Willian Gets Two Assists In Arsenal’s Win Over Leicester City

Pepe taps in from a Willian cross to score Arsenal’s third goal against Leicester City. Photo: [email protected] FC.

 

Brazilian midfielder, Willian provided two assists on Sunday in Arsenal’s 1-3 victory over Leicester City, rekindling the Gunners’ quest for European football. 

 

Mikel Arteta’s side fell behind to Youri Tielemans’ early goal at the King Power Stadium.

They had lost nine of 11 league games when they conceded the opening goal this term.

But David Luiz equalised and Alexandre Lacazette’s penalty gave the Gunners the lead just before half-time.

Nicolas Pepe’s second-half goal sealed Arsenal’s second win in their last six league games.

READ ALSO: Bundesliga Club Schalke Sack Coach Christian Gross In Major Clear Out

The north Londoners’ stirring escape act left Leicester in third place, trailing leaders Manchester City by 13 points with 12 games remaining.

After Thursday’s shock Europa League exit against Slavia Prague, it was a week to forget for Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers.

Arsenal have virtually no chance of finishing in the top four, but this was still a significant result as it underlined the potential in Arteta’s team.

With Arsenal languishing in mid-table, Arteta has prioritised winning the Europa League as his side’s only hope of qualifying for next season’s Champions League.

Having picked his best team for the dramatic come-from-behind 3-2 win against Benfica in the last 32 second leg on Thursday, Arteta made six changes.

He left Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Bukayo Saka on the bench after the long trip back from the neutral venue in Greece.

Arsenal’s reshuffled line-up initially lacked cohesion and Leicester took advantage to open the scoring in the seventh minute.

Tielemans was gifted time and space by the lumbering Granit Xhaka to break into the Arsenal area.

Pablo Mari was slow to react to the danger, allowing the Belgian midfielder to advance unchecked before drilling a low strike into the far corner.

Arteta’s men thought they had earned a penalty when referee Paul Tierney pointed to the spot after Pepe’s run was ended by a combined challenge from Tielemans and Wilfred Ndidi.

But VAR checked the incident and changed the decision to a free-kick as Ndidi made the first contact with Pepe just outside the area.

– Willian redemption –
Willian has endured a difficult first season at Arsenal after his move from Chelsea.

The Brazilian winger finally enjoyed a moment to savour as Arsenal drew level in the 39th minute.

Willian’s out-swinging free-kick arrowed towards Luiz and the defender stooped to direct a powerful header past Kasper Schmeichel from 10 yards.

Arsenal had barely finished celebrating when promising midfielder Emile Smith Rowe limped off injured.

 

Arsenal’s players celebrate on the pitch after the English Premier League football match between Leicester City and Arsenal at King Power Stadium in Leicester, central England on February 28, 2021. Arsenal won the game 3-1. Rui Vieira / POOL / AFP

 

They ignored that setback to take the lead in first half stoppage-time.

Pepe’s cross hit Ndidi’s out-stretched arm and VAR ruled the block had taken place just inside the area.

Lacazette stepped up to slam the penalty past Schmeichel for his 11th goal of the season.

There was another blow for Leicester — already without the injured James Maddison — when Harvey Barnes was stretchered off with his left knee heavily wrapped early in the second half.

Leicester were on the ropes and Arsenal landed the knockout punch in the 52nd minute with a superb counter-attack.

Xhaka found Pepe wide on the right and the Ivorian picked out Martin Odegaard on the edge of the area.

Odegaard clipped a deft pass to Willian and his cutback was perfectly placed for Pepe to tap into the empty net.

It was Pepe’s fourth goal in his last seven league starts, underlining a long-awaited improvement from the winger.

In Sunday’s other early match, Fulham had to settle for a 0-0 draw at Crystal Palace.

Third bottom Fulham are three points behind fourth bottom Newcastle in the fight to avoid relegation.

Later, Thomas Tuchel’s unbeaten start as Chelsea boss will be under threat against second placed Manchester United.

Troubled Liverpool travel to bottom of the table Sheffield United and Tottenham host Burnley.

AFP

John Stones Sends Man City 13 Points Clear

Manchester City’s English defender John Stones (2L) celebrates scoring his team’s second goal during the English Premier League football match between Manchester City and West Ham United at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north west England, on February 27, 2021. Manchester City won the match 2-0.
Martin Rickett / POOL / AFP

 

Manchester City moved 13 points clear at the top of the Premier League as John Stones sealed a 2-1 win against West Ham that made it 20 successive victories in all competitions for the leaders.

Pep Guardiola’s side are closing in on their third Premier League in four seasons thanks to priceless contributions from their in-form centre-backs.

Ruben Dias, imperious since signing from Benfica in September, put City ahead with his first goal for the club.

Michail Antonio equalised for West Ham just before half-time, but the revitalised Stones bagged the winner with a fine strike after the break.

City are enjoying the longest ever winning streak by an English top-flight team, with 14 of those 20 victories coming in the league to leave their title rivals trailing in their wake.

They are unbeaten in 27 games across all competitions, one match shy of their longest run without defeat under Guardiola in 2017.

Second-placed Manchester United and third-placed Leicester can close the gap back to 10 points if they beat Chelsea and Arsenal respectively on Sunday.

But it is hard to imagine anyone catching City over the last 12 games of the season.

They survived a stern test from fourth-placed West Ham and home games against Wolves and Manchester United next week offer a chance to put the title within touching distance.

Ominously for the rest of the league, Sergio Aguero returned to the City starting line-up for the first time in four months, making just his 11th appearance this season due to injury and illness.

Once he gets his sharpness back, City’s record goalscorer will provide a boost to their bid to win an unprecedented quadruple.

West Ham had won seven of their previous nine league games, but even they couldn’t halt City’s relentless march to the title.

 

West Ham United’s Scottish manager David Moyes reacts on the touchline during the English Premier League football match between West Ham United and Tottenham Hotspur at The London Stadium, in east London on February 21, 2021.
NEIL HALL / POOL / AFP

– Tasty dish –

Hammers boss David Moyes compared Guardiola to celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal this week for the way City’s manager successfully cooks up winning teams from unlikely ingredients.

Guardiola was at it again as he concocted a tasty dish with seven changes to the team that beat Borussia Monchengladbach in the Champions League last 16 first leg.

After half an hour without a single shot, Dias put City in front of their first incisive attack.

Kevin De Bruyne was the catalyst with a sublime driven cross that picked out Dias’s run to the far post, where the centre-back powered his header past Darren Randolph.

There was an unusual lack of cohesion in the City defence at times and Antonio nearly exploited their vulnerability when he met Jesse Lingard’s cross with a shot that clipped the outside of the post.

It was a warning that City failed to heed and they were punished in the 43rd minute.

Aguero surrendered possession in midfield, leaving City’s back four exposed, and the ball was quickly worked wide to Vladimir Coufal as he surged away from the out-of-position Oleksandr Zinchenko.

Coufal’s cross was diverted goalwards by Lingard before Antonio applied the finishing touch from virtually on the line.

Having conceded a league goal at home for the first time since December, City took a while to shake off the shock.

But Guardiola’s men have too much quality to be subdued for long and they sealed the points in the 68th minute.

Zinchenko found Riyad Mahrez on the left and the Algerian’s dazzling footwork left Ben Johnson bewildered as he flashed over a cross that Stones met with a superb finish from 12 yards.

Issa Diop nearly provided a sting in the tale when the West Ham defender headed just wide in the final seconds of stoppage-time.

-AFP

Man City Chase Quadruple As Man Utd Aim To Spoil Tuchel’s Record

File photo: (l to R) Manchester City’s French defender Aymeric Laporte, Manchester City’s Portuguese defender Ruben Dias and Manchester City’s English defender Kyle Walker react after the UEFA Champions League, last 16, 1st-leg football match Borussia Moenchengladbach v Manchester City at the Puskas Arena in Budapest on February 24, 2021. (Photo by Attila KISBENEDEK / AFP)

 

Manchester City have set their sights on a clean sweep of the four major trophies as the runaway Premier League leaders prepare to host high-flying West Ham this weekend.

To have any chance of putting City under pressure, second-placed Manchester United must end Thomas Tuchel’s unbeaten start as Chelsea boss.

AFP Sport looks at some of the main talking points ahead of the weekend action in the English top-flight.

Man City flex musclesManchester City’s march to the top of the Premier League was not a surprise given their title-winning pedigree, but their record-breaking surge has fuelled belief that they can achieve greatness.

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City chalked up their 19th successive win in all competitions — a record for an English top-flight side — as they eased to a 2-0 victory at Borussia Monchengladbach in the Champions League last-16 first leg on Wednesday.

Pep Guardiola’s side are 10 points clear at the top of the Premier League, face Tottenham in the League Cup final and have reached the FA Cup quarter-finals.

Bernardo Silva, who was on the scoresheet against Borussia, gave voice to City’s swaggering confidence after they moved a step closer to an unprecedented quadruple.

Unbeaten in 26 matches stretching back to November, Silva said City could set a new standard of excellence after their domestic treble two years ago.

“We know we have good momentum, but this is just the last 16 of the Champions League,” he said. “We have the Premier League, the FA Cup and the League Cup.

“It is going to be a tough season but we are going to try to win them all.”

Man Utd face Tuchel testManchester United are the closest challengers to Manchester City, but Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men will need a major collapse from their rivals if they are to win the title for the first time since 2013.

File photo: Manchester United’s Portuguese midfielder Bruno Fernandes (L) and teammates react after conceding their second goal during the English Premier League football match between Manchester United and Sheffield United at Old Trafford in Manchester, north west England, on January 27, 2021. (Photo by Dave Thompson / POOL / AFP).

 

Victory at Chelsea on Sunday is essential to keep United’s faint hopes alive.

That will not be easy given the Blues’ revival under former Paris Saint-Germain boss Thomas Tuchel.

Since replacing the sacked Frank Lampard in January, Tuchel has won six of his eight games in all competitions to lift Chelsea up to fifth place.

But United are unbeaten in five league games and their forward Marcus Rashford believes they are becoming a force to be reckoned with.

“I think we’ve said all season that we’re a team that’s still improving, learning lessons about ourselves every game,” he said.

“We have to concentrate on ourselves and keep giving the best version of us. Ultimately that’s going to make us win the games.”

Alli comes in from the cold after spending much of the season cast into exile by Jose Mourinho, Dele Alli’s return to form has given the Tottenham manager a welcome selection headache.

Alli appeared close to leaving on loan during the January transfer window before the club reportedly blocked the England midfielder’s attempt to rejoin his former Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino at PSG.

The 24-year-old has since held clear-the-air talks with Mourinho and has been reintegrated into the squad.

Alli used Wednesday’s 4-0 Europa League win over Wolfsberger to underline his qualities, scoring a brilliant overhead kick and providing two assists.

Ninth-placed Tottenham must beat Burnley on Sunday to get back in top-four contention.

File photo: Tottenham Hotspur’s Belgian defender Toby Alderweireld celebrates with teammates after he scores his team’s third goal during the English Premier League football match between Tottenham Hotspur and Leeds United at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, on January 2, 2021. Andy Rain / POOL / AFP

 

“These are the headaches that I love,” Mourinho said, referring to his selection quandaries. “The headaches that you don’t like are lots of people not performing. Lots of doubts, by negative reasons.

“These are the wonderful problems. The players they need to understand this concept of team, and the intensity of matches. If you have everybody ready or play at this level, it’s the best thing to happen to the team.”

Fixtures:

Saturday (GMT)

Manchester City v West Ham (1230), West Brom v Brighton (1500), Leeds v Aston Villa (1730), Newcastle v Wolves (2000)

Sunday

Crystal Palace v Fulham (1200), Leicester v Arsenal (1200), Tottenham v Burnley (1400), Chelsea v Manchester United (1630), Sheffield United v Liverpool (1915)

Monday

Everton v Southampton (2000)

 

EPL: Man City Go Top, Arsenal Gain Revenge On Southampton

A photo combination of Arsenal and Manchester City players celebrating their goals in their Premier League games on Tuesday, January 26th, 2021.

 

Manchester City thrashed West Brom 5-0 to move back top of the Premier League on Tuesday as Arsenal aided their push towards the European places with a 3-1 win at Southampton.

City have now won 11 consecutive games since West Brom earned a shock 1-1 draw at the Etihad last month.

Pep Guardiola’s men have hit top form since and did not miss the presence of the injured Kevin De Bruyne in blowing away the Baggies by scoring four goals before half-time.

READ ALSO: Pinnick Declared Eligible For Membership of FIFA Council

Ilkay Gundogan opened the floodgates by curling home from the edge of the box before Joao Cancelo’s controversial strike doubled City’s lead.

Manchester City’s Algerian midfielder Riyad Mahrez celebrates scoring his team’s fourth goal with teammates during the English Premier League football match between West Bromwich Albion and Manchester City at The Hawthorns stadium in West Bromwich, central England, on January 26, 2021. Laurence Griffiths / POOL / AFP

 

The West Brom defence was distracted by a wrongly raised offside flag before the Portuguese full-back found the net, but the goal stood after a VAR review.

Gundogan then took his tally to seven goals in his last eight league games before Riyad Mahrez and Raheem Sterling rounded off the scoring.

“There’s not really a secret,” Gundogan said of his scoring streak. “I’m just in the right spaces at the right moment. I’m in a bit more of an offensive role, if I get the chance close to the box I try to make the right decisions.”

West Brom have now conceded 17 goals in Sam Allardyce’s four home games in charge as they remain second bottom of the table, six points off safety.

– Arsenal on the rise –
Guardiola’s former assistant Mikel Arteta is also enjoying a fine run of form as Arsenal have taken 16 from the last possible 18 points.

The Gunners avenged their FA Cup to Southampton at the weekend despite falling behind after three minutes to Stuart Armstrong’s sweet strike.

Nicolas Pepe quickly levelled before Bukayo Saka rounded Alex McCarthy and slotted home to give the visitors at half-time lead.

“I think we were good from the start. We conceded a goal from a corner but responded straight away,” said Arteta.

“It showed a lot of intelligent and resilience from the team in the way they managed the game.”

Southampton’s English midfielder Theo Walcott shoots but fails to score during the English Premier League football match between Southampton and Arsenal at St Mary’s Stadium in Southampton, southern England on January 26, 2021. Naomi Baker / POOL / AFP

 

Alexandre Lacazette sealed a vital three points 18 minutes from time as Arsenal moved up to eighth and within five points of the top four.

– West Ham go fourth –
West Ham occupy the fourth Champions League place as Tomas Soucek scored twice in a 3-2 win at Crystal Palace.

The Hammers suffered an early setback when Wilfried Zaha put Palace in front after just three minutes.

But the stronger mentality that David Moyes has lauded in West Ham this season showed as Soucek struck twice in 16 minutes to turn the game around.

Only Manchester United’s Bruno Fernandes has scored more Premier League goals from midfield than the Czech since he joined from Slavia Prague a year ago.

Craig Dawson headed in Jarrod Bowen’s corner 25 minutes from time to make it 3-1 before Michy Batshuayi scored a late consolation for Palace.

 

West Ham United’s English defender Craig Dawson (R) celebrates scoring his team’s third goal during the English Premier League football match between Crystal Palace and West Ham United at Selhurst Park in south London on January 26, 2021. Clive Rose / POOL / AFP

 

A sixth consecutive win in all competitions takes Moyes’s men above Liverpool in the table and Jurgen Klopp’s struggling Reds will be wary of their trip to the London Stadium on Sunday.

At the other end of the table, Newcastle lost 2-1 at home to Leeds to stretch their winless run to 11 games

“This league is demanding and cruel at times,” said beleaguered Magpies boss Steve Bruce.

Raphinha slotted home Rodrigo’s cut-back to give Marcelo Bielsa’s men a deserved half-time lead.

Miguel Almiron levelled with Newcastle’s first goal for five games early in the second half, but parity lasted only four minutes before Jack Harrison’s sensational finish with the outside of his left foot claimed all three points for the visitors.

Newcastle have a seven-point cushion over the bottom three, but have now played two games more than Fulham in 18th.

AFP

Top Four, Not Title Race, The Priority For Lampard At Chelsea

Chelsea's English head coach Frank Lampard gestures during the English FA Cup semi-final football match between Manchester United and Chelsea at Wembley Stadium in London, on July 19, 2020. Andy Rain / POOL / AFP
File photo: Chelsea’s English head coach Frank Lampard gestures during the English FA Cup semi-final football match between Manchester United and Chelsea at Wembley Stadium in London, on July 19, 2020. Andy Rain / POOL / AFP

 

Frank Lampard believes Chelsea’s priority is to get back into the Premier League top four after a barren run rather than targeting the title.

However, the former England midfielder is hopeful the Blues fortunes can change for the better as quickly as they have deteriorated over the past month.

Chelsea eased back up to seventh thanks to just their second win in seven league games at 10-man Fulham on Saturday.

However, they briefly topped the table in early December on the back of a 17-game unbeaten run.

In a season when every side has had their struggles adapting to empty stadiums and a congested fixture list, just five points separate the top six.

And victory at third-placed Leicester on Tuesday could haul Lampard’s men back to within five points of the top.

READ ALSO: Messi Sees Red As Bilbao Stun Barca To Win Spanish Super Cup

“There is no reason to say whether we will get back into it (the title race) or not at the moment,” said Lampard at his eve of match press conference.

“We just need to consider the games in front of us and try to win them, to push ourselves steadily up the table.

“We are not in a bad position, we have had a bad short period of form and if we can put wins together this month then the picture will change very quickly — as it has done already this year in so many ways.”

Lampard — whose position has been the source of speculation due to the poor run — says a good barometer of their ability to restore momentum will be how they fare against the Foxes, who can go top with victory.

 

File photo: Chelsea’s German defender Antonio Rudiger (C) and Chelsea’s English head coach Frank Lampard (L) leave the field after the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Wolverhampton Wanderers at Stamford Bridge in London on July 26, 2020. (Photo by DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS / POOL / AFP)

 

“Leicester are in the race for sure, the way they are playing and the results they’re getting and their position in the league,” said Lampard.

“We managed to get above Leicester at the back-end of last season, but it was a big ask for us.

“They are a very good team, with very good individuals, we know that, and a really good manager in Brendan Rodgers.”

Part of the reason for Chelsea’s recent disappointing run has been the poor form of Timo Werner.

The German international has scored just once in the last 14 games in all competitions — against fourth-tier Morecambe in the FA Cup — which is a poor return for the £52 million ($70 million) Chelsea paid for him.

“It’s something that all players experience in their careers,” said Lampard, who dropped Werner to the bench against Fulham.

“When you are a top player, as Timo has shown he is, is when all eyes are on and it becomes magnified.

“But the basics are the same and my job is to tell him that and work with him on it.”

AFP

EPL: Mount Lifts Chelsea Over Fulham

Chelsea's English midfielder Mason Mount celebrates scoring the opening goal during the English Premier League football match between Fulham and Chelsea at Craven Cottage in London on January 16, 2021. Clive Rose / POOL / AFP
Chelsea’s English midfielder Mason Mount celebrates scoring the opening goal during the English Premier League football match between Fulham and Chelsea at Craven Cottage in London on January 16, 2021. Clive Rose / POOL / AFP

 

Chelsea eased the pressure on Frank Lampard as Mason Mount’s strike 13 minutes from time broke the resistance of 10-man Fulham to earn a 1-0 win in the West London derby on Saturday.

The Blues were languishing down in 10th at kick-off after a run of one win in six league games left Lampard fighting for his job.

But the former England midfielder was handed a gift by Antonee Robinson’s reckless challenge just before half-time that earned the American a straight red card.

Chelsea still struggled to make the extra man advantage count, but Mount’s precise low finish moved the visitors up to seventh and within three points of the top four.

READ ALSO: Rooney Loses First Game In Charge Of Derby

A first defeat in six games rounded off a disappointing day for Fulham after victories earlier on Saturday for relegation rivals Brighton and West Brom.

Scott Parker’s men remain third from bottom and are now four points from safety.

Lampard responded to Chelsea’s poor run by leaving big-money signings Timo Werner and Kai Havertz on the bench.

Olivier Giroud was selected ahead of Werner up front and forced French international teammate Alphonse Areola into a smart save as the visitors started brightly.

Mount has maintained Lampard’s faith despite a club record fee being splashed out to bring in Havertz from Bayer Leverkusen and the English international was inches away from rewarding his manager with a thunderous shot that came back off the crossbar.

Fulham were posing a threat themselves on the break and should have gone in front after a brilliant team move.

Robinson’s low cross was turned back across goal by Kenny Tete, but Ivan Cavaleiro’s mishit shot spooned wide.

Moments later, Fulham had a mountain to climb when Robinson dived in on Cesar Azpilicueta and was shown a straight red card.

The hosts were forced to sit deep and doggedly defend wave after wave of Chelsea attack after the break.

Lampard’s men looked most dangerous from set-pieces, though, as Thiago Silva headed wide a golden chance from a corner.

In search of a goal, Lampard first turned to Tammy Abraham from the bench and he headed a huge chance straight at Areola with his first touch.

Christian Pulisic then failed to connect with Hakim Ziyech’s inviting cross seconds later.

A moment of madness from Chelsea goalkeeper Edouard Mendy nearly gifted the Cottagers a shock lead at the other end.

Mendy diverted Azpilicueta’s backpass as he raced from his goal into the path of Cavaleiro, who should have done better than fire straight into Silva’s chest with an empty net to aim for.

Werner was finally introduced 17 minutes from time, but it was Lampard’s trusted lieutenant Mount who made the breakthrough as he pounced after Areola flapped at Ben Chilwell’s cross.

Deep into stoppage time, Werner then wasted a great chance to end his 10-game drought without a Premier League goal as he skewed well wide when one-on-one with Areola.

EPL: Arsenal Held By Crystal Palace

Crystal Palace's English defender Joel Ward (L) vies with Arsenal's English striker Bukayo Saka (R) during the English Premier League football match between Arsenal and Crystal Palace at the Emirates Stadium in London on January 14, 2021. NEIL HALL / POOL / AFP
Crystal Palace’s English defender Joel Ward (L) vies with Arsenal’s English striker Bukayo Saka (R) during the English Premier League football match between Arsenal and Crystal Palace at the Emirates Stadium in London on January 14, 2021. NEIL HALL / POOL / AFP

 

Arsenal’s recent revival ground to a halt as Crystal Palace frustrated the Gunners in a scrappy 0-0 Premier League draw at the Emirates Stadium on Thursday.

Mikel Arteta’s side had won their previous four matches in all competitions, but they were fortunate to extend their unbeaten run to five games.

Palace were unable to convert several first half chances and, although Arsenal improved after the interval, they missed a chance to climb into the top half of the Premier League.

Arsenal sit in 11th place, eight points adrift of the Champions League places as they continue to pay the price for their worst start to a season since 1974-75.

Just before Christmas, Arsenal were only four points above the relegation zone, so their current position 12 points away from the bottom three affords Arteta some much-needed breathing space.

But this disjointed display underlined the attacking flaws that have stopped Arsenal’s building on last season’s FA Cup triumph.

Palace have only won one of their past eight matches in all competitions and are one point behind Arsenal in 13th.

Emile Smith-Rowe, Arsenal’s promising young midfielder, started after scoring against Newcastle as a substitute last weekend.

But Kiernan Tierney was absent with muscle tightness and the Gunners missed the Scotland left-back’s busy presence.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has endured a difficult season and, once again, Arsenal’s captain was a diffident figure.

The Gabon forward briefly sparked into life and tested Vicente Guaita with a fierce strike that has parried by the Palace keeper.

But Palace were finding their feet on a wet evening and Granit Xhaka had to make a perfectly timed sliding tackle to stop Wilfried Zaha getting a shot away after the forward slalomed into the penalty area.

Palace broke through the Arsenal defence again when Christian Benteke scooped his shot wastefully over from 10 yards after good work by Tyrick Mitchell.

James Tomkins was inches away from giving Roy Hodgson’s men the lead as the Palace defender got above Rob Holding to glance his header against the bar from Eberechi Eze’s free-kick.

Arsenal were struggling to get out of their own half and Bernd Leno had to make a superb save to repel Benteke’s header from Mitchell’s cross.

Arteta’s half-time team talk seemed like it might have the desired effect and Hector Bellerin drilled just wide from the edge of the area in the opening minute of the second half.

Arsenal threatened again as Bukayo Saka forced Guaita to block at the near post before Alexandre Lacazette blasted into the side-netting after a flowing move.

Arteta sent on Nicolas Pepe and Thomas Partey, back after a month out with a thigh injury.

But the expected push never came and Palace were able to keep the misfiring Gunners at bay with ease.

 

AFP

EPL: Rejuvenated Arsenal Thrash West Brom

Arsenal's French striker Alexandre Lacazette (L) scores their fourth goal during the English Premier League football match between West Bromwich Albion and Arsenal at The Hawthorns stadium in West Bromwich, central England, on January 2, 2021. Michael Regan / POOL / AFP
Arsenal’s French striker Alexandre Lacazette (L) scores their fourth goal during the English Premier League football match between West Bromwich Albion and Arsenal at The Hawthorns stadium in West Bromwich, central England, on January 2, 2021. Michael Regan / POOL / AFP

 

Alexandre Lacazette scored twice as Arsenal further eased their early season struggles by thrashing West Brom 4-0 at a snow covered Hawthorns on Saturday.

After seven Premier League games without a win, the Gunners have now won three in a week to dampen talk of a relegation fight and move back into contention for the European places.

Kieran Tierney’s stunning solo goal opened the floodgates as Sam Allardyce’s men have now conceded nine times in two games.

Bukayo Saka rounded off a brilliant team move to double the visitors’ lead before Lacazette struck twice in four second-half minutes.

West Brom are yet to win in four games since Allardyce took charge and the former England manager needs to quickly instill the defensive discipline he has made his trademark at previous clubs if the Baggies are to have any chance of survival.

Just over a week ago Allardyce said Arsenal were in a battle against the drop, but Mikel Arteta’s decision to finally put faith in his crop of talented youngsters has turned his side’s season around.

Saka was again the shining light, while Tierney and Emile Smith Rowe also impressed.

Arsenal’s poor run was principally caused by a struggle to score goals, but they were a threat from the off despite the treacherous conditions.

Sam Johnstone denied Hector Bellerin and Saka inside the first 10 minutes, but he was powerless to stop Tierney’s stunning opener on 23 minutes.

The Scotland international left Darnell Furlong trailing in his wake before cutting inside onto his weaker right foot and curling into the top corner.

Arsenal’s second was reminiscent of their flowing football at the height of the Arsene Wenger era as Saka fed Lacazette, whose brilliant pass played Smith Rowe in behind the West Brom defence and he squared for Saka to tap into an empty net.

The one way traffic continued after the break and some comical West Brom defending led to the third as Semi Ajayi smashed a dangerous cross off his own post and the ball broke to Lacazette to apply a simple finish.

Moments later another raid from Tierney down the left teed up Lacazette for another finish from point-blank range.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has missed out on Arsenal’s return to scoring form over the past eight days as he turned a glorious chance from Willian’s mishit shot over before Johnstone produced another fine save from the Gunners’ captain.

However, four goals were more than enough to prove Arsenal’s return to form as they moved to within six points of the top four with two favourable fixtures against Crystal Palace and Newcastle to come.

West Brom on the other hand remain six points adrift of safety and showing little sign of life since Allardyce’s arrival.

 

AFP

West Ham Grab Late Winner To End Everton’s Winning Run

West Ham United’s Italian defender Angelo Ogbonna (L), West Ham United’s Czech midfielder Tomas Soucek (C)and West Ham United’s Czech defender Vladimir Coufal react at the final whistle during the English Premier League football match between Everton and West Ham United at Goodison Park in Liverpool, north west England on January 1, 2021.
Jan Kruger / POOL / AFP

 

Everton missed the chance to go a point behind local rivals Liverpool at the top of the Premier League as Tomas Soucek’s late strike earned West Ham a 1-0 win at Goodison Park on Friday.

In a disappointing game of few chances, Soucek was in the right place to stab home Aaron Cresswell’s deflected shot four minutes from time as David Moyes enjoyed a winning return to his former club.

Victory for the Hammers moves them to within three points of third despite sitting 10th in the table.

Everton on the other hand were left to rue a huge missed opportunity to bolster their European credentials.

Carlo Ancelotti’s men had enjoyed nearly a week off after their clash with Manchester City on Monday was postponed due to a coronavirus outbreak among the City squad.

Ancelotti was able to welcome back Richarlison from a concussion and James Rodriguez made his return from injury off the bench in the second-half, but the Toffees rarely put West Ham stand-in goalkeeper Darren Randolph under any pressure.

The visitors had the best chance of the first-half when another Cresswell shot flew across goal and this time beyond Jarrod Bowen at the back post.

Dominic Calvert-Lewin scored a hat-trick when the sides met in the League Cup in September, but the England international was largely anonymous.

West Ham were playing for the third time in six days, yet it was Moyes’s men who ended the game stronger and grabbed the late winner.

Soucek’s goals from midfield have played a big part in his side’s success this season and the Czech international scored for the fourth time in seven games when Cresswell’s effort broke kindly to him.

Later, Manchester United have the chance to move level on points with Liverpool when they host in-form Aston Villa, who could go third with victory at Old Trafford.

-AFP

US Investors Acquire EPL Club Burnley

Burnley's Dutch defender Erik Pieters challenges Sheffield United's English defender George Baldock during the English Premier League football match between Burnley and Sheffield United at Turf Moor in Burnley, north west England on December 29, 2020. Barrington Coombs / POOL / AFP
Burnley’s Dutch defender Erik Pieters challenges Sheffield United’s English defender George Baldock during the English Premier League football match between Burnley and Sheffield United at Turf Moor in Burnley, north west England on December 29, 2020. Barrington Coombs / POOL / AFP

 

US investment group ALK Capital has completed its takeover of Burnley, acquiring a controlling 84 percent stake in the Premier League club, it was announced on Thursday.

Delaware-based ALK, which specialises in investments in the sport and media sectors, said its managing partner Alan Pace would take over from Mike Garlick as chairman.

Pace, the former president of Major League Soccer’s Real Salt Lake, said the move marked “the start of an exciting journey for the entire Clarets family”.

“With a rich heritage, a brilliant academy, and a passionate fan base, this club has solid foundations to build upon,” he said in a statement on the club’s website.

Garlick, who had held just under 50 percent of the club’s shares, will remain on ALK Capital’s new board of directors at Burnley.

He said the deal represented a “natural progression” for the club, who are in their fifth consecutive season in the English top-flight.

“In Alan Pace and his team, we are welcoming committed investors to Turf Moor who will be living here in the local community and investing in the club, both on and off the football pitch, for many years to come,” he said.

One of ALK’s first priorities is likely to be a meeting with Dyche, who can expect fresh financial support in the January transfer window.

The manager said after Tuesday’s victory over Sheffield United that he had no knowledge of the deal, but it is understood moves were already under way by the new ownership to bring him up to speed on their plans.

One result of the change in ownership could be an expansion of the club’s international scouting and transfer network.

Commenting on Tuesday on the likelihood of adding to his injury-reduced squad in the coming weeks, Dyche offered a cautious take.

“If there are things in the market we think we can align, we will. If there’s not, we’ll keep operating with the group we’ve got,” said the manager, who has been in charge at Turf Moor since 2012.

Burnley are 16th in the Premier League, five points above the relegation zone, and host 18th-placed Fulham on Sunday.

 

AFP

UPDATED: Arsenal Beat Chelsea To Record First Win In Eight Leagues Matches

Arsenal's Spanish manager Mikel Arteta (C) xelebrates with Arsenal's Spanish defender Pablo Mari after the English Premier League football match between Arsenal and Chelsea at the Emirates Stadium in London on December 26, 2020. Julian Finney / POOL / AFP
Arsenal’s Spanish manager Mikel Arteta (C) celebrates with Arsenal’s Spanish defender Pablo Mari after the English Premier League football match against Chelsea at the Emirates Stadium in London on December 26, 2020. Julian Finney / POOL / AFP

 

Arsenal eased their relegation fears and lifted the pressure on beleaguered boss Mikel Arteta with a much-needed 3-1 win against Chelsea on Saturday.

Arteta’s side sat just three points above the relegation zone before kick-off at the Emirates Stadium after their worst start to a season since 1974-75.

But the Gunners produced their best performance this time to out-class their London rivals.

Alexandre Lacazette’s controversial penalty opened the scoring before Granit Xhaka’s superb free-kick increased Arsenal’s lead before half-time.

Bukayo Saka bagged Arsenal’s third goal after the break as they won in the Premier League for the first time in eight games stretching back to November 1.

Their last league victory was the 1-0 win over Manchester United at the Old Trafford.

Chelsea's English striker Tammy Abraham recats after the English Premier League football match between Arsenal and Chelsea at the Emirates Stadium in London on December 26, 2020. Julian Finney / POOL / AFP
Chelsea’s English striker Tammy Abraham reacts after the English Premier League football match against Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium in London on December 26, 2020. Julian Finney / POOL / AFP

 

Tammy Abraham’s late strike was no consolation for woeful Chelsea, who missed a penalty through Jorginho in the final moments.

Moving six points clear of the bottom three will buy Arteta a little breathing space following talks that he was in danger of the sack after just a year in charge.

Arsenal have only been relegated from the top flight once in their history, in 1912-13.

With matches against Brighton and West Brom coming next in their Christmas schedule, the Gunners have a chance to climb to a healthy league position heading into 2021.

Having won the FA Cup final against Chelsea in August, Arteta has now delivered two major blows to Blues boss Frank Lampard this year.

Chelsea would have gone second with a victory, but instead, they remain six points behind leaders Liverpool after a third defeat in their last four league games.

Lacklustre in attack, short of drive in midfield and bereft of a cutting edge up front, Chelsea’s £200 million ($267 million) pre-season overhaul is yet to pay off.

Lampard has only 48 hours to lift Chelsea’s flagging spirits before they are back in action against Aston Villa on Monday.

 

– Vibrant Arsenal –

Arteta suffered a pre-match blow when Gabriel was ruled out for three matches as he self-isolates under coronavirus protocols.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang started on the bench as he battles with a calf injury and a poor run of form, yet Arsenal didn’t miss their captain or Brazilian defender Gabriel.

Although Chelsea midfielder Mason Mount curled a free-kick against the outside of the post, there was no doubt who was on top.

Arsenal made the breakthrough in the 35th minute when Kieran Tierney got across Reece James into the Chelsea area and tumbled under the slightest contact from the panicked defender.

Arsenal's English striker Bukayo Saka (2L) celebrates scoring their thrid goal during the English Premier League football match between Arsenal and Chelsea at the Emirates Stadium in London on December 26, 2020. ANDREW BOYERS / POOL / AFP
Arsenal’s English striker Bukayo Saka (2L) celebrates scoring their third goal during the English Premier League football match against Chelsea at the Emirates Stadium in London on December 26, 2020. ANDREW BOYERS / POOL / AFP

 

Michael Oliver’s debatable decision to award a penalty survived a VAR review and Lacazette sent Edouard Mendy the wrong way from the spot for his sixth goal of the season.

It was no more than Arsenal deserved for a vibrant first half and Arteta was celebrating again in the 44th minute.

Xhaka has been much-maligned at Arsenal, with the Swiss midfielder’s most recent faux pas coming when he was sent off in a defeat against Burnley.

N’Golo Kante fouled Saka and Xhaka did his bit to get back in favour when he whipped a brilliant 20-yard free-kick over the Chelsea wall and into the top corner.

Lampard sent on Jorginho and Callum Hudson-Odoi for Timo Werner, whose goal drought now stretches to 10 games, and Mateo Kovacic.

But the switches failed to spark lethargic Chelsea into life and Arsenal struck again in the 56th minute.

Hector Bellerin and Emile Smith Rowe combined to send Saka into the area and his cross-shot looped over Mendy into the far corner.

Abraham converted Hudson Odoi’s cross from close range in the 85th minute to spark a late Arsenal wobble.

Pablo Mari’s foul on Mount gave Chelsea a stoppage-time penalty, but Jorginho missed for the third time this season as Bernd Leno kept out the Italian’s weak effort.

AFP

Aston Villa Captain Grealish Gets Nine-Month Driving Ban

Aston Villa’s English midfielder Jack Grealish (C) scores their seventh goal past Liverpool’s Spanish goalkeeper Adrian during the English Premier League football match between Aston Villa and Liverpool at Villa Park in Birmingham, central England on October 4, 2020. (Photo by Catherine Ivill / POOL / AFP).

 

Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish was given a nine-month driving ban on Tuesday after crashing his Range Rover during the coronavirus lockdown in March.

Grealish was sentenced at Birmingham Magistrates’ Court after previously pleading guilty to two charges.

The 25-year-old’s vehicle hit two parked vehicles in Dickens Heath, Solihull, West Midlands.

As well as the driving ban, England midfielder Grealish was also fined £82,499 ($110,271).

A judge was told that a witness said Grealish smelled of “intoxicating liquor” and was slurring his words immediately after the crash on March 29.

Grealish was involved in the incident less than 24 hours after issuing a Twitter video message urging people to stay at home to save lives and protect the NHS.

He also pleaded guilty to a separate offence of careless driving after prosecutors said an unmarked police car spotted him driving at more than 90mph along the M42 at “close to an intimidating distance” on October 18.

READ ALSO: Neymar Stretchered Off In PSG’s Defeat To Lyon

Grealish was also ordered to pay costs of £220 and a victim surcharge of £181, taking his total in costs and fines to £82,900 – all payable within seven days.

Prior to the convictions, Grealish already had six points on his driving licence for a speeding offence in 2018.

He will have to apply for a new licence once his ban ends.

AFP