Premier League return: Five gems, five strugglers

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As the Premier League return took the focus of the soccer world this weekend, there were clearly some stars who got off to a flying start in the restart and others, well, they struggled.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Plenty of rustiness was expected and the first half of most games certainly saw teams play tentatively, then things kicked into life in the second half as the Premier League return properly.

Below we select five gems and five strugglers from the Premier League return this weekend.


Five gems

Christian Pulisic: Obvious choice here. Jumped off the bench, scored within a few minutes and sparked a comeback Chelsea win at Villa. His first PL minutes since Jan. 1 went well and Lampard told us he’s delighted with Pulisic’s hunger. USA, USA!

Bruno Fernandes: Just oozes class. Scored a late penalty kick to grab Man United an important point at Tottenham, Fernandes saw plenty of the ball and Spurs did their best to keep him out of the final third. Kept plugging away. Now, can he and Pogba line up together?

Danny Ings: Scored one, set up another, hit the crossbar and set the tempo for a big Southampton win away at Norwich. He works so hard defensively too. Ings has 16 PL goals and is a sneaky bet to win the Premier League golden boot this season. He’s hit the woodwork so many times too. Saints can now start to push hard for a top 10 finish in the congested midtable.

Adama Traore: Sparked Wolves’ win at West Ham off the bench as he set up Jimenez and had a part in Neto to score. Traore’s pace is evident but the way he has improved with his final pass or cross is outstanding. The speedster will be key if Wolves qualify for the Champions League.

Jordan Ayew: Scored against Bournemouth and Palace’s leading goalscorer has a newfound calmness in the box. Works hard and compliments Benteke and Zaha well. Palace have had a very good season and both they and Ayew have snuck under the radar.

Five strugglers

Dean Henderson: He’s a young goalkeeper who will improve but he had an off day against Newcastle. Two of the three goals were efforts he should have saved and the entire Sheffield United defensive unit looked off. Henderson still hasn’t officially extended his loan at the Blades from Man United and with David de Gea struggling maybe, just maybe, he will head back to Man United for the 2020-21 season. He has the quality but sometimes his focus can be questioned.

Harry Kane: Jose Mourinho has defended Kane and he has been out for six months, let’s not forget. Against Man United he didn’t have a lot of service with Spurs sitting back and trying to hit United on the counter and Kane looked a little sluggish up top. His touch will come back and we know he will finish, but how many chances will he get each game with Mourinho as boss? Heung-min Son didn’t look great other but both have been out for a long time and their quality will kick back in. Right?

David Luiz: Oh dear. What a shocker. David Luiz may leave Arsenal in the coming days as he still hasn’t agreed a contract extension and the 24 minutes he played at Man City was awful. He came off the bench for the injured Mari, made a mistake for the first goal, gave away a penalty for the second and was sent off. He held his hands up afterwards and that could be his last actions in an Arsenal jersey.

Wilfred Ndidi: A poor display from Ndidi at Watford and that is truly a collectors item. The Nigerian midfielder is usually so calm on the ball but he gave it away in bad areas and put the Foxes under pressure. Lost the midfield battle to Capoue, Hughes and Doucoure as Leicester struggled against Watford. Surely they won’t give up their top four spot late in the season?

Callum Wilson: Kept trying but just didn’t happen for him and Bournemouth and given their fixtures late in the season, the Cherries are in serious relegation trouble. Wilson has had a tough season and he’s scored just three times in his last 22 Premier League appearances. Wilson, and Bournemouth in general, are struggling massively with confidence.

Gareth Bale to Tottenham official: Welsh hero back in North London

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Gareth Bale to Tottenham Hotspur is official, the Welsh hero bringing his talents back to North London on loan from Real Madrid.

Bale will wear the No. 9 shirt, and it’s fair to guess we may see the 31-year-old not just as a part of a trident with Harry Kane and Heung-min Son but also deputizing for Kane as the club is shy on center forwards.

[ MORE: Bale to Spurs a good idea? ]

Bale scored 105 goals and 68 assists in 251 appearances for Real Madrid, but scored just three and two in around 1250 minutes last season.

Can he recapture the prowess that made him one of the most prolific scorers in the world? We will certainly find out in the coming months.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ] 

Spurs say they expect Bale to be ready to play after the October international break. From TottenhamHotspur.com:

Gareth sustained a knee injury whilst playing for Wales on international duty earlier this month and this together with La Liga’s later start compared to the Premier League means he has had a limited pre-season. We currently anticipate that he will be match fit after October’s international break.

Arsenal – West Ham: How to watch, start time, team news, prediction

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Arsenal – West Ham: Mikel Arteta and Arsenal take on another London pal when his former manager David Moyes brings West Ham to the Emirates Stadium on Saturday (Watch live at 3pm ET Saturday on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Arsenal beat Fulham in its first match of the Premier League season and will be further buoyed by a new long-term contract for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]  

West Ham has been very frustrated by the transfer market, with captain Mark Noble reacting publicly when the club sold Grady Diangana. That was before a 2-0 home loss to Newcastle on Saturday.

STREAM ARSENAL – WEST HAM LIVE

Here is everything you need to know ahead of Arsenal – West Ham this Saturday with team news, odds, stream link and more.


Team news: Arsenal – West Ham (INJURY REPORT)

Shkrodan Mustafi and Pablo Mari are out for Arsenal, while Granit Xhaka is a question mark. Gabriel Martinelli and David Luiz remain long-term absences.

Jack Wilshere rolled his ankle at training this week for West Ham and is not expected to be available.


What they’re saying

New defender William Saliba on a lifelong affair with Arsenal: “I had an Arsenal jersey when I was little with Thierry Henry [on the back], so I liked the club since then. Now I am very proud to have the Arsenal jersey. I don’t know why! I went in the shop, and I only wanted Arsenal. I liked Vieira and Thierry Henry because I was little and I only knew the French players and they were very good. I am very, very proud to have the number four, so I have to be ready to carry number four.”

David Moyes on West Ham’s cup win after losing to Newcastle: “I just want to win whatever game we play next. I’d have taken 3-0 before the game but I thought that by the end I was disappointed that we hadn’t won by more. Keeping a clean sheet was good as well and we look forward to the next game and get a win in that. Any cup win, any competition I am thrilled to do so.”


Odds and ends (full odds provided by our partner, PointsBet)

The home Gunners are -190 to win while West Ham getting anything would surprise the bookmakers to the tune of +340 for a draw and +475 for Moyes’ boys to upset his former midfielder.

PointsBet is our Official Sports Betting Partner and we may receive compensation if you place a bet on PointsBet for the first time after clicking our links


Prediction

Arsenal did the double against West Ham last year and it will be interesting to see whether Moyes tries to beat the Gunners with his top talents or again opts for grinders as he did in the loss to Newcastle. We think Arteta will have more up his sleeve and the Gunners were off all week. Arsenal 4-0.


How to watch Arsenal – West Ham stream and start time

Kickoff: 3 pm ET Saturday
TV Channel: NBCSN
Online: NBCSports.com

Leeds edge Fulham in seven-goal thriller

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Leeds – Fulham was a belter of a game, as Leeds won for the first time since gaining promotion back to the Premier League but they didn’t make it easy for themselves as they squandered a 4-1 lead but held on for the win.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]   

Leeds took the lead through Helder Costa’s stunner but Aleksandar Mitrovic briefly leveled things up from the penalty spot. Mateusz Klich then made it 2-1 to Leeds from the spot before half time and after the break Klich set up Patrick Bamford to make it 3-1. Costa made it 4-1 but then goals from Bobby Decordova-Reid and Mitrovic made it 4-3 and set up a wild finish, but Fulham couldn’t find an equalizer.

The win was Leeds’ first in the Premier League for over 16 years, while Fulham have now lost their opening two games back in the Premier League and have conceded seven goals in the process.


3 things we learned: Leeds – Fulham

1. “Bielsaball” will deliver classics: Their first two games back in the Premier League have both ended in 4-3 results, one defeat and one win. Leeds will be fun to watch this season. Now, they should have wrapped this game up and created so many chances but they ran out of steam in the second half. That is because they press so high early on and “Bielsaball” is based on that. Maybe they will have to tweak their tactics to cope with the PL but probably not. That means it will be fun to watch Leeds for the foreseeable future.

2. Both teams hampered by defenses: Attack is not the problem for either of these team but at the back they made so many mistake. Bielsa and Scott Parker both love to watch their teams attack but if they’re going to fulfil their potential this season (top 10 for Leeds and staying up for Fulham) they have to cut out silly errors at the back. Both teams gave away sloppy penalty kicks and failed to defense crosses as they left huge gaps at the back. They have to shore things up.

3. New Leeds signings taking a while to settle: Rodrigo was okay but Robin Koch had another game to forget as it is taking Leeds’ two main summer signings a while to settle in. Fulham’s new boys did okay. Maybe the new boys had less time to settle in due to the shorter offseason? But when you look at Everton and Newcastle and Leicester in the opening week of the season, their new boys settled in quickly. Leeds have spent big on new signings and they need more from them.

Man of the Match: Patrick Bamford – He won a penalty, scored a goal and set up another and he is proving he is capable of making a difference in the top-flight.


Leeds got off to the perfect start as they were 1-0 up within the first five minutes. A Kalvin Phillips corner was flicked on to the back post and Helder Costa was somehow left totally unmarked but finished superbly as he smashed home off the woodwork and in.

Michael Hector’s header was deflected over by Robin Koch as Leeds were pinned back after taking the lead. At the other end Koch had a header on goal which Fulham’s new goalkeeper Alphonse Areola tipped over.

Fulham were handed a golden opportunity to get back in the game as Koch slid in and just caught Joe Bryan as a penalty kick was given and Mitrovic made no mistake from the spot. 1-1. In his first two Premier League games for Leeds, Koch has now given away two penalty kicks.

No sooner had Fulham looked settled, they gave away an equally soft penalty kick as Bryan pushed Patrick Bamford in the back at the crucial moment and Klich slotted home to make it 2-1.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

A few minutes into the second half Klich set up Bamford who exposed a huge gap in the Fulham defense and slotted home his second Premier League goal in as many games. Bamford then turned provider as he surged down the left and pulled it back perfectly for Costa to slot home and make it 4-1.

Fulham got themselves back into the game as substitute Decordova-Reid smashed home after good work from Andre-Frank Anguissa to make it 4-2.

Kenny Tete then whipped in a lovely cross which Mitrovic headed home to make it 4-3 and moments later Neeskens Kebano hit the post and Mitrovic flashed a shot just wide as the away side surged forward in search of an unlikely point.

In the end, Leeds rallied and just held on for their first Premier League win since 2004.

Diogo Jota to Liverpool confirmed

Jota to Liverpool
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Jota to Liverpool is confirmed, as the Portuguese international has sealed his switch to Anfield.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA

Diogo Jota, 23, has reportedly signed a five-year contract at Liverpool after the clubs agreed a fee which could rise to $58 million.

Jota is eager to add an extra dimension to Liverpool’s attack is ready to roll.

“It’s just a really exciting moment for me and my family,” Jota said. “All of my path since I was a kid and now, to join a club like Liverpool – the world champions – is just unbelievable. I just want to get started. It is one of the best teams in the world – the best at the moment because they are world champions. When you look at the Premier League, you always see Liverpool as one of the biggest teams in the country, so it’s impossible to say no. So we just want to come [here], to give our best and hopefully I can become a good option for Liverpool in the future.”

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp could hardly hid his excitement that Jota is now a Liverpool player.

“He’s a player who gives us so many options to use him. He’s 23 years old, still far away from being kind of a finished article, so much potential,” Klopp said. “He has the speed, he can combine, can defend, can press. It makes it just more unpredictable and gives us real options for different systems because he can play pretty much all three positions up front in a 4-3-3, if we play with four midfielders he can play both wings.

“So, these kinds of things. It’s just nice. And he has some natural things which we have in our game, like this desire and the greed and the direction. He is part of this unbelievable Portuguese generation in the moment, where they have really a lot of obviously quite skilled players. We saw the Portuguese team last time, it’s quite impressive. So, I’m really happy to have him here. And on top of that, a really good guy and really happy to be here.”

This has all happened very quickly but it works out well for everyone. Would Wolves have loved to have kept Jota? Of course.

Speaking to reporters ahead of Wolves’ clash with Manchester City on Monday (start time, 3:15pm ET, stream live on Peacock), head coach Nuno Espirito Santo praised Jota’s contribution to the club and said he is joining the right club in Liverpool.

“Diogo is amazing and everybody knows the relationship we built. What Diogo did for us is absolutely fantastic,” Nuno said. “I think Diogo is going to the right place and we wish him all the best, knowing that it never be forgotten, especially by our fans, all the memorable moments that Diogo provided.”

Wolves have bought Portuguese starlet Fabio Silva this summer and have Pedro Neto, Daniel Podence and Adama Traore who can support Raul Jimenez in attack. They will be just fine without Jota. He joined them on loan from Atletico Madrid when they were a Championship club and helped them gain promotion to the Premier League and has been incredibly consistent in terms of goals and assists over the last two seasons.

At Liverpool Jota will have to wait for chances behind Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane but his style of play suits them perfectly and it is a great move for him. Working under Jurgen Klopp will take his game to the next level and Liverpool’s secondary attacking options have just got a lot better, plus they’ve added Thiago Alcantara to upgrade their midfield.

Diogo Jota to Liverpool is now a done deal and he leaves Wolves with the best wishes of everyone and for a transfer fee which justifies letting him go as he cost them just $16.5 million less than three seasons ago.