Olivier Giroud

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Premier League stars shine on international duty

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Premier League stars are dazzling on international duty, as several have put in superb displays over the last week or so.

[ MORE: EURO 2020 roundup

From Harry Kane‘s hat trick to Kevin De Bruyne‘s hat trick of assists, lots of PL players are busy helping their nations try to qualify for EURO 2020.

With just a few more games to go, we round up the star performances from PL players over the international break.


Harry Kane – Spurs star captained England to a 4-0 win over Bulgaria and scored a hat trick, with two penalty kicks in the second half.

Raheem Sterling – Set up Kane’s first goal and the Man City star scored another as he now has seven goals in his last seven games for England.

Kevin de Bruyne – His amazing start to the season continued, with three assists, one goal as Belgium beat Scotland 4-0.

Teemu Pukki – Norwich’s in-form striker kept his run going (and took the Pukki Party to Helsinki), as he scored in Finland’s 1-0 win over Greece and 2-1 loss to Italy.

Daniel James – Man United’s red-hot winger scored a stunning, trademark curling goal as Wales beat Belarus 1-0.

Phil Foden – Man City’s young star scored twice for England’s U21 side against Kosovo in 2-0 win.

Jorginho – Chelsea’s deep-lying playmaker scored the winning penalty kick for Italy late on against Finland.

Georginio Wijnaldum & Virgil Van Dijk – Both played in Holland’s 4-2 win against Germany and 4-0 win against Estonia. VVD captained the Netherlands, while Wijnaldum scored in both games from midfield.

Oleksandar Zinchenko – Versatile Man City youngster opened the scoring for Ukraine in their 3-0 win against Lithuania.

Bernardo Silva – Man City playmaker netted in Portugal’s 4-2 win away in Serbia.

Olivier Giroud – Chelsea’s forgotten man up top scored in France’s 4-1 win over Albania.

Christian Eriksen – Tottenham star scored twice for Denmark in their 6-0 thumping of Gibraltar.

David McGoldrick and Fabian Schar – Scored for the Republic of Ireland and Switzerland respectively in their 1-1 draw.

Victor Lindelof – Man United center back scored in Sweden’s 4-0 win against the Faroe Islands.

Josh King – Bournemouth’s striker scored as Norway beat Malta 2-0.

Who’s the most irreplaceable player on ‘Big Six’ Premier League sides?

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When Aymeric Laporte was lost for months with a knee injury, there was a fairly standard reaction to the news.

This was the player Manchester City could least afford to lose for a long period of time.

[ MORE: Juve wants De Gea ]

There’s a debate to be had there, and it’s been had plenty, but it has us thinking: Which player is the most indispensable for each of the “Big Six” in their quest for a successful PL season?

It’s going to be a defender heavy list.

Tottenham Hotspur

Tough one, here, and we may be just a few months of consistent performances from changing the answer to Tanguy Ndombele (Yes, he looks that good).

But this one’s down to two players. It’s not a defender, as Spurs have three dynamite center backs and the drop-offs between full backs don’t hold wide-enough margins.

It’s between the Harrys (Harries? Anyway, “Between the Harries” sounds like we just started a new reality show).

Don’t be misled by Spurs’ remarkable job making up for the loss of Harry Kane to injury late last season; the big striker is still on history-making pace for his young-enough career. Since becoming a full-time starter, Kane has 162 goals in 241 matches. Would you believe he’s not 27 until next summer?

Harry Winks is the ball-possessing, clean-passing motor that so many teams crave for their midfield. He’s been a 90-plus percentage passer in every season, and has completed 94 percent this early season. Again, small sample size, but his 75 passes per game trails Nicolas Otamendi, Aymeric Laporte, Granit Xhaka, Paul Pogba, and teammate Toby Alderweireld.

It’s almost a coin flip here. We’re taking Kane, but we’re basing it on a tiebreaker of advanced statistics. Anyone making an argument for the 23-year-old Winks deserves to be heard.

Manchester United

This is perhaps the trickiest call of the bunch.

Anthony Martial has been far and away the most important player to the Red Devils’ early season, sputtering as it may be, but it’s far too soon to say he’s irreplaceable.

Four players have played every minute of the early season: Aaron Wan-Bissaka, Harry Maguire, Paul Pogba, Victor Lindelof, and David De Gea. Both Marcus Rashford and Scott McTominay have nearly played the full 360.

The fact of the matter, and this belies United’s plight, is that United is too thin to have a single player who would hurt the most to lose; Forced to choose one, we’ll say Maguire as he’s the most proven consistent entity of the bunch.

Chelsea

Another tough one, though it seems like it should be an easy one: N’Golo Kante. But he’s still finding his footing under Frank Lampard and last season wasn’t a great one as Maurizio Sarri messed with a great recipe by moving Kante from his role of pure opposition destruction.

Again, Chelsea’s has a good answer in replacement players for any of their stars getting injured; Marcos Alonso is barely playing, same with Michy Batshuayi. Olivier Giroud, Willian, even Pedro.

So while we’d like to make the case for Cesar Azpilicueta, the answer is probably still Kante.

Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images)

Arsenal

The easy answer is Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, but it is not necessarily the correct answer because of replaceability. If the Gabonese superstar goes down, Unai Emery can still roll out a strike force with Alexandre Lacazette and Nicolas Pepe.

The Gunners are very thin at center back, but the problem is that the starters aren’t stars.

So we’ll proffer one that’s a bit out of the box: Bernd Leno. The goalkeeper has been pretty darn good considering his team has offered very little resistance to attacks. His back-ups are Emiliano Martinez and Matt Macey. There’s no rule stating one of those two wouldn’t be a good starter, but they have six PL appearances between them (all Martinez).

Liverpool

It’s Virgil Van Dijk.

Mohamed Salah is the straw that stirs the drink, but the Reds have a very good attackers behind him (both young and experienced) and made a run to the Champions League and a record league point total while he was not exactly thriving in form (Salah had a lone goal in an eight-match league run over February and March, and missed the incredible Barcelona comeback with a concussion).

The idea of it being Alisson Becker is interesting, but for Liverpool supporters that is probably fueled more by watching substandard keepers derail their dreams for a couple of years. For a neutral and especially for stat hounds, it’s not as big of a drop to Adrian as it seems (but it’s big).

We may want to revisit this discussion in January regarding Fabinho, but Liverpool is very deep in the midfield, too. It’s Van Dijk, and it’s not close.

Man City

It was a combination of a few things, the first obviously being the players’ quality. The PFA Team of the Year winner helped City lower its goals conceded total in his first full season at the Etihad, as City won almost every competition it entered in 2018-19.

But it was also City’s depth behind Laporte, with Vincent Kompany gone to Anderlecht and the next injury seemingly cueing up Fernandinho or Kyle Walker for center back duty.

An argument could be made for Ederson simply based on the keeper’s quality in possession and shot-stopping alone but no other position, really; City may have had to work harder for the title last season with Kevin De Bruyne injured, but it found an answer largely through Bernardo Silva. Leroy Sane looked like City’s MVP two seasons ago, but Raheem Sterling emerged as the club’s best wide man and there’s some guy named Mahrez behind him.

Laporte, it is (And if you want to really get into the nexus of this article, and why the stats say there is a big drop-off from Laporte to even John Stones, let alone a third wheel, check here. Also, I’ve learned that City fans vastly under-appreciate Otamendi).

Best of the Rest

Less explanation, similar amounts of confidence.

Aston Villa: Jack Grealish
Bournemouth:
Nathan Ake
Brighton and Hove Albion:
Shane Duffy
Burnley:
James Tarkowski
Crystal Palace: Luka Milivojevic
Everton:
Michael Keane
Leicester City:
Wilfred Ndidi
Newcastle United:
Fabian Schar
Norwich City:
Teemu Pukki
Sheffield United:
Dean Henderson
Southampton:
Jannik Vestergaard
Watford:
Abdoulaye Doucoure
West Ham: 
Sebastien Haller
Wolves: Willy Boly

Lampard baffled by Chelsea draw: “It was under control”

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Frank Lampard is having trouble wrapping his mind around Chelsea’s problems getting anything comfortable out of its leads.

The Blues have led in each of their last three matches but taken just five points from Leicester City, Norwich City, and Sheffield United.

[ RECAP: Chelsea 2-2 Sheff Utd ]

On Saturday, Chelsea led 2-0 before drawing the newly-promoted Blades 2-2 at Stamford Bridge.

Lampard mentions the youth of the players, but perhaps should consider the relative inexperience of the manager as his team lost points at home to Sheffield United that  most teams — let alone most contenders — will not. From the BBC:

“It was under control, it is our fault for gifting them a goal in the first minute of the second half. It’s a similar story already. The game should have been comfortable and we have dropped two points. We want to win games, the emergence of youth is one thing but winning games is another. When you are 2-0 up at half-time you should win the game.”

Lampard said there should be “no chance” a game could swing in the way it did, but here Chelsea sits in real danger of being bottom half at the international break.

Lampard’s subs in this match were all focused on scoring goals, not preventing them, with the exception being 18-year-old midfielder Billy Gilmour coming on for 2-goal man Tammy Abraham in the 84th minute. Gilmour was making his PL debut, however.

Chasing the restoration of your 2-goal lead at home is a fair aim, but he finished the game with Andreas Christensen and Marcos Alonso on the bench. Heck, even Olivier Giroud would’ve been an experienced choice over Gilmour (whose debut is terrific and wasn’t at fault for the draw).

Our take: Lampard thought the game was in hand. It obviously wasn’t.

Watch Live: Norwich City v. Chelsea

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Norwich City host Chelsea on Saturday at Carrow Road (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) as the new boys aim to spring a huge upset.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE HERE

The Canaries beat Newcastle last time out and Daniel Farke has a natural goal scorer in Teemu Pukki. If he can keep scoring (Pukki has scored four in his first two PL games) Norwich will surely be out of the relegation battle.

Frank Lampard is yet to win as Chelsea manager and although the pressure is hardly on the Blues legend, a win here would be welcome.

In team news Norwich are unchanged from their win against Newcastle last week, with Timo Klose returning to the bench after injury.

Chelsea start with Tammy Abraham up top instead of Olivier Giroud, while Kovacic comes in for the injured N’Golo Kante In midfield. Willian is on the bench as USMNT star Christian Pulisic starts his third game in a row for Chelsea, and Ross Barkley came in just before kick off as Pedro was injured in the warm up.


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Chelsea, Leicester put on a show in draw

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An amazing encounter saw Chelsea draw 1-1 with Leicester City at Stamford Bridge on Sunday, as Frank Lampard‘s tough start to life in charge of the Blues continued.

Academy graduate Mason Mount, his first for the club, put Chelsea ahead early on but Leicester rallied valiantly in the second half as Wilfried Ndidi headed home the equalizer.

The game then turned into a wild end-to-end clash as the Foxes impressed mightily.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays

Chelsea have now failed to win any of their opening three games of the season, with a defeat at Man United, a penalty shootout defeat against Liverpool in the Super Cup and now a draw at home against Leicester.

The Foxes have now drawn both of their opening games, against Wolves and Chelsea, in a solid start to the season for Brendan Rodgers, who will be a little upset they didn’t make the most of their second half chances.


3 things we learned

1. Fast start evaporates once again: This is now becoming a slightly worrying theme for Lampard. Just like they did against United and Liverpool, Chelsea dominated the early proceedings but failed to make the most of it and Mount’s goal was as good as it got. The high-press was relentless in the first 20 minutes but Chelsea don’t seem to have the fitness levels to regain that momentum, and the way they needlessly gave the ball away in the second half was worrying. Lampard’s midfielders, Jorginho and Kante, failed to provide a shield and this young Chelsea side were a little too naive. Plenty of work today for the Blues.

2. Classy Leicester shine: It took them about 25 minutes to get going, but once they did Rodgers’ side showed their class. Tielemans and Ndidi dominated midfield and Maddison and Vary were so dangerous in attack. This Leicester side has dealt well with the departure of Harry Maguire as Caglar Soyuncu looked composed in central defense. A very promising display from a team who will push for a top six finish.

3. Pulisic struggles to make impact: It was a rough first start in the PL for the USMNT star, who had a few nice touches early but just couldn’t get into the game after Leicester improved dramatically. He played well in Istanbul on Wednesday and maybe he was a little tired after a big few weeks. Not his best display as he failed to get in dangerous positions and was subbed out in the 70th minute.

Man of the Match: James Maddison – Ripped Chelsea apart in the second half and grabbed an assist, plus should have scored the winner but fired over. Incredible quality as he ran at Chelsea’s ragged defense time and time again.


Chelsea almost got off to a perfect start as Olivier Giroud teed up Pedro but the Spaniard sent his volley into the side-netting. Moments later Mount and Christian Pulisic almost scored but Kasper Schmeichel denied both players after a lovely forward pass from Jorginho.

And Chelsea’s rapid start grabbed them a deserved opener as Mount robbed Wilfried Ndidi of the ball and slotted home past Schmeichel as Lampard had his first PL goal as Chelsea boss.

Leicester eventually settled down as Ricardo Pereira broke free but couldn’t find Jamie Vardy, while Mount headed at goal after a cross from Cesar Azpilicueta. James Maddison’s free kick almost found Ndidi at the back post but he couldn’t get on the end of it as Leicester improved as the game wore on.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

The Foxes started the second half well and Maddison rounded Kepa but Chelsea cleared after he played the ball back. Hamza Choudury whipped in a dangerous cross which Kepa held on to as Leicester continued to pour forward in the second half.

Leicester’s equalizer arrived from a corner kick as Ndidi atoned for his error which led to Chelsea’s goal with the Nigerian rising above Cesar Azpilicueta to make it 1-1.

Maddison should have put Leicester 2-1 up moments later as Fuchs found him in the box and he bundled towards goal before somehow firing over from eight yards out. Jamie Vardy then drilled just wide after good work from Maddison as the Foxes continued to flood forward.

Youri Tielemans smashed a shot on goal which was pushed away, then Vardy couldn’t get his feet right in the box as Leicester had the final big chance of the game and were left feeling a little underwhelmed with their point gained at Chelsea. That says it all.