada

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The United States has faced much criticism since failing to miss out on the World Cup two years ago. If Gregg Berhalter is to silence the naysayers, he must use the Nations League as a building block for sustained success with a view towards 2022 World Cup qualifying.

Step 1 was completed Friday with a 7-0 demolition of lowly Cuba, and Step 2 comes Tuesday evening as the USMNT heads to Toronto to meet Canada at BMO Field, with kickoff set for 7:30 p.m. ET.

[ MORE: An in-depth look at Canada ]

The United States did the job at hand, soundly beating a far inferior opponent, allowing the squad to move forward quickly and emphatically. There is plenty more to prove, but the engine is revved and the gas pedal pressed. Still, Berhalter and company must remember this is a marathon not a sprint, and even the slightest slip in Nations League play will open the floodgates of criticism.

Seeing the bigger picture

The biggest thing for the USMNT to piece together in the Nations League is a sustained run of success that builds not just positive feelings but true momentum born by consistency. It will be fascinating to see the team chosen by Gregg Berhalter as he looks to put together consistent starting lineups that help build not just victories on the scoresheet but also chemistry between players who have a legitimate chance of seeing future lineups in more high leverage matches.

Against Cuba, positive performances can lend themselves to more opportunities down the line, but Berhalter must also be realistic about who has a chance to be contributors not just against the minnows of CONCACAF but also against teams the United States has aspirations of competing with. Against Cuba, Jordan Morris continued his revival as a winger, and he should be given more opportunities to build a relationship with Josh Sargent and Christian Pulisic up front. Jackson Yueill is another player who can earn his way into long-term contention, but it remains true that Michael Bradley is still the team’s best option at holding midfielder and requires minutes with the other consistent starters (although it would be interesting to see if the two can play together coherently). Reggie Cannon played well at right-back but incumbent DeAndre Yedlin deserves the chance to prove he’s still the correct choice after returning from a long injury layoff.

A view towards the future must be in the back of Berhalter’s mind, not just looking to achieve results but also achieve results with the right players. Meshing the correct squad now will unquestionably pay dividends down the road as the United States hopes to turn around recent negative results against teams like Mexico, Venezuela, Uruguay, Italy, and Colombia which fans aspire to be competitive against. With the start of World Cup qualification less than a calendar year away, the time is now to end the wild experimentation and begin dividing up the precious minutes between players who are considered legitimate possibilities for the potential 2022 squad.

18-year-old Alphonso Davies represents a youth movement with the Canadian national team that gives fans hope for the future (Photo by Matthew Ashton – AMA/Getty Images).

Switching gears to Canada

Canada will no doubt present a tougher test than Cuba, but the United States will still be expected to emerge victorious, and anything less will represent yet another two steps back after one step forward.

The northern neighbors have high aspirations, hoping to challenge for World Cup qualification. Head coach John Herdman said in the run-up to Tuesday’s match that the United States may be a rival, but they’re also “standing in the way” of the ultimate goal, confident speech ahead of such a difficult test. LAFC midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye took it a step further, saying his play with the Canadian national team over the next few years “is going to help shape the foundation of how Canada is going to be in the next 10 years.”

Canada has a crop of young talent with Kaye joined by 18-year-old Bayern Munich winger Alphonso Davies and 19-year-old Gent youth product Jonathan David.

Still, they have not defeated the United States in their last 17 tries, dating back to 1985. Their last match was a measly 1-0 victory over the same Cuba squad that was obliterated by the US, forced to play 35 minutes a man down after Vancouver Whitecaps defender Doneil Henry was sent off. Canada still managed to hold a whopping 81% possession in that match, but worked just a single shot on target, which resulted in Davies’ 9th minute opener. They will need to be both more disciplined and more dangerous if they wish to pull off the upset in Toronto.

Projected lineup

— Steffan —

— Yedlin — Long — Ream — Lovitz —

— McKennie — Bradley — Roldan —

— Morris — Sargent — Pulisic —

Brad Guzan started the Cuba match in goal, but Zack Steffan is the true long-term option here and it would be natural to see him return to the lineup against the tougher opponent. Gregg Berhalter loves Aaron Long and his return could also be expected. As stated above, Bradley is a contentious selection among many fans but his presence calms the midfield, and he delivers a long ball forward like nobody else on the roster. The front three played exceptionally well against Cuba and it would be questionable to see anyone but those players start again with Jozy Altidore injured.

Prediction

The United States will no doubt face a tougher challenge, and the young attacking talent will test the in-flux back line. Yedlin at right-back will have the toughest test matching up with Davies defensively which could force him back more than Berhalter wants. It will be imperative for the midfield trio to establish control of the central areas and work forward from there. It can be expected that the United States will control the tempo, and if they stay calm, cool, and collected when Canada counters, they should come away with a nervy 2-1 victory.

Lyon hires Rudi Garcia as new manager

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Olympique Lyonnais has announced they have hired Rudi Garcia as manager, replacing the fired Sylvinho.

Lyon has struggled mightily to start the Ligue 1 season, winning just two of its first nine league games and sitting 14th in the table with nine points. Sylvinho, who was only hired at the end of May, was let go last week.

Garcia has formerly taken charge of Roma, Lille, and St. Etienne, and most recently managed Lyon rivals Marseille for three seasons before departing this summer. He left with Marseille having failed to claim a Champions League place amid the Ligue 1 top three.

“I chose Rudi Garcia because he is a fighter who, like us, has the ambition to win titles and succeed on the European stage,” said Lyon sporting director Juninho. The Brazilian had chosen his countrymate Sylvinho this summer, but made a change just nine matches into the season with the club winning its first two matches of the season and failing to win since. They have lost three of the last four, with all three defeats coming via a 1-0 scoreline. They have scored just five goals in the seven-match winless run, shutout on four different occasions.

The 55-year-old Frenchman will have plenty of proving to do to Lyon fans. Coming straight over from a direct rival, . Fans were outspoken about their cautious feelings, as the introductory tweet was ratio’d by those expressing a distaste for the hire.

“He is an experienced coach who has already won trophies,” added Juninho.“Wherever he has been, he has had above-average performances and has always managed to make the most of what he had at his disposal.”

Garcia’s first match in charge will be a home league match this weekend against Dijon, followed by a Europa League visit to Benfica.

Barcelona denounces Spanish court decision on Catalan independence

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Barcelona released a statement criticizing a recent Spanish Supreme Court decision that saw 12 political activists jailed for their role in the 2017 push for Catalan independence.

The statement said that “prison is not the solution” and called the decision “condemnatory.” Instead, the club said that “the resolution of the conflict in Catalonia must come exclusively from political dialogue.”

The political activists were punished for pushing through an October 2017 referendum in Catalonia that resulted in over 90% of the population voting for independence. The referendum was declared illegal by Spain and seen within the country’s political hierarchy as an act of treason.

As one of the biggest social institutions of Catalonia, Barcelona’s statement on the matter carries significant weight both within the region and across Spain. Barcelona games often feature flags and banners calling for Catalan independence. Catalonia has also made a recent push for an independent FIFA-recognized squad, unsuccessful to this point. However, they played their first match inside a FIFA-sanctioned international window this March against Venezuela.

As a result of the court decision, the Catalan Football Federation suspended all its matches for Monday in solidarity with the accused. This includes only clubs and leagues that fall under the federation, which does not include Barcelona, La Liga, or the Spanish national team.

“FC Barcelona also expresses all its support and solidarity to the families of those who are deprived of their freedom,” the club said in the statement. Gerard Pique re-tweeted the social media version of the statement, adding the caption “Proud to be part of this Club.” Pique is a Catalan native and has appeared for the Catalonia national team 10 times.