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Season Review: Man City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Spurs, Arsenal

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The 2018-19 Premier League season is officially in the books, and while we know who finished where, it’s time to discuss who did (or didn’t) live up to expectations.

[ REVIEW: Man United, Wolves, Everton, Leicester & West Ham ]

Manchester City are champions; Liverpool are record-breaking runners-up; Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal round out the top-five, in the order.

[ REVIEW: Burnley, Bournemouth, Newcastle, Crystal Palace & Watford ]

Arsenal

Finishing position/points total: 5th / 70 points
High point: Beating Tottenham back in December might be the greatest single accomplishment of Arsenal’s season, which says a lot about where the club is today.
Low point
: Three straight defeats — to Crystal Palace, Wolverhampton Wanderers and Leicester City, by a combined score of 9-3 — at the same time Tottenham were tripping over their own feet and leaving the door wide open for a top-four heist.

Our opinion: Arsene Wenger left, but did anything really change around the Emirates Stadium?
Star player
: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
Most memorable goal
: The goal that wasn’t — Aubameyang’s 91st-minute penalty kick against Spurs — was one of many moments that wound up being the difference between fourth and fifth.

Manager grade: Unai Emery: C+
Hopes for next season
: In a perfect world for Arsenal, Spurs won’t sign a player for the third straight transfer window and Arsenal will have signed a soon-to-be world-class replacement for the departed Aaron Ramsey, at which point Arsenal could accidentally finish above Spurs for the first time in four seasons.


Tottenham Hotspur

Finishing position/points total: 4th / 71 points

High point: Reaching the Champions League final is the obvious answer, but we’re only talking about the PL here. Finishing the season’s last game with 11 upright players was quite the accomplishment given Spurs’ season-long injury crisis.
Low point
: Predictably, a club that signed no new players in the summer, and is still competing in the Champions League, ran out of gas down the stretch. Spurs won just three of the final 12 games, while losing seven.

Our opinion: Mauricio Pochettino has proven himself to a miracle worker year after year, and he deserves better from chairman Daniel Levy.
Star player
: Harry Kane
Most memorable goal
: Son Heung-min didn’t score his first PL goal until the end of November, but it was worth the wait and kicked off a brilliant second half of the season for the South Korean.

Manager grade: Mauricio Pochettino: A-
Hopes for next season
: If Spurs sign some players in the summer — hardly a given — the existing core has yet another level (or two) to reach. They’re as likely as anyone else to solidify their place as the third-best side in the PL.


Chelsea

Finishing position/points total: 3rd/ 72 points

High point: Starting the season unbeaten in their first 12 games, though in hindsight the early-days discussion of a three-horse race for the title was premature and misguided.
Low point
: Losing 3-1 to Spurs to break the unbeaten start was bad, but losing 6-0 to Man City (just days before losing in the League Cup final to them) was worse.

Our opinion: For a team with just one capable midfielder (N'Golo Kante) for the vast majority of the season (Ruben Loftus-Cheek came on strong once given a chance to play), finishing third almost seems like an overachievement.
Star player
: Eden Hazard
Most memorable goal
: Hazard is irreplaceable, which Chelsea will quickly find out if he leaves this summer.

Manager grade: Maurizio Sarri: B-
Hopes for next season
: If Hazard can be convinced to stay another season — until the transfer ban has passed — they’ll scrap for a top-four place again. If he leaves and Christian Pulisic is the only player they can register, it could be a long season.


Liverpool

Finishing position/points total: 2nd / 97 points

High point: How about the 30 games that they won? Or, the 37 games that they didn’t lose?
Low point
: The lone league defeat, to Manchester City at the start of January, comes to mind.

Our opinion: Finishing with 97 points is bafflingly impressive, but conceding just 22 goals in 38 games is equally impressive. To match Man City step for step all season was something not many thought the Reds could do. 97 points would have won the title in all but two seasons — last season and this season.
Star player
: Virgil Van Dijk
Most memorable goal
: You’ll notice it doesn’t say “best” or “favorite” goal. Divock Origi‘s 96th-minute winner was stranger than anything else.

Manager grade: Jurgen Klopp: A+
Hopes for next season
: They’re still young and awaiting breakout seasons from Naby Keita and Fabinho. If either of those players ascend to PL stardom next season, they could very well end City’s run.


Manchester City

Finishing position/points total: 1st / 98 points

High point: Leroy Sane’s game-winning goal to top Liverpool at the Etihad Stadium. Without it, Liverpool might have never lost the lead in the title race.
Low point
: Losing three of four games during the December holiday period to fall seven points behind Liverpool.

Our opinion: The team that broke ever conceivable PL record last season, then went out and signed a player of Riyad Mahrez‘s ability, bordered on unbeatable once again. Though slightly more defensively fragile this season, Pep Guardiola‘s men are worthy champions.
Star player
: Raheem Sterling
Most memorable goal
: Vincent Kompany‘s winner against Leicester City in the penultimate game of the season, with Liverpool two points ahead after playing earlier in the weekend. He’ll never ever score another one like it.

Manager grade: Pep Guardiola: A+
Hopes for next season
: Newsflash: They’re going to be good again, and again, and again. Here’s hoping for another brilliant title race between City and Liverpool, one with even more many twists and turns.

DC United back to winning ways with 4-1 rout of FC Cincinnati

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D.C. United hasn’t added too many tick marks to the win column of late, but they got back to victory lane with a 4-1 victory over FC Cincinnati that featured a fantastic second half.

The win is just the club’s second since May 13, and that should give Ben Olsen and company a huge boost as they jump into second place in the East past Atlanta United and move four clear of the fourth-placed New York Red Bulls. With Philadelphia just a single point on top, it’s all to play for despite the nine-match run that saw just one win, now ended by the victory at Cincinnati.

Luis Rodriguez bagged a brace while Wayne Rooney and Paul Arriola added one each to complete the scoreline. The visitors to Nippert Stadium went ahead on the first of Rodriguez’s pair, a curling effort with his right foot that put D.C. United up before halftime.

The home side struck back with a penalty by Emmanuel Ledesma nine minutes after the break, but it took D.C. just two minutes to restore the lead as Rodriguez again came through, this time via a deflection that took the ball into the top-left corner.

Rooney and Arriola were then on hand to put the game away, with the former England international latching onto an exquisite long ball from Leonardo Jara that was presented on a platter for Rooney to split the center-backs and finish cooly for a 3-1 lead. Arriola finished it off with 17 minutes to go, again on the breakaway as the American international burst down the left and finished it himself from a tight angle.

Playing with the lead for most of the second half, D.C. United was happy to let FC Cincinnati hold much of the possession, 57% to be exact. They were deadly on the counter, leading the shot count 17-11 despite the possessional deficit, including 8-3 on target. Up next for D.C. United is a critical date with Atlanta United on Sunday as the two duke it out near the top of the Eastern Conference.

Winks says trophies for Spurs are “round the corner”

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Tottenham Hotspur has just one trophy in the last 20 years, but midfielder Harry Winks says the club is knocking on the door and should be earning hardware in no time.

With the club reaching the Champions League final this season before falling to Liverpool, Winks – who started the big game in midfield – is believing in what Mauricio Pochettino has brought to the squad.

“As long as we keep believing in what we have to do… I’m sure they [trophies] are round the corner,” Winks said after the club’s first training session in Singapore. “Everybody is ambitious in the squad. Of course there comes a time when players want to start winning trophies. But there is a bigger picture at Tottenham.”

Winks signed a new five-year contract at Spurs just over a week ago, rewarding the Spurs academy product for breaking into the first team and earning a significant role throughout last season, only cut short by a groin injury. Winks made 17 starts and 26 total appearances last season and was a consistent presence in the Champions League run as well, starting eight of the team’s 13 matches in the competition.

Tottenham’s only trophy of the last 28 years is a 2008 League Cup victory, when they topped Chelsea 2-1 in the final with Jonathan Woodgate scoring the winner in extra time. You have to go all the way back to 1991 for their previous trophy, when they won the FA Cup by beating Nottingham Forest 2-1 in the final on a stoppage-time own-goal.

Spurs has come closer in recent years, with last season providing a legitimate title chase until Liverpool and Manchester City pulled away at the turn of the calendar year. They reached the Champions League final before falling to Liverpool, and fell to Chelsea in the League Cup semifinals as well.

Big things have taken place for the club this summer, with Winks’ contract extension plus the addition of Tanguy Ndomele on a club record fee. Spurs is also rumored to be in for attacking midfielder Giovani Lo Celso in what would be a quality addition to the squad. Christian Eriksen has not yet made a move to depart despite heavy interest from the top Spanish clubs, and Toby Alderweireld has also not yet departed despite his low release clause sparking rumors. Meanwhile, Danny Rose has not made the trip to Asia for preseason and the 29-year-old is reportedly on his way out.

Europa League: Rangers, Aberdeen, FCSB advance in first qualifying round

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The first qualifying round of the 2019/20 Europa League wrapped up Thursday as the competition pairs down teams en route to the group stage.

A couple of notable teams lived to see another day, including Steven Gerrard and Scottish side Rangers who passed its test with flying colors, hammering Gibraltar side St. Joseph’s 6-0 for a resounding 10-0 aggregate win. Jermaine Defoe scored a late brace but Colombian international Alfredo Morelos was the man of the hour, bagging a hat-trick including a stunning rabona at the doorstep that probably wasn’t necessary but still found the back of the net.

Fellow Scottish side Aberdeen who topped Finnish club Rovaniemen Palloseura – or RoPS – 2-1 for a 4-2 aggregate victory. English striker Sam Cosgrove put Aberdeen in front from the penalty spot in the 26th minute, and 19-year-old Scottish youth international Lewis Ferguson picked up the late game winner in the 94th minute with essentially the last kick of the game.

FCSB, previously known as Steaua Bucuresti, knocked off Moldovan club FC Milsami Orhei 2-1 for a 4-1 aggregate victory. FCSB, who finished second in the Romanian top flight last season, got the winning strike from 21-year-old Romanian youth international Razvan Oaida in the 42nd minute to give FCSB the victory.

Danish club Brondby advanced despite a 2-0 road loss, topping Finnish side FC Inter Turku 4-3 on aggregate thanks to their 4-1 victory in the first leg. Turku struck twice in quick succession after the break, scoring in the 52nd and 56th minutes, but it was too little too late.

Legia Warsaw shook off a 0-0 first leg draw and secured a 3-0 win over aptly-named Gibraltar side FC Europa. A brace from Spanish striker Carlitos led the way, with goals in the 7th minute and 60th minute to set the pace for the Polish side.

Irish club Shamrock Rovers advanced over Norwegian side SK Brann on a late winner by new signing Gary O'Neil who bagged an 87th minute strike to secure the 2-0 win and lead the Irish side through 4-3 on aggregate. O’Neil only just joined Shamrock Rovers from UCD this summer, and he came off the bench for the final 10 minutes and found the winner.

Swedish club Malmo, famous as Zlatan Ibrahimovic‘s boyhood club, finished off Ballymena out of Northern Ireland 4-0 for a 11-0 aggregate bashing. Malmo featured four different goalscorers, including American international Romain Gall, who picked up his only international cap with a late bench appearances against Italy back in late 2018.

Croatian side Hajduk Split was upset by Maltese club Gzira United 3-1 at home, which gave the visitors the win on away goals after a 3-3 aggregate tie. Gzira striker Ben Hamed Kone struck for a pair, including the game – and matchup – winner in the 97th minute that sent the Maltese side through. The two goals were utterly spectacular, with the first coming in the 69th minute on a bicycle kick from all the way at the top of the box, while his second was a flick from nearly the same position that sent them through.

All Europa League scores (bold team advances)

Rangers 6-0 St. Joseph’s
Ballymena 0-4 Malmo FF
Legia Warsaw 
3-0 FC Europa
FC Milsami 1-2 FCSB
RoPS 1-2 Aberdeen
FC Inter Turku 2-0 Bronby
Apollon Limassol 
4-0 Kauno Zalgiris
Hapoel Be’er 1-0 KF Laci
Hajduk Split 1-3 Gzira United
Kilmarnock 0-2 Connah’s Quay
KR Reykjavik 0-0 Molde
Shamrock Rovers 
2-0 SK Brann
Hapoel Be’er 1-0 KF Laci
Tobol Kostanay 1-1 Jeunesse Eche 
FK Makedonija 0-3 Alashkert FC
Kairat Almaty
2-1 Siroki Brijeg
KS Teuta 1-0 FK Ventspils
FC Levadia Tallinn 3-2 Stjarnan
Rigas Futbola Skola 0-2 Olimpija Ljubljana
Universitatea Craiova 
3-2 Sabail
Dinamo Minsk 1-2 FK Liepaja
Levski Sofia 2-0 MFK Ruzomberok
Cracovia 2-2 Dunajska Streda
FC Vaduz 
2-1 Breidablik
Haugesund 5-1 Cliftonville
Neftchi 6-0 Speranta Nisporeni
Petrocub-Hincesti 0-1 AEK Larnaca
Torpedo Kutaisi 0-2 Ordabasy Shymkent
Zalgiris Vilnius 1-1 Honved
Zrinjski Mostar 
3-0 Akademija Pandev
Progres Niederkorn 1-2 Cork
UE Engordany 0-1 Dinamo Tbilisi
B36 Torshavn 2-3 Crusaders
FK Kukesi 1-1 Debrecen
Hibernians 0-1 Shakhter Soligorsk
IFK Norrkoping 
2-1 St. Patrick’s
NS Mura 2-3 Maccabi Haifa
Vidi 0-0 FK Zeta
FC Vitebsk 1-1 KuPS Kuopio
Shkupi 1-2 Pyunik
Buducnost Podgorica 4-0 JK Narva Trans
FC Spartak Trnava 2-0 Radnik Bijeljina
NK Domzale 1-0 Balzan FC
Radnicki Nis 2-2 Flora

Report: Barcelona logs bid for Neymar

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According to a report by Sky Sports, Barcelona has officially submitted an offer to Paris Saint-Germain for Brazilian superstar Neymar that includes a $113 million cash component as well as a two-player offer that PSG can choose from.

The report states that Barcelona submitted a six-player list to PSG which includes Philippe Coutinho, Ousmane Dembele, Ivan Rakitic, Nelson Semedo, and Malcom. PSG can reportedly pick two from those six players, and the deal would be complete. Sky Sports did not know the identity of the sixth player at the time of the initial report.

Neymar has become unsettled at PSG after his time in France has been marred by suspensions and disappointing results in European play. He was involved in an altercation with a fan after PSG fell to Stade Rennais in the Coupe de France final in May, and has been accused of rape this summer by a Brazilian girl he flew to Paris late last season. Neymar was also suspended for three upcoming Champions League matches for critical comments made on his Instagram page after PSG was beaten by Manchester United this past spring.

Neymar has reportedly told PSG sporting director Leonardo that he wishes to leave the club in a recent meeting following the Brazilian’s late arrival to PSG preseason training. He missed the Copa America this summer thanks to an ankle injury suffered in a pre-tournament friendly against Qatar.

Over the last two years at PSG after joining from Barcelona via a world-record $250 million transfer fee, Neymar has made 58 appearances, scoring 51 goals and assisting 29 more. However, he’s been eliminated from the Champions League Round of 16 both years, finding himself injured for at least the return leg of the knockout matchup in both years.