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Arteta: Arsenal’s game at Chelsea ‘must win’

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We are only in January, so is it too early to be talking about ‘must win’ games in the Premier League? It isn’t if you’re Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta talking about their top four hopes.

The Gunners head across London to take on Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday (Watch live, 3:15 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) knowing a win will not only boost their faint top four hopes but also put another sizable dent in Frank Lampard‘s hopes of leading the Blues to Champions League qualification.

Chelsea currently sit in fourth place, just five points ahead of Man United in fifth, while Arsenal are 10th and sit 10 points behind Chelsea.

Speaking to the media ahead of the short trip across England’s capital city, Arteta didn’t play down the importance of the clash when asked if it is vital for their top four aspirations.

“It’s really important. It’s very, very important for us to win this game to fight for that,” Arteta said. “Also, the game we played at home, it could have made a big difference and we were very close to it. Tomorrow we need to win. Everyone is having a lot of problems to put together back-to-back wins, the league has been very competitive this season and that is why the gaps aren’t that big. There are still four months to play and a lot of things can happen, a lot of games between the top teams as well so I think that will change.”

Arsenal started very well against Chelsea when they played them on Dec. 29, as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang gave them an early lead but late goals from Jorginho and Tammy Abraham gave the Blues a comeback win.

The Gunners have started well and taken the lead in plenty of recent games but keep coughing up goals to drop points as the same defensive problems are cropping up for Arteta as they did for Unai Emery and Arsene Wenger before him.

That said, there is a different intensity to their play and they will go to Chelsea without star striker Aubameyang who is suspended, but with hope that they can catch out an inconsistent Chelsea who lost at Newcastle on Saturday despite dominating the game.

This London derby will not only be a tense battle over 90 minutes, it will also set the tone for how both teams will fare in the final months of the campaign.

Fleck artistry gets Sheffield United point at Arsenal

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John Fleck‘s perfectly lashed side volley gave Sheffield United a 1-1 draw at Arsenal on Saturday.

The Emirates Stadium saw a wasteful first hour from the Gunners give way to a resurgent Blades side and a share of the points.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Gabriel Martinelli opened the scoring for the Gunners, who sit 10th with 29 points. The Blades move to 33 points and sit seventh.

The match was Mike Dean’s 500th Premier League match, and not without controversy. Dean neglected to award a penalty when Nicolas Pepe was chopped down in the box, but VAR stayed with him.


Three things we learned

1. Blades are for real: There’s a reason Chris Wilder is getting linked with plenty of jobs and got a new contract: Sheffield United’s men are bought into a system about as well as anyone not named Jurgen Klopp. Granted Arsenal let early United errors slide, but once the Blades took hold of momentum it rarely felt like the Gunners would score the game’s second goal

2. Aubameyang absence glaring: It’s no surprise that missing one of the world’s best scorers is a not good, but you’d peg Arsenal’s talented group of attackers to sort it out. Nicolas Pepe and Alexandre Lacazette had their moments and Martinelli did get his goal, but there was an Auba-sized hole in both the aura and composure of the Gunners in the final third. That red card is stinging like a fresh cut.

3. Xhaka, Torreira steady: Mikel Arteta has found better play from Swiss hard man Granit Xhaka, while Lucas Torreira is working well with his center midfield mate. Their play allows Mesut Ozil to do whatever he wants, more or less. Throw in a fine day from Shkrodan Mustafi, and the Gunners were a Maitland-Niles 50-50 battle away from a clean sheet

Man of the Match: Give it to Fleck for the goal plus four tackles and another day of committed challenges.


Lacazette sent Nicolas Pepe down the right flank, and the Ivorian sent a terrific cross for Gabriel Martinelli. The youngster volleyed across goal and wide of the far post.

Lucas Torreira popped a dipping shot that Dean Henderson smothered in the 32nd minute.

Martinelli didn’t miss his second, punching home a 45th minute deflected cross from Bukayo Saka. The latter had a terrific first half for the Gunners.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ] 

The Blades didn’t quit, and Arsenal was forced into a goal line clearance in the 56th.

Pepe could’ve won a penalty when he was chopped down on a dribble into the box, but VAR upheld Mike Dean’s initial judgment.

Sheffield United scored an equalizerr in brilliant fashion, Fleck slashing a bounding side volley past Leno in the 83rd minute.

Ainsley Maitland-Niles blocked a shot and Leno made a tremendous save in stoppage time to keep the hosts’ point.

PL AT HALF: Goals, goals everywhere as Arsenal leads, Man City trails

Joe Giddens/PA via AP
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The Premier League’s six 10 a.m. ET kickoffs provided loads of late goals and a red card that’s a hilarious look for everyone but Bournemouth.

[ STREAM: Every PL game live here ] 


West Ham 1-1 Everton – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]

The Irons went ahead through an Issa Diop header of a Robert Snodgrass header, as the Scottish playmaker is having a day at the London Stadium, but Calvert-Lewin nodded home a Lucas Digne corner before halftime.

Southampton 2-0 Wolves – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]

Saints’ rocket up the Premier League table continues at St. Mary’s, where Jan Bednarek and Shane Long have a two-goal lead on Nuno Espirito Santo‘s struggling men.

Brighton 1-0 Aston Villa – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]

Leandro Trossard smashed a shot home to give the Seagulls an advantage at the break.

Arsenal 1-0 Sheffield United – NBCSN [STREAM]

Gabriel Martinelli missed the first best chance of the match, cued up by exceptional passes from Alexandre Lacazette and Nicolas Pepe. The youngster didn’t miss his second, punching home a 45th minute deflected cross from Bukayo Saka.

Man City 0-1 Crystal Palace – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]

We told you Cenk Tosun‘s numbers were better than you thought, and the Everton loanee has nodded a Gary Cahill flick past Ederson at the Etihad.

Norwich 1-0 Bournemouth – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]

Bad, bad times for the Cherries; Steve Cook handled a ball in the box and was sent off, Teemu Pukki dispatching the penalty moments later.

Cook, wyd?

 

Watch Live: Six Premier League games at 10am

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Six Premier League games are live at 10 a.m. ET with Arsenal and Man City in action, and you can watch every single game live online as some huge clashes are set up across the table.

[ STREAM: Every PL game live here ] 

Southampton host Wolves, Aston Villa travel to Brighton, Man City host Crystal Palace, Bournemouth and Norwich square off in a relegation six-pointer, West Ham host Everton and Sheffield United travel to Arsenal.

[ MORE: Sign up for NBC Sports Gold ] 

You can access additional games by purchasing the new “Premier League Pass” via NBC Sports Gold which also includes an extensive selection of shoulder programming such as Premier League News, Premier League Today and NBC Sports originals such as Premier League Download and much more.

[ STREAM: “Goal Rush” here ]

For those of you familiar with the Premier League Breakaway Show during busy days (Boxing Day, New Year’s Day, Championship Sunday etc.) in the PL, this will follow that model of being similar to the NFL RedZone with action shown from all of the games in the 10 a.m. ET window. More info is available here.

The schedule for the six games at 10 a.m. ET is below and you can stream each game live by clicking on the links.


10 a.m. ET: Arsenal v. Sheffield United – NBCSN [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Brighton v. Aston Villa – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Man City v. Crystal Palace – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Norwich v. Bournemouth – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: Southampton v. Wolves – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]
10 a.m. ET: West Ham v. Everton – NBC Sports Gold [STREAM]

Transfer Rumor Roundup: Ashley Young to Inter

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Manchester United is offloading captain Ashley Young, with multiple reports in both England and Italy claiming the 34-year-old is set for a medical at Inter Milan on Friday.

According to The Telegraph, the deal is worth $1.7 million, netting Manchester United a small sum of money before Young’s contract was set to expire this summer. Italian publication Gazzetta dello Sport is also reporting the move. It was reported a few days ago that Young was nearing a deal with Inter through the summer of 2021.

Young has made 12 Premier League appearances for Manchester United this season, but it was unlikely the club would offer him a contract this summer, and he has been slowly phased out of the squad as Luke Shaw began to earn the lion’s share of time at left-back.

He will have plenty of familiar faces at Inter, with Former Manchester United striker Romelu Lukaku and on-loan playmaker Alexis Sanchez both currently playing at the San Siro. It is unclear where Young fits in at the Italian side, with Antonio Conte favoring a three-CB system and Young’s skill set more defensive-minded, not exactly suited for a wing-back role.


According to The Guardian’s Nick Ames, Arsenal is paying special attention towards Paris Saint-Germain full-back Layvin Kurzawa, hoping to secure a deal this winter.

The 27-year-old has made 11 Ligue 1 appearances for PSG this season, sharing time with Juan Bernat at left-back. Kurzawa’s contract at PSG expires this summer and he has made just 90 appearances since joining from Monaco in 2015.

Kurzawa would be of special interest to Arsenal given the massive amount of injuries suffered by the Gunners along the back line this season. Kieran Tierney remains sidelined with a dislocated shoulder, with surgery keeping him out through March, while Calum Chambers begins ACL rehab, and both Hector Bellerin and Sead Kolasinac work their way back from thigh injuries.

The Guardian report says the clubs have made contact but a deal is still “some way off.”


Tottenham is desperate to find a short-term replacement for injured talisman Harry Kane, which is proving more difficult than believed as the team looks to convince a player to join knowing they are only needed for a few months.

However, with Gedson Fernandes having already signe don, asking a player to agree to a switch is not the only problem they have reportedly faced. 28-year-old Porto striker Ze Luis is a target for the club according to a number of reports, including the Evening Standard. Unfortunately, it appears work permit issues are at the heart of the holdup.

Portuguese publication Record reports that Ze Luis does not possess a European passport, and as a Cape Verde international, it would seem unlikely that he would be set to earn a British work permit. Cape Verde was ranked 75th in world by the latest FIFA release, and the Premier League usually only considers players from top 50 countries.

After joining this past summer from Spartak Moscow, Ze Luis has scored seven Liga NOS goals in 12 appearances for Porto this season, earning the majority of minutes to this point before sitting the last two games in favor of Brazilian striker Tiquinho Soares.


According to The Guardian reporters Ed Aarons and Paul Doyle, Aston Villa is “close” to a deal for Genk striker Mbwana Samatta in a deal worth $11.1 million.

The deal was likely spurred on by an injury to Villa striker Wesley who suffered a knee injury that is set to keep him out the rest of the season.

Mbwana, a 27-year-old Tanzania international, has seven goals in 20 Jupiler Pro League games this season – although he has just two since the start of September – plus three more in Champions League play. He was the top scorer in the league last season, with 20 goals in 28 appearances, including a streak where he scored 10 goals in nine games through the winter.

He will also need a work permit to complete the switch, which could be an issue given Tanzania is ranked 134th in the world by FIFA, but he has 51 international caps and could be eligible for a special exemption. His status as top scorer last season, earning him the Soulier d’Ébène award as the best African player in Belgium, could be enough to trigger that exemption.