Three things we learned: Arsenal v. Liverpool

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Arsenal and Liverpool clashed in north London on Saturday with a 1-1 draw enough to see Jurgen Klopp‘s men momentarily go top of the Premier League table as they remain unbeaten this season.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Unai Emery‘s side huffed and puffed and gave a good account of themselves against a fellow top six team with Alexandre Lacazette‘s equalizer a thing of beauty. There is still plenty of work for the Spanish coach to do in the weeks and months ahead but this will be another positive step forward.

What did we learn from an end-to-end encounter at the Emirates?


ANOTHER BIG STEP FORWARD FOR ARSENAL

The Gunners deservedly grabbed a point on Saturday and the progression under Emery is clear for all to see when you compare this game against Liverpool to their opening two games of the season against Manchester City and Chelsea. Emery has now made Arsenal more solid defensively and they always carried a threat going forward against Liverpool. Overall there is now a better balance about the team. If you’d said to anyone connected with Arsenal at the start of the season that they would be unbeaten in 14 games in all competitions entering November and in fourth place in the Premier League, just four points off top spot, they would have snapped your hand off. Lucas Torreira epitomizes this new-look Arsenal with the diminutive Uruguayan midfielder shielding the back four, pressing Liverpool’s midfield and always looking to spring attacks with his slick passing. He gives them a solid base to launch their attacks.

Heading into games against Wolves and Bournemouth next up, Arsenal will hope to take care of business before back-to-back games against Manchester United and Tottenham in the space of four days in December. That will be the next big test to see how far Emery’s men have come. Right now, everything is heading in the right direction and their progress is clear.


DIRECT LIVERPOOL TRIED TO BYPASS ARSENAL PRESS

I’m not saying Liverpool are a long ball team every week, I’m just saying that on Saturday that’s how they played. The most joy Liverpool had going forward was when they went direct and got the ball up to Roberto Fimrino, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane as quickly as possible. A clipped ball over the top found Fimrino who hit the bar in the first half, with Mane finishing off the rebound which was incorrectly given offisde. If there was ever a decision which showcased why VAR most arrive in the Premier League next season, it was this one. Anyway, with the pace of Mane and Salah on the break, the key from Klopp was to bypass the likes of Mesut Ozil and Torreira, especially with Jordan Henderson and Naby Keita out injured and Fabinho looking a little shaky in midfield. It was a composed away display and although Liverpool will be upset to let in a goal late on after taking the lead, Klopp will be happy to leave the Emirates with a point.

Liverpool have now drawn against Arsenal, Manchester City and Chelsea and won away at Tottenham in their opening 11 games of the Premier League season. They’re top of the table and Klopp’s men look composed, as they have done for much of this season as they’ve contended with injuries and look much better defensively than in previous campaigns. Against Arsenal they hit the post, had a good goal disallowed and Virgil Van Dijk went close on several occasions and although Arsenal did threaten at times, Liverpool who were in second gear for most of the game. Klopp’s record against the rest of the top six has always been good since he arrived in England, with dropped points against the so-called smaller teams causing problems in the pursuit of the Premier League title. Liverpool’s status as one of the Premier League’s title favorites remains intact.


GOALKEEPING BLUNDERS COSTLY

At both ends of the pitch Alisson and Bernd Leno will be disappointed with the goals they conceded. Both came and flapped at crosses during the game which almost saw them concede, but on Liverpool’s goal Leno was caught pushing a harmless cross back into danger when he probably should have stood back and let one of his defenders clear. Instead he knocked it into James Milner‘s path and Liverpool led.

In the first half Alisson did something similar but Henrikh Mkhitaryan didn’t make him pay, while he was then caught out a little on Lacazette’s brilliant equalizer. It’s true that Lacazette finished superbly from a tight angle when everyone expected him to cross, but did Alisson need to rush off his line and try to get to that ball? Probably not. Leno and Alisson are new to the Premier League and they showed that on Saturday.

Report: No money in January for Mourinho

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Jose Mourinho will have to deal with the squad he has for the rest of the season, according to a report the Guardian.

The report states that Tottenham isn’t making any money available for signings in January, meaning that Mourinho won’t have the chance to add to his Spurs squad. Usually, when a new coach comes in, they’re given at least a transfer window to bring in one or two players, especially mid-season, to stabilize the squad.

[READ: Mourinho speaks for the first time as Spurs manager]

It’s certainly an unusual move from Tottenham. It leaves Mourinho in a bad spot in terms of the five first-team players who will be out of contract in June. If any of them, including Jan Vertonghen and Christian Eriksen, leave on transfer, perhaps Tottenham can use those funds towards new signings. However, it’s more likely at this point that all five will finish the season at White Hart Lane and leave, setting up a massive summer for Mourinho.

At the same time, Tottenham has shown financial austerity for the past few seasons, as it struggles to pay back the loans it took to renovate its stadium. Pochettino didn’t make a single signing for the entirety of the 2018-2019 season and while the club broke its transfer record to sign Tanguay Ndombele, there wasn’t investment throughout the squad.

Considering Tottenham’s financial behavior, it does question why Mourinho took the job in the first place. But with his reported eight-figure salary, and the chance to work with Harry Kane, Mourinho may have decided it’s worth it, even if he can’t sign his players and mold the squad in the way he wants.

Looking Ahead: Mourinho’s first 10 games

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Tottenham’s stunning week continued on Wednesday with the appointment of Jose Mourinho as manager.

Taking in his first day of training, Mourinho can now get to grips with not only his squad, but what’s ahead for Spurs. Here’s a look at what Mourinho will be up against in the next two months.

[READ: 5 things Mourinho must do at Tottenham]


Game 1: Tottenham at West Ham, Saturday, Premier League

Mourinho’s first game in charge is a London derby, which is a pretty tough way to start life at the club. Coming on the road, you can expect a packed house, tons of media attention, and possibly a re-energized squad. That’s what Mourinho will be hoping for, anyways.

Sebastian Haller has struggled recently, and with just four goals in 11 Premier League games, he could be looking at this matchup as a way to get back on the scoresheet. It will be up to Mourinho to re-organize a want-away defense.

Game 2: Tottenham v. Olympiakos, Nov. 26, UEFA Champions League

Game 3: Tottenham v. Bournemouth, Nov. 30, Premier League

Game 4: Tottenham at Manchester United, Dec. 4, Premier League

Mourinho only has to wait three weeks before his first trip back to Old Trafford. Even though it’s coming soon, it’s not a guarantee that it will be Mourinho v. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who is under a lot of pressure himself. Things haven’t improved at Man United much since Mourinho was sacked, and a win for him on the road would be the kind of grudge match he lives for.

Game 5: Tottenham v. Burnley, Dec. 7, Premier League

Game 6: Tottenham at Bayern Munich, Dec. 11, Champions League

If the Champions League stopped today, passed Go and went directly to the knockout rounds, Tottenham would be in. Despite all the Premier League troubles, Spurs have done well enough to stay ahead of Red Star Belgrade and Olympiakos in the standings. Should Tottenham beat Olympiakos in November, and Red Star loses to Bayern Munich, it will be set. However, if Tottenham hasn’t secured a place in the knockout round by then, it may need a result against Bayern at home. That will be one of Mourinho’s biggest tasks moving forward.

Game 7: Tottenham at Wolves, Dec. 15, Premier League

Game 8: Tottenham v. Chelsea, Dec. 22, Premier League

Tottenham opens the busy holiday period against Mourinho’s other Premier League former club, and the place where he made his name in England. At this point, Mourinho will have been with Tottenham for an entire month and if things are going well, Tottenham could challenge Chelsea in this match. If Tottenham remain at its current level, Chelsea could certainly win a match like this on the road at the new White Hart Lane. Another side plot will be Mourinho facing his former star midfielder, Frank Lampard.

Game 9: Tottenham v. Brighton and Hove Albion, Dec. 26, Premier League

Game 10: Tottenham at Norwich City, Dec. 28, Premier League

Mourinho will have to navigate some tough matches, including big six derbies against Chelsea and Man United, plus a trip to Wolverhampton Wanderers. However, it certainly could have been worse for Tottenham. Spurs has five home games, along with matches against Burnley, Bournemouth, Norwich City and Brighton and Hove Albion. Despite 10 games in the rest of 2019, and a busy holiday period, Mourinho has a shot to turn Spurs’ season around and put them in contention for fourth place by May.

UEFA investigates player’s claim of racial abuse in Romania

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NYON, Switzerland (AP) UEFA has called for further investigations into allegations by a Sweden player he was racially abused by Romania fans at a European Championship qualifying game.

After Alexander Isak reported his claim to the match referee last Friday, play in Sweden’s 2-0 win was briefly stopped to broadcast a warning to fans in Bucharest. The stadium will host four Euro 2020 games in June.

[READ: How the USMNT found and kept Sergino Dest]

UEFA says it opened a disciplinary investigation, and also charged Romania’s soccer federation for separate incidents of an alleged “illicit banner” and “illicit chants.” Those charges will be judged on Dec. 12.

Romania faces more severe UEFA action because it was already under one year’s probation for previous incidents of offensive fan behavior.

Only accompanied children were allowed to attend Romania’s home qualifier against Norway last month.

The next UEFA punishment could affect Romania’s next game in the Euro 2020 playoffs round in March.

Report: Austin FC hire Reyna as sporting director

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Months after locking in Josh Wolff as head coach, Austin FC is reportedly on the verge of naming one of MLS’ best sporting directors to the same role.

The Athletic reported on Wednesday that Anthony Precourt’s Austin FC has hired Claudio Reyna from New York City FC to be the expansion club’s new sporting director. It’s the second expansion club that Reyna is working for since he joined NYCFC in 2013 as its first director of soccer operations.

[READ: MLS takes big step with All-Star game update]

If true, it’s a shrewd move by Precourt to bring in a man who knows MLS like the back of his thumb, and to pair him with a former teammate from the U.S. Men’s National Team. Wolff’s spent almost his entire career in professional soccer in MLS too, so the club now has two influential individuals who are knowledgable about the league and it’s various roster mechanisms.

Austin FC doesn’t enter MLS until 2021, so locking in Reyna now gives him more than a year of runway towards building an MLS-ready roster. Precourt has surely seen the best-case scenario – Seattle, Los Angeles FC, Atlanta United – where a team loaded with top-heavy talent and good role players can make a deep playoff run in its expansion season. But he’s likely also seen the worst-case scenarios – look at Minnesota United in the past and FC Cincinnati this year.

Bringing in Reyna certainly makes it more likely that Austin FC’s future will lie in the former category.