Arsenal beaming: ‘The fans can choose who scored the best goal’

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A player knows his team has played a pretty darn good game when one of the post-match questions is which goal was the best one?

“The fans can choose who scored the best goal, the best thing is that we scored,” said Alexandre Lacazette after Arsenal’s 5-1 pummeling of Fulham on Sunday at Craven Cottage.

[ RECAP: Fulham 1-5 Arsenal ]

Manager Unai Emery deferred in a similar fashion, saying the club’s “best performer was every player,” but there’s no denying the swagger is back at Arsenal.

Emery’s men have won six-straight Premier League matches and nine overall. Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang are on fire atop the attack, and there wasn’t room for Mesut Ozil in the XI on Sunday.

No, the club hasn’t faced a monster since its 0-2 start to the season and yes, Fulham is as poor a defense as you’ll find, but it’s difficult to take anything away from a humming Gunners attack.

And Emery is feeling good with a hold on a Top Four spot heading into the international break.

“I believe in us, we believe in our process but also we must keep taking confidence. I think we are in the first competition in the war. It is very difficult but we must prepare, continue improving and show big commitment.”

By the way, Aaron Ramsey scored the best goal. No shame on the others, but his finish combined with the build-up is magnificent.

Classy Arsenal dance past Fulham

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  • Lacazette, Schurrle trade first half goals (WATCH)
  • Bellerin big part of second half rush
  • Ramsey, Aubameyang with beauties

Arsenal is humming under Unai Emery, winners of six-straight league matches and nine in all competitions after a 4-1 blowout of Fulham at Craven Cottage on Sunday.

Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang each scored twice, and Aaron Ramsey also netted for the Gunners.

Arsenal moves third with 18 points, while Fulham has five points and sits in 17th.

The Gunners lost their first two matches of the season, to Man City and Chelsea, but have not since tasted defeat (or even a draw).

[ STREAM: Watch every PL match live ]

Following Lucas Vietto’s missed chance in the opening moments of the match, it was all Arsenal for the wealth of the opening half. Alexandre Lacazette moved USMNT defender Tim Ream to create a yard of space and belt past Fulham goalkeeper Marcus Bettinelli.

Andre Schurrle struck on the counter attack to cancel out Lacazette’s close range opener, as Fulham and Arsenal are locked at 1 thanks to magic from the London clubs’ respective German and French stars.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Bettinelli made an outstanding save when Hector Bellerin hammered a knuckling shot toward the far post to open the second half.

Lacazette made Bellerin’s offer a bonafide warning sign, shooting off a bounce that may’ve took the slightest of touches off Ream’s foot outstretched before bounding past a diving Bettinelli.

And then Ramsey.

Bellerin’s cute flick helped the ball move from the right wing to the left wing, where Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang clipped a cross to the top of the box. Ramsey swept his back leg behind him to spin the ball inside the far post.

The riot continued with ease, Aubameyang making the most of interplay between Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Bellerin to settle the ball with class before ripping a shot beyond Bettinelli.

PL Sunday preview: Title-race showdown at Anfield

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Sunday’s slate of Premier League fixtures consists of three games featuring four of the six sides with top-four aspirations, including the big one: the one we’ve all been waiting for since they met in the Champions League quarterfinals in April, Liverpool versus Manchester City.

[ MORE: What did we learn in the Premier League, Week 8? ]

Fulham vs. Arsenal — 7 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

Arsenal seek their sixth straight PL win on Sunday when Unai Emery and Co., make the short trip south to the River Thames and head west until they float up to Craven Cottage. Emery has settled in quickly — and quietly — since back-to-back defeats to Man City and Chelsea to begin his first season at the Emirates Stadium. While they’ve managed more than a handful of goals en route to five straight wins, it’s the defensive record (just four goals conceded, including back-to-back clean sheets against Everton and Watford) which has given the Gunners a foundation to build upon. Just two points separate Arsenal from fourth-place Chelsea.

Down at the other end of the table — 17th place, to be exact — Fulham are winless in their last four league games and have just five points to show for their first seven outings after spending more than $130 million this summer after winning promotion from the Championship. Injuries have been a key cause the Cottagers’ early-season struggles, as manager Slavisa Jokanovic has already used nine different defenders in PL play. American defender Tim Ream returned last weekend after missing the start of the season with a back injury and should do his part to stabilize a side that has conceded 16 goals in seven games.

INJURIES: Fulham — OUT: Timothy Fosu-Mensah (shoulder), Joe Bryan (hamstring) | Arsenal — OUT: Petr Cech (hamstring), Laurent Koscielny (achilles), Ainsley Maitland-Niles (knee); QUESTIONABLE: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (illness)


Southampton vs. Chelsea — 9:15 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

The good news for Chelsea: they’re still unbeaten to start the PL season. The slightly-less-great news: it’s been three weeks since they last won a PL game and they’re in danger of falling away from the leading pack, which presently consists of Liverpool and Man City. The Blues have won six straight games against Southampton (all competitions), including the FA Cup semifinal in April.

“We have lost two points in both our last two (league) games, so obviously we want to get three points as much as we can,” defender Cesar Azpilicueta said this week. “We weren’t able to in the last two games so we need to improve because every time we go onto the pitch, we want to win.”

Southampton, on the other hand, currently sit 16th in the midst of a three-game winless skid, including back-to-back defeats to Liverpool and Wolverhampton Wanderers. It’s been 205 minutes since Saints last scored a goal in PL play, and they have a bottom-five offensive record this season (six goals in seven games). Mark Hughes will be desperately hoping that edging past Everton on penalty kicks in the EFL Cup third round on Tuesday gives his side a much needed boost with the busy winter period not so far away now.

INJURIES: Southampton — OUT: None | Chelsea — OUT: Marco Van Ginkel (knee)


Liverpool vs. Manchester City — 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and NBCSports.com

The last time Man City visited Anfield, they conceded three times in the game’s opening half-hour on their way to a 3-0 first-leg defeat, and a disheartening exit from the Champions League. The visit before that, Pep Guardiola‘s side conceded four times — including a three-goal barrage that lasted just nine minutes — as they watched their 22-game unbeaten start to the season vanish at Anfield. It’s been more than 15 years since City last beat Liverpool on Merseyside, as they’ve lost 11 times at Anfield since May 3, 2003.

Guardiola has not yet revealed whether or not Kevin De Bruyne (knee) will return after two months on the sidelines, though City have managed just fine — thus far — without their play-making genius. A run of four straight wins (by a combined score of 12-1) have vaulted City back ahead of Liverpool for the top spot in the table, thanks to the Reds’ 1-1 draw with Chelsea last weekend. Jurgen Klopp‘s side was perfect up until its trip to Stamford Bridge.

Klopp was very quick to downplay his side’s recent success against City, knowing his side is in for another colossal battle on Sunday.

“We won the last three games against City — twice in the Champions League and once in the league. After none of these games do you go into the dressing room and think, ‘Now we’ve got it, now we know how to beat Manchester City.’

“There is no real way; there isn’t one thing you have to do so you can beat them. That’s not there. You need a fantastic football team — which I have, thank God — with an outstanding character, ready for being really brave, ready for making mistakes in a very difficult game against an outstanding opponent.”

INJURIES: Liverpool — OUT: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (knee); QUESTIONABLE: Naby Keita (back), Adam Lallana (groin) | Man City — OUT: Claudio Bravo (achilles); QUESTIONABLE: Kevin De Bruyne (knee), Ilkay Gundogan (hamstring), Benjamin Mendy (foot)

Europa League LIVE: Arsenal in Azerbaijan, Chelsea at home

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Arsenal is in Azerbaijan without Henrikh Mkhitaryan, while Chelsea hosts Hungarian opposition as the 2018-19 Europa League group stage moves into its second match day.

One match began earlier, with Astana and Stade Rennes matching wits in Kazakhstan.

[ FOLLOW LIVE: Europa League scoreboard ]

Unai Emery is keeping several big names out of the fire, or at least the Starting XI, at Qarabag for a 12:55 p.m. ET ahead of the Sunday’s Premier League match at Fulham.

In addition to Mkhitaryan staying home for political reasons, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (rest) and Aaron Ramsey (wife giving birth) are back in London, while Alexandre Lacazette and Mesut Ozil are on the bench.

Youngsters Emile Smith Rowe and Matteo Guendouzi start for the Gunners, while Sead Kolasinac returns to the side.

Chelsea hosts MOL Vidi at 3 p.m. ET

Europa League preview: Chelsea, Arsenal heavy favorites

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It comes as little surprise that Arsenal would not send all of its stars to Azerbaijan for its meeting at Qarabag, though two of the reasons are relatively rare.

For Welsh star Aaron Ramsey, it’s a happy one: His wife is set to give birth.

[ MORE: Messi’s Wembley masterclass ]

But Armenian captain Henrikh Mkhitaryan will not travel because of hostility between Armenia and Azerbaijan that robbed him of a Champions League appearance when he was with Borussia Dortmund in 2015.

UEFA said Mkhitaryan could travel, but the player will stay behind. And Qarabag coach Gurban Gurbanov, also the manager of the Azerbaijan national team, is piling on. From The London Standard:

“If Henrikh Mkhitaryan would come to Azerbaijan it is not the first time and until now a lot of Armenian sportsman came to Azerbaijan but it is the choice of Arsenal that they didn’t send. … Arsenal may be afraid that in front of 60,000 Azerbaijani fans, Mkhitaryan has some pressure and that is why they didn’t send Mkhitaryan.”

Yikes. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will also stay behind, but Arsenal is still heavily favored to move to 2-0 in Europa League play.

London rivals Chelsea are home for a visit from Hungarian side MOL Vidi (you may remember them as Videoton).

The favored Blues will be expected to easily win given that MOL Vidi lost 2-0 at home to BATE Borisov in the opener, but Maurizio Sarri finds himself asking questions about whether Chelsea can persevere when it comes to facing Southampton in the Premier League this weekend.

“I don’t think at West Ham we didn’t win because of the match in Greece. We changed a lot of players so I don’t think the reason was that. Of course tomorrow we need to change some players because we have spent a lot of mental and physical energy in two games against Liverpool, and after tomorrow we have to play another game in about 60 to 62 hours so we need to change.”

Full schedule

10:50 a.m. ET
Astana vs. Rennes

12:55 p.m. ET
Bayer Leverkusen vs. AEK Larnaca
AC Milan vs. Olympiacos
Real Betis vs. F91 Dudelange
Zenit Saint-Petersburg vs. Slavia Prague
Red Bull Salzburg vs. Celtic
Zurich vs. Ludogorets Razgrad
Rosenborg vs. RB Leipzig
Vorskla Poltava vs. Sporting CP
Anderlecht vs. Dinamo Zagreb
Fenerbahce vs. Spartak Trnava
Bordeaux vs. FC Copenhagen
Qarabag vs. Arsenal

3 p.m. ET
Spartak Moscow vs. Villarreal
Standard Liege vs. Akhisar Belediyespor
Malmo vs. Besiktas
Chelsea vs. MOL Vidi
Eintracht Frankfurt vs. Lazio
Jablonec vs. Dynamo Kiev
BATE Borisov vs. PAOK
Apollon Limassol vs. Marseille
Krasnodar vs. Sevilla
Sarpsborg vs. Genk
Rangers vs. Rapid Vienna