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Fleck artistry gets Sheffield United point at Arsenal

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John Fleck‘s perfectly lashed side volley gave Sheffield United a 1-1 draw at Arsenal on Saturday.

The Emirates Stadium saw a wasteful first hour from the Gunners give way to a resurgent Blades side and a share of the points.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Gabriel Martinelli opened the scoring for the Gunners, who sit 10th with 29 points. The Blades move to 33 points and sit seventh.

The match was Mike Dean’s 500th Premier League match, and not without controversy. Dean neglected to award a penalty when Nicolas Pepe was chopped down in the box, but VAR stayed with him.


Three things we learned

1. Blades are for real: There’s a reason Chris Wilder is getting linked with plenty of jobs and got a new contract: Sheffield United’s men are bought into a system about as well as anyone not named Jurgen Klopp. Granted Arsenal let early United errors slide, but once the Blades took hold of momentum it rarely felt like the Gunners would score the game’s second goal

2. Aubameyang absence glaring: It’s no surprise that missing one of the world’s best scorers is a not good, but you’d peg Arsenal’s talented group of attackers to sort it out. Nicolas Pepe and Alexandre Lacazette had their moments and Martinelli did get his goal, but there was an Auba-sized hole in both the aura and composure of the Gunners in the final third. That red card is stinging like a fresh cut.

3. Xhaka, Torreira steady: Mikel Arteta has found better play from Swiss hard man Granit Xhaka, while Lucas Torreira is working well with his center midfield mate. Their play allows Mesut Ozil to do whatever he wants, more or less. Throw in a fine day from Shkrodan Mustafi, and the Gunners were a Maitland-Niles 50-50 battle away from a clean sheet

Man of the Match: Give it to Fleck for the goal plus four tackles and another day of committed challenges.


Lacazette sent Nicolas Pepe down the right flank, and the Ivorian sent a terrific cross for Gabriel Martinelli. The youngster volleyed across goal and wide of the far post.

Lucas Torreira popped a dipping shot that Dean Henderson smothered in the 32nd minute.

Martinelli didn’t miss his second, punching home a 45th minute deflected cross from Bukayo Saka. The latter had a terrific first half for the Gunners.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ] 

The Blades didn’t quit, and Arsenal was forced into a goal line clearance in the 56th.

Pepe could’ve won a penalty when he was chopped down on a dribble into the box, but VAR upheld Mike Dean’s initial judgment.

Sheffield United scored an equalizerr in brilliant fashion, Fleck slashing a bounding side volley past Leno in the 83rd minute.

Ainsley Maitland-Niles blocked a shot and Leno made a tremendous save in stoppage time to keep the hosts’ point.

Premier League storylines: Matchweek 22

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The Premier League dips its toes back into the water with a 3 p.m. ET Friday match at Bramall Lane before roaring into the weekend with seven Saturday kickoffs.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

The opener sees West Ham at Sheffield United, and here’s what to watch for over the weekend.

Can Spurs muster offense without Kane? Will they try? [STREAM]

  • Tottenham Hotspur v. Liverpool, Saturday (Watch live, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC)

If it feels like Liverpool’s title is predestined via a combination of xpected goals Fortune, good bounces, or excellent play, that vibe will only be amped up by Thursday’s visit to Spurs not including Harry Kane. Heung-Min Son and Dele Alli will have to do a lot of heavy lifting, but asking them to do it against thriving, unbeaten Liverpool is a big ask.

The bigger question is whether Jose Mourinho will challenge the Reds back line much at all.

Which Chelsea will show up this week? [STREAM]

  • Chelsea v. Burnley, Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET on NBCSN)

Who’s going to Stamford Bridge: The Chelsea side who beat Arsenal and Spurs, or the one who’s taken one point from Bournemouth, Southampton, and Brighton? Burnley is going to give them the ball, but will Christian Pulisic and Co. take advantage of it?

Arteta to continue Arsenal’s defense resurgence? [STREAM]

  • Crystal Palace v. Arsenal, Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN)

A 2-2 draw between these two at the Emirates was one of the wildest matches of the year. Granit Xhaka flipped out on the fans who flipped out on him, and Sokratis Papastathopoulos saw the second goal of a would-be brace stripped away by VAR (probably wrongly, too). But for all of Arsenal’s struggles, the Gunners can leap above the Eagles with a win in South London. And perhaps they can collect a third-straight clean sheet in the process.

Can Villa pull off one of the upsets of the season? [STREAM]

  • Aston Villa v. Manchester City, Sunday (Watch live, 11:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN)

Injury-hit Villa has had its good moments of late, but the majority of the operation has been poor since the start of December. Take away the 5-0 League Cup beatdown of Liverpool’s kids, and the Villans have produced just two wins in that period (Norwich City and Burnley). Now enter Man City, riding high off an extra day’s rest. It shouldn’t go well for Dean Smith‘s men, but City’s season has been uneven. Maybe?

Watford’s quest to escape the bottom three hits the South Coast [STREAM]

  • Bournemouth v. Watford, Sunday (Watch live, 9 a.m. ET on NBCSN)

Ten of Watford’s 19 season points have come since Dec. 22, and Nigel Pearson‘s Hornets can complete their stunning run out of the drop zone with a win and help from the out-of-town scoreboard on Saturday. The Cherries have sunk in the other direction, claiming just one point in that same period of time. Sitting in 18th place and just a point ahead of Watford, Eddie Howe‘s Bournemouth needs help, fast.

Players say Arteta lit Arsenal squad up at halftime of Leeds win

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Arsenal should have been down 2- or 3-0 to Leeds United at halftime of their FA Cup match. Mikel Arteta was displeased.

“The manager shouted a lot,” Alexandre Lacazette said after the eventual 1-0 Arsenal win. “He was not happy because we knew they’d play like this and we didn’t respect what he had said.”

[ RECAP: Arsenal survives against Leeds ]

It worked. After being completely dominated through the first 45 minutes of the match against the Championship leaders, Arsenal came back out refreshed and revitalized, eventually winning through Reiss Nelson‘s game-winner in the 55th minute.

“As a coach you always need to have the aggressive side and the side where you give love as well,” Nelson said after the match. “He just said that we weren’t playing the way we should be playing. Mikel is a manager who wants to play with a purpose. He said we needed to be more aggressive and we did that in the second half. We showed more fight and character. We went out and did what we were supposed to do.”

Nelson said Arsenal wasn’t prepared for the high Leeds press that forced the Gunners into a number of bad mistakes. The visitors at the Emirates held 63% possession in the first half and ripped off 15 shots to Arsenal’s three. Granit Xhaka committed a number of first-half fouls and David Luiz was guilty of a bad turnover in the defensive third, among many other mistakes. Yet it was 0-0 at the break, and Arsenal regrouped.

“They [Leeds] played well in the first half,” Nelson said, “but of course Leeds are a great team and they pressed us. We didn’t expect it. In the second half we played with a real purpose. The team came out ready to go and showed we could create a lot of chances.”

Arteta may be partially to blame for the team not being totally prepared to face Marcelo Bielsa’s side, but they survived and advanced, likely also thanks to the Spaniard’s leadership qualities, displayed at the break.

Premier League January transfer needs

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The January transfer window is now open in the Premier League and there are already plenty of managers talking about doing business this month.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule

Who needs what?

We break that down below and assess the top transfer needs for each PL club between now and when the window shuts on Jan. 31 at 6 p.m. ET.


Arsenal
Center back, central midfielder: Linked to Jerome Boateng already, the Gunners are on the hunt for a new central defender after Calum Chambers ruptured his ACL. Any international caliber defenders Mikel Arteta can get his hands on will surely be snapped up. If Granit Xhaka leaves they could also add another central midfielders.
Possibility they will add players: 90 percent


Aston Villa
Goalkeeper, striker, center back: They may well be the busiest team in January, just like in the summer, as two huge injuries to Tom Heaton and Wesley have hit Villa hard. Dean Smith would have been looking to add defensive reinforcements anyway and Villa will need to do well, probably in the loan market, to cope with their lengthy injury list and stay up. They’ve added Danny Drinkwater on loan and that is a good start with John McGinn also out injured.
Possibility they will add players: 100 percent


Bournemouth
Central defender, striker: With so many injuries, Eddie Howe‘s hand may be forced into buying new defenders. It will also be a necessity as Bournemouth are in the bottom three and struggling to score goals. Nathan Ake could depart which would be another massive blow. All in all, Bournemouth probably need a few new faces to give them a little more squad depth as they battle against the drop. Ryan Fraser‘s contract runs out in the summer, so maybe Bournemouth will cash in?
Possibility they will add players
: 70 percent


Brighton and Hove Albion
Striker: The Seagulls probably don’t need to buy in January. They’ve been really good so far this season, with Trossard and Maupay making a big difference since their summer arrival. Aaron Connolly has been like a new signing after his emergence from the academy, but maybe they will try to bring in an experienced forward as they don’t score enough goals given the chances they create.
Possibility they will add players
: 20 percent


Burnley
Central midfielder: Having let Danny Drinkwater go back to Chelsea after his loan spell ended, you have to think Sean Dyche has something else lined up for Burnley’s midfield. Defensively they’ve been fine and going forward Wood, Barnes and Rodriguez have enough goals in them, but in midfield they’ve struggled to control games this season. 
Possibility they will add players
: 30 percent


Chelsea
Center back, striker, winger: It is safe to say Chelsea will be busy as they aim to keep their top four hopes going and recover from a summer transfer ban as all of that money is burning a hole in Frank Lamprd’s pocket. They’ve been linked with so many players but their biggest need is in defense as Ake could return. Timo Werner, Jadon Sancho and Wilfried Zaha all seem more likely to arrive in the summer, but with Pedro on his way out and Willian not signing a new deal, maybe now is the right time for Zaha to arrive?
Possibility they will add players: 90 percent


Crystal Palace
Striker, winger, defenders: Basically, Palace need to add an extra player in each area of the pitch. Roy Hodgson has already said that and he hopes the owners back him. It all depends on whether Zaha is allowed to leave in January as to how busy the Eagles are. Adding one more striker to help Ayew manage the load seems the biggest need, as some of their defensive injuries will start to clear up. Could Batshuayi head back to Palace on loan? The Eagles always seem keen to add players later in the month and hang on for a good deal. They can afford to do that again as they are well clear of the drop zone, for now.
Possibility they will add players
: 60 percent


Everton
Central midfield, full back: A bit of extra cover in midfield and wide area will be key for Carlo Ancelotti and previously getting a central striker in would have been their biggest need. But with Dominic Calvert-Lewin doing the business, there’s no need for that right now. Adding Rabiot in midfield would be great business. 
Possibility they will add players
: 50 percent


Leicester City
None: Another forward option in case Vardy is fatigued would be smart but Perez and Iheanacho have stepped up superbly recently. No need for the Foxes to buy.
Possibility they will add players
: 5 percent


Liverpool
Winger: And they’ve already done their business. Takumi Minamino has arrived from RB Salzburg in a bargain deal and that should be Liverpool wrapped up for the window. If they suffer any more defensive injuries then Jurgen Klopp could jump into the market but they seem all set.
Possibility they will add (more) players: 5 percent


Manchester City
Center back: Their biggest need for about 12 months and City haven’t done anything about it. Seems crazy given their status as one of the richest teams on the planet. Nathan Ake would be a good buy, so too would Caglar Soyuncu or Jonny Evans but all three would be tough deals to do in January. Pep is unlikely to do business in the January window unless a wonderful deal presents itself.
Possibility they will add players: 25 percent


Manchester United
Central midfield: As injuries pile up in central midfield Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has admitted that is where he is looking. Gedson Fernandes has been linked and United need an attacking playmaker who can control the tempo of the game better. That has been their biggest need all season, especially with Pogba’s injury problems. With Harry Maguire now out injured too, maybe some extra cover in defense is needed.
Possibility they will add players: 50 percent


Newcastle United
Defenders, striker: Joelinton has scored once and Newcastle have a lot of defensive injuries to deal with. Steve Bruce‘s side are running out of steam after a fine start and the Magpies will try to kick things on by bringing in some new faces in January. Expect Bruce to convince a few of his ex players to join his project at St James’ but don’t expect anything too flashy from Newcastle.
Possibility they will add players: 60 percent.


Norwich City
Defenders, striker: Someone to help out Pukki would be great and so too would some upgrades at center back but Norwich are already in that situation where they may save their money instead of spending big, as they know relegation is likely. Sad but true as they could make a lot of money on Pukki, Buendia, Aarons and Cantwell in the summer. Norwich have been like with a loan move for Hertha Berlin’s attacker Duda. 
Possibility they will add players
: 20 percent


Sheffield United
None: They added Jack Rodwell as a free agent to provide some depth but apart from that they look set. They have options in every position and Chris Wilder has rotated the squad well this season. 
Possibility they will add (more) players
: 5 percent


Southampton
Full backs: Ralph Hasenhuttl has already said he wants to sign some new full backs. Cedric is out of contract this summer and Ryan Bertrand has been linked with a move away. Expect some young full backs to arrive who will ease themselves in and be starters next season. Kyle Walker-Peters and Joakim Maehle have been mentioned as potential new right backs, the former on loan.
Possibility they will add players: 60 percent.


Tottenham Hotspur
Defenders, striker: Harry Kane’s injury may force them into buying a new striker. Vertonghen may leave, while Aurier continues to be a problem at right back. Jose Mourinho is not happy with their defensive displays and Spurs need to add quality rather than quality in defense. Daniel Levy must loosen the purse strings if Spurs are to keep their top four hopes alive. Christian Eriksen could leave before his contract runs out, so maybe Spurs will look to sell him and bring in a new playmaker. Plenty of work to be done. Piatek could arrive to help with Kane’s absence.
Possibility they will add players: 70 percent.


Watford
Striker: Honestly, they are pretty set. Another striker to push Deeney and Gray hard would be nice but Nigel Pearson has inherited a decent squad and now has them well organized and hungry. The Hornets don’t need to spend despite being in a relegation scrap. They always seem to buy a young players from somewhere, or at least loan someone from the Pozzo owned clubs.  
Possibility they will add players
: 20 percent


West Ham United
Midfield, defenders: David Moyes has been linked with Gedson Fernandes and West Ham need a little something extra in midfield with Rice and Noble keeping things tight. That said, defensive improvements would be nice but Moyes has a lot of expensive new-ish signings to work with. West Ham will not want to spend much.
Possibility they will add players: 50 percent


Wolverhampton Wanderers
Defenders, striker: Raul Jimenez needs some help and Patrick Cutrone has done okay but hasn’t set the world alight. Getting in some decent young players should be the aim as Wolves’ relatively small squad has to cope with Europa League, FA Cup and the Premier League. If they get this right in January they could finish in the top four.
Possibility they will add players: 60 percent

PL Club Power Rankings: Week 21

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The festive fixtures shook up our weekly litmus test less than we expected.

Maybe it’s the sheer volume of games that seemingly leveled the playing field of a pretty even league more than usual.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

The transfer market may shake up the game a bit more.

At least our club power rankings can exhale for a week while the FA Cup takes the wheel.

Green: New season-high ranking
Red: New season-low

[ MORE: PL Club Power Rankings archive ]


20. Norwich City — We keep reading about how laudable it is that Daniel Farke wants his team to play attractive football, but it could cost them big time. At least we get to watch Emiliano Buendia on a weekly basis.
Last week: 19
Season high: 10
Season low: 20
Last match: Drew 1-1 v. Crystal Palace
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Jan. 11 at Manchester United

19. Bournemouth — Injuries have taken their toll, and the Cherries may well have real reason to worry about their PL lives.
Last week: 17
Season high: 6
Season low: 17
Last match: Lost 4-0 at West Ham
Up next: 9 a.m. ET Jan. 12 v. Watford

18. Burnley — The “Lump It To Chris Wood and Ashley Barnes Show” hasn’t been pretty lately.
Last week: 8
Season high: 5
Season low: 15
Last match: Lost 2-1 v. Aston Villa
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Jan. 11 at Chelsea

17. Aston Villa — Allowing 2.3 more shots per game than any other team on the table, so they need to score plenty. And they just lost their starting center forward for the year.
Last week: 18
Season high: 8
Season low: 20
Last match: Won 2-1 at Burnley
Up next: 11:30 a.m. ET Jan. 12 v. Man City

16. Newcastle United — The luck’s run out; Ten of 22 senior players are hurt, and three of them are their very best on show (Allan Saint-Maximin, Jamaal Lascelles, Fabian Schar). It’s going to be a (another) rough few weeks that looks likely to end with the Magpies barely outside the drop zone.
Last week: 11
Season high: 11
Season low: 20
Last match: Lost 3-0 v. Leicester City
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Jan. 11 at Wolves

15. West Ham United — David Moyes saw the talent of his attack in a blowout of off-kilter Bournemouth. Can they do the same away at Bramall Lane?
Last week: 16
Season high: 5
Season low: 20
Last match: Won 4-0 v. Bournemouth
Up next: 3 p.m. ET Jan. 10 at Sheffield United

14. Watford — If Gerard Deulofeu has found his form under Nigel Pearson, it’s gonna be a quick ride out of the drop zone.
Last week: 18
Season high: 14
Season low: 20
Last match: Won 2-1 v. Wolves
Up next: 9 a.m. ET Jan. 12 v. Bournemouth

13. Southampton — Ralph Hasenhuttl is truly improving the side. Let’s see what January brings off the field, because the festive period was a massive success.
Last week: 15
Season high: 13
Season low: 20
Last match: Won 1-0 v. Spurs
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Jan. 11 at Leicester City

12. Crystal Palace — Just one loss in its last eight, with four draws mixed in there, but the schedule was asking for wins with Arsenal and Man City up next.
Last week: 12
Season high: 5
Season low: 18
Last match: Drew 1-1 at Norwich City
Up next: 7:30 a.m. ET Jan. 11 v. Arsenal

11. Arsenal — Have to hand it to Mikel Arteta for calculating that Granit Xhaka and Lucas Torreira could hold it down in the back while his four-man attack ran wild on Manchester United. Helps that Marcus Rashford didn’t play well. Now who will they add, and subtract?
Last week: 13
Season high: 4
Season low: 13
Last match: Won 2-0 v. Manchester United
Up next: 7:30 a.m. ET Jan. 11 at Crystal Palace

10. Brighton and Hove Albion — Graham Potter‘s done very well, and we’d be surprised if the Seagulls look in trouble at any point this season. What a goal, too.
Last week: 10
Season high: 6
Season low: 18
Last match: Drew 1-1 v. Chelsea
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Jan. 11 at Everton

9. Everton — Getting there! Should be some good football on show when they meet Brighton, but Sunday’s FA Cup derby with Liverpool will be even more fun.
Last week: 14
Season high: 5
Season low: 19
Last match: Lost 2-1 at Man City
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Jan. 11 v. Brighton

8. Sheffield United — There’s reason to believe the pesky Blades might have hit a rut, even as well as Chris Wilder has done and will continue to do. No one’s averaging fewer shots per game.
Last week: 7
Season high: 5
Season low: 17
Last match: Lost 2-0 v. Liverpool
Up next: 3 p.m. ET Jan. 10 v. West Ham

7. Wolves — Maybe the Top Four was asking too much, and Wolves ought to look at UEL as their best route to the UCL.
Last week: 4
Season high: 3
Season low: 17
Last match: Lost 2-1 at Watford
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Jan. 11 v. Newcastle 

6. Spurs — It’s been an ugly few weeks, but Jose Mourinho’s men sit sixth due to everyone else’s inability to function during the festive fixtures.
Last week: 6
Season high: 2
Season low: 16
Last match: Lost 1-0 at Saints
Up next: 12:30 p.m. ET Jan. 11 v. Liverpool

5. Manchester United — It’s a good thing injuries can’t cost you too many spots on the power rankings. These men need midfielders. Send help.
Last week: 9
Season high: 2
Season low: 16
Last match: Lost 2-0 at Arsenal
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Jan. 11 v. Norwich City

4. Chelsea — Uneven, but even so. Good looking retro jersey.
Last week: 5
Season high: 2
Season low: 12
Last match: Drew 1-1 at Brighton
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Jan. 11 v. Burnley

3. Leicester City — A tenuous No. 3 at best, but had the right plan to clobber Newcastle.
Last week: 3
Season high: 2
Season low: 10
Last match: Won 3-0 at Newcastle United
Up next: 10 a.m. ET Jan. 11 v. Saints

2. Manchester City — Still far and away the best attack in the league.
Last week: 2
Season high: 1
Season low: 6
Last match: Won 2-1 v. Everton
Up next: 11:30 a.m. ET Jan. 12 at Aston Villa

  1. Liverpool — The league is theirs, but invincible talk still feels insanely premature. Well, at least in terms of reality. It’s always fun to discuss, regardless of maturity. Absolutely cruised past Sheffield United.
    Last week: 1
    Season high: 1
    Season low: 3
    Last match: Won 2-0 v. Sheffield United
    Up next: 12:30 p.m. ET Jan. 11 at Spurs
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