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Arsenal advances to Europa League knockout rounds

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Arsenal’s dull 0-0 draw with Sporting Lisbon was enough to earn a spot in the Europa League knockout rounds, though the Gunners have two fresh injury concerns including a potentially serious ankle ailment for Danny Welbeck.

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The 87th minute saw Sporting’s Jeremy Mathieu pick up a red card for denial of a goal scoring opportunity for a takedown of Aubameyang following a poor back pass.

Qarabag’s 1-0 win at Vorskla Poltava means Arsenal has clinched a berth in the Europa League knockout rounds. Premier League mates Chelsea clinched earlier in the day.

The match cost Arsenal a pair of players, with Danny Welbeck and Stephane Lichtsteiner lifted before the end of the match.

Welbeck’s first half injury was especially distressing, the Arsenal and England striker stretchered off with teammates visibly concerned for the 27-year-old.

Aside from being forced to use Aubameyang in the 30th minute, Unai Emery‘s plan to have some regulars fresh for Sunday’s visit from Wolves went well.

Mesut Ozil, Hector Bellerin, Granit Xhaka, Nacho Monreal and Alexandre Lacazette were not in the 18, while Lucas Torreira and Shkrodan Mustafi were unused subs.

Premier League Preview: Arsenal vs. Liverpool

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  • Arsenal is without the suspended Matteo Guendouzi, while Mohamed Elneny (thigh), Laurent Koscielny (Achilles) and Dinos Mavropanos (groin) are injured. There are also doubts over Nacho Monreal (hamstring), Hector Bellerin (thigh), Sokratis (ankle) and Sead Kolasinac (hamstring), who all face late fitness tests.  
  • Lverpool midfielders Jordan Henderson and Naby Keita (both hamstring) will miss the trip to London. 
  • The last five PL meetings between these teams have produced 27 goals, an average of 5.4 per match.
  • Arsenal is looking for its first PL victory over Liverpool in seven attempts (D3 L3). This is Arsenal’s longest such run against the Reds since a sequence of 12 between 1994 and 2000

Two of the Premier League’s best attacks face off as Arsenal host Liverpool in the biggest match of the Premier League weekend (Watch live on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. ET on NBC and online via NBCSports.com).

Despite dealing with injuries all season, Liverpool’s offense is finding its best form, with eight goals in its last two games in all competitions, including a trio of goals each from Sadio Mane and Mohamad Salah. The pair, along with Roberto Firmino will provide a great test to Unai Emery‘s rickety defense, which allowed two penalty kick goals last week against Crystal Palace.

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It’s a game that should be high on action and goals and low on slow, defensive play. A true treat for all us Premier League fans.

What they’re saying?

Arsenal manager Unai Emery on facing the top 6 sides: “We want to write a new history. The new history is in the present and also, with our players, our quality and our capacity, I believe in my players and this project. We are starting this project with a very positive way with what we are doing. We are in our mentality that we also need to improve thing but each match they are giving us a lot of information for improvement and development and I trust in my players.”

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp on the recent goal-scoring run: “We created a lot of chances before that as well, apart from the Napoli game and maybe the City game, where there were not a lot of chances at both ends of the pitch. But we created, we only didn’t score. As long as you create, as a manager you should not be in doubt about finishing because the players don’t change overnight or over a week or month or over a season. They are the same boys; there’s always the chance to improve and develop, of course, but you have to respect that there can be a few drops as well.”

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Prediction

Both teams defenses have improved since the two teams last met, but with so much attacking power on display, we expect there to be plenty of highlight-reel moments. We predict it’s going to be a replay of last year’s matchup at the Emirates, with goals from Salah, Mane, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette. Arsenal 3-3 Liverpool

Quick strike Arsenal tops Everton

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  • Scoreless at halftime
  • Lacazette smashes opener
  • Aubameyang makes it 2-0

Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored a pair of goals in under four minutes as Arsenal overcame a sloppy first half to beat Everton 2-0 at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday.

Petr Cech and Jordan Pickford both made fine saves in the effort, but Cech had more and Everton struggled to find much threat outside of Richarlison and Theo Walcott.

Arsenal moves sixth with 12 points. Everton is 12th with six. Flipped.

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Everton had a pair of good chances go wanting, the first an ungiven penalty to Dominic Calvert-Lewin and the second a ball bounding through the six.

Jordan Pickford made a palm stop on Nacho Monreal‘s bouncing shot as the hosts finally got into the match after the first 10 minutes.

Richarlison was lively in his return from a red card suspension, forcing Cech into a two-palmed save in the 21st minute.

Ex-Arsenal man Theo Walcott won a dangerous free kick with a clever dribble into the box, and Gylfi Sigurdssson hoped his 30th minute effort would punish the Gunners.

Lucas Digne took the kick instead, and Cech popped it over the goal for a corner kick. No luck.

Richarlison played Walcott through on Cech with a 38th minute pass, but the goalkeeper reacted quickly to deny Walcott.

Alexandre Lacazette took one touch too many on the doorstep before halftime.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Arsenal broke through in the second half.

Aaron Ramsey played a part in both goals, the first an assist on Lacazette’s outstanding strike in the 56th minute.

Then Aubameyang wrong-footed Pickford with an in-tight shot to the back post.

Cech made a fine save on a free kick in the 71st to deny Everton a way back into the match.

Nacho Monreal in talks to renew Arsenal contract

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Nacho Monreal‘s contract at Arsenal is up this summer, and while the 32-year-old has yet to officially state he’s staying on beyond that, he has confirmed that talks are ongoing.

“We are in contact in any moment so don’t worry about that,” Monreal told the Evening Standard ahead of Arsenal’s match on Saturday at Newcastle. “I am happy here. That is the most important thing.”

Monreal is one of the longest tenured Gunners on the squad, having arrived in early 2013 from Spanish club Malaga. He has made 215 appearances for Arsenal across all competitions, scoring 10 goals and assisting 13.

“My idea is to play in football until my body says ‘Nacho, so sorry but that’s the end’. But I think it is far [away]. I hope so. You never know because your body, sometimes you start with some problems, some injuries and you can’t continue giving 100 per cent. But at the moment I feel good so I am not thinking of my retirement.”

Arsenal has had a long-standing policy against signing players over 30 to a contract extension, but recently they have relaxed that guideline. For example, the Gunners signed 33-year-old captain Laurent Koscielny to a 2-1/2 year contract extension in January. The club also signed two new defenders this summer over 30 years old in Stephen Lichtsteiner and Sokratis.

What did we learn from PL Saturday, Week 3?

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The third Saturday of the 2018-19 Premier League season produced six intriguing games as we had plenty of red cards, controversy and late drama.

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Manchester City were held, Liverpool marched on and Arsenal is off and running under Unai Emery, while there was late drama at Southampton and Bournemouth. With a sprinkling of red cards to keep things interesting.

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Below is a look at what we learned from the action on Saturday across England.


VAR needed next season
It’s easy to say “these things even themselves out over the course of a season” but if Manchester City end up not winning the Premier League title by a point (as crazy as that seems) then they’ll look back at Willy Boly‘s opener for Wolves on Saturday as being crucial. Boly’s goal clearly came straight off his hand and into the net but the officials on the pitch were unsighted and awarded the goal. The reigning champions dropped their first points of the season at Molineux and they couldn’t really complain as the newly-promoted side put in a mature, energetic display as they picked the right moments to press City and carved out several opportunities to win the game. But the VAR argument is one that will not go away anytime soon as Serie A, the Bundesliga and MLS have adopted video assistant referees and the World Cup proved it could work smoothly and quickly. PL clubs voted last season to test the system more before it is implemented but right now it seems like there’s no way that VAR isn’t introduced for the 2019-20 campaign. It simply has to be to correct clear and obvious mistakes like this one.


Liverpool perfect, and scary


Three wins from three. Top of the league. Zero goals conceded. It wasn’t a vintage display against Brighton but Jurgen Klopp‘s Liverpool have an aura about them building. All great teams have it. Just like the Manchester United teams under Sir Alex Ferguson in the late 1990s, the Arsene Wenger Arsenal teams of the mid 1990s and the Chelsea sides in Jose Mourinho’s first spell, teams now turn up at Anfield trying to keep the score down and expecting to lose. Brighton did just that and were pretty solid for the first half apart from one error as they tried to play a short free kick in front of their own back four and were ruthlessly punished. Yves Bissouma was pounced on and Mohamed Salah stroked home 29th goal in his 29th Anfield appearance for Liverpool. It really is as easy as that for Liverpool right now as they’re looking more assured defensively with Virgil Van Dijk and Alisson standing tall, while the front three allow them to hit teams on the counter whenever they do decide to venture forward out of their defensive shell. Yes, Liverpool have only played West Ham, Crystal Palace and Brighton so far, but those are the kind of teams they slipped up against last season. An aura of invincibility is surrounding the Reds early in the season after a summer of heavy spending which strengthened their weaknesses significantly.


Arsenal remain unbalanced


Don’t let the scoreline deceive you. Arsenal’s 3-1 home win against West Ham was far from straightforward. The Gunners were, once again, their own worst enemies as they were caught on the counter on numerous occasions when they gave the ball away high up the pitch. Full backs Nacho Monreal and Hector Bellerin were given no real cover by the midfielders in front of them and the lack of pace of center back duo Shkodran Mustafi and Sokratis just isn’t conducive to playing the high-line that Unai Emery wants. Arsenal’s new manager got his first win on the board in the Premier League after the defeats to Chelsea and Manchester City to open up his first season in England but admitted they “need the balance” and “in the first half we suffered more than we want.” Emery is sticking to his philosophy of slow build-up play out wide and then being more direct which is all well and good, but when it breaks down Arsenal look so vulnerable. Felipe Anderson, Michail Antonio and Marko Arnautovic had a field day in the first half with the space afforded to them but couldn’t take advantage of it. The win will give Arsenal’s players confidence but there’s no denying that when the Gunners play against better teams, they could concede two or three goals each game. Emery is right to stick to his coaching philosophy but plenty of patient is needed.


Red cards galore as tempers flare


There were four red cards among the four 10 a.m. ET games and all four seemed pretty much spot on. Richarlison has a bit of a temper and Adam Smith suckered him in as they came together, then Everton’s Brazilian star moved his head closer as the red mist descended. Was it soft? Yes. Could he have any complaints? Not really. Smith himself then saw red in the same game and he could have no complaints either as Theo Walcott raced towards goal and he clearly pulled him back.

As for the other red cards, Jonathan Hogg was in a very similar situation as Huddersfield’s midfield came together with Cardiff’s Harry Arter but he was slightly more aggressive and was sent off. While Southampton’s Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg was shown two yellows and he can have no complaints as he surged into the box, then looked for the penalty kick as he went down easily and was shown a second yellow for simulation. Yes, we need VAR for clear and obvious mistakes to be cleaned up, but the referees did their jobs well on Saturday with all four red cards dealt with correctly.


Southampton, West Ham may not be in trouble
It’s still early in the season, so let’s not get too carried away about which teams are hurtling towards relegation. But the signs aren’t good for either West Ham or Southampton on paper. But if you dig a little deeper, both teams should have got more than they did during Week 3. The Hammers threatened on the break at Arsenal but Manuel Pellegrini‘s men look so slack defensively as they’ve conceded nine goals in their first three games, losing all three. That said, they have faced Liverpool and Arsenal in two of their opening encounters. Southampton can’t say the same as Mark Hughes‘ men blew a lead against Leicester and were the masters of their own downfall as Hojbjerg was stupidly sent off and they let in two soft goals to lose at home. Yet Saints went close through Danny Ings and Nathan Redmond looked particularly bright as they failed to make the most of their chances. Southampton have now lost against Everton and Leicester and drawn with Burnley and that shows us where they’re at. A team who will be battling to be out of relegation trouble all season long, just like they did last season as they survived by the skin of their teeth. The Hammers look to at least have the attacking talents to turn things around when their fixtures get a little easier, but both teams lack ruthlessness at both ends of the pitch which is a worrying trend. But it’s early in the season and both will be hungry to turn some promising displays into points. Fast.