Three things learned: Liverpool v. Arsenal

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The CliffsNotes of Liverpool’s 3-1 defeat of Arsenal says one team was much better than the other, who didn’t choose its lineup well and couldn’t take advantage of a defense that doesn’t look ready to match wits with the best in the world.

[ MORE: Match recap | Stars and duds ]

Mohamed Salah was amazing, Unai Emery was uninspiring, and Arsenal’s attack joined Norwich City and Southampton in howling, “What if?” in a fun match that never really threatened to go in any direction other than that of the reigning European champions.

Take your few chances versus Liverpool, or die

Over the last two months, Liverpool may have allowed more dynamite scoring chances than they did over the second half of the 2018-19 season.

If you don’t cash in those chips against them, you might as well call it a day.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang couldn’t convert a difficult angle into the goal after Adrian made a massive first half gaffe, and Nicolas Pepe missed a chance to put the Gunners on the board when Adrian saved his low effort off a Jordan Henderson giveaway

Aubameyang took too long to shoot when another giveaway put him through on goal, and Matip caught up to the Gabon star. Still, a prime chance.

We’ve seen time and again this early season that Liverpool opens up at the back, but Arsenal’s stars did like Danny Ings in Week Two and pretty much all of Norwich City’s attack on Opening Day, and got the same result as their PL peers.

Now, perhaps if Unai Emery had started Alexandre Lacazette, too, well… let’s just say Jurgen Klopp was pretty thankful to not have that problem.

That said, Liverpool still foiled in bid for long-sought clean sheet

Preseason is preseason, but the Reds usually imperious defense had dragged its sloppy form from summer into the Premier League.

Liverpool kept a clean sheet in its preseason opener against Tranmere Rovers, and went on to concede 12 in the next six friendlies. Norwich City and Southampton both managed a goal in the Reds’ first two PL outings, but there were plenty of misses (See Danny Ings’ attempted flick equalizer in Week Two).

Throw in 1-1 and 2-2 score lines in the Community Shield and UEFA Super Cup matches, and Liverpool hadn’t kept a clean sheet in 10 outings.

Now we’ve documented how this was still not a luxurious example of the Reds’ defending prowess but, given Arsenal’s attack, a clean sheet would have still loomed larger than any of their other performances this season. Instead, Torreira’s goal a mild red flag as Liverpool’s failure to hang a ‘0’ on the board for the 11th-straight occasion.

Instead, the questions rightly remain. What will happen when the attack isn’t so prolific?

Mo’ Mo, please

When you’ve got a magnificent team like Liverpool, there’s a temptation to magnify ancillary pieces or second stars over the best attacker on the team.

Please don’t make that mistake, Reds fans.

Mohamed Salah is one of the best players in the world, and he’s a touch above any one on the attacking unit in terms of importance. Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane are splendid players who would be the best on any number of teams, but Salah they are not.

He’s stronger than he looks, and will plant his legs into the pitch to hold position. He’s legs whir like the roadrunner, and he’s so clever both will and without the ball. To boot, Salah hasn’t yet had to embellish to win a penalty yet this season, literally the only knock against him (and also an asset for his team, whether you like it or not).

Now whether Salah or Virgil Van Dijk is more important to the team, well, that’s a great debate for your next time watching with friends.

LAFC’s Adama Diomande voluntarily enters MLS’s health program

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LOS ANGELES (AP) Los Angeles FC forward Adama Diomande has entered Major League Soccer’s substance abuse and behavioral health program.

[ Premier League Previews: Leicester City v. Tottenham | Man City v. Watford ]

MLS announced Diomande’s voluntary decision Friday.

Diomande won’t play for LAFC at least until the program’s doctors complete their evaluation and he is cleared by program officials.

The 29-year-old Norwegian scorer has eight goals and seven assists in 25 appearances this season, including 15 starts. He has played a valuable complementary offensive role alongside MLS scoring leader Carlos Vela.

[ MORE: Report: Netherlands FA to meet with Sergiño Dest ]

Diomande is in his second MLS season after joining LAFC from Hull City. He also previously played under LAFC coach Bob Bradley in Norway.

LAFC (19-4-7) has clinched the Western Conference title, and it leads the overall MLS table by seven points despite a four-game winless streak.

Premier League Preview: Newcastle v. Brighton

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  • Early-season relegation battlers meet on Saturday
  • 18th-place Newcastle to host 16th-place Brighton
  • Brighton won at Newcastle, drew at home last season

Newcastle United and Brighton & Hove Albion, a pair of Premier League sides with just two wins from the first five weeks of the season between them, will meet at St. James’ Park on Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and NBCSports.com) for what could prove to be a retrospective relegation six-pointer when May rolls around.

Each side replaced its manager — Steve Bruce for Rafa Benitez at Newcastle; Graham Potter for Chris Hughton at Bright — in the summer and neither of the new bosses has had a particularly enjoyable start to the 2019-20 campaign. Brighton won on the opening day of the season, but have taken just two points from the following four games. Newcastle lost their first two games, won their third, and have drawn and lost again since. It’s the kind of form that’ll see both sides stuck in the high-teens of the PL table if they don’t find their footing in the coming weeks.

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Things are particularly worrying for Newcastle, who didn’t they’d be without Benitez until the end of June and didn’t appoint Bruce until mid-July. Key players had already left the club and reinforcements for few and far between. Forward Joelinton joined for $50 million and is one of four players with a single goal scored thus far.

Last week was nearly fruitful for the Seagulls, until the conceded a stoppage-time equalizer and settle for a point at home against Burnley. Summer signing Neal Maupay bagged his second goal for Brighton earlier in the game, giving Potter a potential trump card over a handful of other relegation-threatened sides without a consistent goalscorer.

Injuries/suspensions

Newcastle: OUT – Matt Ritchie (ankle), Florian Lejeune (knee), Dwight Gayle (calf); QUESTIONABLE – DeAndre Yedlin (groin)

Brighton: OUT – Leandro Trossard (groin), Jose Izquierdo (knee), Ezequiel Schelotto (knee)


Projected lineups

Newcastle: Dubravka – Krafth, Schar, Lascelles, Dummett, Willems – Almiron, Hayden, Shelvey, Atsu – Joelinton

Brighton: Ryan – Duffy, Dunk, Webster – March, Stephens, Propper, Burn – Gross, Maupay, Murray


What they’re saying

Joelinton, on Andy Carroll: “It’s always great to have experienced players in the group, and he’s one of them. He can help the club, he can help the young players. Andy Carroll has scored a lot of goals in the Premier League, and it’s great to be playing alongside him. He’s a calm guy. I still haven’t spoken to him a lot because my English isn’t great! But every day he’s trying to help. He’ll help me before the games, he’ll give me positional advice and suggest what I’ve done both good and bad.”

Graham Potter, on the trip to Newcastle: “Newcastle away is a tough game just like all the others. We don’t target particular matches — it’s about what we need to do to get a positive result. They have an experienced manager who I came across last year and he’s someone I have a lot of respect for. They have good quality players and we know it can be a hostile environment, it’s a big club and we know we have to play well to get something.  Steve has a lot of games under his belt – he’s had a lot of success and he’ll understand the challenge that lies ahead.


Prediction

Newcastle haven’t scored multiple goals in a game yet this season, and they’ve conceded twice as many as they’ve scored (four). It’s hard to trust them to be anything resembling consistent from game to game. It wouldn’t be surprising if they battled to a boring 0-0 draw, or conceding three times before halftime. It’ll probably be closer to the former, a 1-1 stalemate.

AC Milan announces internal anti-racism task force

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MILAN (AP) AC Milan has announced it will establish an internal task force to address racism in Italian football.

[ Premier League Previews: Leicester City v. Tottenham | Man City v. Watford ]

The club says the task force will be supported by “an external consultancy” and “develop a program of activities to increase awareness, monitor and address racist behavior on social media and in the stadium, and drive the adoption of global best practices on diversity and inclusion.”

The move comes after reports of racist chants directed at Milan midfielder Franck Kessie, who is black, during a match at Hellas Verona last weekend.

Milan says the anti-racism initiative will be launched during Saturday’s derby against Inter Milan.

[ MORE: Premier League TV, streaming schedule ]

Inter striker Romelu Lukaku was subjected to racist chants in a match at Cagliari this month.

Milan CEO Ivan Gazidis, who is South African, says: “Italian football needs to wake up and take a strong stance against racist behaviors. AC Milan will take a leadership position on this issue. . We believe that we have a moral obligation to do everything we can to address this issue.”

Slow start dooms Southampton again: ‘We lost the game in first half’

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Slow starts are, ironically, quickly becoming the story of Southampton’s Premier League season. It happened again on Friday, resulting in a 3-1 home defeat to Bournemouth in the Premier League‘s budding south coast rivalry

[ Premier League Previews: Leicester City v. Tottenham | Man City v. Watford ]

Through six games, Saints have conceded the first goal four times. In those four games, they have taken just one point. When scoring the game’s first goal, they have two wins and two clean sheets.

It would appear that Ralph Hasenhuttl‘s side is set up to play one way, and one way only. Speaking after Friday’s defeat, Hasenhuttl lamented his side’s slow start, conceding that the game was all but lost when they fell 2-0 behind in the 35 minutes — quotes from the BBC:

“The finish was not important anymore. If you lose 2-1 or 3-1 it does not make too much difference. We lost the game in the first half.

“In the second half, we were sharp. Had about 26 shots to six from Bournemouth but the most important stat is the goals. They scored three, we scored once.

“We weren’t aggressive enough and too easy in the first half. It is not easy to be 1-0 down after 10 minutes. We had a lot of blocked shots and misses near the post. It was a good performance in the second half but without a result.

“For the second goal was had a lot of players in our attacking box so it was not easy to defend.

“We showed a good reaction because we knew we needed to be brave. We changed our shape and were aggressive for the second ball. It gave us 64% possession and we had a lot of shots. Maybe we didn’t deserve to take something because of our first half.”

Southampton’s next chance to start a game quickly will come in an away bout with Tottenham Hotspur next Saturday.