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Premier League will lose its most unique player when Mousa Dembele leaves Tottenham

Promising young footballers are regularly compared to a current or former great and it’s usually based upon a couple of attributes: the new Thierry Henry, the new Lionel Messi, the new Ronaldo. They rarely live up to the billing, but it’s a useful shortcut for describing their style. It’s difficult, though, to imagine anyone being an accurate “new Mousa Dembele” — not because the Belgian was so magnificent that no one could possibly come close, but because Dembele is unlike anyone else before or since.
Rewind to summer 2010, when Dembele joined Fulham. They’d just been defeated in the Europa League final, had lost Roy Hodgson to Liverpool and appointed Mark Hughes as their new manager. Dembele was a promising signing, having won the Eredivisie with Louis van Gaal’s AZ, but he was regarded as a forward. The Guardian’s report described him as “the Belgium striker” while noting that “he can also play on the wing.” Hughes said he was “strong and quick, and will add another dimension to our attacking options.”nfl cheap jerseys nike

Dembele came off the bench against Manchester United and then made his full debut at Blackpool, where he played just off Bobby Zamora and assisted both goals in a 2-2 draw. The next weekend he was again Zamora’s strike partner in a home clash with Wolves. Zamora suffered a broken leg in the first half but Dembele came to Fulham’s rescue with two goals, securing a dramatic 2-1 win.

“We hope Moussa can get the goals — there’s a big onus on him now that Bobby’s out,” said Hughes. That made sense: he’d managed two goals in two starts. Yet despite playing the remainder of the season up front, Dembele didn’t manage another goal until his final game of the season, a 5-2 home defeat to Liverpool. In fact, he was so lacking as a goal-scoring threat that his position changed entirely.6

The crucial change came in a home contest against Stoke the following February. When one journalist dared to tweet (presumably having been tipped off by a dressing room source) that Dembele would be starting alongside Danny Murphy in the engine room, he was widely mocked. This was a forward and a relentless dribbler; Fulham played two aggressive wingers. How would Martin Jol, who had replaced Hughes, be brave enough to use him in a midfield duo? But, sure enough, that’s what happened. With new signing Pavel Pogrebnyak playing up front and scoring on debut, Dembele was now a deep central midfielder.

“Dembele was playing in a deeper role than usual and the Belgian was clearly enjoying being able to dictate the play,” read the match report on Fulham’s website.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

“Dembele was impressing for the hosts despite playing in an unusual role alongside Danny Murphy in central midfield,” read the Daily Express. “The Belgium international was leading the Stoke defenders a merry dance.”

That set the tone for the rest of Dembele’s Premier League career: opponents found themselves unable to get close. This was 2012, a period when Barcelona still dominated European football and Spain were about to complete their hat-trick of international successes, a period when midfielders were essentially all about passing. But Dembele, while very reliable in possession, was largely about dribbling. It’s difficult to think of another central midfielder so adept at turning away from pressure, at slaloming past opponents to launch a quick break.

India must turn ‘Sorrow of Sharjah’ at Asian Cup into fuel for fire

Japan’s J League started in 1993. At the same time, the national team was doing well in qualification for the 1994 World Cup and what would be a first appearance on the global stage. Going into the final game against Iraq in Qatar, the Samurai Blue just had to win to book their ticket. The goal was duly scored, and at halftime the team’s Dutch coach, Hans Ooft, wrote “45 minutes to the World Cup” on the whiteboard in the dressing room. Iraq equalised soon after the break, but Japan restored their lead and were in front with just seconds to go.cheap nfl nike jerseys from china

Then it happened. Jaffar Osman Salman rose in the area and his header looped ever so slowly, ever so painfully, over the head of the goalkeeper. Suddenly it was 2-2, Japanese players were sinking to their knees and South Korea, who had already won their game and were lying down on the turf thinking it was all over, were celebrating instead.5

Years later, Ooft theorised that the heartbreak of 1993 had been an important turning point in the history of Japanese football. To have something so valuable in your hands, only to have it snatched away in the cruelest way possible, had two effects.

Qualifying for the 2019 Asian Cup was a fine achievement, but that was nothing to thrashing Thailand in the opening game. Thailand have been the dominant team in Southeast Asia, a stronger region than South Asia, for much of this decade. They expected to win comfortably against India with three of their players in the J League, but they lost 4-1. India then went on to face the host United Arab Emirates, the third-placed team from 2015, a team that wasn’t that far from qualifying for last summer’s World Cup and a team a couple of levels above India in Asian terms. The U.A.E., led by former Serie A and Asian Cup-winning coach Alberto Zaccheroni, won 2-0, but India impressed once again and had they been more clinical and the crossbar a little thinner then a deserved point would have come their way.nfl cheap jerseys nike

It left the Blue Tigers needing a point against Bahrain in the final game. When you only need a draw, it can make for a difficult situation. Do you attack, defend or do a bit of both? India defended and did so too deeply. It very nearly worked, but a careless tackle from captain Pronay Halder in the dying seconds prompted the referee to point to the spot.

Asian Cup: Qatar, Japan, Uzbekistan win opening games

Qatar and Japan won their opening games at the Asian Cup on Wednesday, but for both teams it’s all about 2022. Quite literally for Qatar, who are hosting the next World Cup that year and scored their first goal at 8:22 p.m. — or 2022 — Qatar time.

Japan’s quest for a record fifth title started with a 3-2 victory over Turkmenistan, while Qatar earned a 2-0 win over Lebanon amid political tension with the host nation.

After giving up an early goal, Japan — who have a young squad that’s been rebuilt with an eye on the next World Cup — scored three in quick succession to turn the game around.

Yuya Osako scored in the 56th and 60th minutes, the latter following a goalkeeping error, and Ritsu Doan made it 3-1 in the 71st.cheap nfl nike jerseys china

Arslanmurat Amanov scored with a long-range shot to give Turkmenistan — the Asian Cup’s second-lowest-ranked team — the lead in the 26th minute. Ahmet Atayev converted a penalty toward the end after a foul by Japan goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda.6

After losing to Belgium in the last 16 of the 2018 World Cup, Japan are trying to rebuild. Coach Hajime Moriyasu left some experienced players off the team for the Asian Cup, including midfielder Shinji Kagawa and forward Shinji Okazaki. He is instead giving more prominence to players like Gonda, whose last competitive international game was in 2013.

Japan are unbeaten in six games since the World Cup, five of those victories.cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

In the other Group F match, Uzbekistan beat Oman 2-1. Eldor Shomurodov scored the winning goal in the 85th minute.

Uzbekistan finished the match with 10 men after defender Egor Krimets was sent off in stoppage time for fouling an opposing player who was through on goal.

Qatar dominated possession but lacked a cutting edge against Lebanon before Iraqi-born Bassam Al-Rawi curled in a free kick in the 65th. Almoez Ali made it 2-0 from a rebound 14 minutes later.

Earlier, Lebanon thought they had scored their first major-tournament goal since 2000 through Ali Hamam from a corner, but it was ruled out for a foul away from the ball.

Kane reminds Chelsea of what they’re missing as Spurs grab advantage

When Stuart Pearce was England Under-21s manager, he went to visit Pep Guardiola at Barcelona. The two spent a few days together, Guardiola offered various pieces of advice on all aspects of the game, but as the two men parted he turned around and offered one final suggestion: “By the way, get a Messi in your side.”cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

Mauricio Pochettino might say something similar about Harry Kane.

Kane’s first-half penalty was the difference between Tottenham and Chelsea in the first leg of their Carabao Cup semifinal at Wembley on Tuesday. It was a penalty awarded after the VAR ruled Kepa Arrizabalaga had fouled Kane in his area, a ruling that came after Kane’s run was adjudged to have been kept onside by Cesar Azpilicueta. The latter proved controversial, with Maurizio Sarri slamming the decision, citing “the pictures on our camera,” which revealed that “Kane was offside, clearly offside.”5

“I think we deserved more, because in this match we played better than the opponents,” he explained, in plain-enough terms. “We were in control of the match. We played about 70 balls in the opposing box, against 11 balls from Tottenham. Eighteen shots against seven, I think. Five goal opportunities against two.”

All of which is the sort of analysis that you can paint as either a good or a bad thing for Chelsea. Good that they dominated, particularly in parts of the second half, but the fact they didn’t convert that dominance into goals and a victory must be a concern.

Which, in turn, emphasised the glaring difference between the two teams at Wembley. Kane’s goal may have been only a penalty, but where the England captain is concerned, for “penalty” you can read “goal.” He’s missed only one of his past 14, that against Liverpool last season, a failure that dogged him for a full seven minutes before another came along, which he of course buried.cheap nfl nike jerseys china

Those seven minutes perhaps encapsulated one of the main reasons why Kane is so good. It’s like he has one of those memory erasers from “Men In Black,” but rather than making him forget extra-terrestrial encounters, it wipes misses from his brain, freeing him from the self-doubt that might lodge in the brains of others.

Maurizio Sarri: It’s time to decide Eden Hazard’s future

Hazard, however, has repeatedly stated that he will wait until the end of the season — when he enters the final year of his current contract — before deciding his future, and Sarri has grown exasperated with facing constant questions on the subject.

“I don’t know [if he will stay] but I think it’s time to decide,” Sarri said of Hazard on Friday. “I have not the power to do this. I am the coach, not the president, I’m not in charge of the market.

“I’m the coach. I want to speak to him only about the position on the pitch. [But] I think we have to solve the problem if we want to [plan] the future. We have to solve this problem.”nike nfl jerseys for cheap

After the Watford game Hazard pointedly stated that he prefers playing as a winger to the false nine role that Sarri has given him in the last four Premier League matches but the Italian added that he will continue to deploy his superstar in the position that best helps Chelsea on the pitch.6
Asked if Hazard is now his preferred option up front ahead of Olivier Giroud and Alvaro Morata — who was omitted from the match day squad against Watford for tactical reasons despite being fit — Sarri hinted that he will persist with the strategy against Crystal Palace on Sunday.

“It depends on the moment,” he explained. “In this moment we need to be solid, and with Hazard in this position I think we can become more solid. It’s a good option for the defensive phase, I think, but it depends on the moment.cheap nike nfl jerseys china

“Maybe in the future we will be able to play with Hazard and a striker together. It’s not a big problem for us, I think.”

Chelsea will be without Pedro Rodriguez and Callum Hudson-Odoi against Palace after both men picked up hamstring injuries during the Watford game. Sarri expects the Spaniard to miss around 10 days, while the academy prospect’s issue is less serious and he should return to training next week.

Man United’s Sanchez and Lukaku must prove themselves – Solskjaer

The Norwegian has already had an impact on Paul Pogba’s form since taking over from Jose Mourinho and the 45-year-old says it is up to Sanchez and Lukaku to follow the Frenchman’s example and use the fresh start to get back to their best.buy nike nfl jerseys cheap

“I cannot do anything for their performances on the pitch,” Solskjaer told a news conference on Friday. “I’m here to give them the path and it’s up to them to do it on the pitch. It’s up to them when they get a chance that’s the name of the game as a footballer. You’ve got to do it yourself.”5

Lukaku, who is back after compassionate leave, has managed just six goals this season while Sanchez, who has recovered from a hamstring injury, has scored only once this term.

Pogba also struggled for form during a disappointing start to the season but the midfielder has been one of the stars of Solskjaer’s first two games, scoring twice in the 3-1 win over Huddersfield on Boxing Day.nike nfl jerseys for cheap

Solskjaer has also confirmed Antonio Valencia is nearing a comeback from injury and will remain club captain when he returns to the team. The United caretaker boss was less optimistic about Chris Smalling’s fitness and revealed the defender may have to wait until the trip to Tottenham on Jan. 13 due to a foot injury.

“Antonio is the captain when fit,” he said. “He’s going through a couple of tough sessions now to get him ready for the busy period. There are not many better right backs going forward.

“Smalling has got a sore foot so I don’t think we’ll see him until the New Year, maybe not before Spurs. Marcos [Rojo] and Scott [McTominay] look like they can take part soon.”

Liverpool’s win over Man United wasn’t a surprise, but their dominance was

What stands out about Liverpool’s win over Manchester United isn’t that it happened — they were at home, and there’s a reason the sides were separated by 16 points at kickoff — it’s the way it occurred.

To put on a display of this intensity just a few days after a massive Champions League clash isn’t to be taken lightly. It’s not just a physical thing — it’s mental as well. Great teams can win multiple games in a row against big opponents; doing it while also turning in top-notch performances is rather rarer.cheap nfl jerseys china nike

That Jurgen Klopp managed to do it with Nathaniel Clyne, who had played just 90 minutes this season, and Naby Keita, drafted in as a late replacement for the injured James Milner, is significant, too. Xherdan Shaqiri’s two goals may have benefited from deflections, but make no mistake about it, this was a road-grading: 36 shots on goal, with every outfield player having a crack and a 20-minute spell at the beginning in which Manchester United were put through the heavy spin cycle.6

Did Manchester United contribute to their own downfall? Sure. Jose Mourinho’s continuous chopping and changing of personnel and formations only makes United more awkward and insecure. On the other hand, there’s Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

Because United have, with a few exceptions, been consistently subpar since October, you can’t entirely blame the manager for trying to shake things up week to week. That said, against a side that you know will press high and intensely, lining up a midfield without a passer to break the pressure (yes, the obvious name is Paul Pogba, but Juan Mata can hit a pass, too) seems counterintuitive at best.

One curious thing about Liverpool is that although they are ahead of Manchester City at the top of the table, most still have Pep Guardiola’s crew as overwhelming favorites. So, too, do the betting markets, who predict that Liverpool will finish five points behind City at the end of the season. These are just predictions and projections, of course, and they could well be wrong, but it’s interesting how people who make a living off of predicting the (footballing) future are still firmly on the City bandwagon to the point that they think Guardiola will make up six points on Klopp in 21 games.nfl nike jerseys cheap china

PSG and Adrien Rabiot contract saga turns ugly but what does the future hold?

PSG’s sporting director, Antero Henrique announced in an interview with Yahoo on Monday that Rabiot has been banned from the first-team squad until further notice. Or until he signs a new contract, that is.

Rabiot’s current deal runs out in June 2019 and he told the club last week that he was not going to sign the lucrative new terms offered to him. Instead he wants to leave on a free in the summer.

As far as Paris’ hierarchy are concerned, Rabiot is not a PSG player anymore. He will continue to collect his salary but will never play for the first team again. Henrique is now hoping that he can sell the midfielder in January — in a similar way to how Arsenal sold Alexis Sanchez to Manchester United with fewer than six months left on his contract.china nike nfl jerseys cheap

Indeed, Rabiot is a much sought-after player. Barcelona believe they are the front-runners, but Liverpool, Tottenham and the two Milan clubs are also very keen. Ideally, PSG would want at least €20 million for him in January — which would be used straight away to buy another midfielder — but the dynamic is totally different for Rabiot, of course. If he waits for his contract to end, he will get a huge signing-on fee from his new club. But he also can’t afford not to play until next season, so it is probably better for him to leave as soon as possible.5

Whatever happens, it’s a blow for PSG. They had invested a lot of time and effort in trying to convince Rabiot to pledge his long-term future to the club. They were ready to give him a huge pay rise, a big bonus and to make him a key part of the squad.

Even PSG manager Thomas Tuchel showed he rated Rabiot by giving him the captain’s armband earlier in the season. He could see his potential and, while he was not personally involved in the talks over a new contract, the German privately told Rabiot how much he liked him as a player.cheap nfl jerseys china nike

But cracks started to appear in the Tuchel-Rabiot relationship in October. Rabiot’s lack of discipline, as he arrived late for training and team meetings, was a sore point and the straw that broke the camel’s back came ahead of the game against Marseille at the end of the month. Rabiot and Kylian Mbappe arrived eight minutes late for the prematch team meeting and it was too much for the manager — both were due to start but were benched instead.

Chelsea’s win over Man City says a lot about Sarri. PLUS: Sterling stands up, River claim Copa Lib

Manchester City’s first league defeat of the campaign probably says more about their opponents, Chelsea, than it does Guardiola’s crew. Without Kevin De Bruyne, Sergio Aguero and Benjamin Mendy, they marched into Stamford Bridge and dominated the first half, only to be punished by Eden Hazard’s quick thinking, N’Golo Kante’s finish and Leroy Sane’s brief daydream. The goal allowed Chelsea to tighten up further and play on the counter even more; they added a second through a David Luiz header later on.china nike nfl jerseys cheap

Other than Sane’s distraction and the absentees — though with City’s depth, that’s hardly an alibi — Guardiola probably won’t find too much fault with his side’s performance. They controlled the game and created chances. Raheem Sterling up front in place of Aguero (and the currently star-crossed Gabriel Jesus) may not have yielded goals but wasn’t a particular problem on the day.

What messed City up was that, far from being the dogmatic fundamentalist that some accused him of being, Maurizio Sarri showed he can be a pragmatist too. Other than his choice to play the three little guys up front, forsaking Olivier Giroud and Alvaro Morata for Hazard as a “false nine,” it was the usual personnel. The difference is that their lines were much tighter, they didn’t insist on possession, they limited their pressing to the final third and they dropped deep once City broke into midfield.6

It was a humble, blue-collar performance, and it’s exactly what Sarri, with his obsession with patterned movements and pushing men forward, was supposedly unable to do. So much for those who hammered him for not having a Plan B or not playing N’Golo Kante in front of the back four. (Those who insist with this trope are, frankly, without help: that role in a Sarri team is an attacking role and requires a playmaker, and putting Kante there is the equivalent of a long-ball team deploying Sergio Aguero as a center-forward and lumping long balls towards him.)nfl nike jerseys cheap china

Oh, and while I feel like I’m discussing Kante every week, let me also add this. He won a title at Leicester playing alongside a purely defensive midfielder like Danny Drinkwater and then won another title the following year next to Nemanja Matic, also a purely holding guy. What’s more, he had three central defenders behind him. This isn’t to diminish him in any way — he’s one of the best in the world — but rather to point out that context matters. And it’s simply silly to compare Kante’s positions without comparing the personnel and formations around him, as well as what the manager is trying to do.

 

Everton snatch last-gasp equaliser through Lucas Digne to draw with Watford

With Gylfi Sigurdsson spurning the chance to equalise for the hosts when his penalty was saved just minutes later, Watford looked to be heading for a win but Digne then popped up with his first Everton goal to salvage a point.

The night had started well for the Merseysiders, looking for the win that would have lifted them above Manchester United into sixth place, when Brazilian striker Richarlison scored against his old club after a quarter of an hour.

The goal was controversial, however, with Everton’s Theo Walcott appearing to be offside in the build-up.

“I prefer not to say anything about the referees,” said Watford manager Javi Gracia. “If VAR was ready today the result would have been different.”cheap nike nfl jerseys wholesale

Everton’s Coleman then put through his own goal in the 63rd minute when Roberto Pererya’s effort hit the post and rebounded off the defender into the net, before Doucoure put the visitors in front when he rose above Coleman to head firmly home.

Three minutes later Christian Kabasele clumsily fouled Everton defender Yerry Mina in the penalty area but Sigurdsson’s spot kick down the middle was saved by the legs of Ben Foster.5

It was the Icelander’s second penalty miss from his last three.

As the clock ticked down, mid-table Watford thought they had done enough for the win but France international Digne stepped up to curl his free-kick into the net and deny the visitors.

“It showed personality and character to take that free-kick when people might have expected Gylfi. It’s a very good goal,” said Everton manager Marco Silva after facing his old club.

However, the Portuguese coach was not happy about his side’s defending for Watford’s two goals.

“We lost our focus completely. Those two moments were not too special. We are not happy with the result,” he said.

“When you start like we start and achieve just one point, of course we are unhappy. Our goal for the match is completely different from the result.”china nike nfl jerseys cheap

Everton are seventh on 24 points, two behind Manchester United, while Watford are 12th with 21 points from 16 games.