Lampard Develops Interest In Cavani After Planned PSG Exit

This file photo taken on September 15, 2015 shows Uruguayan forward Edinson Cavani celebrating after scoring a goal during the UEFA Champions League group A football match between Paris Saint-Germain and Malmo at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris. JEAN-SEBASTIEN EVRARD / AFP

 

Uruguayan striker Edinson Cavani’s desire to leave Paris Saint-Germain has stoked the interest of Chelsea manager Frank Lampard, who has bemoaned his players’ lack of clinical finishing.

Tammy Abraham has scored 16 goals in all competitions this season but Lampard is aware that he needs support.

The 1-0 defeat by Newcastle on Saturday highlighted a lack of ruthlessness in front of goal with defeat preventing Chelsea from extending their advantage over their rivals for a Champions League place.

Fourth-placed Chelsea play Arsenal on Tuesday and are presently five points clear of Manchester United and Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Arsenal are 10 points adrift of their London rivals.

Cavani is PSG’s record goalscorer with 198 but the 116-times capped striker told the board he wanted to leave for Atletico Madrid having fallen behind Mauro Icardi in the pecking order this season.

However, Lampard said he would be interested in a striker of the 32-year-old’s class when he was told at the eve of match press conference of  Cavani’s desire to leave PSG.

“He’s a great player,” said Lampard of Cavani.

“I played against him and I always loved his mentality and attitude, and obviously his goal-scoring record speaks for itself.

“I’m not absolutely aware of what the situation is, so we’ll see.

“The idea of bringing in experience is something I’m certainly not absolutely looking away from.

“Because sometimes the young players need a little bit of help, and if that’s the case then that may help us.”

Lampard denied that defeat by Newcastle made it all the more urgent he delve into the transfer market.

“I don’t think Newcastle hastens anything, it’s just we couldn’t do any business in the summer window,” said Lampard referring to the FIFA transfer ban which has now been lifted but which existed in the close season.

“At this point, it’s something (lack of accurate finishing) we’ve seen as a bit of a problem in our home games.

“So we’ve got to work hard with the group here, and then if we can improve in terms of goal scoring, it’s for sure something we have to look at.”

AFP

Vardy Tops EPL Scorers List With 17 Goals

Leicester City’s English striker Jamie Vardy takes a penalty but sees the shot saved during the English Premier League football match between Burnley and Leicester City at Turf Moor in Burnley, north west England on January 19, 2020. Oli SCARFF / AFP

 

Leading English Premier League scorers after Sunday’s matches:

17: Vardy (Leicester)

15: Aguero (Man City)

14: Aubameyang (Arsenal), Ings (Southampton), Rashford (Man Utd)

13: Abraham (Chelsea)

11: Kane (Tottenham), Mane (Liverpool), Salah (Liverpool), Sterling (Man City)

10: Jimenez (Wolverhampton), Pukki (Norwich)

AFP

Burnley On The Rise As Westwood’s Late Strike Stuns Leicester

Burnley’s English midfielder Ashley Westwood (R) shoots past Leicester City’s Danish goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel (C) to score their second goal to take the lead 2-1 during the English Premier League football match between Burnley and Leicester City at Turf Moor in Burnley, north west England on January 19, 2020. Oli SCARFF / AFP

 

Burnley fought back to boost their bid for Premier League survival as Ashley Westwood’s late goal clinched a 2-1 win over Leicester on Sunday.

Sean Dyche’s side trailed to a first-half goal from Burnley-born Harvey Barnes at Turf Moor.

But Chris Wood equalised after half-time before Burnley keeper Nick Pope saved a penalty from Jamie Vardy.

Burnley’s impressive revival was completed 11 minutes from full-time when Westwood fired home to end their run of four successive league defeats and move them five points clear of the bottom three.

It was the perfect way to mark Dyche’s 300th game as Burnley boss after seven defeats from their previous nine games had plunged them into the relegation battle.

Leicester’s surprise home defeat against Southampton last weekend knocked them out of second place and this was another setback for Brendan Rodgers’ suddenly spluttering team.

The Foxes remain third despite a fourth loss in their last six league matches

Leicester’s cause wasn’t helped by the absence of rested England left-back Ben Chilwell amid talk of a potential move to Chelsea during the January transfer window.

Within the first minute, a simple long ball headed on by Vardy unhinged the Burnley defence and Barnes cut inside to test Pope.

Burnley’s effort couldn’t be faulted but at first they lacked composure and quality in the final third.

Westwood found Wood in space but his low strike drifted wide, then Jay Rodriguez shot straight at Kasper Schmeichel from long-range.

Leicester deservedly took the lead in the 33rd minute.

With Burnley appealing in vain for a foul by Dennis Praet on Jack Cork, Leicester stole possession and Barnes raced into the penalty area.

Vardy cleverly made a run that distracted James Tarkowski and Barnes stepped past Ben Mee to drill a cool finish under Pope for his third goal of the season.

Wood couldn’t finish off Cork’s tempting cross as Burnley failed to score a first half goal in 11 successive league games.

Vardy nearly doubled Leicester’s lead soon after the interval with a stinging strike following a vibrant attack from the visitors.

But Burnley kept plugging away and Wood headed over from a good position six yards out.

It was a warning Leicester failed to heed and New Zealand striker Wood made them pay in the 56th minute when he tapped in his ninth league goal of the season after Schmeichel pushed Mee’s header into his path.

Rodgers’ side had a golden opportunity to retake the lead when Mee’s foul on Barnes gave them a penalty.

Vardy stepped up to take it after a lengthy VAR check, but Pope dived to his left to make a fine save.

Pope stood tall to deny Vardy again when Leicester’s leading scorer broke through on goal.

Vardy’s misses proved fatal as Burnley won it in the 79th minute.

Charlie Taylor’s cross wasn’t cleared by Jonny Evans and Westwood pounced with a close-range finish that left Leicester shell-shocked.

VAR Meant For ‘Clear And Obvious’ Mistakes – Official

The VAR screen shows a check for a possible red card for Brighton’s English defender Dan Burn during the English Premier League football match between Brighton and Bournemouth at the American Express Community Stadium in Brighton, southern England on December 28, 2019.
Glyn KIRK / AFP

 

The Video Assistant Referee (VAR) should only overturn on-field decisions when there has been a “clear and obvious” error, according to one of football’s leading international rules officials.

VAR has proved highly controversial since it was introduced into the Premier League this season.

A particular source of concern has revolved around offside calls.

Last weekend saw Norwich, Brighton, Sheffield United, Wolves, Brighton and Crystal Palace all have goals disallowed by marginal VAR rulings amid doubts over whether the available technology is accurate enough to make such fractional calls.

READ ALSO: West Ham Appoint David Moyes As Manager For Second Time

Players and managers have also questioned whether the system should not be used to reverse an on-field decision that appears correct to the naked eye, a view that received support on Monday from the general secretary of the International Football Association Board (IFAB) — the sport’s ultimate rule-making body.

Lukas Brud, while not addressing specific incidents in English football, said IFAB guidance advises VAR should only be used to correct clear errors also applied to offside.

“Clear and obvious still remains — it’s an important principle,” Brud said in comments reported by the British media.

“There should not be a lot of time spent to find something marginal.

“If you spend minutes trying to identify whether it is offside or not, then it’s not clear and obvious and the original decision should stand,” he added.

Wolves captain Conor Coady was frustrated when his side were denied what seemed a legitimate equaliser just before half-time against runaway league leaders Liverpool on Sunday when Pedro Neto’s effort was chalked off because wing-back Jonny was deemed to be offside in the build-up.

Wolves eventually lost 1-0 at Anfield and Coady told the BBC afterward: “A lot of people are going to tell me that they have come to the right decision and they might have. But what is it, an armpit that’s offside, or a toe, or something like that?”

‘Not Helping’

Meanwhile, Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder was annoyed after VAR denied his side a goal against champions Manchester City — the fifth time it has happened to the Blades this season.

“Yet again we had another goal disallowed by VAR,” he said.

“That’s about eight or nine over the weekend, this is not a situation helping the game.”

Even City manager Pep Guardiola, whose side won 2-0, said VAR was “a big mess”, with the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss adding: “Hopefully next season it can do better.”

But the introduction of VAR into Scottish football cannot come quickly enough for Glasgow giants Rangers.

Sunday saw Steven Gerrard’s side win 2-1 away to arch-rivals and reigning champions Celtic as they moved to within two points of the Scottish Premiership leaders.

Gers boss Gerrard’s lone criticism of referee Kevin Clancy centered on the official not sending off Celtic defender Christopher Jullien in added time in an incident that saw Rangers striker Alfredo Morelos see red for a second yellow card.

Rangers managing director Stewart Robertson, while insisting he was not criticising referees, said Monday the pace of the modern game made it “extremely difficult to make split-second calls with the degree of certainty required”.

He added: “We believe the introduction of VAR would help referees enormously and reduce the number of wrong decisions which sometimes have a dramatic effect on the outcome of matches.”

AFP

Premier League: Chelsea Suffer Shock Home Defeat To Southampton

 Chelsea’s English head coach Frank Lampard and Southampton’s Danish midfielder Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Southampton at Stamford Bridge in London on December 26, 2019. AFP

 

Frank Lampard said Chelsea had to improve their home form if they were to remain in the top four following a 2-0 loss to Southampton on Thursday.

After an impressive 2-0 win away to Tottenham, Chelsea and their fans probably expected a win against a Southampton side battling to avoid relegation.

But Chelsea rarely threatened before or after Michael Obafemi put the Saints ahead in the 31st minute with the second Premier League goal of his career.

And when Nathan Redmond doubled that lead in the 73rd minute, the contest was effectively over.

The result meant Chelsea had suffered back-to-back home league defeats for the first time since 2011, with Bournemouth’s fellow south coast side Southampton having won the previous match at Stamford Bridge.

“You need a form of consistency to come in the top four in the Premier League,” said Chelsea manager Lampard, whose side are still fourth in the table.

“Everyone is striving for it. We are in it at Christmas and people probably would have doubted that so from that perspective we can probably be happy.

“But to stay there and move onwards and upwards we have to win more than we have recently at home.”

Youthful teams often struggle for consistency, but Chelsea’s problems are especially acute at their west London home, where they have won only four league games so far this season.

“We have to work and we have to do more in an attacking sense,” said Lampard.

“You can’t have 70 percent of possession and control as we did in the first half and not do more, not hit better crosses, make better final passes, get more clear chances at goal.”

 ‘Test of character’ 

And Chelsea are feeling the tension, with their manager admitting: “When you are on the run we are on, there is more pressure because everyone talks about it and we feel it.

“We want to perform well in front of our own fans and give them something to be happy about.”

The former Chelsea and England midfielder added: “People come here and respect us as Chelsea in the way they are setting up but we are not playing like the Chelsea that can break that down.

“I learn about the players particularly in games like that…Games like today’s are a test of character as much as ability.”

Meanwhile Southampton boss Ralph Hasenhuttl said that West Ham and Bournemouth’s victories at Stamford Bridge had led his side to think “‘why can’t we do it too?'”

Southampton’s opener came after Chelsea’s Callum Hudson-Odoi lost possession, the move ending when Obafemi curled a left-foot shot around Kepa Arrizabalaga from 20 yards.

The Saints, retaining possession well, could now afford to sit back and pounce on Chelsea errors, with a Blues mistake contributing to their second goal.

N’Golo Kante, in trying to dispossess Stuart Armstrong after a 30-pass move, succeeded only in playing the ball into the path of Redmond, who lifted the ball over Arrizabalaga and into the net.

“Sure you have to have a tactical plan but you need passion or it doesn’t work,” Hasenhuttl said.

“I’m proud of the moments when we win the ball, but we showed we can pass the ball as well.

“We have had some good performances on the road but this was the best.”

AFP

Gosling Gives Bournemouth Shock Win Over Chelsea

Bournemouth’s English midfielder Dan Gosling (C) attempts to score but ruled out offside during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Bournemouth at Stamford Bridge in London on December 14, 2019. OLLY GREENWOOD / AFP

 

Chelsea slumped to a shock 1-0 defeat against struggling Bournemouth on Saturday as Dan Gosling’s late goal extended the Blues’ recent poor run in the Premier League.

Frank Lampard’s side have lost four of their last five league games following Gosling’s clever strike six minutes from full-time at Stamford Bridge.

Gosling’s flick over his shoulder was initially ruled out for offside, but a lengthy VAR review eventually confirmed the midfielder was onside when he netted.

After reaching the Champions League last 16 with Tuesday’s win over Lille, Chelsea were hoping to bounce back from last weekend’s surprise loss at Everton.

But this was another laboured display from Lampard’s young team, who are out of sorts in a run that threatens to spoil the momentum from their fine start to the season.

Chelsea remain in fourth place but they will need to improve to hold onto that position with London derbies at Tottenham and Arsenal looming over the Christmas period.

The loss was especially galling because Chelsea were facing an injury-hit Bournemouth side who arrived on a run of five successive defeats and only one win in 10 games.

Bournemouth were missing eight players through injury but, after failing to record a shot on target in the defeat against Liverpool last weekend, they made life far more difficult for Chelsea.

Ryan Fraser wriggled past Antonio Rudiger on the right of the Chelsea area and drilled a low shot that Kepa Arrizabalaga saved at his near post.

Mason Mount was back in the Chelsea line-up in place of Mateo Kovacic and the young midfielder had a chance to open the scoring when Jorginho picked out his run into the Bournemouth area with a delicate pass.

Mount controlled well on his chest, but Aaron Ramsdale pushed away the shot.

That was part of an early Chelsea barrage in which Tammy Abraham guide a half-volley just wide from Cesar Azpilicueta’s cross.

 Tangible reward 

Heading into this weekend, Chelsea had scored only 11 goals at Stamford Bridge this season as they struggled to find the cutting edge required to break down teams content to sit deep.

With Bournemouth following that strategy, Chelsea once again found it hard to turn territorial dominance into tangible reward.

Chelsea’s fans were growing audibly frustrated until Bournemouth defender Jack Stacey came within inches of accidently easing the angst in the stands when he almost miscued a clearance into his own net.

It was a rare moment of menace for Chelsea. By the time Abraham headed over from Willian’s corner just before the interval, Lampard was beginning to look vexed.

Lampard had admitted Chelsea needed to show more creativity in the final third on several occasions in recent weeks.

He responded by sending on Kovacic and Callum Hudson-Odoi soon after half-time, yet Chelsea looked increasingly ragged at the back and were nearly caught when Josh King found Gosling, who couldn’t convert with the goal at his mercy.

Chelsea finally worked a sight of goal but left-back Emerson squandered a golden opportunity, heading straight at Ramsdale from point-blank range after Azpilicueta’s header looped into his path.

It was the crucial moment as Bournemouth made the most of their luck to snatch the points in the 84th minute.

Azpilicueta’s clearance was headed back into the Chelsea area by Jefferson Lerma and the unmarked Gosling hooked the ball over his shoulder and past Kepa despite Azpilicueta’s attempt to clear off the line.

Initially, the goal was disallowed for offside against Gosling, but the review showed the midfielder was onside, allowing Bournemouth to celebrate wildly as Chelsea stood shell-shocked.

Kovacic tried to rescue a point in stoppage-time, but his blast was repelled by Ramsdale.

AFP

Tottenham Star Son Regrets Losing To United In EPL Clash

Manchester United’s English striker Marcus Rashford misses with this freekick during the English Premier League football match between Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur at Old Trafford in Manchester, north west England, on December 4, 2019. Oli SCARFF / AFP

 

Son Heung-min said he and his Tottenham Hotspur team-mates would have to work hard because he did not like experiencing the pain he felt following Wednesday’s 2-1 defeat by Manchester United.

The 27-year-old Korean star gets his chance to bounce back on Saturday at home to Burnley.

However, last season’s Champions League finalists are nine points adrift of fourth-placed Chelsea — who occupy the final Champions League spot — and can ill afford any more slip-ups.

United’s victory was the first loss for Son and Spurs since Jose Mourinho replaced Mauricio Pochettino, who was sacked a fortnight ago due to Spurs lacklustre campaign so far.

“I hate to lose any single game,” said Son after the match.

“It doesn’t matter against who or which team. It doesn’t feel nice. I feel hurt and pain.

“This kind of game against big teams like United or City you want to win.

“I feel more pain because we know we can do better, so I know I can do better. That’s why I feel more pain than any other games.”

Son, though, disagreed with Dele Alli — who has been rejuvenated since Mourinho’s arrival — denying it was a wake-up call and Spurs mini-revival was a false dawn given they had not played top rank opposition till United.

“No, I don’t think it’s a wake-up call,” said Son.

“We are doing everything the same.

“Of course, it’s very disappointing and very sad about this result, but it’s not time to be disappointed or sad because we have another game in three days.

“We have to carry on and work hard. It’s important to don’t think about these kinds of things and to look forward to another game.”

Son, whose own season has been a turbulent one bursting into tears at the tackle which led to an horrific fracture dislocation of a right ankle for Everton midfielder Andre Gomes in early November, said he is enjoying working with Mourinho.

The Portuguese handler has said he is “in love with that guy (Son)”.

“I have a good relationship with the gaffer (manager),” said Son.

“I’m looking forward to working with him.

“After 10 or 12 days I’m still learning so many things about him. I think I can learn so many things and I’m still hungry.

“It will be better and I look forward to working with him. It’s an honour to work with this manager.”

AFP

Chelsea Beat Aston Villa In Premier League Clash

Aston Villa’s English goalkeeper Tom Heaton (C) fails to stop a goal by Chelsea’s English midfielder Mason Mount (unseen) during the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Aston Villa at Stamford Bridge in London on December 4, 2019. Glyn KIRK / AFP

 

Chelsea got back on track as Mason Mount’s superb winner and Tammy Abraham’s influential display inspired a 2-1 victory against Aston Villa on Wednesday.

Frank Lampard’s side ended a run of two successive Premier League defeats thanks to the latest heroics from emerging England duo Mount and Abraham.

Abraham put Chelsea ahead in the first half against the team the 22-year-old striker helped win promotion from the Championship last season.

Trezeguet’s third goal in his last four appearances drew Villa level, but 20-year-old midfielder Mount responded with a blistering volley from Abraham’s assist to seal the points after half-time.

Chelsea remain fourth, six points ahead of fifth-placed Wolves, as they chase a Champions League berth in Lampard’s impressive first season in charge.

The only concern for Lampard was the sight of Abraham walking gingerly off the pitch when he was substituted late in the second half.

Villa assistant manager John Terry received a warm welcome back to the club he graced as captain for so many successful seasons.

For 90 minutes at least, that was the only hospitality Lampard would extend to Terry and his old Chelsea team-mate’s Villa side.

Lampard had been frustrated with Chelsea’s lack of creativity and cutting edge in their shock 1-0 defeat against West Ham on Saturday, so he would have been encouraged by Christian Pulisic’s early thrust through the heart of the Villa defence.

Pulisic slipped a perfectly-weighted pass to Willian in the Villa area, but the Brazilian’s drive was pushed over by Tom Heaton.

Chelsea were dominating possession, yet when Mount headed tamely at Heaton before blasting over moments later, Lampard might have feared more angst at the hands of a Villa side he lost to three times with Derby last season.

He need not have worried as Abraham’s return from the hip injury that ruled him out of the West Ham game made Chelsea a far more incisive unit and the youngster broke the deadlock in the 24th minute.

 Immediate response 

Abraham scored 26 goals in 40 appearances on loan at Villa and, his confidence sky-high after that success, he has enjoyed a breakthrough season with Chelsea.

His 12th goal in all competitions for Chelsea this term, including 11 in 14 league appearances, showcased his nuanced penalty area movement as he edged subtly away from Ezri Konsa to meet Reece James’ cross with a clinical close-range header.

Having already acknowledged the Villa supporters who chanted his name and jokingly sang “you used to play for a big club”, Abraham opted not to celebrate the goal and held his hands up apologetically towards the away end.

Abraham’s strike should have been the signal for Chelsea to go for the kill, but instead the creaky defence that has been their Achilles heel at times under Lampard was breached far too easily in the 41st minute.

Cesar Azpilicueta, caught out of position, gave Ahmed Elmohamady space to swing over a cross towards Trezeguet, who had no problem getting in front of the ponderous James.

Despite almost losing his footing, the Egypt midfielder got his head to the ball, diverting it onto his foot and past Kepa Arrizabalaga at the near post.

Chelsea needed an immediate response after the interval and they delivered in the 48th minute.

Willian clipped a cross towards Abraham and the striker alertly chested the ball into the path of Mount, who smashed a sublime volley into the roof of the net from 12 yards for his fifth club goal of the season.

Only a fine save from Heaton prevented Willian putting the result beyond doubt after the winger danced through the Villa defence.

Heaton denied Willian again when he brilliantly pushed a free-kick onto the post and Chelsea’s profligacy almost proved fatal when Kepa had to make a fine stop to keep out Douglas Luiz’s header in the last minute.

AFP

Liverpool In High Spirit For EPL Victory, Says Oxlade-Chamberlain

Liverpool’s Senegalese striker Sadio Mane (L) and Liverpool’s English midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain attend a training session at Melwood in Liverpool, north west England on November 26, 2019, on the eve of their UEFA Champions League Group E football match against Napoli.
Lindsey Parnaby / AFP

 

Liverpool midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain says the Premier League leaders are going into every game believing they can win after racking up 13 victories in 14 games.

Jurgen Klopp’s unbeaten side have dropped just two points this season and established an eight-point advantage over second-placed Leicester.

But even the pressure of maintaining their winning run, which appears to grow with every game for a club searching for their first league title since 1990, has not affected the mentality within the club, according to Oxlade-Chamberlain.

“I’m going into it (a game) with the mindset that we’re going to win. I think that’s how we all feel,” the England international told the PA news agency.

“We’re going into the games expecting ourselves to win and anything else we’re disappointed with.”

He added: “I think that’s the mentality you need to be successful, to have those high standards that nothing else is acceptable. Then you’ve got to let history take its course.”

Liverpool are firm favourites to end their title drought but midfielder Oxlade-Chamberlain said they needed to remain mentally strong.

“You’ve got to just keep going out and churning out results,” he said. “There might be a time where results don’t go so well and people maybe close the gap a little bit.

“We’ve got to be also ready for those moments mentally as a team to just keep going and see what happens.”

Liverpool’s next match is the Merseyside derby at home to struggling Everton on Wednesday, with the Reds unbeaten against their local rivals at Anfield since 1999.

But Klopp’s side have not kept a clean sheet at home all season and are without suspended first-choice goalkeeper Alisson Becker.

“I don’t think we’re leaking loads of goals but probably just a few little silly mistakes here and there all over the pitch,” said Oxlade-Chamberlain.

“But even when we have been conceding, we’re still finding a way to come up with the goods and most of the time at the minute it’s been winning the game.”

AFP

Arsenal Suffer Shock Defeat To Sheffield United In EPL

Sheffield United’s French striker Lys Mousset (C) scores the opening goal past Arsenal’s German goalkeeper Bernd Leno (R) during the English Premier League football match between Sheffield United and Arsenal at Bramall Lane in Sheffield, northern England on October 21, 2019.
Oli SCARFF / AFP

 

Arsenal slumped to a shock 1-0 defeat at Sheffield United as Lys Mousset condemned the Gunners to their latest away-day flop on Monday.

Unai Emery’s side are without an away Premier League win since the opening weekend of the season after failing to rise to the challenge posed by fired up United at Bramall Lane.

French forward Mousset, making his first Premier League start for United, punished poor Arsenal defending in the first half to score his second goal since signing from Bournemouth.

That was enough to send Arsenal crashing to just their second defeat of the season, ending an eight-game unbeaten run in all competitions.

The north Londoners sit fifth in the league after a powder-puff performance that showed Emery’s rebuilding job is still a work in progress.

Under Emery, Arsenal have kept just two clean sheets in 24 away league matches and once again they wilted too easily in a hostile environment.

This was a signature win for the Blades after last season’s promotion and they sit proudly in ninth place, just three points behind Arsenal.

With the Bramall Lane crowd in full voice, a bruising clash got off to a contentious start when Arsenal defender Sokratis appealed in vain for a penalty after having his shirt tugged by John Egan.

United midfielder John Fleck was fortunate to escape with a yellow card from referee Mike Dean after crunching into Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

Emery’s men should have taken the lead when Sead Kolasinac curled a perfect low cross towards Nicolas Pepe in the six-yard box, but the unmarked Ivory Coast winger completely miscued his shot.

 Pepe struggles 

It was the latest in a growing list of disappointing displays from Pepe, who has struggled to make an impact since his club record move from Lille in the close-season.

United made the most of that escape as Arsenal’s long-running set-piece issues resurfaced in the 30th minute.

Oliver Norwood’s corner reached Jack O’Connell at the far post and he rose above Matteo Guendouzi to head down to Mousset, who poked home from virtually on the line after Granit Xhaka failed to react to the danger.

Damningly, Arsenal have conceded 22 league goals from set plays since the start of last season, with only Watford (25) and Everton (24) allowing more.

Bukayo Saka tried to lead the Arsenal response with a surge into the United area, but the teenager went to ground too easily and earned a booking for diving.

Xhaka almost conjured an equaliser with a dipping long-range effort that Dean Henderson pushed away at full stretch.

Mesut Ozil was once again left out of the Arsenal squad and, with Aubameyang anonymous, Emery sent on Dani Ceballos for Joe Willock at half-time for an injection of creativity.

The on-loan Real Madrid midfielder should have equalised when he shot weakly at Henderson from Saka’s cross.

Always creaky at the back, Arsenal were nearly caught when Fleck thudded into the side-netting and then forced Bernd Leno into an unconvincing save.

Alexandre Lacazette came on with 22 minutes left for his first appearance since suffering the ankle problem that had ruled the Arsenal striker out since the start of September.

For all their territorial dominance in the closing stages, Arsenal lacked composure in the final third.

Pepe curled just wide and Kolasinac headed over as the visitors’ frailties were laid bare.

AFP

Tottenham Suffer Shock Defeat To Brighton

Tottenham Hotspur’s English striker Harry Kane (R) and teammates react after Brighton’s Aaron Connolly scores his team’s second goal during the English Premier League football match between Brighton and Tottenham Hotspur at the American Express Community Stadium in Brighton, southern England on October 5, 2019. Glyn KIRK / AFP

 

Tottenham’s calamitous week went from bad to worse as Mauricio Pochettino’s men were outclassed in a 3-0 defeat at Brighton on Saturday.

Nineteen-year-old Aaron Connolly scored twice for the Seagulls on his first Premier League start after Neal Maupay had headed Brighton into an early lead.

Four days on from a 7-2 thrashing at the hands of Bayern Munich in the Champions League, Pochettino was looking for a reaction.

Instead, Spurs looked like a side devoid of confidence after getting off to the worst possible start when Hugo Lloris gifted Brighton the opener and injured himself in the process.

The France captain dropped a simple cross into the box and as he fell backwards and landed awkwardly, Maupay stooped to head into an empty net.

Lloris was stretchered off with what looked like an elbow injury and replaced by Paolo Gazzaniga.

Connolly took advantage of more generous Spurs defending and goalkeeping to double Brighton’s lead before half-time and curled in his second of the day in style 25 minutes from time.

Last season’s Champions League finalists have now won just three of their opening 11 games of the campaign and five of their last 19 dating back to when these sides last met in April.

And while Pochettino could justifiably claim Bayern’s ruthlessness in midweek meant the scoreline was not a true reflection of his side’s performance, there was no excuse for being thoroughly outplayed by a Brighton side that had not won in six league games.

The visitors’ were on the back foot from the off when injury was added to insult for Lloris.

The Spurs skipper was given oxygen and morphine before being taken to hospital and now seems certain to miss France’s upcoming Euro 2020 qualifiers against Iceland and Turkey.

After a lengthy delay for Lloris to be stretchered off, Brighton pushed on rather than trying to protect their lead and were rewarded just after the half hour mark.

Connolly was twice the quickest to react as he turned Dan Burn’s cross goalwards and, after Gazzaniga spilled his first effort, the Irishman followed up for his first Premier League goal.

Tottenham have made a bad habit of letting leads slip in recent weeks against Arsenal, Olympiakos, Leicester and Bayern, but when forced to mount a fightback themselves were found wanting.

Pochettino sacrificed club record signing Tanguy Ndombele at half-time for Harry Winks and changed system to a 3-5-2.

However, rather than turning the tide, it was Brighton who got the third goal to kill the game off.

Connolly jinked inside onto his right foot and curled brilliantly into the far corner to round off an afternoon that he and the Seagulls will long remember.

Son Heung-min and Harry Kane then missed huge chances to pull a goal back that summed up Spurs’ dire week and leaves Pochettino with plenty to ponder over the upcoming two-week international break.

AFP

EPL: New Captain Xhaka To Repay Emery’s Faith In United Clash

Aston Villa’s Brazilian striker Wesley (L) vies with Arsenal’s Swiss midfielder Granit Xhaka (R) during the English Premier League football match between Arsenal and Aston Villa at the Emirates Stadium in London on September 22, 2019. Tolga AKMEN / AFP

 

Granit Xhaka will lead Arsenal into Monday’s Premier League clash at Manchester United as the club’s new captain, but the Swiss midfielder has to win over plenty of doubters that he is fit to wear the Gunners’ armband.

Xhaka’s discipline and defensive awareness have repeatedly been questioned since joining the club from Borussia Monchengladbach in 2016, but both Arsene Wenger and current Arsenal boss Unai Emery have consistently put their faith in the 27-year-old.

That trust is not replicated by the club’s fans. On one of the few occasions he was replaced by Emery with the Gunners trailing 2-1 to Aston Villa last weekend, Xhaka was booed as he trudged off the field.

Despite being down to 10 men, Arsenal turned the game around with the energetic duo of Matteo Guendouzi and Lucas Torreira buzzing around the midfield.

That is a combination many supporters would like to see on a more regular basis, but Xhaka’s elevated status in the dressing room means he will remain a fixture for some time to come.

Emery sought votes from his squad before naming a five-man leadership group on Friday, of which Xhaka came top, but the Spanish manager is aware of the doubters questioning his decision.

“In the dressing room the players voted him as the first (in the) leadership (group),” said Emery on Friday.

“I spoke with him, we want to change that opinion outside. That respect he has inside is very, very important.

“Each match is for him, for me, for us, is a very good opportunity to show our capacity.

“Really I trust and believe in him. He is a good man. A good professional. A good player.”

Emery’s trust in Xhaka could easily backfire.

Arsenal have a break clause in the contract they handed the former Sevilla manager in 2018 that could see him released at the end of the season if he fails to deliver Champions League football to the Emirates for the first time in four years.

“It is a brave decision from the manager,” said former Arsenal defender Martin Keown, who described Xhaka’s performance against Tottenham earlier in the season as being “like a fire engine that turns up and discovers the house has already burned down.”

A stereotypical late lunge conceded a penalty that day in the north London derby as Arsenal had to battle back from 2-0 down to salvage a point.

Xhaka also described his side as “scared” when they threw away a 2-0 lead at Watford to draw 2-2 earlier this month.

Monday’s visit to an injury-ravaged United offers Arsenal a great chance for their first league victory at Old Trafford since 2006.

Do so and they will also open up a six-point lead over one of their rivals to break into the top tour.

For Emery to show to his superiors that he is making progress as Wenger’s long-awaited successor, he needs Xhaka to start to inspire his side to rise to the occasion.

AFP