Aston Villa has the worst attack in the Premier League. Only two teams have scored fewer goals than Stoke City, which meant 0-0 was always the most likely result from Saturday’s meeting at Villa Park.
But with any soccer match (particularly at the professional level), there is the expectation that teams will do basic things, like be able to show they’re capable of win the game. We assume teams actually are trying to win, but sometimes, on some very rare occasions, teams aren’t able to show it.
Saturday turned out to be one of those days. The teams combined for only two shots on goal, one of which appeared to be an ill-aimed Matthew Lowton cross. Stoke only put two shots toward Brad Guzan all day, neither of which hit the keepers’ gloves. Stuart James, on hand for The Observer, call the match “painful to watch at times.”
There were, however, three Americans on the field (Oh! So that’s why he’s posting about this):
- Brad Guzan starting in Aston Villa’s goal isn’t news, nor was his ability to keep a clean sheet. However, he did almost nothing on Saturday. No shots on goal for Stoke meant no saves for the U.S. national team’s No. 2.
- Geoff Cameron got another start at left back and had a decent day, though similar caveats apply. Aston Villa couldn’t be described as threatening.
- A for some reason, Eric Lichaj was called in to pay left midfield against one of the weaker attacks in the league. Nominally a fullback, the U.S. international got (what’s becoming) a rare start in front of Nathan Baker, playing well defensively against a Stoke flank manned by Matthew Etherington.
The most notable part of the match had nothing to do with the American trio. Darren Bent, long out of the team with injury and (lately) rumored difference of opinion with Paul Lambert, came on in the 66th minute to applause from the Villa faithful.
But as with everything else that happened at Villa Park on Saturday, it’s hard to say it mattered. The match ended 0-0 with little chance it could have done otherwise.
A week after bidding Manchester City an emotional goodbye, Pablo Zabaleta has announced he’ll be staying in England.
The 32-year-old right back is moving to London, where he’ll join West Ham United on a two-year deal beginning July 1.
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The San Lorenzo youth product went to Espanyol in 2005 to begin his European adventure, joining Man City in 2008. He won two PL titles, two League Cups, and an FA Cup, and was named the club’s player of the season in 2012-13.
“Manchester City gave me the opportunity to come to this wonderful league, the Premier League, something I’ve been enjoying a lot as a player and of course for me it was probably the right time to move on.
“Also, as a player, I thought I wanted to keep playing in the Premier League. For me, after being in this country for so long, this is a new challenge for me in the Premier League and I’m ready for it and looking forward to it.”
Maybe he just wanted 3G.
Young Sam Byram can learn plenty from Zabaleta, and the signing means that star right-sided man Michail Antonio likely won’t have to be wasted at right back in emergency situations. Good risk by the Hammers.
Jose Mourinho has made no secret of his Antonio Valencia appreciation, and the Manchester United manager has rewarded his fullback with a new deal.
Valencia is nine appearances away from 300 in a Manchester United kit, with 22 goals and 61 assists as a Red Devil.
[ MORE: Monaco star’s Man City medical ]
Valencia said United has “been my life” since arriving from Wigan Athletic in 2009, while Mourinho heaped praise on the Ecuadorian captain’s character with glowing praise.
“It is no secret that I had been an admirer of Antonio’s long before I joined the club. I knew what a fantastic player he was and he has not disappointed me on that front. However, what I could never have imagined was what a great person he is. I know I have said this before but I truly believe it is a real privilege for us to have such a good player and such a good man. I am delighted he has extended his contract.”
Only Ander Herrera and Eric Bailly recorded better tackle rates at Old Trafford last season, and Valencia was credited with a team-best 1.5 crosses per game.
Forget a return Stateside, as Geoff Cameron is sticking around the Potteries.
The versatile American midfielder and defender, 31, has extended his stay at Stoke City by two years, the Premier League club announced Friday.
Cameron has played 165 times for Stoke since arriving from the Houston Dynamo in 2012. He’s been capped 50 times by the USMNT.
Turning 32 next in mid-July, Cameron missed three-and-a-half months with a knee injury this season. That span saw Stoke go 6-5-5.
Advanced stats site WhoScored rated Cameron as Stoke’s best player — by far — this season. He was a bright spot along with loan man Bruno Martins Indi, and his extension is good news for both U.S. and Stoke fans.
Stoke goalkeeper Jack Butland is preparing for more banter:
Pep Guardiola is looking to Monaco in his chase for (lowers sunglasses) Silvaware.
Thanks, we’ll be here all day.
Bernardo Silva is in Manchester on Friday, with the Manchester Evening News saying the playmaker is close to joining unrelated surname sharer David Silva in the Sky Blues’ attack.
[ MORE: Three key battles in FA Cup Final ]
“The 22-year-old arrived at Manchester Airport on Thursday night on a flight from Mallorca and is believed to have had a medical at the club’s academy on Friday morning,” writes James Robson.
At 22, Bernardo Silva has already made 124 appearances for Monaco, registering 25 goals. He scored eight goals in Monaco’s Ligue 1 title run, adding three in the Champions League.
He’s also been capped 12 times by Portugal.
Where does Silva fit? He featured heavily at right wing for Monaco this season — 43 of 56 apps — also spending time in an attacking central midfield role. In City’s final match of the PL season, Gabriel Jesus lined up wide right next to David Silva