What have we learned about each PL club?

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As we are now a third of the way into the 2018-19 Premier League season, now seems like a good time to take stock of each team ahead of the busy festive period.

And that is exactly what we shall do ahead of a busy festive period which will help to define their campaigns.

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Below are 20 searingly hot takes on each PL club and what we’ve learned from their opening 13 games of the season.


Arsenal: They have more grit than the last decade, Lucas Torreira is the central midfield player they’ve been missing for the last decade and Unai Emery isn’t scared to drop big names: we’re looking at you, Mesut. Top four seems genuinely achievable and that would be a remarkable first season for Emery who has already changed the philosophy of this team.


Bournemouth: Callum Wilson, David Brooks, Josh King and Ryan Fraser are the best attacking foursome outside of the top six and Eddie Howe‘s side are set for a top 10 finish. The Cherries are also one of the most wasteful teams in the PL despite


Brighton & Hove Albion: Glenn Murray is a machine and the 35-year-old seems to be actually getting younger, as his seven goals so far show. We’ve learned that Brighton remain great at home and terrible on the road.


Burnley: That they’re relegation candidates and are leaking goals like a shoddy sieve. Sean Dyche can point to the Europa League hangover, but their incredible 2017-18 campaign seems like it was a flash in the pan. The Clarets are now returning to their mean of being the plucky underdogs.


Cardiff City: Harry Arter personifies this Cardiff team and they are horrible to play against, especially at home. Neil Warnock‘s men aren’t pushovers and won’t go down without a huge fight. Plus, they’re better going forward than we previously thought. Also, Warnock remains must-see in his pre and post-match interviews.


Chelsea: Jorginho is the man their team is built around and also their kryptonite. If you can shut him down like Spurs did, you can shut down Sarri-ball. Perhaps not genuine title contenders after all, unless Eden Hazard goes on another tear. Also, figuring out the best place to play N'Golo Kante is vital as he just isn’t dominating games in a more advanced role like he was as a true defensive midfielder in the past.


Crystal Palace: Without Wilfried Zaha they may never score a goal, but even with him they don’t seem as fluid as last season. Zaha seems to be battling small injuries constantly and that is not good news for Palace. Roy Hodgson may not last the season despite his incredible turnaround in 2017-18.


Everton: Marco Silva‘s revolution is coming along quicker than we thought after a slow start and the Toffees have finally found a way to get Richarlison, Sigurdsson, Walcott and Bernard all into the team at the same time. We’ve also learned that the $55 million spent on Richarlison was a bargain. Sixth place is achievable and their defense is now stronger with the additions of Lucas Digne and Yerry Mina, plus Jordan Pickford and the resurgence of Michael Keane.


Fulham: Claudio Ranieri has the ability to save their season after Jokanovic’s gung-ho approach left them bottom of the table. We’ve already seen it from their nail-biting 3-2 win against Southampton: Fulham haven’t got the players to implement Ranieri’s defensive strategy. Expect plenty of moves in the January window to add defensive reinforcements. Going forward they’re more than fine as Aleksandar Mitrovic and Andre Schurrle are delivering the goods.


Huddersfield Town: We’ve all written them off incorrectly. A striker still hasn’t scored for David Wagner‘s side but they are more than capable of picking up points at home. A relegation scrap is on its way and the Terriers are looking forward to it.


Leicester City: Their kids are more than alright as Chilwell, Maddison and Gray are all now regulars in the starting lineup. Jamie Vardy is still plugging away but other veterans from their title-winning season are finding it tough to get minutes. They are now a solid, steady midtable team and Claude Puel should be applauded for steering the players through a tough time off the pitch.


Liverpool: That they are the real deal and the only genuine contenders to Man City for the title. That is due to their newfound defensive solidity as Joe Gomez and Virgil Van Dijk must start together each week at center back. We’ve also learned that Jurgen Klopp has tweaked his “full throttle” style slightly and they are capable of picking and choosing their moments better.


Manchester City: They may be better than last season. It will be tough for them to surpass their record 100 point tally, but across the board they’ve improved drastically. In defense the partnership between Laporte and Stones looks formidable and City’s attackers have all upped their game after Riyad Mahrez‘s arrival.


Manchester United: Top four is as good as it will get and they still don’t have a long-term plan in terms of player recruitment or a playing style. In Jose Mourinho’s third season, it’s crazy they are this far off the title contenders and some of their defeats and performances this season have been way below what should be expected. That said, the old United spirit of launching late comebacks has returned.


Newcastle United: Whatever happens, Rafael Benitez deserves the freedom of Newcastle for working for Mike Ashley given the restraints placed upon him. With little money to spend, the Magpies have hit form in recent weeks after a poor start. Rafa never stopped believing and they should pull clear of the bottom three in the next few months.


Southampton: They’re in a mess. Off the pitch former chairman Les Reed has been fired, leaving them without a figurehead and on the pitch they’ve won just once. Although they’re playing well in stages, Mark Hughes‘ defense are making basic errors and his attack are missing big chances. Not a great combination as Saints’ player recruitment has once again failed to live up to is previous high standards. Another relegation battle awaits.


Tottenham Hotspur: That Mauricio Pochettino can work miracles and improve players quickly. We all know they didn’t sign anyone over the summer, but Poch has improved Moura, Foyth and Sissoko so they could come in and help Spurs deal with injuries. They are third, have had their best-ever start to a PL season and have a chance of reaching the UCL last 16. It hasn’t been pretty at times, but Spurs have a nice habit of grinding out wins. Not quite title contenders, but closer than anybody else to Man City and Liverpool.


Watford: Their model isn’t for everyone but it works and Javi Gracia has brought a calmness to the club. Constantly chopping and changing bosses and players, Watford often start the season superbly and then falter. Gracia has them inside the top 10 and they’re genuine contenders for a Europa League spot if they can have a solid second half of the season. A robust midfield and defense has allowed Pereyra and Deulofeu to express themselves in attack.


West Ham United: We haven’t learned a lot, in all honestly. We know they have quality players but this squad is unbalanced and it is down to Marko Arnautovic and Felipe Anderson to create the goals which will get them out of trouble. Under Manuel Pellegrini they haven’t improved defensively, which will be a concern given the big bucks they’ve spent.


Wolverhampton Wanderers: We’ve learned that we can expect inconsistency from a team back in the top-flight with plenty of expectation on their shoulders. After their heavy-spending in the summer, they have lots of players still getting used to the PL. An incredible start has given way to a wobble in recent weeks. A midtable finish should be easily achievable. We’ve also learned that Matt Doherty may be one of the best right wing backs in the PL.


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.