Offshore drilling, England: at Manchester City 2, Tottenham Hotspur 1

Leave a comment

After 45 minutes of control that lacked ambition, Manchester City reversed a 1-0 halftime deficit Sunday at Eastlands, getting second half goals from Sergio Agüero and Edin Dzeko en route to a 2-1 victory over Tottenham Hotspur.

The win came after City went into halftime down one despite controlling the first half, Joe Hart’s error on a Steven Caulker header allowing Spurs to grab a 21st minute lead.

After switching to a 3-5-2 formation near the hour mark, Roberto Mancini’s men got a 65th minute equalizer through Sergio Agüero. The defending league champions continued to press over the match’s final 30 minutes, with David Silva eventually crafting the winning goal for Dzeko.

The win keeps City undefeated and, for the moment, vaults them into second. Spurs stay sixth.

Man of the Match: David Silva, out since Oct. 6 with a hamstring injury, showed what City missed in his absence. Starting on the right, Silva was able to cut in onto his better left foot, frequently testing Tottenham’s high line with a game-high five balls played through the defense. In the 88th minute, Silva went over the line to create the winning score, his adroit chip from 22 yards leaving Dzeko a perfect ball to volley past Brad Friedel.

Threesome of Knowledge: What we learned

Possession is still a better description than indicator.

It took Manchester City over 40 minutes to register their first shot on goal despite possession that stayed between 63 and 65 percent. Part of that number was due to Tottenham’s willingness to absorb their play, but that willingness was permitted by City’s passivity. The Citizens lacked guile in the final third.

In the second half, City’s attitude changed, but their possession number was largely the same. At match’s end, City had 62 percent of the ball despite their drastic change in aggressiveness.

On Sunday, as it is most days, the possession number was a better description of the match’s character than an indicator of one team’s dominance. In the first half, City controlled the match. In the second, they dominated.

Joe Hart is fallible.

This seems as good a time as any to offer that the common English soccer media refrain that Joe Hart is the world’s best goalkeeper may not be true. The world has a lot of great keepers, both renown (Iker Casillas, Gianluigi Buffon) and overlooked (Samir Handanovic, Igor Akinfeev). Mr. Hart has a lot of competition.

Today, we were reminded many of Hart’s accolades may be exaggeration. When Steven Caulker came free of Matija Nastasic on Tom Huddlestone’s 21st minute header, his redirection bounced to an easy height for Hart to handle. For whatever reason, the ball got through his hands and into the lower-right corner, giving Spurs the lead on their first shot.

Mixed day for Mancini’s 3-5-2.

In the second half, the inclusion of Maicon (on at 57′ for Nastasic) allowed City to shift gears. Gael Clichy and Pablo Zabaleta became central defenders, Aleksandr Kolarov dropped to left wing back, and Maicon was handed the right side, where his crossing and (surprisingly) strong defense helped City turn control into dominance. It was a point in the plus column for Mancini’s much-maligned 3-5-2 formation.

But the easy switch to the new setup was only enabled by starting Kolarov at left wing, a decision influenced by the injury absence of Samir Nasri. Having a defender in an attacking position may have contributed to the stall we saw from City over the first hour. It also created a situation where a switch to a 3-5-2 was bound to work, Mancini already switching to a formation that better suited the personnel he started.

Packaged for takeaway

  • On the surface, Emmanuel Adebayor was impressive in his second start of the year, providing Spurs with an outlet from the back as City came into the match. Unfortunately, he failed to put a shot on goal and created only one chance for this teammates. He needs to convert the little things (aerial presences, hold up play) into something dangerous.
  • Clint Dempsey continues to struggle. While he provided a decent defensive presence today, he made no contribution in attack. It’s a description you can apply to most of his Spurs starts. He has yet to find a way to be dangerous for André Villas-Boas.
  • Brad Friedel, on the other hand, had a good day, though he is still tentative coming off his line to claim balls played through (or behind) his defense. Today, apparent miscommunication with Caulker nearly cost Spurs.
  • One explanation for Manchester City’s late match surges continues to be Yaya Touré. Today, we saw City’s habit of releasing their best player to be a more attacking presence when needed. Touré’s probing passing and forays forward wilted Spurs’ defense, his deft touch out to Agüero providing for the first goal. Touré is so consistently effective in this role, it’s a wonder he’s not allowed to fill it from minute one.

Watch Live: West Ham v. Leicester City

Leave a comment

Friday Night Football under the lights in east London. Beautiful.

West Ham United host Leicester City on Friday (Watch live, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) as David Moyes takes charge of his first home game as Hammers boss.

Leicester and Claude Puel will play on the counter and look to Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez for inspiration at the London Stadium, while Moyes is putting all of his faith in Andy Carroll.

After a defeat at Watford in his opening game as West Ham boss last week, Moyes could really do with a win to kick-start his Hammers career.

As for Puel, he’s had one win, one draw and one defeat from his three PL games in charge of Leicester so far but the Foxes have shown plenty of promise in those outings.

In team news West Ham are missing Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez through injury so Carroll starts up top with Marko Arnautovic and Manuel Lanzini supporting him.

Leicester start with Mahrez just off Vardy with Demarai Gray once again starting out wide in a 4-4-1-1 formation.

LINEUPS

West Ham

Leicester

FIFA reminds World Cup-bound Peru about government meddling

Getty Images
1 Comment

ZURICH (AP) FIFA has reminded the Peruvian soccer federation of rules prohibiting interference by national governments, one week after the South American country qualified for its first World Cup since 1982.

FIFA says the letter reacts to the “current draft of the Peruvian Sports Law” presented to a congressional committee last month. FIFA says the proposed text to lawmakers includes “certain items that, if implemented, would contravene the FIFA Statutes.”

In serious cases, FIFA can suspend a country’s national and club teams, plus officials, from international competitions and meetings.

Peruvian officials are due in Moscow next week for the World Cup draw.

Peru is not likely to be facing any action, but FIFA has promised to “continue to monitor the situation.”

PL Preview: Man United v. Brighton

Leave a comment
  • United have scored 19 goals, 6 wins from 6 at home this season
  • Brighton unbeaten in 5 games
  • Zlatan, Pogba, Rojo all fit for United

Manchester United host newly-promoted Brighton & Hove Albion on Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) with the Red Devils aiming to keep their 100 percent home record in the PL intact.

[ MORE: Mourinho hits back at critics

Brighton are on a five-game unbeaten run in their debut campaign in the PL and Chris Hughton‘s side have settled impressively as they sit in ninth-place in the table.

Jose Mourinho’s United sit in second place but are eight points behind crosstown rivals Manchester City who are settling a rasping early-season pace in the Premier League. United and City clash at Old Trafford on Dec. 10 so Mourinho’s men can’t afford any dropped points between now and then.

In team news United are without central defenders Eric Bailly and Phil Jones, while Brighton have no new injury concerns.

What they’re saying

Mourinho on Pogba’s return to fitness: “Paul is still on this process where he cannot reach the fatigue limit, he cannot go more than 65 to 70 minutes because that’s when fatigue normally arrives and with so many matches consecutively we need to protect such an important player for us.”

Chris Hughton on Brighton’s mindset heading to Old Trafford: “There aren’t many teams at our level that are going to go there and win. You’ve got to play at a very high level and you’ve certainly got to have that bit of luck that goes with a win away from home at any one of the big clubs. But these are the days you’ve worked so hard for as a team and it’s what we got promoted for. What we hope to do is to make a good account of ourselves there and we hope we can do that.”

Prediction

I expect a big home win for United who are simply too powerful in attack for most PL clubs to handle. Sure, their direct approach gets criticized by many but they’re second in the PL table for a reason and Mourinho’s squad has extreme strength in depth in attack. 3-0 to the Red Devils.

Bookmakers odds on next USMNT boss

Getty Images
2 Comments

After Sol Campbell (seriously) threw his hat into the ring to become the next U.S. men’s national team boss, now seems like a good time to check in on who are the current names being mentioned for the role.

Campbell told ESPN that he is interested in the vacant USMNT role as the former Arsenal and Tottenham star is currently the assistant coach of the Trinidad & Tobago national team.

“I think there is a lot of soul-searching [for the U.S. to do]. I think the main thing you’ve got to look at [with] America is where do they go now? They’ve invested a lot of money, and I think sometimes you’ve got to look in different area,” Campbell said. “You can’t always look in the same places. Yes, they want to keep it local, and they want to keep as much in USA with the players and the staff, but sometimes you’ve got to open up. I think there’s guys around the world who could contribute.”

“Maybe not [people] on their hit list, maybe not on the paper list, maybe not on the agent’s list, but guys who probably could help them in different ways on the field: attack-wise, defense-wise. Who knows? If they came to me, maybe I could help them out. Who knows? But I think they have got to start looking in different directions.”

Campbell’s coaching credentials are obviously limited but the former England international asking the U.S. to have a global coaching search isn’t asking for anything which hasn’t already been done. See: Klinsmann, Jurgen.

Of course, there is no imminent appointment expected with the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) presidential race happening in February 2018, so appointing a new boss between now and would be a big mistake if the coach’s philosophy doesn’t fall in line with whoever is the leader of U.S. Soccer moving forward.

Still, via betting site Oddschecker, it’s very intriguing to see some of the names being linked with the USMNT job. Here are the odds on offer…


Sam Allardyce – 1/2 favorite
Caleb Porter – 8/1
Gregg Berhalter – 14/1
Jesse Marsch – 14/1
Laurent Blanc – 14/1
Patrick Vieira- 14/1
David Wagner – 16/1
Peter Vermes – 16/1
Bob Bradley – 20/1


Sam Allardyce has already put himself out there with regards to the USMNT job and his vast experience leading club teams from ruin to redemption could work well in this scenario, even if Big Sam’s knowledge of Major League Soccer and the USMNT is vastly inferior to MLS coaches in the running.

Caleb Porter leaving his role with the Portland Timbers has led to plenty of intriguing reports and rumors but is he really the right man to lead the USMNT?

Other MLS coaches linked with the position are Jesse Marsch who continues to overachieve with the New York Red Bulls, while Gregg Berhalter in his uncertain situation with Columbus Crew could be a good shout, especially with his brother Jay playing a prominent role at U.S. Soccer.

David Wagner’s past as a USMNT player will resonate strongly with many involved in the American soccer community but he’s unlikely to leave Huddersfield anytime soon, and then there’s Bob Bradley on the list. Quite why he’s on there as he builds LAFC ahead of their debut season in MLS in 2018 says it all about these bookies odds.

Take it all with a hefty pinch of salt and expect no movement for a while as the USSF presidential election takes center stage over the next few months. When that concludes and a successor (more than likely) is selected to replace Sunil Gulati, then we should expect a new head coach to be appointed by the USMNT.

With no World Cup next summer or competitive games until 2019, what’s the rush?

We are talking about a nation which is not only 24th in the FIFA world rankings, but also one where the sport is growing an you get the sense a fine crop of players are bursting to come through and the 2018 World Cup could be the catalyst for significant change in the USMNT playing squad.

Time needs to be taken to assess who the best man for the job would be and, right now, nobody jumps off the page as the leading contender. After the World Cup next summer plenty of international coaches will become available as they come to the end of their cycle or they’re fired. In my opinion, why not wait until the end? Having an interim boss in charge for a friendly match in January and two more in March and June isn’t the end of the world and gives the U.S. plenty of time to make the correct decision moving forward.

This next hire is crucially important to the future of the USMNT.