Matteo Guendouzi

Leicester City punishes sorry Arsenal

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Leicester City continued its fine home cooking with a straight-forward 2-0 defeat of unorganized Arsenal at the King Power Stadium on Saturday.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

The Foxes go second in the table with 26 points, a point more than Man City before the defending champs visit Liverpool on Sunday.

Arsenal is now eight points back of fourth place, sinking below fifth place Sheffield United on goal differential.


Three things we learned

1. Unai Emery‘s race is run: Yeah, it’s dangerous to make judgments on a week-to-week basis, but the Spaniard’s work at Arsenal has been tremendously disappointing. Opting for a 3-5-2 with Rob Holding, David Luiz, and Calum Chambers at the back, he demanded plenty from his midfield; Lucas Torreira and the usually strong Matteo Guendouzi failed to impress behind Mesut Ozil. He has no firm idea how to best deploy his talent, and again left Nicolas Pepe to rot on the bench while Leicester rang up a 2-0 lead.

2. Leicester onto something special, especially at home: There’s been luck along the way, but the Foxes have now taken 16 of 18 points at home during an unbeaten start to the season at King Power Stadium. Their proverbial tails are up and the style, freedom, and confidence of the opening goal tells you all you need to know about the vibe at KP this season. In the words of Arlo White… “Barnes… Tielemans… VARDY!!”

3. Leicester City built for style: If Rodgers’ Foxes are given room in the midfield, they are going to run through most teams. Arsenal opted to try and match the Foxes in fluidity and possession, and were unable to do so. Outdone in possession (52-48) and shots (19-8), Arsenal rarely looked prepared to challenge despite a couple early chances for Lacazette.

Man of the Match: Maddison will be the easy shout here, but Tielemans and Wilfred Ndidi were magnificent in the center of the park. Any of the three works for us.


[ MORE: Premier League stats ] 

Alexandre Lacazette missed an early chance for Arsenal, while James Maddison won a dangerous free kick for the Foxes. It came to nothing, bounding past the far post.

Lacazette stabbed wide after Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang cried for a handball off a prone Wilfred Ndidi.

James Maddison skimmed a free kick off the top of the bar in the 42nd minute, as a rain-soaked pitch saw increasing moments of opportunity.

Vardy sliced Leicester into a 68th minute lead with his 11th goal of the season, the clinical end of a clever bit of passing from Youri Tielemans and Harvey Barnes to set up the veteran Englishman.

Bernd Leno stopped a Vardy rocket moments later, but Maddison gave Leicester a cushion when he drilled a low shot through the legs of Bellerin for 2-0 in the 75th.

Xhaka to miss Arsenal clash with Leicester

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For the second-straight Premier League match, and fourth in all competitions, Arsenal will be without its now-ex captain, Granit Xhaka.

Still dealing with the fallout from Xhaka’s disconcerting exit from Arsenal’s 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace and his follow-up half-apology, Arsenal manager Unai Emery revealed on Friday that Xhaka would miss Saturday’s top-6 clash with Arsenal traveling to face Leicester City.

[READ: Top PL Storylines for Week 12]

Xhaka had his club captaincy stripped away from him earlier this week, and while the British media loves to jump to conclusions, there’s certainly a possibility that Xhaka has actually played his last match as a Gunner, driven out by hateful messages from supporters in response to his rough run of form this year.

“I spoke with him,” Emery said of Xhaka. “I spoke with him on Tuesday about how he’s feeling now and how he is in his mind. He’s working well, he’s training well, but he said to me that he’s not feeling good enough at the moment to play. We are going to wait.”

Xhaka’s mental and emotional stability may be teetering, and it’s certainly best for him to take some time now to reevaluate his career and where he wants. to be.

In the meantime, while Xhaka’s situation plays out, it leaves Arsenal with just two first-choice central midfield players, Matteo Guendouzi and Lucas Torreira. Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Joe Willock could potentially help out there as well, or even David Luiz in an emergency situation. That position on the field should be important this weekend, with Youri Tielemans and Wilfrid Ndidi both having great seasons.

Top Premier League storylines: Week 10

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Matchweek 10 of the 2019-20 Premier League season sees the games spread across three days

[ STREAM: Every PL match live

Below we take a look at the key storylines to keep an eye on across the PL this weekend.


Liverpool and Spurs meet in repeat of UCL final

  • Liverpool v. Tottenham, Sunday, 12:30 p.m. ET, on NBC

Since Liverpool’s narrow win against Tottenham in the UEFA Champions League final in Madrid in June these two teams have headed in very different directions. Spurs have been heading in a downward spiral since January, and heading into this clash Liverpool remain unbeaten this season and top of the PL table. But there have been a few cracks appearing for Jurgen Klopp‘s side as they drew with Man United last time out and have got the rub of the green in recent wins against Sheffield United and Leicester. Spurs haven’t had much luck with injuries, on the pitch and the fact that Mauricio Pochettino seems to be battling against a constant stream of negativity.

Much has been made about several stars soon being out of contract, with the futures of Christian Eriksen, Jan Vertonghen, Toby Alderwiereld and Danny Rose still up in the air. Spurs have shown signs of regaining their confidence and they’ve fared well against Liverpool in recent seasons. Harry Kane will need to be at his best in terms of finishing and creating, while Mohamed Salah being back for Liverpool is a big boost as their fluid front three was back to its best at Genk. These teams are heading in two different directions since the dour, tense final in Madrid four months ago. But we can expect a similarly tight encounter at Anfield this Sunday.


Man City hope to cut the gap to three points

  • Manchester City v. Aston Villa, Saturday, 7:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN

Liverpool’s main title rivals, once again, are Man City. The reigning champs showed plenty of grit to win 2-0 at Crystal Palace last time out and they have the chance to momentarily cut Liverpool’s lead atop the table to three points. They host Aston Villa on Saturday, an in-form and dangerous attacking team who have found their feet in the top-flight. Jack Grealish, Wesley and John McGinn will look to create danger for City’s makeshift defense, but we’re not sure how Pep Guardiola will line his defense up after yet another injury. Rodri, playing as an emergency center back, hobbled off in the midweek UCL win against Atalanta and Fernandinho and John Stones are likely to be the center back pairing against Villa. That was a shame as Rodri and Fernandinho had looked comfortable against Palace, albeit against a less than ambitious Palace attack, but whenever Stones or Nicolas Otamendi have played this season, City’s defense looks shaky. In truth, their attacking talents of Sterling, Aguero, De Bruyne and the Silva’s are in form and capable of ripping opponents apart. City will look to score early and break Villa’s resistance as they put a little more pressure on Liverpool ahead of their game against Spurs, and before they host Man City at Anfield on Nov. 10.


Arsenal aim to get back on track, but wary of away day specialists

  • Arsenal v. Crystal Palace, Sunday, 12:30 p.m. ET, on NBC Sports Gold

Unai Emery and Granit Xhaka have come out in support of Arsenal during the week as pundits (in particular Patrice Evra) have criticized their backbone away from home. The Gunners have won just three of their last 11 Premier League away games and at Sheffield United they were guilty of lacking creativity in attack, being outfought in midfield and showing hesitancy in defense. Not a great combo… The Gunners face a team who love playing away, with Crystal Palace picking up the third-highest number of points on the road since January. Wilfried Zaha is almost back to his best and Roy Hodgson‘s side relish the tag of being the underdog. That is something this Arsenal side first under Arsene Wenger and now under Emery have never seemed capable of grasping. Their star players Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Matteo Guendouzi are trying to hold things together as best as they can, but with criticism of Emery growing, the best way his players can support him is by getting a much-needed hefty win against Palace. Their narrow victories against Newcastle, Burnley and Bournemouth have been far from convincing and it’s time for this Arsenal team to put aside their egos and dig deep. We know they have the talent to be in the top four, but do they have the grit?


Chelsea’s youngsters aim to stay humble

  • Burnley v. Chelsea, Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET, on NBC

Frank Lampard‘s youngsters are flying high after six wins on the trot in all competitions and their best win to date came away at Ajax on Wednesday. Inspired by Christian Pulisic and Michy Batshuayi who combined for the latter to score the win and put them on course to reach the UCL last 16, this young Blues side is showing plenty of grit. They will need all of that, and then some, if they’re going to extend their winning run at Turf Moor on Saturday. What you see is what you get from the Clarets. They work hard, Sean Dyche has them solid defensively and Chris Wood will bully you and win balls in the air to score or create goalscoring chances. Jorginho has been impressive in breaking up play, with and without N’Golo Kante, and he will need to plenty of the dirty work before helping the Blues launch searing counters for Callum Hudson-Odoi, Mason Mount and Tammy Abraham to make the most of. Lampard’s youngsters have taken a while to find their stride but that was inevitable. Now they’re in full flow, they look the most likely to finish third. The season is still early and picking up a win at Burnley would underline this young Chelsea side are growing up fast. Lampard has urged caution and wants the Blues to stay humble.

Xhaka slams ‘bulls***’ criticism of Arsenal

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Arsenal have been targets for a lot of criticism recently.

Granit Xhaka is usually at the center of it.

The Gunners captain came out all guns blazing after they lost 1-0 at Sheffield United on Monday, as he addressed Patrice Evra‘s comments that Arsenal are “babies” and always will be due to their mentality.

“We have to stop about mental [strength] bulls*** like this. For me, it is the same whether you play home or away – you have to win and show big character and a good game and not to always find the same excuse,” Xhaka said. “A lot of people they speak too much. It is not the first time he has spoken something about us. I have a lot of respect for him as he was a great player but you have to be careful what you say. But it is not only him – a lot of people speak a lot of bulls*** about us. It’s always the same.

“For me it is strange as they were in the same situation as us, they were players as well. Sometimes it is good and sometimes it is not always good but every week they speak bulls*** like this every week. I tell you the honest truth, I’m not interested in what people say and speak. We have to speak in our group to improve things and work hard and not listen to these people.”

Xhaka and Arsenal have only lost twice this season, 3-1 at Liverpool and 1-0 at Sheffield United.

But aside from being fifth in the table and two points outside the top four, pressure is being placed on Unai Emery and his squad as they’ve narrowly beaten Bournemouth, Burnley, Newcastle and Aston Villa so far. Their performances aren’t instilling confidence in anyone that they can seriously push for a top four finish this season.

Has much changed under Emery in the past 15 months? Nope. This is pretty much the same Arsenal team making the same old mistakes and looking vulnerable away from home. Nothing new here. Sure, some new players have arrived, but David Luiz, Pepe and Sokratis have all been hit and miss so far and it has been left to Matteo Guendouzi and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to try and rescue the Gunners each and every week.

Emery was supposed to change their style of play, develop them into a stronger team defensively and improve their chances of challenging for trophies once again.

None of that has happened, and it doesn’t look closer to happening. That is why the critics are circling around the Gunners. Monday was the perfect opportunity to prove their mentality had changed and they are a stronger, more balanced team under Emery. They aren’t and something drastic will have to change for them if Emery is going to win over the fans, and pundits, once again.

Sheffield United beat Arsenal with stellar defensive display (video)

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Sheffield United secured a signature victory on Monday, upending Arsenal, one of the Premier League‘s big boys, 1-0 at Bramall Lane.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Lys Mousset scored the only goal of the game midway through the first half, and Chris Wilder‘s side put forth a defensive clinic to frustrate the Gunners and wrap up their fourth clean sheet of the still-young season.


3 things we learned

  1. Arsenal’s midfield needs a shakeupGranit Xhaka, Matteo Guendouzi and Joe Willock is a thoroughly industrious midfield trio, only lacking someone with the tactical discipline to hold position in front of the backline. All three are at their best when on the ball and pushing forward, which too often leaves the (shaky in its own right) defense far too exposed.
  2. Sheffield United rock-solid defensively — For a newly promoted side to come up and hold the joint-best defensive record (7 goals conceded in 9 games, tied with Liverpool) in the PL is no small accomplishment. The Blades were just short of impenetrable on Monday, allowing just nine shots (three on target) to one of the big-six sides.
  3. No Plan B for Arsenal — Given the speed they possess on the wings and up front, Arsenal are clearly built to be a counter-attacking team that can punish you at the slightest opening. Against a team like United, though, what happens when the game never opens up and presents those chances? When the game sets up for them, they’re great, but Unai Emery could do with a Plan B. The other option would be to continue dropping points against (with all due respect) much lesser sides.

Man of the Match: Chris Basham


Nicolas Pepe whiffed on the game’s first golden scoring chance in the 21st minute. Sead Kolasinac tore down the left wing and delivered a cross to the top of the six-yard box where Pepe was three yards clear of the nearest defender.

United went ahead right on the half-hour mark, when Mousset tapped the ball home from close range after Oliver Norwood‘s corner kick was headed down by Jack O'Connell. Mousset had worked himself free in the center of the goal mouth and applied the finishing touch from three yards out.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

The more desperate Arsenal got in the second half, the tighter United’s defensive hold became. The Gunners managed just two shots from inside the penalty area in the second half, as the Blades’ line of confrontation dropped deeper and deeper and refused service into the box.

The victory sees United climb six spots in the PL table, up to ninth place, now four points clear of the relegation zone. Arsenal, meanwhile, fell to fifth place after entering the weekend third, thanks to victories by Leicester City and Chelsea.