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Three things we learned in the Premier League in 2018

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In theory, every experience in life — whether good or bad — is meant to be lived and reflected upon as a lesson learned with an eye toward improving for the future.

[ MORE: Transfer rumor roundup: January window opens Tuesday ]

Thus, three of the most important lessons we learned in the Premier League in 2018…

Records are meant to be broken

Manchester City smashed just about every conceivable record from the PL era en route to winning the league title in runaway fashion. The list includes, but is not limited to:

  • Man City won 32 matches, the most in a single PL season
  • Man City became the first team to win 100 points in a season
  • Man City broke the record for most consecutive wins, winning 18 in a row
  • Manchester City scored 106 goals in the PL
  • Man City won the title with five games remaining, equalling the record

It is unlikely we will again see a team dominate a single season in the same manner in our lifetimes.

$100 million isn’t a crazy price for a defender

OK, so maybe it is still a crazy amount to pay for a defender — or any player, for that matter — but Virgil Van Dijk has already, if one could possibly do so, justified in 12 months the price tag for his move from Southampton to Liverpool.

Perhaps the lesson learned here is this: if you have the chance to sign (arguably) the best defender in the world, and you are all but certain that position is the one missing piece standing between your team and PL domination, write the selling club a blank check. While the rest of the world goes crazy over midfielders and forwards — who remain plenty important in the modern game, no doubt — feel free to go left when everyone else is going right, from time to time.

Jose Mourinho and modern-day players do not mix

It’s easy to say that professional footballers should adapt to whatever tactics or management style they’re given by the manager at their employing club, that they’re paid more than enough to be expected to fall in line on command, that they know their place and don’t ruffle any feathers. Jose Mourinho believes this wholeheartedly, of course.

Thus, 2018 taught us that Mourinho’s strict man-management style no longer works with players of the present day. The vast majority of power, much like in the major sports leagues in the United States, now lies with the players.

Think about it this way: the reason a player like, say, Paul Pogba costs a club like, say, Manchester United, a then-record fee of $116 million is not only because he’s a brilliant player who’ll undoubtedly improve the first-team squad. Of course that’s a key part of it, but it’s not just that. It’s Pogba’s loud and lovable personality; his flicks and tricks on the ball; his flair and flashy hair; his name and face recognition; his marketability and brand.

It’s very simple: Mourinho doesn’t work well with — nor has he ever — players who possess too much of the above trait(s). His management style is to slowly drain — or quickly beat — it out of them until they fall in line as another nameless, faceless cog in his plain vanilla machine. Mourinho’s failure to adapt, though, was his only irreversible mistake in 2018. Never mind the fact it’s infinitely easier to replace one manager than an entire squad of players.

Watch Live: Liverpool v. Arsenal

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2-0 to start the season, Liverpool and Arsenal are both bidding for their first marquee three points when they tangle at Anfield on Saturday (Watch live on NBC and online via NBCSports.com).

Alexandre Lacazette is on the bench for Arsenal as record signing Nicolas Pepe starts for the Gunners, who have beaten Burnley and Newcastle United.

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

Liverpool’s wins have come against Norwich City and Southampton, and Reds boss Jurgen Klopp is deploying his very best to face the Gunners.

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Liverpool:

Arsenal:

AT HALF: Manchester United trails, 10-man Brighton loses goal to VAR

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We’ve got goals. We’ve got red cards. We’ve got fun.

[ STREAM: Every PL game live here ] 

All four Premier League 10 a.m. ET Saturday kickoffs have reached halftime. Here’s your primer to select which second half to stream live.

Watford 1-1 West Ham United

Chances and entertainment for days at Vicarage Road, where Mark Noble‘s early penalty was quickly offset by Andre Gray‘s emphatic finish of a Will Hughes through ball.

Brighton and Hove Albion 0-0 Southampton

Florin Andone has been sent off for the hosts after a gnarly challenge on Yan Valery, and further insult for Brighton came when VAR spotted a clear foul on Lewis Dunk‘s headed goal.

Sheffield United 0-1 Leicester City

Jamie Vardy may not tire of throwing parties, and James Maddison sure designs delightful invitations.

Manchester United 0-1 Crystal Palace

Possession doesn’t matter much if you can’t handle a 70-yard goalkeeper pass, and Victor Lindelof‘s lost header to Jeff Schlupp allowed Jordan Ayew as much time as he needed to slot past David De Gea.

United probably should be up a man after Gary Cahill chopped down Anthony Martial, but only a yellow arrived at Old Trafford.

Lampard, Abraham react to first Chelsea win, goal

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Frank Lampard was all business in being asked about his first Premier League win as Chelsea boss.

Coming on the heels of a loss and draw heading into Saturday’s 3-2 defeat of Norwich City, Lampard was ready to talk about the big picture (especially considering the Blues dealt with a pre-match injury to Pedro).

[ MORE: How did Pulisic perform? ] 

With a lot of young players and a tricky transfer ban, Lampard has to walk a fine line between the expectations of Chelsea and the reality of working with a side he hasn’t been able to improve through the transfer window. From the BBC:

“We want to compete. We know this year is difficult on different levels. We’ve had a tough start, and yep, we needed a win. It helps confidence.”

On the other end of the spectrum is Tammy Abraham, who has no qualms whatsoever with his first Chelsea goal in the Premier League.

“I didn’t even know how to celebrate so I just ran over to the management and the staff. It always gives confidence to me and the young boys when the coach believes in you.”

Sheffield United is next, a real chance for the Blues to round into form even if the Blades have been plucky early in their Premier League return.

Watch Live: Four Premier League games at 10am ET

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Four Premier League games kick off at 10 a.m. ET on Saturday, as Matchweek 3 is in full swing.

[ STREAM: Every PL game live here ] 

Man United host Crystal Palace, Southampton head to Brighton, Watford and West Ham do battle and Leicester travel to Sheffield United.

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You can access additional games by purchasing the new “Premier League Pass” via NBC Sports Gold which also includes an extensive selection of shoulder programming such as Premier League News, Premier League Today and NBC Sports originals such as Premier League Download and much more.

[ STREAM: “Goal Rush” here ]

For those of you familiar with the Premier League Breakaway Show during busy days (Boxing Day, New Year’s Day, Championship Sunday etc.) in the PL, this will follow that model of being similar to the NFL RedZone with action shown from all of the games in the 10 a.m. ET window. More info is available here.

The schedule for all four games at 10 a.m. ET is below and you can stream each game live by clicking on the links.


10 a.m. ET: Man United v. Crystal Palace – NBCSN [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Brighton v. Southampton – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Sheffield United v. Leicester – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Watford v. West Ham – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]