Brighton & Hove Albion v Newcastle United - FA Cup Third Round

Day’s first “upset” and a player mistake we should really make more of

Leave a comment

Was Brighton & Hove Albion beating Newcastle such an upset? Per the bookies, it was, with late Friday lines making the visiting Magpies a slight favorite over the eighth place team in England’s second tier. But Brighton beat the Magpies in this competition last year, and with Newcastle carrying nine losses in 11 into today’s game, it wasn’t difficult to see the Seagulls as more likely to win.

When Andrea Orlandi put Gus Poyet’s side up shortly before halftime, Brighton acted like a team expecting to win. Almost all goals are cause to celebrate, but there was no hint of shock in Albion’s reaction. Their celebration marked a fine goal more than a “surprise” of being up on Newcastle. Brighton would go on to win, 2-0.

While the Magpies started a weakened team, they still looked like the hope-derived team that’s fallen to the ede of the Premier League drop. Though recent performances against Manchester United, Arsenal, and Everton have shown the team capable, their current swoon isn’t exactly surprising. Carry an attitude of a team in need of wakeup or shakeup, the Magpies aren’t projecting themselves like a team that should be doing more. In front of an suspect defense, a midfield playing below last year’s level leaves Newcastle vulnerable.

And it doesn’t help when your captain compounds those problems with an act of absent-minded foolishness. That’s what Shola Ameobi provided in the 63rd minute when, already on a yellow card, he made late contact with a David López, the late challenge on the previously-in-possession player sending him to ground. Lee Probert showed the day’s captain a second yellow, leaving Newcastle to play the last half-hour with 10.

There’s a reasonable debate as to whether the punishment matched the crime, though Ameobi has little excuse. Coming at a point where Newcastle was under no threat, Ameobi shouldn’t have risked a second caution. That he was late and accidentally bring his foot down on top of López’s only underscored the inanity of his decision. No reasonable outcome from that challenge justified the risk of a second card.

I harp on this because it occurred to be that we aren’t critical enough with this type of offense. Leaving your team down a man isn’t a death sentence, but it’s obviously a huge disadvantage, especially when they’re chasing a goal. A player, particularly a forward, should do whatever it takes to avoid a sending off, yet the second caution happens with enough frequency that we’re not surprised when a player goes.

But if a player, through his lack of focus, debilitates his team’s chances to win, we should be hard on him. Much harder than we are. For as critical as we are of more difficult decisions, such an obvious mistakes deserve more attention.

“Overweight” Costa comes to Mourinho’s defense

Diego Costa, Chelsea FC
Leave a comment

Diego Costa says he and his Chelsea teammates are to blame for Chelsea’s horrid start to the 2015-16 Premier League season.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Speaking Thursday, during a bit of downtime over the current international break (Costa was left out of Vicente del Bosque’s squad for Spain’s final two EURO 2016 qualifiers this week), Costa placed the majority of blame at the feet of the entire team, but went on to most harshly critique himself for coming into the season unfocused and “overweight.”

Costa, on his lack of fitness and form to begin the season — quotes from the Guardian:

“We know we’re not in the form we were supposed to be at the beginning of the season. We need to blame the players because we came back from holiday very confident, thinking we could go back into how it was last season, and then realized the team was already in a bad situation.

“I’m going to be very honest: maybe a few weeks ago, five or six weeks ago, I was not on top of my game. At least physically. We talk within the players and we know that, maybe at the beginning, we were not 100 percent as we were supposed to be when we got here. I got injured at the end of last season and then I went on holiday. Maybe I got out of my diet and, when I came back, I was not the way I was supposed to be. I was a little bit overweight. That affected my game. You can be selfish and blame it on the manager but I’m not going to do that. I’m responsible 100%, and so are the other guys.

Given that Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said on Thursday he doesn’t quite know what’s wrong with the defending Premier League champions, hearing someone — anyone — speak up and explain the club’s worst start to a season in 37 years will surely be a welcome sound to any Blues supporter’s ears.

[ MORE: Liverpool appoint Klopp as manager | Allardyce to Sunderland? ]

Costa, who is eligible to return from suspension next weekend when Aston Villa visit Stamford Bridge, has scored just one goal in league play this season (six appearances) after scoring 20 in 26 games last season.

Sam Allardyce to open talks with Sunderland

Sam Allardyce, West Ham United FC
1 Comment

Now that Liverpool have selected and named their new manager, it appears Sunderland are finally ready to move forward with their own managerial search. (That’s clearly a joke, because it implies Liverpool and Sunderland ever duke it out for the same managerial candidate.)

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Anyway, the Black Cats will have to hire someone to replace the recently-departed Dick Advocaat at some point. We all knew that, despite the fact he’s probably earned a shot at that level, Bob Bradley was never really going to be considered for the job. With that in mind, if you’re not going to endear yourself to the entire United States of America with this hire, you might as well go for the best unemployed manager who’ll actually consider your approach.

That’s what Sunderland chairman Ellis Short appears to have done, as it was reported Thursday that despite an initial reluctance from Sam Allardyce — let’s be honest, he actually was holding out hope for the Liverpool job — the 60-year-old most recently in charge of West Ham United was willing and ready to enter into negotiations with the northeastern club.

One of the major sticking points during Sunderland’s courting of Allardyce is expected to be his demand for autonomy in the transfer market as well as a sizable transfer budget to sign his own players during the January window.

[ MORE: Advocaat: Sunderland squad too thin, chairman to blame ]

Allardyce seems like the no. 1 guy you’d like to bring in to steady a capsized ship — cough Sunderland cough — in any situation. Not only does he have a successful track record in the Premier League, but he’s the kind of no-nonsense leader a club like Sunderland so desperately needs as they find themselves in yet another relegation battle just eight games into the new season.

Short hopes to have Allardyce signed, sealed and delivered when the Premier League returns to action next weekend. In that event, Allardyce’s first game in charge of Sunderland would be a trip to West Bromwich Albion. His first home fixture? Home to Tyne-Wear derby rivals Newcastle United, a club whose boisterous fanbase still holds a great deal of disdain for Big Sam. Sometimes the football gods really are looking out for us.