10 things you need to know before new PL season

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Ahead of the 2019-20 Premier League season there are certain things you need to know.

That’s where we come in.

[ MORE: PL season previews ]

As well as clicking on the link above to get the low-down on all 20 teams, below are the 10 things you must know ahead of the new campaign.

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Let’s go!


ICYMI, America has a superstar in the PL…
You may have been living under a rock for the past few months. If so, fair enough. The rest of the world knows that Christian Pulisic is coming to the Premier League. The 20-year-old USMNT star was signed by Chelsea for $73 million in January and loaned back to Borussia Dortmund. The “Pennsylvanian Messi” will be asked to replace Eden Hazard long-term, but in the meantime he is impressing Chelsea legend Frank Lampard who is in his first season in charge of the Blues. Given Chelsea’s ban and Willian arriving late due to his exploits with Brazil in the Copa America this summer, Pulisic has the chance to hit the ground running with Chelsea. Along with Pedro, Kovacic, Hudson-Odoi, Barkley and Mount, he will have to battle hard for a starting spot. He is without doubt ready to be the first bonafide American superstar in the PL and on the planet.


VAR is coming. Get ready.
Okay, get ready for VAR to dominate the majority of your conversations for the next 10 months. The Premier League has already said it will only use VAR for “clear and obvious errors” or “serious missed incidents” when it comes to four occasions: goals scored, direct red cards, penalty kicks being awarded and cases of mistaken identity. There will be delays and a little confusion, but messages will be relayed to fans inside the stadiums and it will be intriguing to see how the system works in the PL. After being used in major competitions and leagues across Europe and the rest of the world over the past few seasons, it is now the turn of the Premier League to embrace technology to help officials out. Let’s see if fans share this sentiment after the first few weeks of the season.


2:45 p.m. ET kick offs on Saturday are now a thing
For a handful of weeks this is a new feature for the 2019-20 campaign and the two seasons after that. Saturday evening games in the UK should see a bit of a party atmosphere take place, and like Friday night games being introduced a few years ago, it gives us another opportunity to make time in our lives to watch the PL. What more can you ask for? On a Saturday you can now get to the pub with your mates at 7:30 a.m. ET and be there until about 5 p.m. ET when the final game finishes. 10 hours of constant PL action on a Saturday is perfection. There is also the small matter of a small winter break, with one round of fixtures in February split over two weeks so clubs can have a little breather after the busy festive period.


Transfer records smashed all over the place
Harry Maguire: $97 million from Leicester City to Man United. Nicolas Pepe: $87 million from Lille to Arsenal. Rodri: $80 million from Atletico Madrid to Man City. Tanguy Ndombele: $80 million from Lyon to Tottenham. What do all those transfers have in common? They all happened this summer and they are all record deals. Maguire’s is the highest fee paid in history for a defender and Arsenal, Man City and Tottenham all broke their transfer records. Add into the mix that Sheffield United, Brighton, Leicester and Newcastle all broke their transfer records this summer too, and it’s clear to see PL clubs are spending big to stay in the top-flight.


Blades, Canaries and Villans
The new boys will all add something a little different to the PL in their own way. Aston Villa have spent big with over $160 million splashed on 12 new players, while Norwich have hardly spent anything and Sheffield United have added sensibly. Villa will entertain and a genuinely one of the biggest clubs in England, while the Blades will be led by a passionate home crowd and lean heavily on the players who have led them from the third tier. As for Norwich, they played scintillating attacking football last season but many are writing them off for instant relegation to underline their status as a yo-yo club. As always, all three new boys are favorites for the drop. Beware of the underdogs.


European glory to continue?
Liverpool are the reigning UEFA Champions League champions and Chelsea won the Europa League. Will we see the PL dominate Europe once again this season? Arsenal, Man United and Wolves will be among the favorites in the Europa League, while Man City and Liverpool will again led the way for the PL in the UCL. Spurs and Chelsea are also favored to reach at least the eight and with some of the big boys in Spain, Italy and Germany struggling a little, there’s a sense we are in the middle of English domination in Europe.


Returning stars could be rested early on
Something to keep an eye on, especially for those who play Premier League Fantasy. The likes of Liverpool and Man City have been impacted over the summer when it comes to star players coming back late from international duty. Roberto Firmino, Alisson, Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah have all missed a huge chunk of preseason for Liverpool, while Sergio Aguero, Ederson, Fernandinho and Riyad Mahrez have only just returned for City. Both Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola will have to manage the minutes of those stars accordingly if they’re going to come good at the business end of the season. Players are not machines and their managers, thankfully, understand that. That won’t help your FPL team, but don’t be so selfish…


Marauding center backs the new norm
With Maguire and Virgil Van Dijk set to take center stage for Man United and Liverpool respectively, there’s a sense that this is the year of the marauding center backs. Given all of the money spent on attacking players, we’ve seen just how important it is to have a solid defensive unit. Man City have John Stones and Aymeric Laporte ready to play out of the back, but are they good enough defensively to lead a title challenge without legend Vincent Kompany organizing alongside them? This will be the season of the center back.


New managers, first full seasons
Chelsea legend Frank Lampard is arriving to take charge of the Blues. Graham Potter is the new man in charge at Brighton. Steve Bruce has replaced Rafael Benitez at Newcastle after the Spaniard left. Brendan Rodgers be Leicester’s coach for a full season (he hopes), while Ralph Hasenhuttl is in his first full season as Saints boss. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is also overseeing his first full campaign at Man United. Fresh starts and slates wiped clean are the order of the day.


#PLonNBC on location in England
Don’t forget, we are kicking the season off in the best possible way with our entire crew in England for opening weekend. From Liverpool v. Norwich to Tottenham v. Aston Villa and Manchester United v. Chelsea, our entire broadcast team will be on-site to celebrate the return of the Premier League? Pumped. Yep. Us too.

Klopp: Liverpool almost made statement in Chelsea win

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Liverpool is a perfect 6-0, even after a not-so-perfect 2-1 win over Chelsea on Sunday, and that result under those circumstances only seems to underscore its power.

The Reds built an early 2-0 lead that nearly disappeared and perhaps should’ve led to a draw had Michy Batshuayi and Mason Mount provided the finishing touch.

[ MORE: Match recap | 3 things ]

But they didn’t, and a sloppy second half at the back didn’t hurt the Reds aside from N’Golo Kante’s undressing of Fabinho.

Yes, there’s a certain vibe of destiny around this unit, and everything is going according to Jurgen Klopp‘s plans. He’s downright giddy, but you can tell he cares about matching performances like Man City’s 8-0 clobbering of Watford and that any goal against his men is a bit of luck.

“3-0 would have been a statement but then N’Golo Kante makes his little run and with his big toe kicks it in.

“Then it is completely normal that you come under pressure but we defended well. There were a couple of good saves from both goalkeepers. Good situations in an exciting game and that is how it is in the top six and in the Premier League.”

Apologies to Klopp, but the Kante quip is an absolute scream. Chelsea’s midfielder left Fabinho for dead and then took advantage of slow-to-react Joel Matip and Virgil Van Dijk to smash a delightful goal past Adrian with the side of his foot. Just tip your cap, Jurgen.

The Reds are now the first PL team to go 6-0 to start consecutive seasons, though it seems there’s a certain team in his head.

“It is exceptional. What can I say? We have to keep on going. It never looks as easy as it did for City yesterday but we have not had these games yet. We have to work for it.”

Circle Nov. 10 at Anfield, okay? The next round of Klopp v. Pep.

10-man Arsenal wins thriller over Aston Villa

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Remember how many joked that Arsenal was just gonna have to go outscore everyone due to their firepower up top and not much at the back?

They did it again Sunday, coming back from a goal down and a man down to beat Aston Villa 3-2 at the Emirates Stadium.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Calum Chambers, and Nicolas Pepe scored to help overcome Ainsley Maitland-Niles‘ pair of early yellow cards as Arsenal moved fourth with 11 points.

John McGinn and Wesley Morales provided Aston Villa 1-0 and 2-1 leads in the game. Villa remains 18th with four points.


Three things we learned

1. David Luiz might be a Chelsea secret agent: The ex-Chelsea man was again heavy in blame in the concession of an Arsenal goal, as his sleepy, tepid attempt to stop Jack Grealish‘s cut back to Wesley ended with the latter smashing the ball into the goal moments after the Gunners had equalized from the spot. The veteran defender has been almost automatic for a big error per game.

Also, don’t just hate on Luiz. Look at this defending on the first Arsenal goal.

2. Aubameyang in the rarest of airs: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has played for two attack-forward teams, and drawn so many, “Yeah, buts” from critics, but the Gabonese wonder has been absolutely sensational. He has seven goals in seven matches this season across all competitions, and where would the Gunners be without him?

3. Gunners step up late: Down a man and 72 hours after playing in Germany, the Gunners had to find a hero. They found two, one likely and the other not so much. Chambers found a wonderful Guendouzi pass and outworked two Villa defenders to level the score at 2, and Aubameyang slashed a free kick home in the 84th.

Man of the Match: It was probably Pepe, who got his first Arsenal goal to go with an industrious day down the right. His vision is exceptional, perhaps outdone only by his freakishly athletic skill set. But you’re forgiven if you plug Aubameyang’s name in this space. And McGinn was terrific in defeat, but flubbed a chance to make it 3-3.


[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Ainsley Maitland-Niles could’ve had Arsenal ahead in the first minute, but he sent Saka’s cross high into the stands despite his station unmarked near the spot.

John McGinn forced Bernd Leno into the first save of the match two minutes later at the other end. The same keeper would stop the same shooter in the 11th minute.

Aubameyang couldn’t get purchase on a headed pass from Sead Kolasinac in the 16th minute after a Nicolas Pepe cross.

McGinn’s third bite at the apple was wide open and successful, as Anwar El Ghazi‘s cross spotted his run at the penalty spot and Leno had little hope of interfering with the opportunity. 1-0, 20’.

Maitland-Niles then slid into a challenge and caught a stamp during his foul. A second yellow was awarded and Arsenal was down a goal and a man.

Villa couldn’t find a second goal despite numerous chances, and Matteo Guendouzi won a straight-forward penalty off barging defender Bjorn Engels. Pepe converted the goal.

But Villa restored its lead within a minute, Jack Grealish blazing down the left side to cut back to the middle, where Wesley darted in front of sleepy David Luiz to finish the chance.

Chambers was the next to finish off a terrific pass from Guendouzi and even better work from the fullback. And Aubameyang’s free kick… holy smoke (embedded atop the page).

Three things we learned: Chelsea v. Liverpool

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LONDON — Liverpool beat Chelsea 2-1 at Stamford Bridge on Sunday, as Jurgen Klopp‘s men stay top of the Premier League table with a perfect record after six wins from six. 

First half goals from Trent Alexander-Arnold and Roberto Firmino set them on their way, with a disallowed goal for Chelsea, via VAR, causing plenty of debate. N’Golo Kante’s sublime strike in the second half set up a tense finish and Chelsea should have at least grabbed a point.

[ MORE: Match recap | Klopp reacts ]

Here’s what we learned from a dramatic encounter at Stamford Bridge.


VAR DELIVERS ALMIGHTY MOMENTUM SWING

In the space of about 60 first-half seconds Chelsea went from scoring a deserved equalizer to trailing 2-0. An almighty momentum swing was delivered, courtesy of VAR, and Chelsea never quite recovered. The fact Mason Mount‘s toe was offside made the pill even tougher to swallow, as just like the incident involving Heung-Min Son for Spurs at Leicester on Saturday, it knocked the stuffing out of Chelsea.

They had recovered after going 1-0 down to a piece of magic from Alexander-Arnold, but after prolonged celebrations following Cesar Apzilicueta’s ‘equalizer’ the moans and groans around the Bridge reflected how the home players felts as their shoulders slumped in unison. Premier League teams are still dealing with the momentum swings VAR decisions bring, and Chelsea’s youngster didn’t cope well with it at all. Initially.

In fairness, they roared back in the second half and should have grabbed a point from this game. But VAR is delivering the correct decisions, no matter how close the calls are, and players aren’t quite able to cope with the loss of momentum.


LIVERPOOL GRIND OUT YET ANOTHER WIN

Liverpool have now lost just once in their last 45 PL games, and are unbeaten in 23, their longest run in PL history. The last time they were unbeaten in 23 league games was back in 1990.

1990 was the last time they won the title.

It is now six wins from six this season and 15 victories Premier League victories in a row for Jurgen Klopp’s side. And just like the rest of this season, so far, Liverpool barely had to get out of second gear. That is the scary thing about this team.

The fact Jordan Henderson was barking at Alexander-Arnold for a slightly misplaced pass when Liverpool were 2-0 up tells you about the desire of this team. They aren’t happy with simply winning. They are becoming perfectionists and their five point lead atop the table feeds into that narrative. They are perfect six games in, and bigger tests than beating an inexperienced Chelsea side await. But the ease with which Liverpool are brushing aside their opponents is becoming all too familiar.

We are only six games into the season but Klopp’s side are a well-oiled machine who will push Manchester City all the way for the title once again. They were far from their best at Chelsea but they have a very handy habit of winning regardless of their performance.


DEFENSIVE ISSUES HOLDING CHELSEA BACK

Sure, Emerson Palmeri and Andreas Christensen went off injured in the first half and Antonio Rudiger is out, but the basic errors Chelsea are making continue to cost them. Lampard’s men could do nothing about TAA’s moments of magic from a free kick but to allow Firmino a free header six yards out is just not on. Chelsea have now conceded the second-highest number of goals (13) in the Premier League this season and unless they can somehow shore up their leaky defense a top four finish seems unlikely.

N’Golo Kante’s stunning strike gave the scoreline the look it deserved and his return from injury solidified midfield, as Liverpool’s famed speed on the counter barely surfaced. Chelsea are a work in progress under Lampard and the biggest area he has to work on is at the back. After creating numerous chances going forward, they won’t be worried about scoring goals this season. Keeping them out is their Achilles heel.

Lampard’s side were applauded off the field at the final whistle and the home fans are encouraged by the progress this young side is making. It wasn’t enough to get the past Liverpool, but if Chelsea can cut out silly defensive errors, the rest of their game is looking good.

Liverpool hangs on for win over wasteful Chelsea

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Liverpool built a two-goal lead, then rode its luck to keep its perfect season alive.

Roberto Firmino and Trent Alexander-Arnold scored first half goals as the Reds beat Chelsea 2-1 at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

N’Golo Kante scored a sensational goal to bring the Blues within one, but Chelsea couldn’t finish several terrific opportunities to tie the match.

Now 6-0, the Reds restored their five-point lead over second place Man City, while the Blues sit 12th with eight points.


The main takeaways

1. Alexander-Arnold at both ends: TAA’s exceptional work in the attacking third is nothing new, and it says something that it comes as little surprise when he produces something sublime like the opening goal off a set piece, but Alexander-Arnold’s goal line clearance in the 68th minute adding some icing to the cake as Chelsea looked pull a goal back from its 2-0 deficit. A fine performance from the right back.

2. Liverpool gets big let-off: Liverpool’s defending and passing was poor over the final 30 minutes or so, and if the Reds have something resembling a weakness it is their overall back line when the opposition is in the Liverpool half. Michy Batshuayi and Mason Mount should’ve both troubled Adrian in the latter stages, but were let off the hook by a Chelsea team with only one sub available to it after the break. More on that below.

3. Bats, not the Yank: Frank Lampard opted against starting Christian Pulisic again on Sunday, and two defensive subs in the first 42 minutes meant there was only one left for the second half. Lampard chose target forward Michy Batshuayi over Pulisic, Ross Barkley, and Pedro. Batshuayi drew a free kick upon introduction, and coudn’t flash an opener header on frame in the 88th.

Man of the Match: Firmino, whose steady presence, strong dribbling, and — most importantly — powerful header steadied the match for a time, moments after VAR denied the Blues an equalizer.

Honorable mention: Kante was everywhere, stopping Mohamed Salah‘s long dribble toward goal late as a highlight. Another highlight, this. See ya later Fabinho.


[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

A foul-heavy, physical start yielded a free kick atop the Chelsea 18 after Andreas Christensen got tangled with Sadio Mane.

A training ground play had Salah roll a shot pass for Alexander-Arnold to belt past Kepa Arrizabalaga in the 15th minute.

An injury to Emerson Palmieri then introduced Marcos Alonso to the match, a 16th minute substitution adding insult to the, well, you know.

Adrian saved Tammy Abraham‘s 1v1 chance in the 24th minute, a misstep from the youngster and great moment for Liverpool’s No. 2 backstop.

Azpilicueta looked to have leveled when he mopped up a sloppy final third performance from the Reds celebrated back line, but VAR ruled Mason Mount as offside.

Liverpool then made it 2-0, adding insult to insult, when unmarked Firmino hammered a header into the goal.

A calamitous first half continued with Christensen waylaid by an injury, as he subbed off for Kurt Zouma. Forty-two minutes in, two subs down.

The game could’ve been effectively put to bed on a 46th minute set piece, but Virgil Van Dijk‘s back post effort tame and allowed Arrizabalaga to make a fine save.

Chelsea found some footing in the second half, and Liverpool was cautioned for time wasting. N’Golo Kante dragged a shot wide in the 59th minute.

Kante was the next man on the score sheet, turning Fabinho and dribbling free into the 18 to blasting a 71st minute effort past Adrian. Game on.

But Batshuayi couldn’t flash a late header on goal, and Mason Mount butchered a difficult near-post chance to make it 2-2 late. Liverpool escaped, and is starting to feel a bit like the dreaded term: Team of Destiny.