Week 4: “View from the Booth” with Arlo White

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This weekend the voice of soccer on NBC Sports is taking a well deserved rest from calling the Premier League action.

Yet he still has time to speak to ProSoccerTalk.

In the latest edition of “View from the Booth” NBC Sports’ lead soccer announcer Arlo White talks about the biggest transfers in the Premier League after the deadline day drama, David Moyes’ struggles, how England’s national team can improved their fortunes and much more.

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With no PL action on NBC Sports Network this weekend due to the international games, you may miss the dulcet tones of Arlo emanating from your television in the living room.

But don’t worry, here he is to discuss all of this weeks hot topics. That should tide you over until PL action returns next week.

Enjoy. Here’s Arlo.

So after the transfer window slammed shut on Monday night, which Premier League teams fared best in the market?

At this stage, we can only speculate based on our prior knowledge of players and whether certain clubs have satisfied particular needs. It will take a while to really assess the winners and losers of this transfer window.

Clearly, Spurs were very active. The late signing of Christian Eriksen could prove to be a master stroke. Capoue (when he returns), Paulinho and Soldado could be terrific signings. But as we saw at the Emirates on Sunday, it will take time for these 7 new faces to bed into their new surroundings.

Brendan Rodgers should be very happy at Liverpool despite missing out on Willian. Keeping Luis Suarez was a very bold statement. They added some defensive depth as well and Mignolet has enjoyed a terrific start to the season.

Arsenal really stole the show late on with the Ozil coup. But should they have added elsewhere? Most definitely. They will be great to watch though.

Manchester City did their business early and effectively, and Everton played a very canny game on deadline day. They were resigned to losing Fellaini, but they squeezed more money out of United than they wanted to pay, they forced the Belgian to put in a transfer request so they maintained the PR high ground, and they bought/loaned intelligently with the captures of James McCarthy and Romelu Lukaku. Plus they kept Leighton Baines. Hats off to messrs Kenwright and Martinez.

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Arlo Believes Mesut Ozil can be the key to Arsenal achieving big things.

And what about the late, late deals for Mesut Ozil and Marouane Fellaini? Do you think Arsenal should have smashed their transfer record to grab the German international?

Yes. Think back to last week when I wrote this…

Now, if Arsenal land Benzema, Di Maria and Ozil from Real Madrid, it could all change (btw, will Daniel Levy do the Bale deal as late as possible to help scupper Arsenal’s plans of recruiting those potentially surplus Real stars??)

The Gunners had to make a statement to at least appease their frustrated fan base, but I feared they were placing all their eggs into a basket that their arch nemesis Daniel Levy could push off the table. They way it worked out, Arsenal were gifted a clear 24 hours to finalize out the Ozil deal after it was announced that Gareth Bale had sealed his switch to the Bernabeu. It seems that Madrid had simply run out of patience with Levy, so they had no problem at all selling Ozil to Tottenham’s main rivals, to recoup nearly half of the fee they paid to Spurs. I think Spurs have bought well, but the immediate upshot was that they sold their world class player to Real Madrid, who then felt compelled to sell a world class player to Arsenal.

Elsewhere, David Moyes and Manchester United have been widely criticized for their dealings in the window, will the Red Devils regret not buying at least 2/3 more players?

Possibly. But they kept Rooney as well remember. There were always going to be teething problems once the Ferguson/Gill axis was broken up, but United won’t want a repeat of that deadline day farce. It just didn’t reflect well on the club. I admire Moyes’ faith in the players he already has, but I wonder if Shinji Kagawa has to play a larger role going forward. If he starts games and performs well, it will feel like United have got a new signing.

After Liverpool beat United and won their third-straight 1-0 game to open the season, can Brendan Rodgers’ men really break into the top four this season? Is the North London battle between Arsenal and Spurs even closer after the Gunners narrow win?

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Liverpool’s defensive solidity is key to their success.

Anything is possible. We’ve only had 3 games! Brendan Rodgers is very tactically astute. It was a thrill to be at Anfield on Sunday, the atmosphere was electric. Liverpool got what they so desperately craved, an early goal. They continued to push in the first half for a second, but it didn’t come. Then, much like his old boss Jose Mourinho did at Old Trafford last Monday, Rodgers instructed his side to go into a defensive shell. It was about ball retention and shape. A bend but don’t break approach. It wasn’t particularly entertaining, but it worked. People are writing off United, but RVP should have equalized late on, and on the balance of the second half, only the most ardent Red could have argued that it wasn’t deserved on the balance of the game.

Yes, Liverpool can challenge for the top 4. Spurs and Arsenal will duke it out to the last game.

With the huge amount of foreign talent flooding into the Premier League, FA Chairman Greg Dyke has been pretty defiant about the role the PL has in the future of the English national team. Is there an easy solution to getting more young English talent playing regularly in the PL?

Short answer is no. I don’t believe in quotas. The Premier League is, and should remain, a meritocracy. It’s incumbent upon the FA and the Premier League to work together to produce better, more rounded players. It starts with education. A smarter person is a better player. Education, academics and Football shouldn’t be mutually exclusive. They certainly aren’t in the top Football nations in the world. English Football has always feared and been suspicious of, intelligence and academics. Why? There are social reasons, but it needs to change.

Germany took drastic steps after their struggles at Euro 2000, and it’s paid off. England have been under performing for generations now. But it’s difficult to tell the richest league in the world that they shouldn’t go out and spend their money on the best players available wherever they are from. The FA must harness the millions of lads who play Football throughout the country and simply make them better through coaching and education. It’s a tall order, but if the desire is there, it can be done.

Finally, what’s coming up next for you? When the international break is over the PL will be back in full flow. What can we expect from the games your covering?

Looking forward to next weekend already. I have Everton v Chelsea next Saturday and Swansea v Liverpool on Monday. The great games keep coming thick and fast and it’s exhilarating being a part of it.

Pique: For first time in career, Barca star feels “inferior to Madrid”

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Gerard Pique does not have the sort of personality that makes admitting defeat an easy proposition.

The longtime Barcelona center back is raging after his side was beaten 5-1 over two legs by rivals Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup.

[ MORE: Barca releases statement on terror attacks ]

And for the first time in his life, he thinks Barca is a step behind its El Clasico enemies. From The Telegraph:

“This is a long process and there is room for improvement but in the nine years that I have been here, it is the first time that I feel inferior to Madrid,” Piqué said. “We are not in the best moment, either as a team or as a club. We must stay as close as possible and keep moving forwards.”

Barcelona looked very poor in the second leg of the Super Cup, though the club did hammer the woodwork on multiple occasions. Real is the best team in the world, which makes being its rival a real hassle.

In fact, both clubs have been 1-2 in the world for some time, which has to make it extra perplexing when you’re No. 2 to only the club you despise more than any other.

Bundesliga preview: Schalke, BVB chase Bayern Munich

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The last time Schalke spent a season outside of European football, the celebrated German club finished second in the league en route to a Champions League semifinal the following campaign.

That’s one of the only silver linings from last season’s disappointing 10th place finish, 19 points behind fourth place Hoffenheim.

[ MORE: Schalke’s teen American impact ]

“Naturally, nobody is happy about not playing international this year,” center back Benedikt Howedes told ProSoccerTalk. “During the week we currently have more time to focus on the next opponent. We will battle the European positions with many teams this season. I think, the race is up in the air. The Bundesliga is very balanced.”

World Cup winner Howedes has 334 appearances for Schalke (Getty Images).

Schalke’s tumulutous 2016-17 season started poorly and never really found its footing. The club lost its first five league matches under Markus Weinzierl, who was fired in June, and saw marquee transfers Naldo, Breel Embolo, and Coke miss a lot of time through injuries.

Enter 31-year-old Domenico Tedesco. Don’t let the age fool you, he’s the boss not a player, and youth will be part of the team as well. Schalke still has Embolo, Max Meyer and Leon Goretzka, American teen Weston McKennie has been promoted to the first team, and Amine Harit has arrived from Nantes.

From the outside, that puts an emphasis on veteran leadership. Fortunately for Schalke, it has living club legend Howedes and ex-Man City defender Matija Nastasic amongst others in the fold.

“The spirit, if you could be in the locker room, it’s amazing,” McKennie told PST. “It doesn’t matter how old you are.”

[ MORE: Guide to two promoted Bundesliga teams ]

In the case of Nastasic, who won the Premier League with Manchester City in 2013-14, his 24 years carry a lot of experience. He’s thrived at Fiorentina, become a staple of the Serbian national team, and rebounding from his injury-hit time at City and is a leader at Schalke.

And those young guys can learn from Nastasic, who’s seen it all at 24.

“When I just arrived in Italy I was only 18 and it was the first year out of my country,” Nastasic told PST. “I didn’t expect at the beginning that I would play that much. Then I changed to England, and it was totally different. Italy is more tactical. Football in England is physical with a lot of tempo and running. I was young also without so much experience but when I was fit I think I played good.”

Schalke will need its young attack to find more goals. Its defense was Top Five in goals conceded last season, but its 45 goals was mid-table.

“Everyone knows that last season was not as good as we had expected,” Howedes said. “With our new coach, we want to improve our game and make our fans happy again. We are training hard and I am sure, that we will be more constant and improve our performances this season.”

[ MORE: First female ref to make Bundesliga debut ]

“From the team I expect a much better season than last year,” Nastasic adds. “We are not playing international games so maybe that’s an advantage for us. We can concentrate on the Bundesliga.”

Both Nastasic and Howedes heaped praise on McKennie, as well as American teammate Haji Wright, who will spend the season on loan to Sandhausen, and the game overseas in general.

“Haji Wright started spectacular,” Howedes said. “For young players the most important thing is to play. On loan in Sandhausen the chance is greater than here. I rejoice for him he get this opportunity. The step in the 2.Bundesliga can be a good beginning of his career.

“The American soccer is really developing the last years. It is no coincidence that a lot of great players like Kaka and Gerrard joined Major League Soccer. And who knows, I also can imagine to play there some day in the future.”

Different champs (but probably not different champs): Bayern Munich will neither have Xabi Alonso nor Philipp Lahm this season, but that doesn’t mean they are runaway favorites to claim its 27th title and sixth-straight since Borussia Dortmund’s two-year reign ended with the 2011-12 crown. Carlo Ancelotti has reloaded with James Rodriguez and Corentin Tolisso, and will be favored to hold off BVB for the crown.

Here’s to the new Bosz: USMNT phenom Christian Pulisic is already making an impact in the mind of his new coach, Peter Bosz, and the manager will be pleased to note that reports say Pulisic has no interest in looking into his future until after the 2018 World Cup.

Sleepers? Eintracht Frankfurt dropped into 11th last season, and may benefit from not finishing in a European place. The club has added Mexican national teamer Carlos Saucedo, Dutch star Jetro Willems, and well-traveled Jonathan De Guzman for its new season.

Americans Abroad:
John Brooks (Wolfsburg)
Julian Green (Stuttgart)
Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund)
Fabian Johnson (Borussia Monchengladbach)
McKennie (Schalke)
Timothy Chandler (Eintracht Frankfurt)
Bobby Wood (Hamburg)
Aron Johannsson (Werder Bremen *expected to be sold)
Caleb Stanko (Freiburg)

Old faces, new places:
Serge Gnabry (Hoffenheim, on loan from Bayern Munich)
Mahmoud Dahoud (Borussia Dortmund, from ‘Gladbach)
Mathew Leckie (Hertha BSC, from Ingolstadt)
Sven Bender (Bayer Leverkusen, from BVB)
Marcel Heller (Augsburg, from Darmstadt)
Kyriakos Papadopoulos (Hamburg, from Bayer)
John Brooks (Wolfsburg, from Hertha)
Paul Verhaegh (Wolfsburg, from Augsburg)
Holger Badstuber (Stuttgart, from Bayern)

New faces, new places:
James Rodriguez (Bayern Munich)
Jonathan Klinsmann (Hertha BSC)
Reece Oxford (Gladbach, on loan from West Ham)
Harit (Schalke)
Jonathan de Guzman (Eintracht Frankfurt)
Jetro Willems (Eintracht Frankfurt)
Carlos Salcedo (Eintracht Frankfurt)
Viktor Fischer (Mainz)

Opening weekend
Bayern Munich vs. Bayer Leverkusen — Friday
Hamburg vs. Augsburg — Saturday
Hertha Berlin vs. Stuttgart — Saturday
Hoffenheim vs. Werder Bremen — Saturday
Wolfsburg vs. Borussia Dortmund — Saturday
Mainz vs. Hannover 96 — Saturday
Schalke vs. RB Leipzig — Saturday
Freiburg vs. Eintracht Frankfurt — Sunday
Borussia Monchengladbach vs. Koln — Sunday

FC Barcelona releases statement after terror attack

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FC Barcelona found tragedy at home on Thursday when a terrorist plot unfolded in Las Ramblas, killing 13 and injuring more than 100.

Las Ramblas is just a 20-minute ride from the Camp Nou, and the Catalan club hosts Real Betis on Sunday.

[ MORE: Another American teen making Bundesliga name ]

A terrorist-driven rental van was driven at 50 mph through a crowded plaza. As of post time, two men had been arrested but the driver remained on the loose.

Saying it was sickened by the attack, FCB announced it will fly flags at half-mast, wear black arm bands during the match and hold a minute’s silence.

Here’s the full statement:

FC Barcelona wants to express its profound sorrow and utter disgust at the terrorist attack that has hit the heart of our city, la Rambla de Barcelona. The Club wishes to send our support and thoughts to the victims, their families and friends as well as the people of Barcelona and its visitors.

As a mark of respect, the flags will fly at half-mast at the Club’s facilities and the players from both teams will wear black armbands in all the Club’s matches this weekend.

On Sunday, before the 2017/18 La Liga opener against Betis, the Camp Nou will hold a minutes silence in recognition and memory of the victims.

AC Milan and Napoli likeliest challengers to Juve’s crown

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MILAN (AP) Juventus’ six-year Serie A domination could end this year.

AC Milan has reinforced its squad, Inter Milan has had some much-needed stability after four managerial changes last season, while Napoli looks set to mount an even stronger challenge this time around.

Lazio could also be surprise contenders after Simone Inzaghi’s side withstood a late comeback to beat Juventus 3-2 and win the Italian Super Cup on Wednesday.

[ MORE: Another American teen making Bundesliga name ]

However, Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri has warned the rest of Serie A that it will be a very different performance from his team in Saturday’s season opener at home to Cagliari.

“We cannot and must not play like that in the league,” he said. “This defeat brings us back to earth. Some of the players aren’t fully fit yet, so I knew it wasn’t going to be easy … but starting on Saturday you’ll see a different Juve.”

Allegri also took encouragement from the last time Juventus played Lazio in the Super Cup, in 2015.

“We beat Lazio in Beijing for the Super Cup two years ago and then had a bad start to the Serie A season, so hopefully we’ll do it the other way round this time,” he said.

Juventus has dominated Italian soccer for nearly a decade, winning three successive league and cup doubles and it will be tricky for anyone to prevent the Bianconeri from extending their league record to seven straight Serie A titles.

Milan was the last team other than Juventus to win the title and, despite having last finished in the top three in 2013, it looks the likeliest to depose the Turin-based club.

The Chinese-led consortium that purchased Milan from Silvio Berlusconi for $800 million in April has infused the club with cash and splashed out more than 200 million euros ($234 million) in the offseason.

[ VIDEO: Giovanni Reyna’s MOTM job for USYNT ]

As well as signing Italy’s top defender Leonardo Bonucci from Juventus, Milan also brought in forward Andre Silva from FC Porto; midfielders Ricardo Rodriguez (Wolfsburg), Franck Kessie and Andrea Conti (Atalanta), Hakan Calhanoglu (Bayer Leverkusen) and Lucas Biglia (Lazio); and defender Mateo Musacchio (Villarreal).

Fourth place in Serie A now guarantees qualification to the Champions League and that will be the minimum requirement for Vincenzo Montella’s team. But, if the new team gels quickly, there is the feeling that Milan could make a strong challenge for the title.

Bonucci was playing down his new side’s chances.

“Juve remains favorite and Napoli has a great chance of fighting for the title,” Bonucci said in interview with Gazzetta dello Sport. “As we are now we’re still a step below both, but we shouldn’t put limits on ourselves. After those two, I see Milan, Inter and Roma as equal.”

Napoli has finished in the top three in four of the past five seasons but even a record number of points last campaign still left it third, five points behind Juventus.

However, talk of the `scudetto’ is no longer a taboo for Napoli, which hasn’t won the title since 1990.

But, while it didn’t make any big signings in the transfer window, its biggest success of the offseason has been in keeping its band of talented players together.

It sold Ezequiel Lavezzi in 2012 and Edinson Cavani the following year – both to Paris Saint-Germain – while Gonzalo Higuain moved to Juventus in 2016.

This year Dries Mertens and Lorenzo Insigne have signed new contracts, while Marek Hamsik is just three goals away from breaking Diego Maradona’s scoring record for the club.

Mertens was reportedly pursued by a number of clubs – both in Italy and abroad – but the Belgium international, who scored more than 30 goals for Napoli last campaign, opted to extend his stay with the southern side.

“I stayed here because the team plays very beautiful football and doing that we can get a lot of joy,” said Mertens, who scored again as Napoli beat Nice 2-0 in the first leg of its Champions League playoff on Wednesday.

Napoli played arguably the best soccer in Italy last season and its attacking flair saw it score 94 goals, but it faltered against teams in the lower half of the table and coach Maurizio Sarri is hoping to have corrected that by the time it kicks of its Serie campaign at Hellas Verona on Saturday.

More AP Italian soccer coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/SerieA