Almost everything about Arsenal's 3-1 defeat to Liverpool at Anfield on Saturday was predictable.

It was vintage Arsenal, but for all the wrong reasons.

The Gunners made a fist of it for 41 minutes – by which point they were 3-0 down on their last visit to Anfield - yet once Liverpool were ahead through Joel Matip, it just looked a matter of how many they would score.

Ultimately the Reds made do with a comfortable two-goal cushion, with Lucas Torreira getting a late consolation after coming on as a substitute.

But Arsenal found themselves clinging on at times in the second half, with the match affirming many pre-match expectations.

 

Pepe's party tricks undermined when it mattered

No doubt supporters will have been excited by the prospect of seeing club-record signing Nicolas Pepe line up for the first time since his £72million move from Lille.

The Ivory coast international joined Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in attack and he cannot be accused of going missing.

After all, he became the first player in 50 matches to dribble past Virgil van Dijk in the first half, before going on a brilliant run that saw him make a mockery of Andrew Robertson's attempt at defending.

However, the latter situation also presented him with a glorious chance to score in a one-on-one situation. His lack of composure was alarming for a player who scored 22 Ligue 1 goals last term, as he took his shot too early and fired straight at Adrian.

There's no doubt he has ability and some of his touches proved as much, though the performance was closer to impersonating former Gunner Gervinho, rather than the legendary Thierry Henry.

 

Arsenal's recruitment issues laid bare

It was Pepe's first Premier League start – he should improve with time.

But that does not change the perception Arsenal would have been wiser splashing £72m on other areas of the squad, rather than on an attack that already includes Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette.

David Luiz's hapless showing is the case in point.

The Brazilian, brought in as Laurent Koscielny's replacement, was presumably supposed to add the knowledge provided by 'experience', but signing a centre-back with his track record when trying to shore up a leaky defence is akin to using paper to cover a burst pipe.

He was all over the place at Anfield, conceding a penalty by pulling Mohamed Salah's shirt before being left for dead by the Egyptian for his second goal.

 

Aubameyang a flat-track bully?

Arsenal fans generally consider themselves lucky to have Aubameyang. After all, he has been an excellent signing in terms of his output.

However, there have certainly been doubts raised about his effectiveness against the top sides. The Gabon striker has managed just three goals in 14 games against the Premier League's so-called 'big six'.

Against the rest of the teams he has played against in the top flight, Aubameyang has netted 31 in 38 matches, averaging a goal every 94 minutes.

He threatened a few times at Anfield but was nowhere near ruthless enough, letting Adrian get away with a poor clearance when he sent a lobbed effort wide of an open goal in the first period.

He then took an age to make a decision after the break when played through on goal, allowing Joel Matip to make a last-ditch tackle. Aubameyang's blushes were spared somewhat by the flag eventually going up for offside.

 

Reds silence Gunners… Again

Perhaps most predictable of all was that Arsenal simply lost against Liverpool.

The Gunners have not won at Anfield since 2012, their barren streak including losing 4-0, 4-1 and 5-1 (twice).

Before this weekend, Arsenal had won just three games against the 'big six' under Unai Emery. While Saturday was technically an improvement on the 5-1 battering last season from Arsenal's perspective, that's hardly a ringing endorsement of the Spaniard's side.

Next up: Tottenham in the north London derby.

After Manchester United put four past Chelsea in their opening Premier League game of the season, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was not fixating on the three points.

"We have to look behind the results. I would have said the same if we'd had a different result," he insisted. "We know it's just the start and there are relationships to be worked on. The more we understand each other and get to play with each other and show that we're a team, it's going to improve."

The United manager will doubtless look beyond the result on Saturday, when Crystal Palace produced a true smash-and-grab at Old Trafford to win there for the first time in the Premier League era. Solskjaer could argue the Red Devils were dominant, committed to attacking football, unlucky at crucial moments. They were.

But that 4-0 win over Chelsea is United's only league victory at home since April 13. In that sense, Palace's victory is no aberration; it's a pattern to home games that Solskjaer seems unable to address.

The statistics tell you this was a match United should never have lost. They had 22 shots to Palace's five, 71 per cent of the possession, and a second missed penalty in as many games. The visitors scored with two of their three efforts on target, the first a simple finish for Andrew Ayew, the injury-time winner yet another moment to forget for David de Gea in 2019 as Patrick van Aanholt's strike found its way through the Spain goalkeeper.

United can also point to some bad luck, and two questionable decisions from referee Paul Tierney. Debutant Gary Cahill was fortunate not to be sent off for stopping Anthony Martial's clear route to goal, and Martin Kelly's manhandling of the forward as he drove into the penalty area in the second half went strangely unpunished.

They will also likely highlight how Palace contrived to score with their first shot at the end of their first foray into the United box, all from goalkeeper Vicente Guaita's clearance. But that was a goal of United's own making.

Victor Lindelof will probably bear most of the criticism for failing to win the header against Jeffrey Schlupp that sent Ayew through, but there should be a serious inquest into how the goalscorer was able to wander past Paul Pogba and Scott McTominay in midfield and not be tracked by £80million man Harry Maguire.

Then there was the penalty, Luka Milivojevic rightly punished for tripping McTominay only for the frustrating Marcus Rashford's effort to clatter the inside of the left-hand post, cross the six-yard box and go out for a goal kick. At least there had been no argument about the taker this time.

Even after Daniel James scored a fine equaliser, United still found a way to ruin their day in the Salford sun. With too many tired players committed forward, Wilfried Zaha broke through, the ball fell to Van Aanholt, and De Gea was beaten at the near post after an hour of having nothing to do.

Solskjaer will feel aggrieved about losing a match where his side had such dominance and where fortune simply wasn't in their favour, but no amount of bad luck should excuse a first home defeat to Palace in 30 years, especially a Palace team that have already lost to Sheffield United and failed to score against Everton.

Instead, the manager should consider whether his vaunted backing of a young and - against Palace, too often naive - attack might hold him back in his first full season in charge. Would it really be so terrible to give Alexis Sanchez, a player apparently being encouraged to leave on loan to Inter, another chance in the squad? Would restoring Fred and Nemanja Matic to the first-team picture at least give Solskjaer more options to change difficult situations for the better?

This is not quite the time for panic at United. Four points from Chelsea at home and Wolves away was a solid start, even if this was an appalling way to come back down to earth, and not even the most optimistic of fans have ever really considered them title challengers to Manchester City and Liverpool anyway.

But Solskjaer would do well to look very closely at this 2-1 scoreline, at how his team contrived to hand victory to their opponents as they chased a winner themselves, and give very serious thought to how he can stop it happening again.

When Tammy Abraham and Mason Mount fired Chelsea into the lead on a sunny afternoon at Norwich City, they became the first two English players aged 21 or under to score in a Premier League match for the Blues in 27 years.

Eddie Newton and Graham Stuart were the last pair to achieve the feat, back in August 1992, and since then Chelsea have become synonymous with international imports who flourish at the expense of academy graduates.

But the transformation taking place under Frank Lampard was epitomised by the manner of their early goals, first when Abraham had the poise and presence of mind to half-volley home in the third minute.

Mount's strike was even more emblematic of the spirit building at Stamford Bridge, the 20-year-old cutting inside his marker before rifling his second goal in as many games high into the net with all the confidence of a young player enjoying the freedom to express himself in a positive, attack-minded team.

That team was Chelsea's youngest in the Premier League since February 1994, with Ross Barkley's late inclusion as a replacement for Pedro bringing the average age down to 24 years and 208 days.

After defensive frailties and Norwich's opportunism pegged them back to 2-2 at half-time, Lampard's young charges swamped their hosts in the second half and, when they needed a winner, Abraham delivered with a fine finish from outside the box.

The goal capped a fine afternoon for Abraham and clinched a deserved Chelsea victory that left Blues supporters with several young, English reasons to be optimistic about the season ahead.

Abraham sets a precedent

Five goals in 31 appearances while on loan at Swansea City was Abraham's Premier League return prior to his second start of this season at Norwich and he converted his first opportunity of the afternoon with some style.

He went one better with his second, composing himself 20 yards from goal and shooting through the legs of Grant Hanley to beat Tim Krul and send a message not only to the rest of the division but to England manager Gareth Southgate.

Mount's ascent

Say it quietly, but Chelsea fans are starting to forget about Eden Hazard as Mount's abundant qualities apply ointment to the wound left by the Belgian's departure.

Goals in consecutive matches this season only tell part of the story, and what will delight Lampard as much as Mount's marksmanship is his intuitive interplay with Ross Barkley and Christian Pulisic.

Barkley bouncing back

England midfielder Barkley started just 13 league games under Maurizio Sarri last season and is by no means guaranteed his place under Lampard.

But if the 25-year-old continues to offer the leadership qualities and engine room presence that were key to Chelsea's first win of the season, he will be difficult for the boss to overlook.

More starlets on the sidelines

Promising defender Fiyako Tomori watched the win at Norwich from the bench but he knows Lampard trusts him after being a regular in the Derby County team last season.

Lampard will welcome Callum Hudson-Odoi back into the fold in September, with Ruben Loftus-Cheek a little further behind in his recovery from a ruptured Achilles, and the Blues could be fielding a half-home-grown team before long.

Patience required, but Lampard must plug the leaks

A first league win of the season will relieve some of the pressure that was starting to creep into Lampard's dugout, but Roman Abramovich is not known for his patience.

The Chelsea owner will be pleased for his former captain and belief in the new project may be growing, but after seeing his side leak seven goals in three games the now stay-away owner would be justified in asking for some clean sheets in exchange for his faith.

Coco Gauff will make her second grand slam appearance at the US Open next week, fresh from capturing the tennis world's imagination with her stunning Wimbledon performance.

The 15-year-old reached the fourth round after becoming the All England Club's youngest qualifier in the Open era, and she will be one of the main attractions at her home slam.

Gauff beat her idol in the first round at Wimbledon when she defeated Venus Williams, who in 1997 shocked tennis by progressing to the US Open final as a 17-year-old before losing to Martina Hingis.

It will be a difficult challenge for Gauff to replicate that achievement, but how does her career to this point stack up to that of the adolescent Venus? We compared their two records to find out.

WTA Tour record: Williams (before the 1997 US Open) 10-9, Gauff 4-4

By the time she arrived at Flushing Meadows for her first US Open, Williams was effectively a regular on the tour and had already enjoyed reasonable success. She reached the quarter-finals at Indian Wells and beat Jennifer Capriati in Miami, where she suffered the first of two straight-sets defeats to Hingis that served as preludes to their New York showpiece.

Gauff, meanwhile, has been largely limited to the lower-level ITF circuit beyond her exploits at Wimbledon. She did beat fellow emerging talent and doubles partner Caty McNally in the first round in Miami, but that marks her only victory on the WTA Tour away from the All England Club.

Singles finals: Williams 0, Gauff 1 (ITF)

Gauff does have the experience of a singles final that the young Venus did not, though it came on the ITF Tour in Surprise, Florida in February. She suffered defeat to Sesil Karatantcheva and there was no clue at that point of the highs to come at Wimbledon.

World ranking: Williams 66, Gauff 141

The teenage Venus' performances on the tour going into the US Open had helped her become established in the top 100. Gauff still has some way to go to achieve the same feat but a Wimbledon-esque run for the 15-year-old in Queens would catapult her up the rankings.

Grand Slam win-loss record: Williams 1-2, Gauff 3-1

The major difference between the 17-year-old Venus and the 15-year-old Gauff is that prior to her dream run in the Big Apple, Williams had shown no signs of being able to deliver on the grand slam stage. She reached the second round at the French Open before being beaten by Nathalie Tauziat. At Wimbledon she lost to Magdalena Grzybowska in round one, providing little indication of the form she was about to find - or the game that would see her eventually win seven slam singles titles.

The contrast to Gauff could hardly be greater, with plenty of expectation sure to be on her shoulders after Wimbledon wins over Venus, Magdalena Rybarikova and Polona Hercog and a defeat to Simona Halep in which she did herself no disservice.

There stood Roger Federer, already among the greats and with a fifth straight US Open title secured.

It was 2008 and the Swiss star had just passed Roy Emerson on the all-time list of major winners, securing his 13th and continuing his dominance at Flushing Meadows with a straight-sets victory over Andy Murray in the final.

Novak Djokovic had won his first grand slam in Melbourne at the start of the year and Rafael Nadal was still unbeaten at Roland Garros, the Spaniard then going on to clinch his first Wimbledon title.

It marked the third straight year in which the 'Big Three' had swept the grand slams, a feat they are looking to repeat 11 years later.

How little has changed entering the 2019 US Open, which starts on Monday.

Federer (three), Nadal (four) and Djokovic (four) have won the past 11 majors and still we wait for the 'Next Gen' to break through as the three greatest male players of all-time continue to dominate.

Murray's career-interrupting hip injury reduced the 'Big Four' to the 'Big Three' and there is no sign of anyone taking the three-time grand slam champion's place of being a consistent challenger at majors.

The years 2006 to 2008 marked the years of Federer and Nadal, and 2018-19 have been Djokovic's. The Serbian could finish this year having won three grand slams in a season.

In between, anticipated contenders have come and gone (Grigor Dimitrov and Milos Raonic are 28) or come and been consistent without breaking through (Kei Nishikori is 29).

Stan Wawrinka was a regular star and won three grand slams before his injury woes, while Marin Cilic and Juan Martin del Potro took their chances at Flushing Meadows in 2014 and 2009 respectively.

Another so-called 'Next Gen' – the likes of David Goffin (28) and Jack Sock (26) – has been replaced, while Dominic Thiem (25) looks the likeliest challenger to Nadal at Roland Garros.

Now emerges another group in Daniil Medvedev (23), Alexander Zverev (22), Stefanos Tsitsipas (21), Karen Khachanov (23) and Borna Coric (22).

Yet it remains hard to see the final verdict on 2019 not simply echoing that of 2008 as the 'Big Three' bid to complete another major sweep.

Liverpool and Arsenal are neck and neck at the top of the Premier League after two games but on Saturday the Gunners visit Anfield, where they have a terrible recent record.

Since their last win away to Liverpool some seven years ago, Arsenal have been on the end of heavy and humbling defeats, including 4-0 and 5-1 losses on their two previous visits.

They do have some good modern memories of the stadium - Andrey Arshavin scored all four Gunners goals in a Premier League classic that ended 4-4 - but overall Liverpool have certainly had the edge in this fixture.

Ahead of the enticing clash between the early pacesetters, we look back at Arsenal's last six Premier League trips to Anfield where they have conceded a whopping 22 goals, although only once have they failed to score themselves.


Liverpool 5-1 Arsenal: February 8, 2014

This thrashing started the hoodoo. Arsenal were top of the league when they visited Anfield only to be completely humiliated by Brendan Rodgers' rampant Reds.

Raheem Sterling, Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez formed an unplayable front three for Liverpool and it was 4-0 inside 20 minutes, Martin Skrtel striking twice from set-pieces.

Liverpool finished two points behind Manchester City that season after imploding in the final weeks of the campaign, with the two sides likely to do battle again this season in a title race into which Arsenal will hope to force their way.


Liverpool 2-2 Arsenal: December 21, 2014

Skrtel's 97th-minute equaliser earned the Reds a 2-2 draw in this one, with Liverpool scoring in extended stoppage time played due to the Slovakian defender sustaining a head injury earlier in the game.

Remarkably enough, this is the only time Arsenal have conceded fewer than three goals in their past six trips to Anfield.


Liverpool 3-3 Arsenal: January 13, 2016

This was the last time Arsenal avoided defeat in the Premier League at Anfield, but they still shipped three goals against Jurgen Klopp's men. Roberto Firmino scored twice with Olivier Giroud also claiming a brace, but the Reds needed a late Joe Allen strike to salvage a draw.

This proved a key day in the title race, with Arsenal seeing their lead from Leicester City at the top of the table disappear. The Foxes, inspirationally led by Claudio Ranieri, went on to win the league by 10 points from the Gunners in one of sport's most improbable title triumphs, while Liverpool finished eighth under Klopp having sacked Brendan Rodgers in October 2015.


Liverpool 3-1 Arsenal: March 4, 2017

The two sides were fighting it out for Champions League qualification when they met at Anfield towards the end of the 2016-17 campaign, but it was Liverpool who came out on top.

Firmino struck again – he has scored eight times in as many appearances against the Gunners – and he set up Sadio Mane to make it 2-0, before Danny Welbeck hit back for Arsenal. Georginio Wijnaldum struck late to secure victory and Liverpool pipped Arsenal to fourth place by a point.

Liverpool 4-0 Arsenal: August 27, 2017

Arsene Wenger's last league visit to Anfield ended in a 4-0 thrashing as Klopp's men ran riot. Firmino opened the scoring, with Mane and Mohamed Salah also netting before Sturridge wrapped things up.

This defeat meant Arsenal had lost two of their first three games of the 2017-18 season, at the end of which the Frenchman ended his long reign.


Liverpool 5-1 Arsenal: December 29, 2018

In the most recent meeting last December, Arsenal actually opened the scoring with Ainsley Maitland-Niles putting them in front, but then they collapsed in spectacular fashion. Firmino scored twice in quick succession, with Mane and Salah also on target before the break.

Firmino completed his hat-trick from the penalty spot after the interval as the Reds moved nine points clear at the top of the Premier League table, a lead Manchester City eventually reeled in over the second half of the season to defend their title.

England were embarrassed at home by their arch rivals on Friday as Australia ran through their fragile batting line-up in dismissing them for 67.

Tim Paine's team seized the initiative in the third Test by skittling their hosts out inside 28 overs, raising the possibility of Australia retaining the urn and avoiding defeat in an away Ashes series for the first time since 2001.

It was a display that was not just horrifically bad, but historically bad.

With the help of Opta, we take a look at the numbers behind the horror show at Headingley.

 

- England's eventual total of 67 was their lowest ever at Headingley, where the lowest Test total of all time is 61 (West Indies in 2000).

- This capitulation followed England being dismissed for 85 by Ireland at Lord's last month. This is just the second time where England were all out for fewer than 100 twice in home Tests hosted in the same year (2019 and 1888).

- Moreover, this was the fourth time since the start of 2018 that England were all out for 85 or less. Their other paltry totals came against West Indies in January (77) and against New Zealand in March 2018 (58).

- This was England's lowest total against Australia since 1948 and their fourth lowest in a home Ashes Test.

- Having gone for a golden duck at Lord's last time out, England captain Joe Root was dismissed without score again. It is the first time in his Test career Root was out for back-to-back ducks.

- Positioned at first slip, David Warner claimed four catches - the joint-most by a fielder in an Ashes Test innings.

Eight uphill finishes will sort the men from the boys in the battle to be crowned Vuelta a Espana champion.

The final Grand Tour race of the year gets under way with a 13.4-kilometre team time trial in Las Salinas de Torrevieja on Saturday.

There will be four summit finishes in the opening nine days and the general classification tussle could really take shape in Andorra during week two of three.

We pick out a selection of what could be the key stages in the fight for the red jersey, with Primoz Roglic the favourite in the absence of the likes of Tour de France winner Egan Bernal, Chris Froome, defending champion Simon Yates and the injured Richard Carapaz.

 

STAGE NINE -  ANDORRA LA VELLA TO CORTALS D'ENCAMP

The riders will be in need of a first rest day in Pau after tackling a 94.4km route which is rated as one of the queen stages.

There will be as many as four lung-busting climbs before a final ascent of Cortals d'Encamp.

Vuelta stars face an ascent of the Coll d'Ordino and will climb to almost 2,000 metres on an 'especial' category climb of Coll de la Gallina, before a four-kilometre gravel section precedes a gruelling final push to the finish.

 

STAGE 10 - JURANCON TO PAU

After putting their feet up for a day, a 36.2km individual time trial will provide another big challenge and could have a big say in who takes the red jersey.

Winding, often steep slopes will give the time-trial specialists an opportunity to claw back some time which they may have surrendered in the mountains.

With more major tests to come in the mountains, the likes of Roglic and Wilco Kelderman will look at stage 10 as a chance to make gains.

 

STAGE 13 - BILBAO TO LOS MACHUCOS

Another huge stamina test awaits on a 166.4km trek through the mountains to the top of Los Machucos.

With seven mountain passes on a hugely challenging day, teams will have to get their tactics right as they attempt to prevent potentially pivotal moves.

Four third category ascents, two second category climbs and a daunting finish will provide a major examination of GC credentials.

 

STAGE 16 - PRAVIA TO ALTO DE LA CUBILLA

The second of three days in Asturias may also have a big say in who stands on top of the podium in Madrid.

A 144.4km stage in the mountains will include three climbs, providing magnificent views for spectators but potentially some agony for those in the saddle.

The 27km final ride up the Alto de la Cubilla is sure to lead to some heavy breathing and whoever is wearing red at the end of the day will go into the second rest day with the title in their sights.

 

STAGE 18 - COLMENAR VIEJO TO BECERRIL DE LA SIERRA

The penultimate mountain stage on Wednesday in the final week takes place in the Sierra de Guadarrama mountain range, where Fabio Aru replaced Tom Dumoulin as race leader four years ago.

Another brutal day will be in store for the riders, who face a 177.5km ride with a downhill finish after demanding climbs of Navacerrada and La Morcuera.

They can expect high temperatures on an energy-sapping day, with a technical descent to the line after a fourth first-category climb.

For the vast majority of the 21st century, grand slam finals have largely been the domain of Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.

Their dominance, shared somewhat with Andy Murray, has defined the modern era of the men's game. However, it has been most regularly interrupted at the US Open, which starts on Monday.

Marin Cilic and Stan Wawrinka have each prevailed in the past five years at Flushing Meadows, with Kei Nishikori, Kevin Anderson and Juan Martin del Potro all reaching the final in that time.

The most likely outcome remains that the men's final will be contested by at least one of the big three but, ahead of the final major of 2019, we examine some of the contenders to gatecrash the showpiece.

Daniil Medvedev

The world number five is enjoying a breakthrough year and heads to Flushing Meadows as one of the form players on the ATP Tour. He reached successive finals at the Citi Open and Rogers Cup, easing past the likes of Dominic Thiem and Karen Khachanov en route to the showpiece of the latter.

His heavy 6-3 6-0 defeat to Nadal in that final may have provided cause for reticence. However, Medvedev continued his outstanding US hard-court swing by coming from a set down to defeat Djokovic in the semi-finals of the Western and Southern Open, before going on to beat David Goffin in the final.

His fightback against the best player in the world should raise confidence he can upset the established order. It will be tougher over five sets but on current form Medvedev appears the most credible threat to the big three.

Karen Khachanov

Khachanov's year has not been quite as impressive as his Russian compatriot Medvedev. However, he too resides in the top 10 and has a victory over Djokovic to his name, having beaten the Serbian in the Paris Masters final last year.

He was impressive in seeing off Stan Wawrinka, rising star Felix Auger-Aliassime and Alexander Zverev at the Rogers Cup and showed signs he could form a grand slam challenge at his run to the quarter-finals of the French Open this year.

Marat Safin, the last Russian man to win a grand slam, was Khachanov's idol growing up. He has the game to potentially emulate his hero, but a 1-8 record against the big three will leave plenty sceptical of his prospects.

Dominic Thiem

Though not in the same vein of form as Medvedev, Thiem deserves his place on the list having been the most consistent challenger to Djokovic, Nadal and Federer in recent times.

He has reached the last two French Open finals, losing to Nadal on each occasion. However, he defeated Djokovic in five sets at Roland Garros this year and played at a level in the final that would have seen him victorious were he facing anyone other than the 'King of Clay'.

The hard court provides more of a level playing field and Nadal needed a tie-break to beat him in five sets in the quarter-final at Flushing Meadows in 2018. Thiem also holds a 4-2 record against Federer, whom he beat at Indian Wells this year. 

Eventually, Thiem's persistence in pushing this legendary trio to the limit will pay off and there is plenty of evidence to suggest the US Open could be the stage on which he reaps his rewards.

Roberto Bautista Agut

While the other four names on this list have their best years ahead of them, Bautista Agut is arguably enjoying an elongated peak.

He was a quarter-finalist at the Australian Open, where he showed his endurance with three five-set victories and pushed Djokovic to four sets in the Wimbledon semi-finals.

The 31-year-old has since found some consistency on the hard court, reaching the last eight in Montreal and Cincinnati, and came from a set down to beat Djokovic in Miami back in March.

That win, however, marked his only success against a big-three opponent. Bautista Agut has proven he can reach the latter stages of majors but, if the draw does not somehow open up for him, would need to overcome the history books to earn a first slam final berth.

Lucas Pouille

Pouille's thrilling 2016 fourth-round triumph over Nadal at Flushing Meadows had the look of a breakthrough moment for the Frenchman, but since then he has not been able to record a single victory over the Spaniard, Djokovic or Federer.

The 25-year-old does, however, seem to enjoy himself on the hard court, securing the best slam result of his career on the surface as he progressed to the last four at the Australian Open before running into a rampant Djokovic.

He beat Khachanov before being thumped by Djokovic in Cincinnati and, though he has endured an inconsistent year, the high-points Pouille has experienced should leave him with nobody to fear outside of the three favourites. 

Pouille is unquestionably an outsider, but if he can harness the form that saw him stun Nadal then he can at least afford to have hope of pulling off another shock and giving France a grand slam finalist to celebrate.

For the second time this year, the dominant Team INEOS are heading into a Grand Tour without their three star riders.

Both Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas sat out the Giro d'Italia, while a broken collarbone saw Egan Bernal denied the opportunity to step up.

Seven-time Grand Tour winner Froome then left Thomas and Bernal in charge for the Tour de France as he missed out with fractures to his right femur, elbow and ribs sustained in training during the Criterium du Dauphine.

But after Bernal claimed his first title in the veteran's absence, the Colombian opted not to enter the Vuelta this year.

Thomas is likewise skipping the race, having finished second in Paris, and Froome is still recovering from his injuries, leaving INEOS light on star power once again.

So who will head the charge for cycling's outstanding outfit? We take a look at the team leaders and the rest of the line-up in Spain.

 

TAO GEOGHEGAN HART

This is a second big opportunity for Geoghegan Hart, who was one of those selected to lead the way for a youthful INEOS team at the Giro.

It was not a particularly successful outing for the team and a large part of that was due to Geoghegan Hart's crash on stage 13 that ruled him out of the race with a broken right clavicle. Co-leader Pavel Sivakov finished ninth in the general classification.

But the Briton – a strong all-rounder – is still just 24, is now 12 months on from his Grand Tour debut at last year's Vuelta, and has strong performances at the Tour of the Alps and Tour de Pologne under his belt.

As Froome and Thomas get on in age, it is time for Geoghegan Hart to stake a serious claim – or risk being left behind by a team that could soon belong to Bernal.

WOUT POELS

Where Geoghegan Hart is still raw, climber Poels provides real experience.

"The opportunity for Tao to learn from Wout as they lead our team is a special one and we have faith that both of them can leave their mark on this Vuelta," lead sport director Nicolas Portal said.

Poels has often played a supporting role in the bigger races during his INEOS career, but his best Grand Tour GC performance came at the Vuelta in 2017, a sixth-place finish. His only stage win at a Grand Tour was in Spain, too, with Vacansoleil in 2011.

The Dutchman has the talent to go on and challenge himself, as well as the experience to assist Geoghegan Hart, depending on how the race pans out for INEOS.

THE SUPPORTING CAST

INEOS hailed a contrast of youth and experience when they named the team and Owain Doull is the one Grand Tour debutant in the line-up, having played a role in four winning squads this year.

At the other end of the scale, the know-how comes in the form of Vasil Kiryienka, Salvatore Puccio and Ian Stannard. Kiryienka is 38 and making his 20th Grand Tour appearance, with the other two regulars in winning teams.

Sebastian Henao has taken on five Giros with relative success and will get a first Vuelta opportunity.

There was one last, late change to the team, meanwhile, as Kenny Elissonde – a former Vuelta stage winner – was replaced by David de la Cruz, who finished seventh in 2016 and 15th last year.

Maurizio Sarri's start to life as Juventus boss was hardly going swimmingly before he was left tackling a bout of pneumonia this week.

After a frankly disorientating year at Chelsea, which amounted to speculation over his future and criticism of his fabled playing style being stitched together by the momentary distraction of bi-weekly football matches, Sarri won the Europa League, finished third in the Premier League and landed the Juve job. It felt like the football equivalent of getting out of jail and building a house on Park Lane in the same Monopoly move.

Board room and dressing room at Stamford Bridge never felt in harmony, but it no longer mattered. The former Napoli boss would now helm the slick and formidable football empire he came closer than many to toppling.

Or so he might have thought. Cutting into a reporter's question after Juve lost 2-1 to Atletico Madrid in the International Champions Cup, Sarri launched something approaching a tirade on Paulo Dybala's mooted exit and the need to trim Juve's Champions League squad. He called their transfer policy "embarrassing".

Some moves this close season – namely the capture of quality free agents in the form of Aaron Ramsey and Adrien Rabiot – are identifiable from the old Juventus playbook. But part-exchange deals that lessen the quality of the squad and generally appearing reactive rather than proactive should be a cause for concern.

Out with the new, in with the old

Moise Kean is one of the most exciting striking talents in Europe but was allowed to move to Everton. Centre-forward cover now comes from Gonzalo Higuain and Mario Mandzukic – one back after two shocking loan spells and another 14 years older than Kean and apparently being hawked around Europe himself.

A chunk of cash accompanied Danilo from Manchester City for a reason, as the inconsistent but lavishly gifted (and, once again, younger) Joao Cancelo moved in the other direction. A swap deal featuring Dybala and Romelu Lukaku, now shipped from Manchester United to Inter, would have been far stranger.

Indeed, Dybala only remains a Juve player for now due to the tangled web of his image rights arrangements. Leonardo Spinazzola joining Roma to bring Luca Pellegrini the other way, only to loan the latter back to Cagliari, also suggested muddled thinking.

The steady improvement throughout Massimiliano Allegri's tenure brought two Champions League final defeats. In between losing to Barcelona and Real Madrid in 2015 and 2017, Paul Pogba, Andrea Pirlo, Arturo Vidal and Alvaro Morata were among the players to leave, yet Juventus improved on account of shrewd coaching and a transfer policy that was a step ahead.

Then, last year, the Turin giants bet the farm on Cristiano Ronaldo. The Champions League did not follow and Allegri left.

Matthijs de Ligt is one of the most eye-catching signings of the window but Juve hardly needed centre-backs and now appear to be scrabbling to recoup the cash. Like Sarri, there are understandable doubts over whether sporting director Fabio Paratici is cut out for a leading role at the Allianz Stadium.

Paratici's influence increased after Beppe Marotta's departure last year. Marotta is now leading operations at Inter for the man who launched this Juventus dynasty.

Conte's Inter ready for lift-off

"I never set limits – I don't want to create excuses," Antonio Conte said at his first news conference as Inter boss, his new club having come fourth - 21 points shy of Juve - last time around

The former Italy coach is something of a specialist in these situations. The year before he began Juventus' title streak in 2011-12, they finished seventh. At Chelsea, he took them from 10th to Premier League glory in a season.

Some of Conte's subsequent discontent in west London related to a failure to sign Lukaku. Now he has his man – the "point of reference" centre-forward crucial to all his best sides.

Manchester United fans will undoubtedly guffaw at the prospect of Alexis Sanchez joining a fellow Old Trafford flop at San Siro, but harnessing two players with a point to prove to Jose Mourinho in a bid to topple Sarri – the man who took his previous job – feels deliciously up Conte's street.

Valentino Lazaro, Matteo Politano, Nicolo Barella and Stefano Sensi look like shrewd buys alongside the formidable Diego Godin and Inter can be expected to hit the ground running when they host Lecce on Monday.

Napoli have finished as runners-up in the past two seasons and Hirving Lozano would be an exciting acquisition in attack, while there is unlikely to be a centre-back pairing anywhere as formidable as Kalidou Koulibaly and Kostas Manolas.

Carlo Ancelotti's men should certainly not be discounted, but the winds of change ahead of an intriguing Serie A season appear to be blowing in Inter and Conte's direction.

It's been all change in Serie A ahead of the 2019-20 season, with five of last season's top six changing their head coach.

As such, an action-packed close season in the transfer market followed.

Champions Juventus have done big business, but could any of the chasing pack - including Antonio Conte's Inter - catch them after a busy window?

Although Italian clubs can buy until September 2, we take a look at five of the best signings in Serie A before the action gets underway.

 

5. Aaron Ramsey (Juventus)

Juventus are the masters of the free transfer and nothing changed this year, with two huge midfield signings arriving without a fee. Adrien Rabiot is a massive talent who will improve Maurizio Sarri's options, but Ramsey may well prove the real star.

In an Arsenal team where big wages and large fees were spent on the likes of Mesut Ozil, Ramsey was perhaps their most consistent performer, playing a key role in their FA Cup successes.

The Gunners will likely rue the expiration of Ramsey's contract and the Welshman already looks like he will settle quickly in Turin, after giving an introductory statement to the media in Italian.

4. Radja Nainggolan (Cagliari)

Nainggolan was one of Europe's dominant midfielders just a couple of years ago, so it seems incredible that he is on loan at Cagliari at the age of 31.

But after falling out of favour with Belgium coach Roberto Martinez, Nainggolan had a stop-start first season at Inter - although his form picked up towards the end of the campaign - and Conte has seemingly decided he does not need the former Roma man.

All of this works out wonderfully for Cagliari, though, who had Nainggolan for four years earlier in his career and will welcome him back with open arms. His midfield alliance with Nahitan Nandez, an exciting acquisition from Boca Juniors, will be a must watch.

3. Diego Godin (Inter)

Godin has perhaps been Europe's best centre-back in recent seasons and so, even at 33, his expiring Atletico Madrid contract would have made him a target for many top sides.

But this move to Inter was long mooted and he should form a formidable three-man defence alongside Stefan de Vrij and Milan Skriniar.

If Conte's reign at the Nerazzurri is to be a success, they will need to deliver at both ends of the field. It is on Romelu Lukaku's shoulders to provide the goals, while Godin will surely perform at the back, even if he endured a rocky campaign last time out.

2. Kostas Manolas (Napoli)

This list might be dominated by centre-backs and Serie A, to many the home of defending, will see some of the very best in action again next season. Manolas is certainly among them.

The Greece international might be best remembered for his Champions League goalscoring exploits at Roma, but he was a consistent star in defence over five seasons in the capital.

Quick and strong enough to mix it with Serie A's very best attackers, Manolas will leave a big hole in the Roma back line and instantly find a home at Napoli alongside Kalidou Koulibaly.

1. Matthijs de Ligt (Juventus)

It is an obvious answer, but every club on the planet would have loved to have brought in former Ajax captain De Ligt.

He was inspirational both on and off the pitch for the Dutch giants last season, as well as starring for Netherlands. Brilliant at the back and a threat in attack, De Ligt is still just 20, too, and will only get better.

That he cost a relatively reasonable €75million, considering the reported £80million spent on Harry Maguire, is merely a bonus. Juve should be set for years to come.

The wait for the new Serie A season is almost over and, remarkably, five of last season's top six will be entering the 2019-20 campaign with new faces at the helm.

Champions Juventus surprisingly parted company with Massimiliano Allegri and replaced him with Maurizio Sarri despite winning the title yet again, although runners-up Napoli have stuck with Carlo Ancelotti.

Inter and AC Milan both appointed new head coaches, with Antonio Conte and Marco Giampaolo taking charge respectively, while Paulo Fonseca is the new man in the Roma dugout.

We look at how the four new men have fared previously in Serie A to see how things might pan out with their new clubs.

 

Maurizio Sarri (Juventus)

Perhaps the most daunting task awaits Sarri next season, as he attempts to follow in the footsteps of Allegri, who won five consecutive Scudetti.

Indeed, the last campaign in which the Bianconeri did not win the title was 2010-11, and if Sarri cannot sustain their dominance his spell in Turin could be short-lived.

Sarri joins with an outstanding Serie A record behind him, however. He enjoyed a superb three-year spell with Napoli before his departure at the end of the 2017-18 season, winning 69 per cent of his 114 league games in charge.

Juve fans will be excited to see if he can successfully instil his free-flowing football at the Allianz Stadium – Napoli's 251 goals during his tenure was 13 more than any other side.

He does, though, start the season in poor health after being diagnosed with pneumonia.

Antonio Conte (Inter)

Luciano Spalletti secured a second successive top-four finish last season, meaning Conte will juggle Campions League commitments alongside his bid to dethrone Juve as the dominant side in Serie A.

That is unlikely to phase a man who has won each of the three Serie A campaigns he has started when in charge of the Bianconeri.

Conte – who will have Romelu Lukaku leading the line following his arrival from Manchester United – ended his first league campaign with Juve unbeaten and did not taste defeat until his 49th league match.

What Inter fans would give to see a repeat performance this season.

Marco Giampaolo (AC Milan)

Giampaolo, 52, joined Milan after leaving fellow Serie A side Sampdoria, who he guided to ninth in the last of his three seasons in charge.

Having spent time in charge of Cagliari, Brescia and Empoli among others, Giampaolo is expected to bring stability to San Siro after churning through six full-time head coaches since Allegri's departure in 2014.

Giampaolo's task will be, on the face of it, a simple one – gain qualification for the Champions League. Gennaro Gattuso's failure to do just that ultimately cost the Milan icon his job at San Siro.

It is something that the new man has yet to achieve in his managerial career, but his attacking brand of football will certainly please the club's supporters.

Only four clubs in Serie A last season scored more goals than Sampdoria, while they boasted the best shot conversion rate in the division, scoring with 12.3 per cent of their efforts.

Paulo Fonseca (Roma)

Roma narrowly missed out on a place in next season's Champions League, leaving new coach Fonseca in charge of a club in need of a morale-boosting return to Serie A's top four.

The Giallorossi will still be expected to progress in the Europa League and Fonseca arrives in Rome with a strong track record in continental competition, having guided Shakhtar Donetsk to the last 16 of the Champions League in 2017-18.

He enjoyed a superb three years in Ukraine, winning three league titles, three domestic cups and the Ukrainian Super Cup.

He left Shakhtar with a 78 per cent win ratio in the league and guided them to a whopping 23 clean sheets from their 32 games.

The Premier League's top two in this embryonic 2019-20 season go head to head on Saturday as Liverpool host Arsenal.

The two sides took contrasting approaches to the transfer window, with European champions Liverpool largely setting for the same squad again, as Arsenal splashed out on Nicolas Pepe, Kieran Tierney and David Luiz.

But both tactics have been rewarded with early season results, meaning the division's only remaining 100 per cent records are on the line at Anfield.

At least one of those winning starts will end and, with the help of Opta data, we take a look at the intriguing contest ahead.

 

CAN ARSENAL BREACH FORTRESS ANFIELD?

Arsenal will have their work cut out if they are to end a miserable run of six Premier League games without victory at Anfield, a stadium where they have lost 13 times in the competition - second only to Manchester United's Old Trafford.

That stretch of six matches has also seen the Gunners concede at least two goals per game and a concerning 22 in total.

Liverpool are not in the business of dropping points at home and, in fact, they are unbeaten in 41 matches there. Only Chelsea's sensational 86-match streak, that ended in October 2008, can top that.

Far from flat-track bullies, the Reds' form is dominant against the recognised 'top six', too, against whom they are unbeaten in 18 at Anfield, winning 10.

Last season's 5-1 win for Liverpool in this fixture provides a reminder of just how badly things could go wrong for Arsenal.

 

HEAD TO HEAD: MOHAMED SALAH V NICOLAS PEPE

Mohamed Salah scored in that demolition and will aim to star again on Saturday. In the visiting dressing room, Pepe will hope to echo the Egyptian's impact following a club-record transfer.

Pepe's statistics in his final season with Lille were similarly outstanding to Salah's in the last campaign at Roma that saw him earn the Liverpool move.

Salah had 15 goals and 11 assists for 26 in total or one every 95.6 minutes. Pepe, meanwhile, scored an impressive 22 and also laid on 11, with his 33 goal involvements occurring every 100.8 minutes.

There were comparisons to be drawn between their styles, yet Pepe perhaps surprisingly attempted more dribbles (213 versus 70) and won more fouls (108 versus 26) than Salah, who is renowned in the Premier League for his close control and ability to draw challenges.

Arsenal will hope Pepe can translate his form to English football with the same success.

 

FORM GUIDE

Liverpool's home record might worry Pepe and Arsenal, but their outstanding form is not confined to Anfield. The Reds are enjoying a club-record Premier League run of victories (11 matches), and another win on Saturday would see them tie their all-time league streak of 12.

Arsenal will surely have to stop Klopp's attack to get a result.

The last time Liverpool dropped points in the Premier League was a goalless draw against Everton in March. The same result against fellow rivals Manchester United a week earlier was the only other time in 32 league games they have failed to score.

Arsenal - on a three-match top-flight winning run - have not won four on the bounce in almost a year, while victory would also see the Gunners triumph in the first three games of a Premier League campaign for the first time since 2004-05, when they were last defending champions.

 

HISTORY SAYS...

Expect goals! Clashes between Liverpool and Arsenal have had 155 - more than any other Premier League fixture.

While Salah is a threat, Roberto Firmino will hope to be in the mix again, too, as the Brazilian has seven goals in four games in this fixture at Anfield.

Where Liverpool's front men could be backed to fire, though, the same might not be true of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. He has scored just three goals in 13 games against 'top six' opposition, compared to 31 in 38 against the rest of the league.

Liverpool will certainly be favourites - unbeaten in eight against Arsenal, their best such run since February 2000 - and Klopp has never lost to the Gunners.

Whatever happens at Headingley and beyond, Marnus Labuschagne will struggle to ever forget his first innings in Ashes cricket.

The Australia batsman made history when becoming the first concussion sub as a replacement for Steve Smith on the final day of the second Test against England at Lord's. After ducking his first delivery from Jofra Archer, the next one struck him flush in the grille – Labuschagne was down (albeit not for long) but, crucially, not out.

Rising to his feet so quickly a boxing referee would barely have started counting to 10, the 25-year-old recovered his senses, survived the oncoming barrage of short stuff and came out the other side with a half-century, a valiant knock in trying circumstances that helped preserve his side's slender 1-0 series lead.

It was not the first time Labuschagne had capitalised on an unexpected chance that came his way, though.

When Shaun Marsh was selected in Australia’s squad for the Cricket World Cup earlier this year, Glamorgan had to find a new overseas player in a hurry.

Mark Wallace, relatively new into his role as director of cricket at the Welsh county, followed up on a tip-off from an old club colleague Down Under to fill the void, taking a "bit of a punt" on Labuschagne, a player with an unspectacular first-class record but a hunger to improve.

"The link between myself and Marnus is that we have played for the same grade club in Brisbane, which is Redlands Tigers, albeit I played 15 years before he did," Wallace explained to Omnisport.

"Our paths never crossed, but when I took on the job [in February] I received a text message from a lad I had played with out there called Blair Copeland who is now a coach. He said, 'if you're looking for an overseas player, there is a lad who plays at the club called Marnus Labuschagne'.  

"I'd heard of Marnus because he had played for Australia by then, but I probably thought this was more like the sort of thing where he [Blair] was one of his mates, so I said thank you and got on with things.

"But when Shaun Marsh was picked for the World Cup, we suddenly needed an overseas player. I went back and had a look at this guy, did a bit of digging around, and the message we kept getting about him was that he was a good player but he was going to be an influence around the dressing room and just wanted to play cricket, wanted to get better at the game, and that was what we were after.

"We wanted a different style of overseas player, someone who was young and hungry. We went for him and it worked out pretty well."

Pretty well is an understatement.

Labuschagne amassed 1,114 runs in 10 first-class games for Glamorgan, hitting five centuries. The first of them arrived on his County Championship debut, Northamptonshire the opponents, while there was a match-saving 182 to deny Sussex down by the seaside at Hove and then hundreds in both innings against Worcestershire towards the end of his stint.

"We weren't surprised because he's a good player – we just didn't know he was that good," Wallace admitted. "We haven't genuinely got a bad word to say about him. He just wanted to talk cricket, be involved in cricket and get better.

"It was a little bit of a punt, but we wanted someone different and all the feedback had been how this was a young, influential guy. He was just desperate to improve and county cricket really suited him.

"He just loved playing – with most overseas [players] the thing that strikes them when they come over is the amount we play, whereas with Marnus he just thought that was brilliant. It gave him the opportunity to play all the time, to practice all the time.

"He got a hundred in his first game and never took his foot off the gas after that."

Labuschagne's county performances boosted his Test prospects, yet he still appeared set for a watching brief during the Ashes. That was until Smith was struck by an Archer bouncer, a blow on the neck that created a ripple effect that seems set to be felt by both sides for the remainder of the series.

It also created a sudden opening in the middle order. Smith's stand-in received an early and emphatic wake-up call yet refused to be counted out of the contest, aided by a slight technical tweak to his game that was honed while playing with Glamorgan.

"He did a few things that I think he had developed from being over here," revealed Wallace.

"Marnus clicked with our coach, Matt Maynard, early on and they worked on something where he would take a step down the wicket, as well as over to the off stump. The aim is to take lbw out [of the equation] and you saw him do it a few times to Chris Woakes.

"It was good to see, because you spot something guys have done with you working then on the bigger stage, which for our young guys means they are thinking, 'crikey, Marnus has been working on something here that has transferred into a higher level'. That's great.

"He's very good at solving problems, too. He's so into the game that he's always trying to learn. He's desperate to do well, although all international cricketers are like that. But he's up for the scrap, up for the fight."

After doing an admirable job as a stand-in last time out, the super sub gets the chance to start in the third Test.

Australia head coach Justin Langer said in the build-up to the game in Leeds that Smith has "unfillable shoes" – he has contributed 32 per cent of his team's runs in the first two Tests (and that is without even making it out to the middle on day five at Lord's) and boasts a mind-bending career average of 63.24 in the longest format.

Wallace acknowledges it is a nigh on impossible for Labuschagne to fill the crate-like space left at number four, but expects him to embrace the challenge: "To put him in the same bracket as Steve Smith is just unfair – he is still a young guy making his way in Test cricket.

"But he will have a chance – and all sport is about to take that chance when you get it. He will be up for it and can probably have a positive effect on the series.

"We'd like to see him do well, albeit from our perspective we want England to win. Marnus getting a hundred and England winning by an innings would be perfect."

Glamorgan are hopeful they get the chance to bring Labuschagne back at some stage in the future – so long as they can afford him.

"We would like him to be part of the club long term – hopefully the price hasn't gone up!" Wallace joked.

"I've been speaking to him since he has been away with Australia and he's still in contact, still wishing us good luck. The day the Australia squad was announced I actually spoke to him in the morning, when he was going to meet Justin Langer to find out if he was in or not, and he was not entirely sure.

"We had a Twenty20 game that night, and he said that if he was not in the squad, could he play that evening. I said yes, because we hadn't cancelled his registration yet, but that just showed how he has that nice, childlike enthusiasm just to play the game."

Labuschagne's enthusiasm for the game was evident at Lord's. So, too, was his determination to seize an opportunity that had unexpectedly come his way. As Glamorgan will testify, he's good at doing that.

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