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Serie A Roundup: Roma, Napoli, Lazio all win

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Edin Dzeko‘s last-gasp winner for AS Roma headlines a busy day in Serie A action on Sunday.

[ MORE: Serie A scores, schedule ]

Bologna 1-2 Roma

Roma kept its unbeaten start to the 2019-2020 Serie A season thanks to a 94th-minute Edin Dzeko winner. The American-owned club first took the lead in the 49th minute through another former Premier League player, Aleksandar Kolarov. The Serbian delightfully placed a free kick at the top of the box over the wall and into the top corner.

However, Bologna quickly capitalized after Kolarov bundled over Roberto Soriano in the box, leading to a penalty kick call that VAR confirmed. Nicola Sansone waited for Roma goalkeeper Pau Lopez to move and then slotted the ball into the right corner to tie the match.

Roma went down to ten men in the 85th minute when new signing Gianluca Mancini, a centerback, picked up his second yellow card for a foul on Felipe Santander as he was about to run into the box. And yet, even though Roma was on the ropes, Dzeko popped up in a pocket of space at the top of the six-yard box and powered home a header just before the final whistle to win the game. With the win, Roma jumps into the top four with eight points from four games.

Lecce 1-4 Napoli

Don’t tell Fernando Llorente that his best days are behind him.

Having left Tottenham in search of more first team minutes, Llorente just scored for the second-game straight as he bagged a brace in Napoli’s rout on the road over Lecce. At 34-years old, the crafty veteran may be the perfect age for star striker in Italy, with Cristiano Ronaldo and Fabio Quagliarella (26 goals last year at age 36) all at a similar age.

Llorente took advantage of his experience in the 28th minute, latching onto a blocked shot from Arkadiusz Milik that dribbled into the middle of the box, leaving Llorente for an easy finish past Lecce goalkeeper Gabriel.

VAR gave Napoli a controversial penalty kick in the 35th minute off a handball from Panagiotis Tachtsidis in the box. Lorenzo Insigne stepped up to take the penalty kick and his spot kick was saved expertly by Gabriel. However, the referee awarded a do-over after seeing Gabriel was a step off his line before the ball was kicked. Insigne didn’t miss on the second attempt, putting Napoli up 2-0.

Fabian Ruiz in the second half curled home an absolute beauty to put Napoli up 3-0. Lecce cut the decide by one with a penalty kick goal, but Llorente gave Napoli their three-goal lead again with another one-on-one finish from close.

Elsewhere in Serie A

Sassuolo 3-0 SPAL

Sampdoria 1-0 Torino

Atalanta 2-2 Fiorentina

Lazio 2-0 Parma

What should Emery do with Xhaka?

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Arsenal fans have directed their ire at many different people, but aside from manager Unai Emery, many fans have been criticizing the recent play of midfielder Granit Xhaka.

Named Arsenal captain this summer after Laurent Koscielny‘s insubordination and eventual departure, Xhaka looked set to take Arsenal to the next level this summer, with three stars up top and a veteran defense behind him. However, in Premier League matches where Arsenal has struggled, it seems that Xhaka has been right in the middle of it. Sometimes, that’s just because of his holding midfield position. Other times, it’s because he didn’t make the play that was necessary.

[READ: 10-man Arsenal beats Aston Villa in a thriller]

Take Saturday’s eventual 3-2 win by Arsenal over Aston Villa at the Emirates Stadium. Despite having a decent game by all accounts, Xhaka allowed Ahmed El Mohamady to run right past him on a mazy run through the middle of the field, eventually centering to Wesley which gave Aston Villa a 2-1 lead. It gave the visitors the advantage yet again right after Arsenal equalized.

Xhaka had every chance to try and make a tackle, or at the least bring El Mohamady down farther from goal if there was no choice but to foul and give up a free kick. Instead, Xhaka just followed El Mohamady before passing him off to a teammate in the box, who was equally as poor.

Not long after, Xhaka was substituted, with some Arsenal fans raining boos down on their captain. And whether it had to do with him or not, Arsenal went from a goal down to a goal up once Xhaka left the field.

According to manager Unai Emery, Xhaka was taken off in the 72nd minute not due to his performance, but to bring on fresh legs. It was a double substitution, with Dani Ceballos also coming off in place of Lucas Torreira and Joe Willock.

“My opinion is we need our supporters and we need our supporters helping each player but our responsibility is to transmit our capacity, our spirit, our commitment and behavior,” Emery said after the game. “And Xhaka is doing that. He played very well on Thursday and also last week in Watford he played with a good individual performance. Today I changed him because on Thursday he played 90 minutes and prefer to use fresh players for today a chance for him but for me Xhaka is very good player for us. He has a very big commitment here. He is improving and I am not asking the people to support him but I am sure that he is going to achieve the best thing individually and collectively for the supporters to help him.”

Just one week earlier, Xhaka claimed that his Arsenal teammates – and presumably himself as well – were “scared” in the second half as Watford stormed back for a 2-2 draw. Man City’s 8-0 pummeling of Watford makes that draw look even worse in retrospect.

If Arsenal is “scared,” and they’re giving up two goals in two straight matches each to two of the worst defensive teams in the league, then perhaps the club captain isn’t doing enough. It seems that although Xhaka has experience, he’s going through a rough patch of form in the Premier League – he looked good in Europa League action – and might do well with a match off.

Luckily for Arsenal, if Emery does agree to give Xhaka a rest, he has a talented player in Lucas Torreira who will run himself into the ground for the team. In addition, he’d likely have stopped that run from El Mohamady instead of letting him glide into the box with hardly a challenge.

It appears Unai Emery is publicly sticking with Xhaka. Arsenal needs Xhaka at his best to make it back into the top four. But right now, he’s clearly not there, and he needs to figure things out on the training pitch so he can shine once again.

Year-long domination for Man City, Liverpool

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For the last 365 days, the Premier League has been a two-horse race; Manchester City, Liverpool, and everyone else.

Sunday marked the one-year point since anyone other than Man City or Liverpool had at least a share of first place in the Premier League standings. Sometimes, when we get deep in analysis and discussion about the incredible performances of Man City and Liverpool, it’s good to take a step back and realize just how dominant the two clubs have been.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Man City and Liverpool of course went on to finish 1-2 in the Premier League standings, winning 32 and 30 games along the way and earning 98 and 97 points, respectively. The next closest finisher, Chelsea, had just 72 points.

Both teams have continued the strong form of last season into this year – minus a slipup by Man City at Norwich City. However, the Cityzens rebounded with an incredible 8-0 win over Watford this weekend. Liverpool meanwhile has won 15-straight matches and currently holds a five-point lead in the standings through six weeks of the season.

In the current state of affairs in the Premier League, it feels like the dominance of these two will continue for years to come. Chelsea’s young crop of stars looks interesting and Tottenham could challenge, but almost no one seems to be up to the level – on a game-to-game, consistent basis – of both Man City and Liverpool. So could we see another 365 days of dominance from the north and Northwest of England?

There’s no reason to say ‘why not.’

Hilarious Klopp raves about Man City: ‘They could’ve scored 12’

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Jurgen Klopp joined NBC’s pitch side desk at Stamford Bridge following Liverpool’s 2-1 win over Chelsea on Sunday, and as usual was an exceptional interview.

The Reds boss was asked whether the five-point advantage his side holds over second place Man City is significant, and Klopp issued a fantastic response.

[ MORE: Match recap | 3 things ]

“Did you watch the game yesterday? Do you think you can get rid of a team like that? They come from Ukraine, have absolutely no time to prepare, no time to rest and play that game. The first 15 minutes (makes explosive noise) what was that? They could’ve scored 12. It is really a joy to watch to be honest. … Eighteen points after six matches is a pretty impressive numbers, but 32 to come is another big number.”

This is why Klopp is delightful. Yes, he serves his team purpose by taking the title talk away from the team, but he also shows how much he loves the game (He also issued a questionable language statement on the nature of 2-0 leads).

What City did on Saturday against Watford was and is amazing to everyone. And we love the competition with Pep that clearly lives in both of their minds.

Lampard explains why Pulisic is not playing

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LONDON — Frank Lampard made it crystal clear as to why Christian Pulisic isn’t playing for Chelsea right now.

He isn’t quite ready to be a regular in the Premier League.

The USMNT star was an unused substitute for the third game running, as Chelsea lost 2-1 at home to Liverpool on Sunday.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned

Asked by Pro Soccer Talk after the game if Pulisic was a victim of Chelsea suffering three injuries to players during their defeat to Liverpool, Lampard said that wasn’t the case at all.

“He wasn’t a victim of the injuries. I’ve got a squad to pick from. Before that he had played a few games,” Lampard said. “Willian has come back in and been sharp and looked good. I decided to go with Mason [Mount] today, because we needed to stay strong in midfield and play Mason high up the pitch. That is my choice to make. He will get ample opportunities. He is a young player as well as everyone is talking about Mason and Tammy and Fikayo. He is actually as young, if not younger, than some of them. His chances will come.”

There have been some suggestions in the British media this week that Pulisic has been described as being shy and has struggled to fit in and settle down since his move from Borussia Dortmund to Chelsea in the summer.

Asked if Pulisic was struggling with his new life in London, Lampard said he didn’t think that was the case and again pointed to other players, aside from Pulisic, deserving more minutes too.

“No, I can’t speak exactly for him, but no, that is not the case,” Lampard said. “I have to make choices. There is him sitting on the bench, Pedro sitting on the bench, Ross Barkley on the bench, Batshuayi, who deserves more minutes for the way he’s training at the minute. Those are the unfortunate choices I need to make.”

Right now, Pulisic is suffering from Chelsea switching formations and the likes of Willian and Pedro returning to fitness. Add in Callum Hudson-Odoi soon to return from injury and Pulisic could slip to being Chelsea’s fifth-choice winger.

Both Pedro and Willian received plenty of criticism for their performances in the midweek defeat to Valencia in the UEFA Champions League, and the fact Lampard didn’t just say ‘Pulisic would have played some time but was unlucky due to our injuries’ was quite telling.

It is far too early to say this is a problem for the U.S. men’s national team, but Pulisic’s decision to join Chelsea in January may be seen as a step back if he doesn’t soon secure regular minutes.

He started in the Super Cup final against Liverpool and had an assist, and he started in PL games against Leicester, Norwich and Sheffield United where his displays were a little timid as he too often took the easy option.

Lampard obviously rates him and pointed to Pulisic only turning 21 years old earlier this week, but it is clear he doesn’t rate him enough to start the Pennsylvania native over the likes of Mount, Willian and Pedro.

That is a big problem for Pulisic.