three things

3 things we learned: Liverpool v. Arsenal


Liverpool – Arsenal was an interesting tactical battle, as Liverpool pressed high and Arsenal stuck to their defensive shape but the extra quality of Liverpool’s attack shone through in a 3-1 win.

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Alexandre Lacazette’s opener saw Liverpool behind briefly, but quickfire goals from Sadio Mane and Andy Robertson put them ahead and Diogo Jota scored a late clincher.

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Here’s a look at what we learned from Liverpool – Arsenal at Anfield.

Jota the perfect understudy to Mane

Sadio Mane wasn’t happy to be subbed off but Jurgen Klopp was perhaps keeping him away from a red card he probably should have got early on. Mane was lucky to stay on the pitch after an early elbow on Kieran Tierney. Was it intentional? No. Was it reckless? Yes. Mane chased down Tierney but raised his elbow and caught Tierney in the face. VAR didn’t determine he should have been sent off as Mane was only booked and stayed on the pitch to duly score the equalizer and was a constant thorn in Arsenal’s side. Liverpool’s star winger wasn’t happy about being replaced by Jota with 10 minutes to go as Klopp had a quiet word.

In that 10 minutes the Portuguese winger scored his first Liverpool goal, hit the side-netting, set up a chance and should have had another but Salah nicked the ball off his foot. Life after Mane, Firmino and Salah is not something Liverpool fans will have to (or want to) think about for a while but Jota, still just 23 years old, is a fine signing from Wolves and will be the perfect understudy to Mane as his pace, finishing and movement is very similar. It’s almost like Liverpool and Klopp have a plan…

Resilient Arsenal showed a little too much respect

Arsenal had two touches in opposition box in first half. Two. It was their lowest total in a single 45 minutes since Opta started recording the stat and it showed how much respect they gave Liverpool. Like they have done against the top teams since Arteta arrived, Arsenal sat back deep and tried to keep the ball at the back to draw Liverpool up the pitch. It didn’t work but they stayed in the game. Arsenal couldn’t string enough passes together to launch dangerous counters but Lacazette did have a big chance to make it 2-2 but he hit his shot straight at Alisson. Arsenal were more resilient than they have been against Liverpool in the past and Arteta’s project has just started. They have taken strides forward, we shouldn’t forget that. Arteta has made them gritty but they still have a long, long way to go.

Sloppy Liverpool caused own problems

They gave Arsenal the opening goal after Andy Robertson couldn’t control the ball in the box, then were cut open in the second half on the break but Lacazette couldn’t make the most of it. It wasn’t a case of Arsenal creating lots of chances, but instead Liverpool giving them the few they did have.

If Liverpool are going to win the Premier League, and other trophies, this season then they must tighten up at the back. They conceded three against Leeds on the opening weekend and have now given Chelsea and Arsenal plenty of chances to score. Klopp worked so hard to eradicate the silly defensive mistakes which riddled his first few years as Liverpool boss but now they’re creeping back in.

3 things we learned: Chelsea v. Liverpool


Chelsea – Liverpool wasn’t exactly the goal-fest we expected and in the end it was a very straightforward win for the reigning Premier League champions.

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A red card to Andreas Christensen right on half time swung the game in Liverpool’s favor and two goals early in the second half from Sadio Mane sealed a comfortable win for Jurgen Klopp’s side.

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Here’s a look at what we learned from Chelsea – Liverpool as Frank Lampard will be trying to keep things in perspective, while Liverpool will be keen to keep building momentum.

Hunger of Sadio Mane underlines Liverpool ambition

The hunger with his runs, his passes and his finishing and his general desire to score goals and win games is incredible. Sadio Mane forced the red card which changed the game and scored twice early in the second half to kick Chelsea while they were down. Mane got my vote for the Football Writers’ Association player of the year in 2019-20 and the work he does often goes unnoticed. On his second goal, the way he reacted to giving the ball away epitomized him. He hunted down Kepa and intercepted a pass and slotted home into an empty net. Mane is often the least lauded forward out of Mohamed Salah, himself and Firmino. But his hunger in this game is replicated in most games. Liverpool fans appreciate Mane’s desire and the fact that fire is still burning bright proves how hungry this team are to win back-to-back titles.

Defensive Chelsea show Liverpool too much respect

We get it. Chelsea were without new signings Thiago Silva, Ben Chilwell and Hakim Ziyech. Christian Pulisic is out injured. Goalkeeper Edouard Mendy isn’t officially a Chelsea. All of that led to an extremely defensive and tentative display from Lampard’s side. Kai Havertz struggled out wide once again, while the defensive issues remain for Chelsea as Kepa had a nightmare on the red card situation and for the second goal. Aside from individual errors, the setup from Chelsea was too defensive from the start. They tried to hit Liverpool on the counter with the pace of Timo Werner and it almost worked a few times in the first half but their usual attacking swagger was totally missing. With a host of new players to come into the lineup, plus the injured Christian Pulisic to return, Chelsea will be better in the coming weeks and months. However, the respect they showed reigning champions Liverpool here was too much and underlined just how far they have to go to become genuine title contenders.

Kepa knows his time is up; new boys will take time to gel

It is sad to see a player struggling so much with confidence but that is Kepa right now. The Spanish international goalkeeper is the most-expensive goalkeeper on the planet but his shaky displays continue and Senegal international Edouard Mendy is expected to join from Rennes in the coming days. Kepa played like he knew his time at Chelsea is up. He wandered around the penalty box early on, didn’t command his area and gave the second goal to Sadio Mane on a silver platter with a poor pass. Kepa has never settled at Chelsea and the best thing he could probably do for his career is move on as soon as possible. As for the other new boys, Havertz will take time, Werner looks more than okay and Ziyech, Chilwell and Thiago Silva will now all be expected to deliver right away. Often it doesn’t work like that and Liverpool’s lone new boy, Thiago Alcantara, gave away a penalty kick after coming on at half time for his debut. Adapting to a new team in a new league and in a new country isn’t easy, even for superstar talents. So often it takes much more time than most expect. That is not good news for Chelsea who have spent close to $275 million this summer on new talent.

3 things we learned: Tottenham v. Everton


Tottenham-Everton was a tight, tense clash on the opening weekend of the 2020-21 Premier League season and there was so much to dissect as both team rolled out plenty of new players.

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Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s header was enough to give Everton the win, as Jose Mourinho will be left with plenty more questions than answers after Tottenham-Everton. As for Carlo Ancelotti, he will be cautiously optimistic that his Everton rebuild is on track.

What did both managers learn? What did we learn from Tottenham-Everton in north London?

Here’s a look at three things we learned.

James Rodriguez stands out amid debutants

Everton handed debuts to James Rodriguez, Allan and Abdoulaye Doucoure, while Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Matt Doherty making their Spurs debut. There’s no doubt that James was the standout debutant. The Colombian playmaker used his wand of a left foot to spray quality passes around, plus found plenty of space in midfield and kept cutting in off the right flank to give Spurs all kind of problems. It is easy to forget the quality that James, 29, has and this move to Everton from Real Madrid makes him their bonafide superstar.

Plus, he is working with Carlo Ancelotti again, just like he did at Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, and should gain so much confidence from being trusted completely by a manager. Everton kept giving him the ball and he kept delivering moments of quality as he went close to scoring in the first half and seems to have a very good understanding with Richarlison as he looked to tee him up on multiple occasions. The early signs are extremely promising that James is going to be a big hit at Everton.

Tottenham’s central midfield disjointed

Tottenham’s new signing Hojbjerg lined up alongside Harry Winks in a combative central midfield combo for Spurs, while Dele Alli sat in front of them in the attacking midfield role. It didn’t work. At all. At half time Alli was sacrificed with Moussa Sissoko replacing him, as Mourinho tried to wrestle control of the engine room. It didn’t work. Hojbjerg and Winks were dominated by new Everton signings Allan and Doucoure, who look to be the solid foundation Ancelotti was hoping for.

As for Mourinho, his midfield was selected to be solid but they weren’t and they didn’t provide any real service for a frustrated Harry Kane and Heung-min Son. Mourinho brought on Sissoko and Steven Bergwijn to try and get things going but they couldn’t. Hojbjerg and Sissoko aren’t the best on the ball but they didn’t even show their battling abilities off the ball as Tottenham were too passive and they totally lost the battle in midfield. Maybe, just maybe, this is a sign that Tanguy Ndombele will finally get a run in the team because his poise and attacking instincts in central midfield are badly missed and Spurs, almost two years on, still haven’t replaced Mousa Dembele. There remains a gigantic hole in Tottenham’s midfield.

New-look Everton midfield has style, substance

This was a very good performance by Everton. James led the way with is creativity and smoothness on the ball, with Andre Gomes and Richarlison also adding quality and a cutting edge in attack. So too did Dominic Calvert-Lewin, as his header proved, but the midfield duo of Allan and Doucoure was almost as impressive as James. They totally shut down Tottenham’s attacking unit and center backs Michael Keane and Yerry Mina hardly broke sweat.

Ancelotti wanted his team to become more solid and the two central midfielders provided that foundation for their talented attackers to do what they do best. There was a lovely balance about this Everton side and Ancelotti will be pleased with the start to the season the Toffees have made. A European push is their aim and if they can stay solid defensively, and especially in midfield, they have a really good chance of having a good season.

3 things learned: Arsenal beat Chelsea in FA Cup final

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Here’s a look at three things we learned from Arsenal v Chelsea in the FA Cup final at Wembley, as Arsenal stretched their lead as the most successful FA Cup team in history to 14 trophies.

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Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored in each half for Arsenal after Christian Pulisic gave Chelsea a deserved early lead, as Mikel Arteta delivered a trophy in his first season in charge of the Gunners.

Frank Lampard and Chelsea lost Cesar Azpilicueta and Pulisic to hamstring injuries and had Mateo Kovacic sent off for the final 15 minutes, while they looked sluggish after conceding a penalty kick in the first half and came up short as they to win silverware in Lampard’s first season in charge.

With the FA Cup win Arsenal also qualify for the Europa League group stage for next season, plus push Tottenham into the qualifying round and give this young Arsenal squad a key reference point in their rebuild.


This was a tight, tense final between two London rivals and it was a very good spectacle. There really wasn’t much between the two teams but Azpilicueta and Pulisic going off injured hurt Chelsea, so too did Kovacic being sent off late on, while Aubameyang and the brilliant Dani Ceballos led the way for Arsenal. In a game of fine margins, the quality of Ceballos on the ball and the finishing skill of Aubameyang was the difference. It really was as simple as that.


Chelsea were a little naive but Arsenal took full advantage of it. After a tough opening 20 minutes, Arsenal finally got to grips with the game and played the ball long and over the top of Chelsea’s defense and made the most of the big gaps in their wing back positions. Arsenal were so dangerous in-behind as Auba, Alexandre Lacazette and Nicolas Pepe worked hard defensively as well as going forward. It wasn’t the most fluid display from Arsenal but they worked Chelsea out. Of course, the injuries hit Chelsea hard, but Granit Xhaka, David Luiz and Emiliano Martinez were just a few of the unsung heroes for Arsenal as Rob Holding and Ainsley Maitland-Niles were also superb. Arsenal’s newfound grind and tactical intelligence under Arteta is clear for all to see and he will now be rewarded with buying new players to keep his rebuild going forward.


Christian Pulisic had both a dream and nightmare outing in the FA Cup final, as he became the first USMNT player in history to score in the FA Cup final but looks to have severely injured his hamstring.

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Pulisic, 21, was superb in the first half as he scored, set up chances and had other opportunities. However, right at the start of the second half he raced clear of the Arsenal defense, again, but appeared to injure his right hamstring badly before he took a shot.

The sight of Pulisic screaming in agony before he took a shot was not what USMNT or Chelsea fans wanted to see, but he was hanging around the tunnel area after the game and seemed okay enough to be walking around on his own. Hopefully this hamstring injury isn’t as serious as it looked because Pulisic proved he is now Chelsea’s top player after his fine form since the restart continued in the FA Cup final and his injury swung the game in Arsenal’s favor as Chelsea lost their way without the American sensation.

Three things we learned: Tottenham – Arsenal


Three things we learned from Tottenham – Arsenal as the north London derby ended in a win for Spurs in an entertaining, feisty encounter.

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Alexandre Lacazette put Arsenal ahead in style early on but Heung-min Son equalized soon after in an end-to-end encounter and Toby Alderweireld’s header made it 2-1 late on.

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Here’s a look at what we learned in the north London derby as Tottenham jump into eighth and overtake Arsenal in the table.

1. Defensive deficiencies clear for Tottenham, Arsenal

Serge Aurier made an error for Arsenal’s goal. Sead Kolasinac and David Luiz made a big error for Tottenham’s goal. Kieran Tierney should not be marking Toby Alderweireld at a corner for the winner. And so on and so forth. Tottenham and Arsenal went at it in the first half in particular as the area of weakness for both teams was woefully exposed. Arsenal and Tottenham both need massive rebuilds defensively and that has been the case all season. However, the new coaches for both teams have shown they have improved certain defensive aspects but they can only do so much with the players they have. Mourinho has done a bit more.

New options are needed if Tottenham or Arsenal are going to improve their defense long-term. It really is as simple as that. Until these defensive issues are resolved, these teams will be in the Europa League, at best. A solid foundation counts for a lot and is often overlooked when it comes to the best teams on the planet. Mourinho has made Spurs more solid, but they’ve become more lackluster in attack. It’s a balancing act. Mourinho is a little further along than Arteta as he’s been in the job for a month or so more and it shows, from an organizational perspective. Sure, it’s great to score goals and attack, but to win things and progress, you have to be great and not beating yourselves. Tottenham and Arsenal do that far too often. Arsenal did it a little more. Only West Ham (24) have dropped more points from winning positions in the Premier League this season than Arsenal (21) and that is why Spurs edged this one. They look slightly better, but not great, defensively.

2. Aubameyang, Kane misfire

The star strikers for Arsenal and Tottenham had chances to score but both were uncharacteristically off target. Aubameyang smashed the bar in the second half, whiffed on a good chance in the first half and had another saved by Hugo Lloris, while Kane should have done better with a lob in the first half and hardly had any service in the second half, as he fed off scraps. Aubameyang out on the left wing is interesting as he doesn’t get that many chances but is clinical, while Tottenham’s service to Kane needs to improve as he’s scored just twice in six games since the restart. Both of the star strikers missed their big chances and that was surprising, but their quality is clear for all to see. Tottenham and Arsenal need to get them in the game more.

3. Tottenham, Arsenal put on a show on derby day

Defending was optional, and largely terrible, for the majority of this game as Nicolas Pepe, Aubameyang, Kane, Ben Davies and others went close throughout. These teams realize they are more likely to outscore opponents so they basically said ‘screw it, we want to win 3-2.’ They are in very similar situations in this transitional phase and that led to a largely entertaining clash. Without fans, this was unlike any other north London derby but the intensity was good and the players put on a show. It also showed just how closely matched they are and just how far they have to go to challenge to be in the top four, let alone challenge for trophies. It was sobering entertainment for both sets of fans.