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Hello and welcome to The Athletic’s coverage of today’s football news.

Last night saw the final qualifying games for the 2022 World Cup. Belgium have gained automatic qualification following their 1-1 draw with Wales which saw them top Group E. Wales, meanwhile, finished second and earned a home play-off semi-final. Wins for Ukraine and Turkey also saw them gain a spot in the play-offs.

Elsewhere, Rangers are still looking to replace Steven Gerrard after he left to become Aston Villa's new head coach.

Giovanni van Bronckhorst is a strong contender for the job, as reported by The Athletic last week.

We'll be bringing you the latest news as players begin to return to their clubs ahead of the return of Premier League football.

Background reading:
November 17, 2021 at 5:45 PM EST
Thanks for tuning into today's live blog.

We will be back tomorrow with all the latest injury news, updates on Rangers' managerial appointment, Steven Gerrard's first press conference as Aston Villa head coach and more.

Have a great evening!
November 17, 2021 at 4:58 PM EST
Arsenal Women scored a late goal in their 3-0 win over HB Koge too see them remain second in their Champions League group.

Substitute Vivianne Miedema added her name to the scoresheet in the 88th minute after a through ball by Steph Catley from within Arsenal's half set up the Dutch international.

Arsenal's next Champions League match will see them host Barcelona at the Emirates on December 9.

November 17, 2021 at 4:41 PM EST
It's finally 2-0 for Arsenal after 83 minutes.

HB Koge have grown into the game and had a couple of chances to find an equaliser.

Arsenal, however, have continued to work hard and have been rewarded with their second goal of the evening through a Lotte Wubben-Moy header. A second assist of the evening for Beth Mead.
November 17, 2021 at 3:50 PM EST
Arsenal and HB Koge head into the dressing rooms with Jonas Eidevall's leading 1-0.

It has been a calm but dominant display by Arsenal so far. It wouldn't be a surprise if they are to find the back of the net a couple more times in the second half.

A win will keep them three points behind top-of-the-group Barcelona.
November 17, 2021 at 3:19 PM EST
Arsenal Women have finally broken the deadlock in their Champions League group game against HB Koge.

A cross from the Beth Mead on the left-hand side found Caitlin Foord who guided the ball into the back of the net.

Their group rivals Barcelona beat Hoffenheim 5-0 earlier this evening.
November 17, 2021 at 2:37 PM EST
The teams have been announced for Arsenal's Champions League clash against HB Koge. Leah Williamson misses out after suffering a "serious" hamstring injury in the 1-1 draw with Tottenham at the weekend.

The match kicks off at 8pm GMT, with Arsenal second in their group behind Barcelona having won two and lost one from their opening three fixtures.

Barcelona have just finished their game against Hoffenheim and have won 5-0 in Germany, their fourth win in as many matches.

🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 @PattenAnna starts
🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 @JBeattie91 returns
🇦🇺 @CaitlinFoord leads the line

Watch LIVE on 📺
November 17, 2021 at 2:00 PM EST
"He returns to Cobham with 45 minutes of competitive action in his legs — time spread across two cameos — and with no obvious sign of a recurrence, setback or even real discomfort.

"Yes, he is still short of rhythm and some way off full match fitness, but his confidence will have been pepped by that downward header at virtually his first involvement in Cincinnati. He drifted unnoticed off the flank to the edge of the six-yard box where he met Timothy Weah’s cross to prise Mexico apart — a current Chelsea player converting a chance created for him by the son of a former Chelsea player. If that felt unusual, Pulisic’s sense of timing did not."

More from Dominic Fifield
Pulisic returns to Chelsea after the best international break Tuchel could have imagined
November 17, 2021 at 1:21 PM EST
"Grasshoppers remain Switzerland’s most decorated club. They’re an institution, an iconic name known all over the world. Ask any football fan to name a grand, historic Swiss club and the chances are they’ll reply Grasshoppers. But since 2003 this club has been in the doldrums, it has plummeted to its lowest ebb."

But they're now rebuilding. And how? The answer lies in the West Midlands. Tim Spiers reports.
Special report from Zurich: How Wolves are helping Switzerland’s most decorated club build a new history
November 17, 2021 at 12:42 PM EST
Long shots, lofted passes, firm tackles – Xabi Alonso really could do it all. Is it any surprise he is good at coaching too?

The ex-Liverpool, Real Madrid, and Bayern Munich manager is now in charge of Real Sociedad's youth team – their senior side is right at the top of this season's La Liga table.

"After being away for so many years, there is always a moment to come home. I was starting a new career, and I knew I was going to learn here, to have the patience and the support of so many people. There is a very clear model here, with support, facilities, communication — it is all very natural, very fluid.

"The process is helping me to know myself, to correct things, to make mistakes. This is a place where you have a bit more space to learn. The players teach me a lot too, what it is to train, to play, to communicate and explain. This is my third season and it is going well.”
‘I have ambition to manage an elite team, but I am in no hurry’ – Xabi Alonso happy to learn at Real Sociedad
November 17, 2021 at 12:26 PM EST
West Bromwich Albion defender Conor Townsend has signed a new contract to remain at The Hawthorns until 2025.

The club have rewarded the 28-year-old for the second time this year, having previously given him a new deal in February.

His latest extension adds a further year to his contract and will earn him a salary increase after an impressive season so far at West Brom.

Steve Madeley reports.

(Photo: Adam Fradgley/West Bromwich Albion FC via Getty Images)
November 17, 2021 at 12:05 PM EST
Reading have been deducted six points by the EFL for breaching their profitability and sustainability rules with a further six points suspended until the end of the 2022-23 season. The decision is final and not subject to appeal.

The Athletic reported last month that the Championship side were in talks with the EFL through its ‘agreed decision’ process, enabling the club and the governing body to reach an agreement over a penalty without the need for a disciplinary hearing.

More here.

(Photo: Kieran Cleeves/PA Images via Getty Images)
November 17, 2021 at 11:50 AM EST
Look at that. Brutal.

Unpunished during the game, CONMEBOL have taken decisive action by suspending two officials involved.

Brazil coach Tite said: “It’s inconceivable. And I say less, that’s not the term I meant, I’m saying it because I’m polite.”

More here.

(Photo: Marcos Brindicci/Getty Images)
November 17, 2021 at 11:35 AM EST
And this is why. Great insight from The Athletic's Everton correspondent Paddy Boyland.
Before negotiating new deal, Lucas Digne & his reps asked a Dutch analytics firm to quantify his influence. Their model found he was in top 10 left-backs in the world & one of 3 most important players at #EFC

Different system, different Digne this season
November 17, 2021 at 10:57 AM EST
“The top of the in-tray is not to concede goals, we’ve conceded too many already and defensively we want to make our structure and organisation a lot stronger and we’ve got talented players and we need to go and score more goals obviously.

“We haven’t scored as many as we would have liked to, but there’s definitely players there who can do both sides of the job. I think there’s enough quality, that’s the biggest thing.

“When I spoke to Stuart (Webber, Norwich’s sporting director), he believes in the squad of players, I’ve looked at the squad of players with Craig (Shakespeare, assistant head coach) and we both believe that it’s a squad that probably aren’t producing the results they need and our job is to improve their performance levels. If we do that then we’ll get the results.”

They're currently bottom of the league, on only five points, but won their last game against Brentford.

(Photo: Stephen Pond/Getty Images)
November 17, 2021 at 10:35 AM EST
As trends begin to emerge, how can you stand out from the crowd to rise up your FPL league?

Alex McCarthy? Tyrick Mitchell? Even… Christian Benteke?

Holly Shand identifies several diamonds in the rough.
Fantasy Premier League: Differentials to consider for Gameweek 12
November 17, 2021 at 10:29 AM EST
“People are seeking solace in football. The trouble is, Southend isn’t good for anyone’s health at the moment.”

Southend tragically lost Sir David Amess last month – and now their club is free-falling through the divisions.

Southend United: Freefall through the leagues, ownership protests and the return of Stan Collymore
November 17, 2021 at 10:14 AM EST
The FA are investigating Exeter over whether they used an extra substitute during their FA Cup replay against Bradford City last night.

Exeter won the first round tie 3-0 after extra-time, but used six substitutes during the match.

This season’s FA Cup rules stipulate that clubs may use five substitutes over the course of the game, including extra time, with a sixth substitute only permitted as a concussion replacement.

Josh Key replaced Sam Nombe at the start of extra time, becoming the sixth substitute of the evening. There was no indication it was concussion-related.

(Photo: Alex Davidson/Getty Images)
November 17, 2021 at 10:04 AM EST
Only two players within the bracket of "youth buys" in recent seasons, but still one of the most encouraging squad profiles in the league.

Manchester City look well placed for the future. More from Sam Lee and Nancy Frostick here.
The City squad is one of the strongest in terms of age profiles, although it’s not had a youth injection in a while. Partly because last summer’s overhaul couldn’t happen, partly because they’re in ‘win now’ mode. Fascinating by @nancyfrostick @MarkCarey93
November 17, 2021 at 9:45 AM EST
He's one of Manchester United's greatest ever players, a midfielder with 90 caps for England.

Nicknamed "Captain Marvel", he was the most expensive player in British football when he moved from his first club West Brom to Old Trafford in 1981. The childhood Newcastle fan lifted the FA Cup three times with United and the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1991.

These are the most memorable moments of his career, as he remembers them. With The Athletic's Andy Mitten.
My game in my words. By Bryan Robson
November 17, 2021 at 9:26 AM EST
"In modern football, almost everything in the defensive phase of play is controlled strictly by the coaches. Players have set responsibilities in terms of pressing in advanced positions, they’re drilled consistently in their basic defensive shape and they’re given specific players to mark, or zones to patrol, when defending set pieces.

"There is one part of the game, however, that coaches appear to be finding it difficult to control so far this season — the second phase of set pieces."

This is one of the game's great unexplored areas – until now. Read Michael Cox's long-read below, featuring late Ronaldo winners, Wolves' comebacks, and set-piece coaches.
Cox: Why are teams finding it so difficult to defend the second phase of set pieces?


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